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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!

7124 reviews in the archive.

Pisgah: Cherry Dobson

Submitted by dpdevendra on 2/12/2017

Where Purchased: Pisgah

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 1435 ($US)

Sound

I have always played 3 finger Scruggs style. Over the past3 or 4 months I started playing clawhammer style. I purchased this banjo to replicate some of the old-time sounds I have heard in recordings and at live events.

The banjo has a warm sound with a sweet sustain. Some banjos I listened to had harsh overtone. The Pisgah Dobson has a nice sustain that lingers long after the last string is plucked.
The top of the finger board has a frailing s-scoop that allows easy playing up the neck. This provides me with a variety of sound possibilities. I can get that klucking sound at the top of the neck or a little brighter bluegrass sound close the the bridge. The ren 12 inch head provides a warmer sound as well. The head is a bit tighter than some recommendations for the plunky sound. I’ll let it break in for awhile before I make any adjustments.

I have also replace the bridge with aMoon compensated heavy bridge. I am liking the sound even more.
When I took this banjo to my lesson last week, my instructor stopped me in the middle of the lesson to let me know how nice he liked the sound of the banjo. He then tried it out for himself. It took me awhile to get my banjo back because he was enjoying the sound while playing it for himself.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was setup just right. Tune up the strings and place the bridge at the pencil marks and I was off playing my new banjo. I spoke to Patrick about head tension. He indicated he usually likes a little tighter head to start out with so when the head relaxes a bit, it will be at the right tension and sound. I’ll let it break in before messing with the tension. The action is very good for playing clawhammer. The first 5 or so frets have a lower action. At the higher frets, the action is a little higher allowing easier playing up the neck. The strings are medium guage for the darker sound I suppose.

I have not made any setup changes except swapping out the bridge, I may loosen the head. For now I’ll just enjoy the banjo and let it break in before making any more adjustments.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This one has custom features including a vintage peg head with a star inlay, vintage heel, and s scoop. Its a standard scale and actually has some Curley figure in the neck. It has a walnut rim cap and walnut Vaneer under the fingerboard and center stripe down the neck.

For looks, it is not easy for me since I am blind. When I was looking for a banjo, Patrick sent me pictures of banjos. My wife saw the pictures and indicated it was “pretty”. My banjo instructor without any prompting said that it was a good looking banjo. The feel of the neck seems more natural to me. It does not have the high lacquered smooth finish of some of my other banjos whichI like for this banjo. I wanted a more traditional look and feel just like it came out of the mountains of North Carolina, just like the sound.


Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo seems solid. It is not as heavy as my resonator banjos with the tone rings and everything seems to be well put together. The fit and finish are top notch. It appears to be a sturdy banjo. The tuners are solid in feel and keep the banjo in tune during playing and over night.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I dealt directly with Patrick over the phone and through emails. He has been very responsive in all my questions. He started by asking me what I was looking for in a banjo. After listing the features I was looking for, he made some recommendations. Fortunately he had some banjos already made up and provided me with some discount pricing. I had the banjo in less than a week from the time I started my inquires into his banjos. I had listened to most if not all the models of the Pisgah banjos on youtube, so I had a good idea of how each of the banjos sounded. Once he recommended the Pisgah Dobson banjo, this confirmed what I had thought would be the banjo for me.

I have not had any need for repair questions. I have submitted a few questions on setup and specifications. He has always responded within a day or so. His emails come to me in the middle of the night usually, long after I have gone to bed.

The warranty is a limited life-time warranty for the original owner.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Brass hardware, vintage peg head and heel, s-scoop, renn. head, hardshell case.

Some of the standout components for me are the tuners, the shape of the neck, the s-shape frailing scoop, and the action setup. They all seem top notch. I do not see any part that is below average or need replaced.

The only change has been the bridge. Patrick admitted he did not put a high-quality bridge on this panjo. He recommended a couple bridges. This is not a big deal for me since the bridges can be a personal preference and usually run about $30 each. I purchased 2 bridges to try out.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is a 12" cherry Dobson custom banjo

I was looking for a good open back banjo that would let me get that old-time sound when playing claw hammer.  I started looking at various makers.  I have a Nechville resonator banjo, that I love.  I looked at the Deerings as well.  I went over to the banjo hangout reviews and found a series of outstanding reviews for the Pisgah banjos and the company.  I read up more and saw that all the wood components are made from local woods.  This all sounded good to me.  Then I started noticing the prices and I was sold that this was the banjo and banjo company I wanted to support.  The more research I did the more I was convinced that I had found my new banjo.  After speaking with Patrick there was no doubt that I was going to get one of their banjos.  I have had my new banjo for a couple weeks now and have played it every day since.  It just keeps getting better. 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Calico

Submitted by dpdevendra on 5/30/2015

Where Purchased: Amazon

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 3,700 ($US)

Sound

I play mostly bluegrass Scruggs style. I like a bright sound I have tuned the head up to about 90 pounds per the drum meter and I am liking this sound.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

These was no setup required when purchased. The bridge and head were all set and ready to go. Just a little tune up. The action was spot on and has been for the last 7 months.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I am blind but everyone who sees this banjo comments on its appearance and how beautiful it looks.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

There is no doubt this banjo is reliable. I take it to my weekly jam session as well as an out of town banjo camp with no issues. As much as I play this banjo, there has been no real sign of wear.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I am the original owner so a lifetime warranty. I have not had too much need for customer service. I did ask about head tension and banjo tune up and received very detailed information in a timely fashion.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Every thing was good. One screw that holds the resinator only fits one of the nuts. That is the only flaw I can find. Tuners stay well. I played for an hour one night, travelled a 100 miles away and the banjo was still in tune from the night before.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I played my gold star banjo about 30 years ago.  About a year ago I decided to pick it back up.  I love the gold star but I was looking for something that had a brighter sound.  I looked around for the most expensive banjo I could afford that met my needs.  Since I am blind I need a reliable instrument that does not require a lot of tuning and setup.  From my research the Deering Calico looked like the banjo for me.  I ordered online from Amazon about 7 months ago and have not been disappointed   in my purchase.  I play at least an hour a day with up to 4 hours a day on the weekend.           I am in love with this banjo.  Every time I take it out I get a big smile.  Then I play it and it makes my soul feel good.  This is not just a banjo, this is my meditation.  There are probably better banjos and I could have played and tried out more banjos.  I cannot imagine liking or enjoying any banjo better.  My Gold Star must feel lonely in its case for the last 7 months.

  

Overall Rating: 10

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