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-   -   Your Thoughts On Open-Back Banjo Choices Welcomed! (https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=467165)

SpruceTop 04-19-2017 05:52 AM

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.

H2O 04-19-2017 12:31 PM

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!".

amyFB 04-19-2017 01:00 PM

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

Rudy4 04-19-2017 04:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by amyFB (Post 5311108)
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?

Rudy4 04-19-2017 04:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SpruceTop (Post 5310481)
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.

frankmcr 04-19-2017 06:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SpruceTop (Post 5310481)



[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.

SpruceTop 04-20-2017 01:51 PM

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?

frankmcr 04-20-2017 02:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SpruceTop (Post 5312375)

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.

cu4life7 04-20-2017 03:13 PM

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.

Rudy4 04-21-2017 05:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SpruceTop (Post 5312375)
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.

http://www.hangoutstorage.com/banjoh...9111062013.jpg

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!

SpruceTop 04-26-2017 02:10 PM

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

darylcrisp 04-28-2017 02:10 AM

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

SpruceTop 04-28-2017 05:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by darylcrisp (Post 5321555)
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 those 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.

frquent flyer 04-30-2017 04:31 AM

I have a Bart Reiter Regent and I like it very much, My Sister has a Bart Reiter as well. Tom

SpruceTop 04-30-2017 07:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by frquent flyer (Post 5323745)
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.

SpruceTop 06-10-2017 07:26 PM

Pisgah 12" Walnut Tubaphone Custom Has Arrived!
 
A few days ago, after placing my custom order 5-weeks ago, I received my Pisgah 12" Walnut Tubaphone Banjo. I'll post some photos soon but let me say I'm really pleased with Patrick Heavner's craftsmanship and the tone of this banjo! I've loved the Vega Tubaphone tone ever since I was young and listening to The Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger and other artists, and this banjo brings me that old-timey-/folk-music-tone in spades, and with a downhome, simple visual aesthetic. Thanks Patrick and Pisgah for making me smile! Hmm, what's next, a Pisgah 12" Maple Tubaphone Long-Neck Banjo?

SpruceTop 06-26-2017 07:41 AM

Pisgah 12" Walnut Tubaphone Custom Has Arrived!
 
See new thread about receiving this Pisgah 12" Walnut Tubaphone at: http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/f...d.php?t=474532

Here is my follow-up for this thread: Hi Folks, on this thread awhile back I solicited information about various brands of 5-string open-back banjos as I was thinking of getting one. After sifting through the suggestions, I settled on commissioning a banjo from Patrick Heavner at Pisgah Banjo Company in Asheville, North Carolina. I received my banjo a couple of weeks ago and love its tone, feel and build quality. I opted for my banjo to be crafted with a 12-inch Walnut rim with a Tubaphone tone ring, a Walnut neck with a Persimmon scooped fingerboard, a HawkTail tailpiece and Traditional Wire Armrest. The company photos show my banjo prior shipping at which time I requested Patrick add a railroad spike at the 10th fret, so 7th, 9th and 10th frets are spiked. I highly recommend Pisgah Banjos as an easy to deal with, high-quality banjo company with reasonable pricing.

Pisgah Banjo Company


http://www.kingstontrioplace.com/Pis...r Frontal2.jpg http://www.kingstontrioplace.com/Pis...ead Front1.jpg
http://www.kingstontrioplace.com/Pis...rter Rear1.jpg http://www.kingstontrioplace.com/Pis...mbly Rear1.jpg

http://www.kingstontrioplace.com/Pis...head Rear1.jpg

SpruceTop 08-20-2017 11:52 AM

Yesterday, I played a used, mint-condition Eastman EBJ-WL-1 Whyte Laydie which is a reproduction by Eastman of a 1903 A. C. Fairbanks Number 2 with research input from Bob Bernunzio of Bernunzio Uptown Music, here in Rochester, New York. The banjo is quite fancy with engraved Griffin on the headstock and nice inlays on the fingerboard. It's craftsmanship was good, and with its Whyte Laydie tone ring I found the banjo very nice sounding. Has anyone else auditioned one of these Eastman WL1 open-back banjos and what is your opinion of this model? Thanks.

https://www.12fret.com/wp-content/ga...full-front.jpg

https://www.12fret.com/wp-content/ga...-full-rear.jpg

roylor4 08-20-2017 02:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SpruceTop (Post 5450556)
Yesterday, I played a used, mint-condition Eastman EBJ-WL-1 Whyte Laydie which is a reproduction by Eastman of a 1903 A. C. Fairbanks Number 2 with research input from Bob Bernunzio of Bernunzio Uptown Music, here in Rochester, New York. The banjo is quite fancy with engraved Griffin on the headstock and nice inlays on the fingerboard. It's craftsmanship was good, and with its Whyte Laydie tone ring I found the banjo to very nice sounding. Has anyone else auditioned one of these Eastman WL1 open-back banjos and what is your opinion of this model? Thanks.

