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TaylorGA8 05-30-2010 06:28 PM

Top banjo manufacturers?
 
Hey all!

Looking into some banjos and just like guitars there are a lot of choices! I was wondering if you guys could suggest some of the top banjo manufacturers. The Martin, Taylor, Gibson etc of the banjo world?

Thanks!

Bob1131 05-30-2010 07:05 PM

Like guitars, it is a matter of personal preference, but generally speaking, Gibson, Deering, and Stelling top the list. However, there are other lesser known brands that are great as well, such as Huber and some custom builders. Top brand models will cost from around 2.5K and up. You can Google banjos and find Gibsons in the 55k neighborhood. Bling is a big deal in banjos, and it can really add up!

Mid-range brands today include some decent Asian makes that include Gold Star, Morgan Monroe, Recording King and Gold Tone, and range from 1K to 3K (give or take a couple of hundred). I tried many brands and models, and bought a Gold Tone OB-250 that is very quality built, plays great and sounds very good. To me, the Gibsons and Deerings did not play any better and didn't sound better either, although they did sound a little different. However, to my ears, that difference wasn't worth the $$$$ difference. Again, tone and playability are highly subjective, so your ears and hands may steer you in a different direction.

warfrat73 05-30-2010 07:15 PM

Most of those 55K Gibson banjos are the old "Mastertone" series. The vintage Gibsons with Mastertone tone-rings are the Pre-War Martins of the Banjo world, but any of the vintage Gibsons fetch a premium. Deering has a wide range of instruments from the entry-level to high end, and is generally considered to be the beginning of the professional level banjos. In the higher end mass market banjos I prefer the Stellings, the have a very distinct sound, but are out of my price range considering my meager skills.

catdaddy 05-30-2010 08:11 PM

Some other well respected banjo manufacturers that haven't been mentioned include Sullivan, Nechville, Ome, and Huss & Dalton.

If you are checking out banjos with the intent of purchasing I would suggest taking a look at the classifieds on the Banjo Hangout web site (a great resource for all things banjo) http://www.banjohangout.org/classifieds/

Lots of good deals there on used banjos. Just as in the guitar universe, buying a lightly used quality instrument gives you the best bang for your buck.

drjordan 05-30-2010 10:52 PM

There are a lot of great banjo makers. A lot of big names are playing Huber like Ron Block, Jim Mills, Sammy Shelor, Chris Pandolfi, Cia Cherryholmes, Dale Perry, and Steve Huber is a good banjo player himself playing for Kenny & Amanda Smith when he quit to build banjos. Yates also makes a great banjo; Ron Stewart plays and sells his signature model...Justin Moses plays them and Jason Davis played a Yates until Sonny Osborne gave him an Osborne Chief which is another top tier banjo. The Osborne Chief is made to Sonny Osborne specs by Frank Neat. Frank Neat carves a lot of necks for conversion banjos, and, as I understand, makes a killer banjo. A lot of the top banjos (including the Osborne Chief and Neat banjos) are made with wood and rims from Jimmy Cox who also makes high end banjos. Gibson can still make a good banjo, but, just like their guitars, they're overpriced and the qc is lacking. OME, Ode, Deering, Sullivan, Stelling, Crafters of Tennessee, and Bales all make banjos worth checking out. Most of those are pretty classic banjos. Nechville makes some really cool products with a very unique design. Scott Vestal makes Stealth banjos that are also pretty cool. My vote, without seeing or playing it prior, would be a Huber or Yates. Although when I'm ready to buy a high end banjo myself, I will be strongly considering a Frank Neat.

Folkstrum 05-31-2010 08:06 AM

All great suggestions/makers. You can see my pref by my sig lines. I had the extraordinary privilege of hanging around with Ron Block at the Mayville Bluegrass Festival 2 years ago. He was giving a "lesson" (too advanced for me!!) on his Huber "Ron Block" custom. That is one FINE banjo!

While there are lots of great banjo makers around now, a lesser-expensive line, the equivalent of Blueridge guitars, is another company: "Gold Tone." The parts are fabricated in the Pac Rim, but shipped to Orlando, where Gold Tone assembles and voices them. Some excellent bargains and buys, and often recommended to those who don't have the biggest budgets.

I haven't confirmed this by sales figures, but based on anecdotal evidence, I'd say Deering is about the biggest sales-wise right now. None of their banjos are "cheap," but for under 2k street, the "Sierra" is truly professional quality, and considered a good buy. ;)


frailer5 06-01-2010 05:53 AM

Have a look here, even though you're into big names. See what this guy and his wife achieve. Up in the hilly hinterland behind Brisbane, Australia.

http://www.banjoz.com/

You'll enjoy the visit. ;)

Weird Snake Joe 06-01-2010 04:55 PM

I'm a bit hesitant to make a list of "the best" when it comes to banjo manufacturing. It's just that the differences between open-backs and bluegrass/resonator models are so vastly different, with people placing standards for one style onto the other and vice versa to the point of ridiculousness.

Even the biggest cheap-*** PoS five stringer can be converted into a pretty smokin' open-back. Sure, sure, you want something fantastic out of the box and whatnot, but unlike a guitar, banjos can be modified and adapted so freely and easily (or not so) from the ground up, that to put one company on a pedestal despite people's incessant need to tweak and modify seems silly. "Well, I like Stelling, but I prefer 'x' tone ring, so I changed it and placed a 11/16 heartwood bridge instead of a maple 5/8..." Well, now you have a different instrument.

What I will put forward is that this country (USA) has got one hopping banjo market going on right now, and it's a shame I couldn't own a thousand instruments just to get a taste of everything that's out there, from the home-grown cigar box banjos to the top of the line "bling is king" models. Go nuts, because it's all good.

Folkstrum 06-01-2010 07:16 PM

Agreed about a "best" list. Like guitars we're in a golden age of banjo making too. There isn't one on the lists provided so far I'd shy away from.

TaylorGA8 06-02-2010 06:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Folkstrum (Post 2243161)
Agreed about a "best" list. Like guitars we're in a golden age of banjo making too. There isn't one on the lists provided so far I'd shy away from.

At no point did I ask what the best is. All I asked was who are some of the top manufacturers to consider. And with all my questions I am asking for peoples opinions. Why do people even bother posting a response without providing any OPINION. I am so tired of people lecturing posters instead of giving an answer.

Weird Snake Joe 06-02-2010 07:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TaylorGA8 (Post 2243489)
At no point did I ask what the best is. All I asked was who are some of the top manufacturers to consider. And with all my questions I am asking for peoples opinions. Why do people even bother posting a response without providing any OPINION. I am so tired of people lecturing posters instead of giving an answer.

Any brand is worth considering depending on what you want to do. That's the opinion.

Yeesh.

hammerknocker 05-19-2011 03:00 PM

am pretty late finding this thread but will still offer some options anyway:
Top Banjo manufacturers...the Gibson, Martin, etc of the banjo world:
not in any order of superiority but here are the five I consider to be worthy
of being called "top".

Gibson
Yates
Osborne
Stelling
Huber

There are others, but these top the list in my book. Each has a nice website
to browse thru their models.

Wadcutter 05-19-2011 03:07 PM

Deering out in Kookville, aka California, makes some very nice banjos. Of course you know however that banjos and fiddles are the devils instruments don't you?


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