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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!

6715 reviews in the archive.

Jeff Whittington

Submitted by JohnWaters on 9/26/2017

Overall Comments

Jeff is a great banjo player and is able to teach his skills effectively. He shows great insight into what the student needs. As a plus, one cannot help but like him.

Jeff has mastered drive, nuance, dynamics and technique. I profited greatly from my time with him and hope to again.

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Tone Rings: Memphis Belle tone ring (Tim Davis)

Submitted by JohnWaters on 7/16/2015

Where Purchased: Tim Davis

Overall Comments

I have known Tim to be passionate and meticulous about banjo sound for as long as I have known him.  However, when he told me he was making tone rings with his own formula, I was a little skeptical. I knew he had prior experience with casting, but this was a new and unproven formula, and there quite a few well-respected rings out there.

Well, I was surprised -- no shocked, to hear what this ring did for one of my banjos. I replaced the $700 ring (an extremely well-known and respected ring) in one of my pre-war conversions. I was amazed and delighted with the sound difference immediately. (It was very noticeable.)  I have held off reviewing until now just to be sure I felt the same way a week later. Yes!!!! I love this ring. 

One interesting observation: I suspended Tim's Memphis Belle ring and the other well-known ring by twine and struck them with a rubber mallet. Tim's ring sang an A (with very minor variation). The other ring hit pretty much every note on the chromatic scale. I do not know what this means, but the difference was quite surprising. Also, after installing Tim's ring, I can feel the vibrations clearly up the neck -- something I always notice in a great-sounding banjo. 

Sound is very difficult top describe, and taste may run different. This is a bluegrass ring. If you are aiming for the Scruggs sound, this may be your best choice. To my ears, it is most similar to the Huber vintage ring which is also a great sounding ring. (Those are getting harder to find.) 

So, if you are looking to upgrade, I can recommend the Memphis Belle without hesitation.

------------------------------

Another week past, and I still LOVE this ring! :-)

-------------------------------

Tim, I just wish 11 was an option. I rotated off this banjo for a couple weeks, and returned to it yesterday. Wow!!!! It sounds so good, I have to hold back tears of joy. Great work, buddy!

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Tim Davis

Submitted by JohnWaters on 8/23/2014

Overall Comments

I am very, very picky when it comes to folks working on my banjos. There is a sound that a banjo can make that touches my heart. Tim knows that sound, and he is passionate about getting it. He is honest, meticulous and genuinely cares about every banjo he touches.

Tim has done a good bit of work for me, and he will do all my future work. His passion for banjos just comes out in everything he does, and he makes a banjo sing. If you have a banjo that needs work, or just doesn't live up to your expectations. Please reach out to Tim. He will make you a happy picker. 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Clancy Mullins

Submitted by JohnWaters on 7/12/2014

Overall Comments

Clancy reskinned and refinished a 1928 TB-1 resonator for me in mahogany. He also refinished and put a speed neck on a mahogany neck. I've always felt mahogany is the least attractive (most boring) tone wood, but I love the sound of a mahogany neck.

The work that Clancy did really surprised me. He brought out the grains beautifully. The staining, finishing and binding are excellent. And again --- wow! I love how he brought out the grain. Wonderful work by a very skilled and personable man.

Overall Rating: 10

Huber: Berkshire

Submitted by JohnWaters on 5/28/2014

Where Purchased: BanjoHangout classifieds

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 3200 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This banjo is Earl-awesome. I don't think it gets any close to the Holy Grail of sound. I have let two well-known professional banjo players try it, and they both gave it rave reviews. Huber is my go-to banjo maker from now on.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was needed. Head was tuned to F, and it needed new bridge. Nothing seriously off. Setup was trivially easy.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

Maple neck/resonator, rosewood fingerboard, and mother-of-pearl inlay. No flaws or imperfections.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Yes. It feels solid, and the finish has held up great. I will definitely trust this banjo in a performance.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

I sent an email expressing my delight at incredible sound it has. I received very friendly responses. I have had no problems at all, but it seems like these folks love their work.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Nothing is cheaply made or needs replacing. Huber stock bridge seems very close to Snuffy Smith in appearance and performance. I replaced it ONLY to get Crowe spacing. The neck is 1/6" narrower than many popular banjos. This is more in line with the pre-war standards to which Steve Huber is faithful. Easy to play and a joy to hear.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

It's nothing but Huber for me from now on!

