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  #1  
Old 04-19-2017, 05:52 AM
SpruceTop SpruceTop is offline
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Default Your Thoughts On Open-Back Banjo Choices Welcomed!

Although I'm loving my new Deering Sierra 5-String Resonator (maple neck), I'm hankering for an open-back, 5-string banjo to keep it company. From window shopping on the web I've narrowed my choices for a new open-back banjo to the following:

Vega #2 (Tubaphone Tone Ring) very expensive at $3739 MAP with case.

Bart Reiter Regent (Whyte Laydie-style Tone Ring) $1495 MAP without case.

Wildwood Troubadour (Tubaphone-style Tone Ring) $1835 MAP without case.

All the above are American-made and have excellent quality ratings and I've read only good things about their tone. Being a long-time fan of The Kingston Trio and Pete Seeger, I'd prefer the *Vega #2 because of its real Tubaphone Tone Ring and Vega name but the Bart Reiter Regent and Wildwood banjos seem like really excellent values.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on the above open-back, 5-string banjos and any other brands you feel are worthy of consideration in terms of a convergence of quality, tone and value. Thanks, Ken

*I've thought about a Vega Long-Neck 5-String banjo (Tubaphone models) but my dealer says they don't hold their value on a trade-in or outright sale because very few players want them anymore. He also said that most players who buy a long-neck wind up playing most of the time with a capo at the third fret which makes it like a regular 5-string banjo.
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2016 Deering Sierra 5-String Banjo
2016 Martin D Jr. B-Band A1.2N-1470
2016 Taylor GS Mini-e Koa ES2
2016 Taylor 614ce ES2
2016 Martin GPC-18E Aura Enhance
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2015 Taylor 356ce 12-String ES2
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Last edited by SpruceTop; 04-20-2017 at 09:36 AM.
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  #2  
Old 04-19-2017, 12:31 PM
H2O H2O is offline
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All 3 that you've listed appear to be quality instruments. You seem to be leaning towards the Vega -- The question is, what does the Vega have that the others don't? It is certainly more expensive, but if it is the banjo that better suits you/your needs, I am duty bound as an enabler to say "Go for it!".
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Old 04-19-2017, 01:00 PM
amyFB amyFB is offline
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I'd say the long neck would concern me as uncomfortable to play for very long at one sitting.

I have an open back banjo that is a cobbled together thing of no brand identity; has a prewar pot and a fairly recent vintage neck, and brand new tuners that i put on. It's got a great sound and if i had to gripe about anything it is the unbalanced weight of the instrument and the way the headpins poke into my body is unfriendly.

I have been told that the more headpins the better, so that might be a decision factor to consider. Mine has 20 but I've seen as many as 28.

Last point is - i always muffle mine with a lump of soft foam stuck in the pot. unfortunately it is visible through the head but, it softens the sound in a way I like.

good luck! we'll be watching for the pictures
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Old 04-19-2017, 04:09 PM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amyFB View Post
I'd say the long neck would concern me as uncomfortable to play for very long at one sitting.

I have an open back banjo that is a cobbled together thing of no brand identity; has a prewar pot and a fairly recent vintage neck, and brand new tuners that i put on. It's got a great sound and if i had to gripe about anything it is the unbalanced weight of the instrument and the way the headpins poke into my body is unfriendly.

I have been told that the more headpins the better, so that might be a decision factor to consider. Mine has 20 but I've seen as many as 28.

Last point is - i always muffle mine with a lump of soft foam stuck in the pot. unfortunately it is visible through the head but, it softens the sound in a way I like.

good luck! we'll be watching for the pictures
Regarding the number of nuts / hooks on a banjo here's a copy/paste from my old banjo-centric website "Designing An Open Back Banjo" page which might de-bunk the "more hooks is better" camp.
*******************************************
To fully understand the depth of the issue a bit of history is in order:

It's probably most accurate to say that marketplace influences had the greatest effect on hook numbers as the banjo's popularity blossomed from the mid-1800's through the "Sear's Catalog" era, since we know that larger numbers weren't advantageous from a tensioning perspective.

As early banjo designs saw an improvement in the general strength of the hardware the number of hooks that were necessary to apply sufficient force to tension the head decreased dramatically. While large numbers of hooks weren't necessary, the banjo buying public was just as easily swayed as consumers are today and it was soon realized that more hooks equated to a larger number of banjo sold. You can observe banjos made during the hook wars with 50 or more present; it's a marketing tactic that has been used over and over since the advent of the salesman.

First, a brief story example of consumer marketing...