My wife had one for about 1 & 1/2 years. She never bonded with it (don't know why, by far the most expensive banjo she has ever owned) and while it seemed to be a high quality build, I was never a big fan of the tone. She took a beating on it when she sold it.

If she had to do it all over again she say she would have gone with a Reiter or Enoch.

Just my .02

Swamp Yankee 08-20-2017 02:45 PM

It's a nice looking reproduction - the neck looks just like the originals - and I especially like that it has the bracket band like that on the originals. That, and the 28 hooks would likely add a lot of sustain. It might suffer in resale because a lot of banjo players these days are looking for a darker plunkier tone. ...hairy goatskin heads...stuff like that

Another thing going against its resale might be the plate on the dowel that reads 'Made in Beijing, China' Old Time banjo players often tend to be pretty traditional types, in my experience ...and that might turn off a lot of clawhammer players who tend to dislike anything that smacks of "modern" including banjos with coordinator rods instead of dowel sticks.

SpruceTop 08-20-2017 04:51 PM

Definitely, Beijing, China on the label ain't a touchdown in the traditional banjo camp! The nice thing is that being a used, mint-condition instrument means the price of the used axe is less than 2/3 the general street-price of this instrument, which includes a nice hardshell bump case. Being that a new American-made Deering Goodtime Special with optional gig bag will set y'all back a goodly $675 street-price or so, the used Eastman doesn't look like too bad a deal for a general kick-around banjo.

Swamp Yankee 08-20-2017 05:20 PM

ouch..
I'm too long out of the banjo world.. my Goodtime was $350 or so, new.

Rudy4 08-20-2017 07:25 PM

Since Bernunzio often has "blemish" WL necks from the Eastman line available as seconds I'd wonder about what's "under the hood" for the rest of the banjo if they produce so many second quality necks to a retailer.
A reputable manufacturer wouldn't sell their low quality seconds to the public IMHO.

SpruceTop 08-26-2017 07:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rudy4 (Post 5450918)
Since Bernunzio often has "blemish" WL necks from the Eastman line available as seconds I'd wonder about what's "under the hood" for the rest of the banjo if they produce so many second quality necks to a retailer.
A reputable manufacturer wouldn't sell their low quality seconds to the public IMHO.

I noticed that the peghead of the used Eastman EBJ-WL1 had some varnish runs off the headstock's top points and down the rear of the headstock a slight distance. This wasn't very nice to see and I wondered what it would have taken the person who did the varnishing at Eastman to have done a better job: Perhaps an extra five seconds of time to get the spray or brush volume adjusted to leave a smoother finish?

SpruceTop 08-26-2017 07:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by roylor4 (Post 5450665)
My wife had one for about 1 & 1/2 years. She never bonded with it (don't know why, by far the most expensive banjo she has ever owned) and while it seemed to be a high quality build, I was never a big fan of the tone. She took a beating on it when she sold it.

If she had to do it all over again she say she would have gone with a Reiter or Enoch.

Just my .02

I agree! I'd definitely go with a new Bart Reiter Regent (Whyte Laydie Tone Ring) over a new Eastman EBJ-WL1 Whyte Laydie. Typical street-pricing is $1495 Bart Reiter Regent plus $130 HSC = $1625 vs. $1395 Eastman EBJ-WL1 which includes HSC.

SpruceTop 11-22-2017 10:04 AM

New Bart Reiter Regent arrives this Friday. I had the Bart Reiter Galax but returned it in exchange for the Regent.

SpruceTop 11-24-2017 06:00 PM

The Bart Reiter Regent arrived and with a much better setup than the Galax I returned in exchange for the Regent. Bart, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship! ;)

Swamp Yankee 11-26-2017 11:46 AM

Congrats! (pics or it didn't happen) ;)

SpruceTop 12-10-2017 04:27 PM

This old boy is losing it! I just ordered a Rickard 12" Maple Ridge Dobson to go with my other recently-acquired banjos. Frankly, with carpel-tunnel in both hands, banjos are a God-send, and I recommend that any guitarist with similar afflictions give the 5-stringers a whirl. It'll only help your guitar playing and it'll open up a whole new sonic and tactile experience--as well as esoterica--that will likely be as exciting as your love of guitar! Trust Me On This! ;)

SpruceTop 12-10-2017 04:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Swamp Yankee (Post 5548729)
Congrats! (pics or it didn't happen) ;)

Swamper, coming up soon, Bro!


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