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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!

7066 reviews in the archive.

Osborne Chief: Chief

Submitted by HSmith on 3/2/2021

Where Purchased: Private sale

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I'd been playing a maple Stelling for 20+ years, but felt I wanted a softer, 'Gibson-like' sound. This is a mahogany Chief with the Blaylock ring and it gives me just the sound I was hoping for.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

When I bought it, the bridge had a split in it and I didn't think the setup was great. I replaced the bridge with a heavy 5/8" Snuffy, fitted a new head and set it at 91 with the drum dial. Action at the 12th fret is 1/8"

Setup Rating: 6

Appearance

The inlay work is sensational, no sign of any filler, and it's my all-time-favourite 'Flying Eagle'. I wasn't sure about the speed neck finish, but now I've played it a while I wouldn't go back to a 'normal' neck. The neck profile is great for me, I like a slim, narrow neck. Initially, I wasn't sure about the gold plating but now I love it.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

All the hardware seems to be of the very highest quality. The gold plating is as good as new, even on the armrest, despite being more than six years old.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I bought the banjo used, and know nothing of it's history. As I'm in the UK, it's impractical to think of sending it back to Frank Neat or Sonny should I ever have a problem. However, it's so well built I don't imagine that will ever be a problem.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The banjo came with a Presto tailpiece, but I've replaced that with a gold Grover two-hump because I find them more reliably adjustable. I can't imagine any need to change anything else.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I was on vacation in Austria when I saw an ad showing this banjo for sale in the UK.  The banjo looked so beautiful in the photographs, I was concerned that the playability and sound would not match its stunning appearance!  However, I emailed the vendor and asked him to hold it until I could return to the UK to try it.  He agreed, and within two weeks I had the banjo in my hands.  Despite the setup issues described earlier, it was all I was looking for.  Those of you residing in the USA may find it hard to understand just how lucky I am to have found such an instrument for sale in the UK.  I've never seen another over here.  Not one in more than 50 years of playing!  I remain convinced that I'll never need to buy another acoustic banjo.  If it were lost, stolen or damaged beyond repair, it would be impossible to replace (in the UK) at anything like a reasonable cost.

It's my dream banjo, I've waited a long, long time to find it.  I'm a lucky man. 

Overall Rating: 10

Nechville: Meteor Electric

Submitted by HSmith on 2/6/2021

Where Purchased: Private sale

Year Purchased: 2004
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Considering the small head and the acoustic damping behind it, the Meteor produces a surprisingly good banjo sound acoustically. When played through a suitable practice amp and headphones, a very wide range of sounds can be created. The big plus is (and this is why I bought it) it's a mere whisper when compared to a conventional Mastertone type banjo.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

The action is quite low, with no buzzing anywhere. The compound radius on the fingerboard is very comfortable, and if I were having a banjo built today, I'd want a similar radius on the board. The profile of the neck is perfect for me, but I'd prefer the fingerboard to be slightly narrower.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

I guess it's an acquired taste, but I think it looks fantastic. It has a conventional 5th string (not tunneled) so is clearly a five string banjo, but the cut-away, metal-rimmed body is a real eye catcher. I understand mine is a prototype and has a super cool black metal-flake finish on the outer frame which I think they don't use now. The wood around the head has a beautiful flame and mid-brown sunburst colour. The neck is natural curly maple with no stain and looks sensational.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Tuning pegs are high quality guitar type. Tailpiece is a conventional design and seems robust. Finish on woodwork is very high gloss and after countless hours of playing has remained unmarked. Electrics seem to be good quality, no noise comes from the volume controls when in use.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Never dealt direct with Nechville, but Tom has a great reputation and I would feel very comfortable to approach him if I ever had a problem.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

I think some kind of armrest would be useful.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Overall I find the Meteor to be a unique looking, superbly designed and crafted alternative to a conventional banjo.  I needed it to permit me to practice for long hours at home without inconveniencing my wife and neighbours.  My main instrument is an Osborne Chief, and I think that could be heard in the next county! The Meteor is a beautiful instrument in its own right, and feels great to play.  In the past I've used an electric banjo from another major manufacturer, and I very much prefer the Meteor in every way.  I would recommend it without reservation. 

Overall Rating: 9

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