There is nothing better than the early transistor radio as an example of the "numbers game" in marketing. The average radio buyer was unaware that after a certain number of transistors in a given radio design there was no additional improvement in the sound or function of the radio if more were added. Tell that to the guy that just purchased the latest-and-greatest 27 transistor model and you’d have an argument on your hands, though. Early transistors had a relatively high failure rate when manufactured and the manufacturers soon figured out that they could include rejected inoperable transistors soldered on the circuit boards to fulfill the "letter of the law", and actually turn the non-functional components into a marketing asset. After all, they never claimed that all "27" (or more...) transistors actually worked; merely that they were part of the product. It was a great marketing scheme that I first heard of in one of the hobbyist electronics magazines when I was a pre-teen. The article stated that many of these dummy components were marked with a dot on their tops, so I quickly pulled one of my high-transistor-count radios apart to check. Sure enough, several transistors on the board were marked with dots and their leads were soldered to a common pad on the circuit board ensuring that they were indeed non-functional. I've been a skeptic of snake oil every since. The laws against it have improved, but manufacturers still use "deceptive marketing" today. Still want a 60 hook banjo?

You'll also hear the argument from some that more hooks increased the rim mass, but manufacturers could have easily added mass without the need for added mechanical hardware.

Is there a down side to using lots of hooks? You bet.

You don't get something for nothing and all that bling will add unnecessary weight, possibly weaken an otherwise solid rim design by drilling all those holes in it, and since there's so LITTLE force exerted by each individual nut you'll be spending most of your time chasing down which one is loose and rattling, or worse yet, end up with knee problems from all the time you'll spend on them looking for hardware that has fallen off from insufficient torque. STILL want those 60 hooks?
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Old 04-19-2017, 04:15 PM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpruceTop View Post
Although I'm loving my new Deering Sierra 5-String Resonator (maple neck), I'm hankering for an open-back, 5-string banjo to keep it company. From window shopping on the web I've narrowed my choices for a new open-back banjo to the following:

Vega #2 (Tubaphone Tone Ring) very expensive at $3739 MAP with case.

Bart Reiter Regent (Whyte Lady-style Tone Ring) $1495 MAP without case.

Wildwood Troubadour (Tubaphone-style Tone Ring) $1835 MAP without case.

All the above are American-made and have excellent quality ratings and I've read only good things about their tone. Being a long-time fan of The Kingston Trio and Pete Seeger, I'd prefer the *Vega #2 because of its real Tubaphone Tone Ring and Vega name but the Bart Reiter Regent and Wildwood banjos seem like really excellent values.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on the above open-back, 5-string banjos and any other brands you feel are worthy of consideration in terms of a convergence of quality, tone and value. Thanks, Ken

*I've thought about a Vega Long-Neck 5-String banjo (Tubaphone models) but my dealer says they don't hold their value on a trade-in or outright sale because very few players want them anymore. He also said that most players who buy a long-neck wind up playing most of the time with a capo at the third fret which makes it like a regular 5-string banjo.
If I were you I'd consider a Pisgah Banjo Company Tubaphone.

You can read the details on their website, or any other retailer such as Elderly, but Patrick Heavner is turning out some very well-respected banjos at a good price point.

http://pisgahbanjos.com/#home

If you want a genuine Wildwood you should probably act soon.
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  #6  
Old 04-19-2017, 06:25 PM
frankmcr frankmcr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpruceTop View Post



[B]I'd appreciate your thoughts on the above open-back, 5-string banjos and any other brands you feel are worthy of consideration in terms of a convergence of quality, tone and value. Thanks, Ken
Ome. Just outstanding quality banjos. There's some new openback models at Elderly, ranging (with case) $1995-2940. Beautiful instruments in every way.

Last edited by frankmcr; 04-19-2017 at 09:29 PM.
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  #7  
Old 04-20-2017, 01:51 PM
SpruceTop SpruceTop is offline
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Default Nechville Atlas? Bishline Okie?

Thanks, so far, for your comments, Folks!

I've looked online at the Pisgah banjos and I'm impressed with their craftsmanship. I only wish they had a more traditional-style peg-head shape like Deering, Vega, or Stelling and many other brands. Even though they offer a sort of traditional style peghead as an option, it's not what I like. I'd still consider a Pisgah even with the paddleshaped peghead.

If I'm correct, OME is a descendant of the old ODE brand that I remember seeing back in the mid-1960s. Very nice styling and features!

Any love for the Nechville Atlas 12-inch rim banjo? It's different in style and features but looks like it would be easy to maintain and sounds mighty fine in the videos I've watched.

