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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!

6986 reviews in the archive.

Enoch: 11' fretless - model unknown

Submitted by clawgrasser on 10/26/2019

Where Purchased: Private party sale

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: $600 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

I know little about this banjo or its history. It's an 11" fretless banjo which I bought to play very traditional old time clawhammer pieces. It's exactly what one would want for that style, although a 12" might provide more bottom end. I would describe the tone as round and rich. It's hard to get bright out of of a fretless. I have yet to tinker with the setup, but might consider experimenting with nylgut strings or a skin head.

As is, the volume seems about average. The bass is less prominent than my Wildwood.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was setup well when I received it. The neck was straight. I thought about deepening the slots, but I'll play it awhile first.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

It's a beautiful banjo in a simplistic way. It has a traditional "fiddle" shaped peghead with stylish pearl inlay, a cherry neck with classy carving starting at the fifth string peghead, satin lacquer finish, ebony fretless board, 1/2" inch rim finished in black satin lacquer, grooved tension hoop, first quality hardware (probably Stew Mac). It has a fibreskin head and noknot tailpiece. The quality throughout is professional first rate

No wear or flaws anywhere. Just some dust on the hardshell case and some film on the hardware from sitting unplayed for 15 years.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

First quality lacquer satin finish and professional best quality parts. As good as anything out there. I would rate the quality as superb.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Never dealt with the maker Kevin Enoch. I anticipate no problems. The banjo I bought used and out of warrantee. I'm a repairman and will repair it myself if ever needs it.

Customer Service: 10

Components

It's a simple quality banjo with first quality parts. What else do you need?

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I stumbled across this banjo by accident.  A dealer/collector friend was unloading some gear and he offered me this banjo at a bargain.  I don't know the model name.  It's something other that a Tradesman.  It has a typical banjo peghead, pearl inlay, and delicate neck carving starting at the 5th string peghead and curling down the back of the neck.

I have communicated with Kevin Enoch.  He indicated my banjo is a 1993 Enoch series 100 fretless.

A great old time banjo I couldn't pass up.

Overall Rating: 10

Rettberg & Lange: Manhatten

Submitted by clawgrasser on 9/19/2019

Where Purchased: McKenzie River Music

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: $1000 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This banjo was made circa 1900, probably for classical stylings. I use it for old time clawhammer Round Peak. Unstuffed it is bright and a little brash. Stuffed it has a unique, mellow, vintage tone with a nice edge. This is certainly no bluegrass banjo, but great for what I do. I love the tone of this banjo and it's tastefully fancy inlays and carved heel.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Banjo setup was weak initially. Bad neck angle, warped neck, weak friction tuners.

I had to correct the neck angle, heat straighten the neck, and fit new planetary tuners. I also replaced the fret binding on one side of the neck. Lastly, I decided on new matching Stew Mac hooks and nuts.

I did a thorough set up of banjo.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

The banjo has beautifully tasteful inlays. Ebony fretboard is probably a replacement. Neck has been refinished with gloss. The wood is fairly plain of undetermined species.

This banjo has an unusual double silver spun rim. It probably is a major contributor to it's unique tone.

Present condition of banjo with combination of new and old hardware is very good. It's just an original vintage piece.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The banjo is now in good playing condition and has proven itself reliable. With it's skin head and aged woods it can be a tempermental tuner, especially with humidity changes

This banjo is over one hundred years. It cannot be expected to thrive without more care than a new modern one.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Irrelevant on this banjo because of it age.

I do my own repair.

Customer Service: 5

Components

Unusual double spun rim. Beautifully crafted and functional neck.

I have upgrade that which needs upgrading.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

This is a beautiful old part of musical history which is able to function as a usable musical instrument in today's world  I have never seen another like it.  It's irreplaceable.

Overall Rating: 10

Wildwood: Heirloom

Submitted by clawgrasser on 9/18/2019

Where Purchased: Guitar Center Chattanooga

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I play primarily old time clawhammer in my own Round Peak style. It's got enough volume and power for bluegrass, but not the right tone. With it's heavy block pot and tubaphone tone ring it produces a tone from an earlier era.

The tone is strong with both bright highs and strong lows. Unstuffed it can be ringy, but lightly stuffed the tone is heaven.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was uneven at purchase. The nut needed work. I didn't like the Waverly tailpiece and replaced with a noknot. This change opened up the sound and made it more authentically old time. I also replaced the bridge with a high quality Bailes 11/16" which made it more useful for clawhammer

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

It's a great looking banjo with a blond finish Western broad leaf curly maple neck. With it's heavy maple block rim, it heavier than most old time banjos. Although the banjo was like new, the case was definitely worn. I swapped it out for a new case which I was resting an old banjo in.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

This banjo has first class hardware and a bombproof gloss finish. It seems indestructible. I bought it as a roadworthy professional banjo to assist my more fragile and irreplaceable 1900 Rettberg and Lange. This Wildwood should stand up to about anything.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Unknown. Mark Playing has now retired and the Wildwood company is a thing of the past.

I'm stuck with it, but that's okay. It appears to be so strong that it will last.

Customer Service: 5

Components

Standout parts are the beautifully strong neck and solidly built rim.

My only dislike is the Waverly tailpiece which I feel is inappropriate for old time sound production.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

The banjo is an old time powerhouse.  It's not a plunker like many of the new generation of old time reproduction banjos like Enoch or Pisgah.  It's more like an open back Stelling.

Overall Rating: 10

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