My teacher is a big fan of Japanese-made Alvarez banjos from the 1970s-80s -- apparently a heyday in the company's manufacturing. Quality used banjos for hundreds not thousands. I have seen Alvarez banjos built later, such as the 2000s, for sale and would like to know if anyone has experience with the older era Alvarez banjos compared to more modern ones. Are the vintage ones really of infinitely better quality? Thanks.
I can't speak for the later models but I know a fellow back home who owned a late 70's model Denver Belle. It was about as good a banjo as I ever played. It felt and sounded better than a lot of Gibsons from the same era but he traded it in on a Mastertone and I don't know who wound up with it.
Being from Canada you will likely see some Japanese banjos with ElDegus, I think it's the same company that made Alvarez. If that's the case, there's a huge difference in the later models that I've seen.
They can be decent banjos, but like every other manufactured instrument, you have to take each one on its own merits.
One detail about that era Alvarez instruments that always annoyed me was loose frets. So count on a refret if you buy one.
Those were made by Kasuga. Some are very good. As mentioned above though, it can vary. Instruments of that version also vary because of what has happened to them since leaving Japan 45-50 years ago. Most have been through a lot of hands, some of which may have not have been such great stewards. I played a Kasuga (badged Aria) a few weeks ago that was great. Same model as some Alvarez I have seen.
I picked up an Alvarez: Minstel 4289 5 Star (Wreath Inlay), last year. Its a really decent banjo. I only paid $300, but for the tone I'm getting it beat out my RB250 hands down. I agree, you really need to play them to pick out a good one but their out there. Mine is an late 70's - early 80's model. Like with anything when a brand name which has been out of production for some time, shows up again trying to use the name as its selling point, I'd take it with a grain of salt. Let the banjo speak for itself. As for the older 70-80's models, I don't know if they are worth $1000 plus I've seen advertised lately. But tone wise and play-ability mine is sure up there to me. You can check out my review if your so inclined.
Edited by - buckholler on 09/28/2020 07:46:35
I just sold an Alvarez for a friend and it was a surprisingly good banjo. It depends on production runs. Some of these had pot-metal tone rings, others may have had a brass/bronze alloy. Some rims were better than others. The resonators often had some beautiful rosewood veneer of some type. Peghead and resonator "inlays" were not really inlays, but micro-thin pearlescent designs covered with the thick catalyzed polyester finish.
Edited by - beegee on 09/28/2020 15:53:29
buddy i used to pick with had a 70s silver belle that was a hoss of banjo,,, he played it for years ,, always sounded very good to me... i think they bring a good price these days.
looks like a hearts and flowers 3
Edited by - 1935tb-11 on 09/29/2020 04:33:45
Think of a Datsun 510
I don’t think it’s infinitely better than the cars made today, but it was a nicer one
I put a black walnut rim in one with Tubaphone ring
I play the banjos before I take them apart and I became impatient with “patent dodging” quirks like left hand thread for the rim rod tailpiece ball brackets
Otherwise notice nothing too extravagant in comments
Many of the tone-ringed, made-in-Japan banjos of the 70ties were amazing instruments.
I have fond memories of a couple of Mann banjos I used to have (possibly Kasuga-made) that were extremely responsive and lively.
Keep in mind: most made-in-Japan banjos from that era came from the factory setup for 1/2 inch bridges and need some tweaking to make them work with a taller, like 5/8", bridge.
Larry: "Datsun..." wow, fond memoriews of my F10
Edited by - Bart Veerman on 09/29/2020 23:43:32
'Cooking with my banjo' 19 min
'Good Wednesday Morning' 4 hrs
'Guitar Wall Mount' 8 hrs
'Endorsement' 10 hrs