Also, any love for the Bishline Okie Openback Banjo with the Dobson Tone Ring?
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2017 Pisgah 12" Walnut Tubaphone 5-String Banjo
2016 Deering Sierra 5-String Banjo
2016 Martin D Jr. B-Band A1.2N-1470
2016 Taylor GS Mini-e Koa ES2
2016 Taylor 614ce ES2
2016 Martin GPC-18E Aura Enhance
2016 Martin D-18
2016 Taylor 322ce ES2
2015 Taylor 618e ES2
2015 Taylor 356ce 12-String ES2
2014 Martin HD-28 Trance Amulet M-VT
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  #8  
Old 04-20-2017, 02:06 PM
frankmcr frankmcr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpruceTop View Post

If I'm correct, OME is a descendant of the old ODE brand that I remember seeing back in the mid-1960s. Very nice styling and features!
Yes, same guy in charge, Charles Ogbury. Started Ode around 1960, sold the company to Baldwin (the piano etc company) a few years later & went travelling around the USA (hippie days!), started Ome (or re-started Ode, you might say) in the 1980s I believe.
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Old 04-20-2017, 03:13 PM
cu4life7 cu4life7 is offline
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I absolutely love my Kevin Enoch Tradesman, and I would recommend his banjos to anybody that will listen. His dobsons get good reviews as well. But like previously mentioned, I would also take a long hard look at Pisgah. They are beautiful to me.
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Old 04-21-2017, 05:51 AM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpruceTop View Post
Thanks, so far, for your comments, Folks!

I've looked online at the Pisgah banjos and I'm impressed with their craftsmanship. I only wish they had a more traditional-style peg-head shape like Deering, Vega, or Stelling and many other brands. Even though they offer a sort of traditional style peghead as an option, it's not what I like. I'd still consider a Pisgah even with the paddleshaped peghead.

If I'm correct, OME is a descendant of the old ODE brand that I remember seeing back in the mid-1960s. Very nice styling and features!

Any love for the Nechville Atlas 12-inch rim banjo? It's different in style and features but looks like it would be easy to maintain and sounds mighty fine in the videos I've watched.

Also, any love for the Bishline Okie Openback Banjo with the Dobson Tone Ring?
Style is a totally personal choice, obviously. I used to make fiddle cut pegheads, but over the years I've grown to not like the look. I'm a firm believer in the "roll your own" ethic, and all the jos I make are for the most part slot head tunneled fifth necks.



My recommendations were also considering best bang for the buck, but I'm really cheap. The Bishline and the Nechville would certainly be fine instruments, but if you're spending that much you might as well just get on the waiting list for a new Romero!

Last edited by Rudy4; 04-21-2017 at 05:56 AM.
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  #11  
Old 04-26-2017, 02:10 PM
SpruceTop SpruceTop is offline
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Default Pisgah Appalachian Banjo On Order!

After viewing the responses on this thread, and seeing the shout-outs for Pisgah Banjos, I checked them out and was impressed! The banjos seemed a little quirky-looking at first but I fell for their simplicity of design, and from online videos, their tone, which is very old-timey and warm. I called Patrick Heavner and he suggested I send an email with the model and features I want. He quoted me a price and I've got to admit that Pisgah banjos sure seem like a great value!

I've ordered a Pisgah Appalachian 12" Walnut Rim with Walnut Neck, Tubaphone Tone Ring, Persimmon fingerboard with Simple Frailing Scoop/Railroad Spikes at 7th, 9th & 10th frets, Traditional Peghead, Traditional Neck Heel, Renaissance Banjo Head, Hawktail Tailpiece, Wire Arm Rest, Pisgah Embroidered Gig Bag, and all metal components are the Nickel-plated option. Patrick said my banjo should be ready around the beginning of June. C'mon June!

Pisgah Banjo Company
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2017 Pisgah 12" Walnut Tubaphone 5-String Banjo
2016 Deering Sierra 5-String Banjo
2016 Martin D Jr. B-Band A1.2N-1470
2016 Taylor GS Mini-e Koa ES2
2016 Taylor 614ce ES2
2016 Martin GPC-18E Aura Enhance
2016 Martin D-18
2016 Taylor 322ce ES2
2015 Taylor 618e ES2
2015 Taylor 356ce 12-String ES2
2014 Martin HD-28 Trance Amulet M-VT
2013 RainSong WS1000 Fishman Prefix+T
2007 Ovation VXT

Last edited by SpruceTop; 04-29-2017 at 11:15 AM.
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Old 04-28-2017, 02:10 AM
darylcrisp darylcrisp is offline
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well, I'm late for the show.
Pisgah are excellent for the $, I really like the Dobson tone ring in them. I tend to prefer 6lbs and under, so I have specific brands and models I like.

