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!
7115 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Leon Ballard directly
This banjo sounds amazing. Big, punchy and mellow, with crisp highs and great note separation. Oddly, it has lots of sustain when you want it, but never sounds muddy. I've always stuffed open backs, but not this one!
It is LOUD and has a fantastic pop- particularly on the low C and G strings. Chords are rich and full.
Sound Rating: 10
Set up was excellent. Leon marked off the bridge placement with masking tape on the head, all I had to do was line the bridge up, tighten the strings and I was away. I've made no set changes thusfar and, short of tightening the new head when it inevitably stretches, I have no intention of doing so.
Setup Rating: 10
Wow. Leon takes excellent high def pictures of all of his banjos for his website, and the pictures speak for themselves.
Mine is cherry block rim, capped in walnut, raw brass hardware, handmade walnut armrest, curved bridge and no knot tailpiece. Neck is three piece (cherry with thick walnut centre stripe), with a minstrel headstock and walnut front and back overlays. Gorgeous 9-12" compound radius rosewood fretboard and an 's' scoop.
Oil rubbed finish, very classy looking.
The craftsmanship is excellent. There isn't a single blemish on the instrument and the fit and finish is superb. Leon clearly takes pride in his work and it shows in every detail.
Appearance Rating: 10
It's early days, but I don't anticipate having any serious issues. I did have a railroad spike come loose, however with Leon's advice I resolved this very easily. He also offered several other options, should my repair not go well. Fortunately, it did!
The components are all high quality (gotoh tuners) and the finish is superb. This is my main instrument now (after selling my Nechville) and I would have full confidence to take it to any gig or jam.
Leon backs up his work and I'm sure he would have no issues assisting if something were to go amiss later down the line.
Reliability Rating: 10
Leon received my order in April (it is now December) and has been in touch constantly to discuss tweaks and to update me on his progress with pictures. He was extrememly flexible when it came to shipping the instrument and we've exchanged several emails after receipt. He made a point of saying to contact him should any problems develop in the future, and I do not doubt that he would stand by that.
Customer Service: 10
Everything on the banjo is top spec and incredible considering the price.
I would make a point of mentioning the fretboard though. Compound radius was not something the Leon was able to offer initially...however, even after I said I was happy to go with a standard radius, he looked into it and built a jig to make it possible. The end result was just what I was after, and I really felt he went above and beyond with to make this possible.
Components Rating: 10
As you can probably tell from the above, I am a very happy customer. I wouldn't normally give 10 out of 10 across the board, but I really can't fault the build.
The whole process was completely painless- Leon listened to what I wanted out of the instrument and delivered. The banjo exhibits everything that I was hoping for, at an extremely reasonable price. If you live in the UK (or anywhere else for that matter...) and want a beautiful custom open back, drop him an email!
Overall Rating: 10
'Backup' 6 hrs
'Chuck Lee Ovilla' 7 hrs