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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

6942 reviews in the archive.

Brooks Masten: Custom Tubaphone

Submitted by Arcadian on 5/24/2007

Where Purchased: maker

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Good volume.This banjo projects well and has a distinctive voice that's very pleasant. I attribute much of that to the tubaphone tone ring. The intonation is spot-on.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

11 inch Cox Black Walnut rim and 25 + inch scale. Brooks did a fine job of setting it up but I did a lot of experimenting with bridges and strings. Presently it has a Renaissance Head, medium weight DR strings, heavy weight Moon bridge, and Price tail piece. The action is low, and extremely comfortable to play.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

All Black Walnut with brass hardware--except for the tuners. Nice figure in the neck, and a fine piece of burl for the peghead veneer. I don't dislike MOP, I just like it better on somebody else's banjo, so the only inlays are simple round dots in the fingerboard. The rim is capped with ebony, and the tuner buttons are ebony. This is the first black walnut banjo I've owned and I like it. It is warm both to the touch and the eye. The satin finish lets the hand slide down the neck without resistance.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

heirloom prospects.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Can't say enough about Brooks. He was a pleasure to work with and busted his butt to get it right.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Ren Head, Price tail piece, DR strings, Gotoh tuners with ebony buttons. It all looks and works together extremely well.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

A handsome, well-made, and great-sounding banjo at a good price. For me, the shorter scale and tubaphone tone ring were excellent choices. Without doubt, Black Walnut will be my first choice for the next purchase.

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Vega #2 Tubaphone

Submitted by Arcadian on 7/25/2006

Where Purchased: Banjo.com

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Out of the box, this banjo was loud and a little too brightfor my taste. I experimented with a number of bridges and several different heads. The combination of Renassaince Head, Moon med wt bridge, and medium strings just works wonderfully on this banjo. It sounds terrific.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Banjo.com is a great place to do business and they do a professional setup on anything you buy there.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Deering is conscientious about their fit and finish. Inlay fit, pot and neck finish, nickel plating--all solid quality. It's what you would expect in this price range.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

This banjo will be around 100 years from now.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I had occasion to talk with Deering CS sereral time on the phone, and returned it once for warranty work (slight separation of upper rim cap from rim and loose shoes). Overall, I want to give them good marks. They were always courteous and willing to honor the warranty. The turnaround time for the work I needed done was excellent. They installed a new Ren head and new strings without charge. My only disappointment was the banjo came back to me with a big stain on the head and a seriously crimped string. Some owners would excuse this as minor. I figured I wouldn't send out a banjo that way if I repaired it, so I wasn't too happy about receiving one in this shape.As to whether the repair work they did will last, time will tell.

Customer Service: 8

Components

Wood and metal quality, fit and finish, are very good to excellent. Inlay quality was excellent. These are the things that really tell you Deering is serious about making a good banjo. However....the shiny-pearlie tuner knobs would be more at home on a $300 banjo than on a $3000 one. I replaced them with ebony, which this instrument deserved. Then there was the tail piece. Deering created a new one just a year or two ago. It's adjustable and looks nice. It is, however, a stamping, not a heavy one at that. It never felt solid. I replaced it with a Price, which is a very solid piece of machined brass. Again, the Vega#2 deserved it.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I'm doing this review on the eve of my first full year of ownership. I can say this is a quality banjo and worth the money. There is a design issue with this model I will mention, but not to turn a prospective buyer away. The tubaphone design attaches the shoes to a heavy brass band that slips onto the rim. As a result, the nuts that hold the shoes on are hidden between the brass band and the rim, and are inaccessible without disassembling the whole banjo, neck and all. After a few months, when I changed heads I noticed some of the shoes were quite loose. I called Deering, and was informed this was a common problem with the original Vegas, "the old timers didn't worry about it," but if I preferred, they'd tighten the shoes at the factory. I put this off, but later found some of the shoes had loosened alarmingly and returned the banjo to the California factory with a request to loctite the nuts to prevent further problems. Deering did, and paid return shipping. Is this a common problem? I dunno. Did the "old timers just accept it?" I dunno that either. I do know I found posts by one other Vega#2 owner who had the same problem. As far as I'm concerned the inaccessible shoe nuts constitutes a slight "design flaw" in an otherwise excellent design. It's not a reason not to buy--just something to be aware of. You could get more charisma by buying an old Vega, or more status by buying a Huber, but you're gonna pay a lot more money. With the Vega#2 you have the solid quality of the old Vega, and the great tubaphone sound, with none of the age-related problems of a vintage instrument

Overall Rating: 9

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