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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!

7077 reviews in the archive.

Bridges: Sampson 5/8 Maple Compensated Bridge

Submitted by SouthCreek on 9/20/2016

Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments (Online)

Overall Comments

Coming from a stock Deering bridge, the Sampson 5/8 Maple Compensated Bridge was a perfect buy. My banjo is a Deering Eagle II with Fults 34Parallel Lite tailpiece and medium gage nickel wound strings. Recently I set the banjos head tension to 91 and this gave me the volume and snap I was looking for. But the banjo became too bright (and"cutty") and harsh to the ear. The sustain and prevalence of higher frequency harmonics (or over tones) were over powering. I wanted to regain the sweet rich sound of the midrange and reduce those piercing highs, but I didn't want to reduce the head tension and lose volume or vibrancy. After some research I decided to try out a heavier bridge. In addition, I wondered what a compensated bridge could do for the intonation issues I had up-neck and  on the first fret third string (particularly when fretting the third string in drop D tuning). 

On first impression, the Sampson bridge is a beautiful and supremely crafted bit of wood. It makes the lighter stock Deering bridge look abysmal in comparison. Upon trying it out the Sampson I was displease with the intonation - it seemed to make things worse! But then I realised I had the bridge back-to-front. So I turned the bridge the other way and the tone was magnificent

The Sampson has returned balance to my banjo. Those overpowering high frequency overtones have undergone significant reduction, but not total reduction - which is great. The midrange has regained its prevalence to reproduce an overall rich sound.  The increase in note decay is just enough to provide that clarity of note separation I've been looking for. The banjo has no more intonation issues up-neck. The highs are sweeter and more vibrant. Intonation in D is also fantastic.The volume is about the same. Although, others may perceive a minor reduction in volume, I believe this is due to the banjo being less 'harsh'.... A banjo can be twangy and sweet- it doesn't have to cut glass. 

Overall, the Sampson was a great purchase. I would recommend it to anybody experiencing issues similar to what I have described. If the Sampson does not give you exactly what you're looking for straight away, I suggest experimenting with your setup before ruling it out. 

I play a variety of styles, but mostly Scruggs. 

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Eagle ll

Submitted by SouthCreek on 9/13/2016

Where Purchased: Deering Suplier Australia

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 5,200 (AUS) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

At the timeof writing, I've had this banjo for about 6 months. I spent two years deciding between the Deering Sierra and the Deering Eagle II. I eventually decided on the Eagle due to the tonal properties of the thicker woodrim and Twenty-Ten Tonering. The highs are less pronounced due to the thicker woodrim, but fretting up the neck produces extrodinarily vibrant highs with beautifully balanced, subtle overtones. I find this much easier to listen to than the Sierra. The brass tonering softens the properties of the maple and produces a warmer, sweeter tone. It is similar to a mahogany banjo in that sense, but the maple produces clearner note separation. So we get the best of both worlds.

When playing bluegrass the sound is reminicent of Terry Baucoms hard driving midrange. With head tension set to 91 all around, this banjo produces some serious crackle. When playing something more along the lines of Jens Krugger or Steve Martin, I set this banjo up for maximum sutain. I've never heard another banjo sustain like it.

The playability is fantastic - I love that Deering slender neck design.

Like any Scruggs fanatic, I added Keith D Tuners. The D tuners are great fun and this banjo sounds sweet in D tuning because the lows and midrange are so powerful. However, I encountered intonatio issues in D tuning and after a long process of deductionI decided the Deering TrueTone tailpiece had to go. I replaced it with a Fults34Parallel Lite with XYZ 20mount (size 1). . All fixed! In fact, the Fults brought out the quaities of the banjo like nothing I ever thought possible. And this thing is loud....very loud. I can't imagine needing more bass,midrange or highs. The note sepearation is brilliant - even in the face of all that sustain. However, the prevalence of higher frequency harmonics can beover powering if not setup properly, or using too lite a bridge (i.e., the stock Deering bridge). I corrected this by adding a Sampson 5/8 Maple Compensated Bridge (see my reviewon the Sampson for further details).

Overall, this is a very versatile banjo, capable of any genre - required one takes advantage of setup knowledge. The TrueTone tailpiece is ok, but if you want to hear what this banjo is really capable of, definitely consider a Fults.



Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The head tension was a little on the low side for me (around 89-90). I increased the tension to 91 using an accurate digitial drumdial. This increased the height of the action, but I don't mind it.

The Eagle II came with action set for light gauge strings. I only use medium gauge and had to re-adjust the action accordingly.

The addition of 2nd/3d string Keith D Tuners was really simple: the peg holes are a match.

All changes were easy to make and banjo easy to take appart.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

The stained maple is really beautiful.The wood is high quality - I saw no blemishs or imperfections and the finish is spectacular. The pearl inlays are also fantastic. This is a beautiful banjo. Would not change a thing.

I recently ordered a Deering pearl trussrod cover with custom script and that will complete the look.

The hardware is fine.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo is built solid - it will outlast a jail-house. There are no cheap feeling components or rattly bits.