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: David Cunningham bridge

Submitted by JohnWaters on 4/12/2014

Where Purchased: David Cunningham

Overall Comments

I ordered a Zebra Wood Katalox bridge from David. I thought delivery was quite timely, but David felt like he took a day or two too long, so he also sent me a Missouri Maple and Purple Heart. They both sound great and the craftsmanship is outstanding. Given the excellent quality of his work, top-notch customer service and being a really friendly fellow, I strongly recommend him.

David Cunningham
Email: dcmachinist@att.net
Link: http://www.banjohangout.org/classified/39405
Web: http://www.dcbanjoworks.com/

 

Overall Rating: 9

John Boulding

Submitted by JohnWaters on 3/3/2014

Overall Comments

I can really recommend John as a great banjo teacher. I had been self-teaching for 4 months and had learned a number of breaks in open G and basic rolls. John has taught me what I now understand is far more important: playing all up and down the neck without a capo, and backup improvisation using the melody and licks. I am now contributing significantly in jams and can play along with soundtracks with confidence. I have not used my capo or tab in months, and I love it.

If you are past the point where you no longer put your picks on upside-down and know who Earl Scruggs is, then you will benefit from having a teacher. John really understands the mechanics behind music. He will give you as much theory as you need to understand what makes music work and help you put it in practice. Thank you John for all you have and will do for us!

 

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Maple Blossom

Submitted by JohnWaters on 10/26/2013

Where Purchased: Elderly

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 3289 ($US)

Sound

Plays great up and down the neck. Tuned open G, head to A. It has a warm sound that is definitely not pre-war. It sounds very good, but of you want the clanging pre-war sound, this model is not the best choice. For more progressive bluegrass, it is an outstanding choice.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Setup was almost perfect. I have never had a head this tight, but I love the bright pop it gives. I replaced the bridge with a Bart's bridge before the high-register notes cam alive.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

Maple and ebony with mother of pearl - beautiful banjo. No flaws that I can find.

Appearance Rating: not rated

Reliability

Seems very well made and should last a lifetime.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

My second large purchase from Elderly. No problems either time and very fast delivery.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I replaced the bridge (Bart's crowe-spacing) and strings (AMB cryo). I cannot see changing anything else.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I first ordered this banjo through banjo.com. They are very nice folks, but after two months, they still could not tell me when they could ship me the banjo. So, I canceled my order (which they did promptly). I had the banjo from Elderly 3 days later.

Overall Rating: 10

Washburn: B-16

Submitted by JohnWaters on 10/16/2013

Where Purchased: Guitar Center

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 799 ($US)

Sound

The Washburn B16 sounds great for bluegrass! I bought this as my first banjo based on reviews alone. After six months, I can play 13 songs at full speed with 95-98% accuracy. Sure, there was a lot of practice time, but the banjo made it enjoyable. After listening to many other brands/models since, I have been very impressed with how close it comes to banjos at 2-3X its price.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Setup was a little off, but not enough to affect playability. It was easy to resolve as I became more experienced wit exception of the heel cut. I had to shim it to get the action correct.

Setup Rating: 4

Appearance

It's a beautiful banjo - no defects that I could fine.No expensive details, but very attractive nonetheless.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Yes, this banjo will last. I have worn the frets substantially, but that is normal for the hours of play. Rest of the banjo shows no wear at all. I would be comfortable performing with this banjo.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

N/A, and I don't know. I have had zero problems.

Customer Service: 5

Components

The pot is well designed and the brass tone ring lends to a very sweet sound.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I have ordered a Deering Maple Blossom. I listened to a lot of banjos under $4000, and it was the only one that sounded significantly better than my Wasburn B16. It says a lot for a banjo when you have to spend over four times as much to get a better sounding banjo. 

Overall Rating: 9

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