Was going to mention, if you wanted a real Vega that's been gone over and plays better than almost anything new, Bob Smakula is the man in W Va to check with.
His prices are very reasonable, and he knows his stuff. I had a 1928 that was outstanding, had a little wonder tone ring in it and came in under 6 lbs.

The white Oak models Deering is just offering sound great. Light, have a neat headstock inlay, and play beautiful.

Patrick will do you right.

d
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Old 04-28-2017, 05:08 AM
SpruceTop SpruceTop is offline
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Originally Posted by darylcrisp View Post
well, I'm late for the show.
Pisgah are excellent for the $, I really like the Dobson tone ring in them. I tend to prefer 6lbs and under, so I have specific brands and models I like.

Was going to mention, if you wanted a real Vega that's been gone over and plays better than almost anything new, Bob Smakula is the man in W Va to check with.
His prices are very reasonable, and he knows his stuff. I had a 1928 that was outstanding, had a little wonder tone ring in it and came in under 6 lbs.

The white Oak models Deering is just offering sound great. Light, have a neat headstock inlay, and play beautiful.

Patrick will do you right.

d
A new Vega #2 was what I had in mind but at $3739 MAP, it was a little more costly than I wanted to spend. My Pisgah is coming in at $1740 shipped but, of course it isn't as fancy-looking as the Vega #2.

I think the Pisgah Dobson looks really cool and sounds nice in the videos and I was considering one of these with the ultra-cool-looking brass hardware. I asked Patrick about the brass tarnishing and he said it would and that he also offers pre-tarnished brass hardware that won't tarnish any further. I decided to go for a Tubaphone Tone Ring because at Pisgah banjo prices, why not? I also ordered the nickel finish on the tuners and all metal parts, including the Tubaphone Tone Ring, which with a nickel finish is $240, or a $140 more than the brass Dobson Tone Ring. I'm estimating my Pisgah will come in at about 8 lbs which is a nice weight improvement over my Deering Sierra at 11 lbs. The Deering gets downright uncomfortable to hold after about 30 minutes!

The Deering Vega White Oaks look interesting and are considerably lighter in weight than their similar regular Vega models. A guy on my Kingston Trio Place website sold his 1969 Vega Pete Seeger and bought a Deering Vega White Oak Longneck and loves it! The only thing I don't like about the White Oak Longnecks is that they have guitar tuners instead of planetary tuners but the banjos could be ordered with the planetary tuners, if desired.

Thanks for the tip on Bob Smakula, as a 1960s Vega Pete Seeger may be in my future.
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2017 Pisgah 12" Walnut Tubaphone 5-String Banjo
2016 Deering Sierra 5-String Banjo
2016 Martin D Jr. B-Band A1.2N-1470
2016 Taylor GS Mini-e Koa ES2
2016 Taylor 614ce ES2
2016 Martin GPC-18E Aura Enhance
2016 Martin D-18
2016 Taylor 322ce ES2
2015 Taylor 618e ES2
2015 Taylor 356ce 12-String ES2
2014 Martin HD-28 Trance Amulet M-VT
2013 RainSong WS1000 Fishman Prefix+T
2007 Ovation VXT

Last edited by SpruceTop; 04-30-2017 at 07:07 AM.
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  #14  
Old 04-30-2017, 04:31 AM
frquent flyer frquent flyer is offline
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I have a Bart Reiter Regent and I like it very much, My Sister has a Bart Reiter as well. Tom
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Old 04-30-2017, 07:06 AM
SpruceTop SpruceTop is offline
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I have a Bart Reiter Regent and I like it very much, My Sister has a Bart Reiter as well. Tom
I've taken a shine to Bart Reiter banjos and was going to get a Bart Reiter Regent, which I still may do. I like his styling as it looks a lot like a Vega complete with two Vega Stars, and I've heard great things about their tone. I kind of wished he offered the Tubaphone as an option for the Regent as he's stopped making his Bart Reiter Tubaphone model banjo.
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2017 Pisgah 12" Walnut Tubaphone 5-String Banjo
2016 Deering Sierra 5-String Banjo
2016 Martin D Jr. B-Band A1.2N-1470
2016 Taylor GS Mini-e Koa ES2
2016 Taylor 614ce ES2
2016 Martin GPC-18E Aura Enhance
2016 Martin D-18
2016 Taylor 322ce ES2
2015 Taylor 618e ES2
2015 Taylor 356ce 12-String ES2
2014 Martin HD-28 Trance Amulet M-VT
2013 RainSong WS1000 Fishman Prefix+T
2007 Ovation VXT
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