The fretboard seems to need re-oiling after 3months,but that may be because I play quite a lot.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Never dealt with Deering directly.The Aussie supplier forgot to put frets on and I had to send it back for another week.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The banjo stands out as a whole. It's difficult to pick on any component.

I only reccomend upgrading the tailpiece - not because there's anything wrong with the TrueTone, but because a sturdier talipiece could bring out the banjos qualities even more. I bought a Fults 34Parallel Lite with XYZ 20mount (size 1) and that suited my needs. But I suggest anybody looking for that pre-war sound to go for the full weight 1934Parallel.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is an amazing banjo. Powerful,versatile, responsive (if set up correctly) and beautiful. I will keep this banjo for life. 

This is the kind of banjo which gets better with age. 

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Goodtime II

Submitted by SouthCreek on 9/7/2016

Where Purchased: Deering Supplier, Australia

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 1200 (AUS) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The Goodtime II was my first banjo. I initially came to the banjo because I wanted to learn how to play Scruggs classic - and Scruggs style in general. But as I ventured the world of Bluegrass, I came in to contact with various other styles of playing and adopted those into my repertoire. This banjo was able to accomodate everything from Scruggs and Reno to Jens Krugger and Steve Martin. This banjo can be mellow with great sustain or bright and crackly - with a surprising amount of snap considering it doesn't have a tone ring. A head tension of 91 provides the best sound to my ears. The sound is well ballanced across the fret board and the highs have a vibrant quality. Just don't expected the Goodtime II to be as "loud" as a higher end tone ring banjo and you won't be dissapointed.

The lack of tonering results in a more "woody" sound, but the soud is special on its own. Every now and then I'll put down my higher-end Deering Banjo and play the Goodtime, just for that woody sound and feel.

I replaced the Goodtime bridge and tailpiece with a Deering True Tone and Deering Bridge and this improved the qualities of the banjo even more.

As to my own liking , I have always used medium gauge strings.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was fine. Over time I adjusted the setup to suit my player style.

I also added a Shubb sliding capo. That was a fine decision, but I prefer properly installed spikes. I found the Shubb made it difficult to frett the 5th string due to added width on the neck, even though I have big hands.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I'm not a fan of the Fiddle Shaped Peghead or the blonde wood. The fiddle head appears at odds with the rest of the banjo and the blonde finger board shows up a lot of dirt. The flange design is also very bland. However, I wouldn't expect to see a gold flange in this price range.Greg deering sought to make a "good" banjo affordable and that's exactly what he did. For what this banjo sounds like, I really can't complaina out cosmetics.

The inlays do match the simplicity of the woody sound.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

This banjo is solid, but lacks finish. There is visible wear on the neck where the banjo has been suspended from a neckstrap. Aside from looking dirty and worn over time, I see this banjo sitting in my living room 50 years from now, sounding just as great - if not better as the violin grade maple rim ages.

The tuning pegs don't feel quite as solid as the rest of the banjo, but they do keep things in tune (no slip).

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Never dealt with the company. Got the banjo through a local store, via Australian Deering supplier.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The standout component is the slender neck. The neck is highly playable; it feels amazing.

The maple is high grade.

The tuning pegs feel weak and they are cheap. Some heavier Deering planetary tuning pegs would go a long way - but the Goodtime II pegs are not readily swappable due to peg hole size differences.

This banjo is very light weight. I get a surprise every time I lift it, after weeks of playing my heavier tonering banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The Goodtime II was my first banjo. Even beyond its price range, this banjo sets the standard for how good banjos are made. Due to its playability and brilliant sound, this was the perfect banjo to start learning on. I have since progressed to a much higher-end Deering banjo and chose to remain with the company even after hearing hundreds of other banjos played. The Deering quality and sound is truly...enDearing. 

This banjo has been signed by Greg Cahill, John Simpson and Lauren Grundy. 

Overall Rating: 9

Bridges: Grover ACOUSTICRAFT™

Submitted by SouthCreek on 1/7/2014

Where Purchased: Melb, AUS.

Overall Comments

I purchased this Grover ACOUSTICRAFT for my Deering Goodtime II, replacing the stock bridge. Strings are D' Addario Nickel Wound Medium Gauge. 

I observed the following:

1. Sound is less plunky.
2. Clearer note separation.
3. Sound quality is more continuous across the finger board. 
4. Better acoustic balance between higher and lower strings....the 4th string use to be somewhat dull compared to the other strings. Not any more. 
5. The action is higher, but I don't mind. 

7. Increased overall volume. 
8. Increased ambient resonance. 
9. Brighter, crisper tone towards the bridge and mellow but resonant tones towards the neck. 

10. Fet's 16-22 on the 1st string produce fuller sound and less "plinky".

Overall, the sound has improved. However, I don't believe a higher end banjo would benefit from this bridge. 

Cons:

1. Makes an annoying buzzing sound when capo as second fret or higher, or when playing hard.... -3


This bridge cost $17.50 AUS, and I recommend it for this Banjo (tailpiece is stock) with these strings. 
 

Update: Since having acquired a higher end banjo, I completely forgot about this review. But I do remember replacing that Grover bridge with a higher end Deering bridge and string buzz went away. 

My current banjo would not benefit from a Grover at all. 
 

Overall Rating: 5

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