When it comes to choosing a banjo, many factors come into play, such as the built quality, wood, heads, and bridge. Even though banjos are reasonably-priced musical instruments, it takes both time and research to make sure that you end up with the right one. Regardless of your skill level, this guide aims to share relevant information that will help you in choosing the right banjo. Let’s begin.
Things to consider when buying a banjo
Before we begin with an in-depth review of specific banjos out there, we would like you to have a bigger picture of the things you should be looking out for before buying a banjo.
Open Back vs. Resonator
Open back banjo is a type that is usually preferred by folk musicians. Even though both may look the same, the Open Back banjo does not have a back, so there is nothing that is covering the sound chamber.
Resonator Banjo, on the other hand, has a bowl made of wood mounted onto the back of the sound chamber. This wooden bowl helps project the sound to the audience. The addition of the wooden bowl also, therefore, makes the resonator banjo weigh comparatively more.
Number of strings
Banjos come with different numbers of strings. The most popular is five-string banjos, but there are 4, 6, 12 string banjos along with fretless ones as well. The number of strings plays a vital role in producing a distinct style of music. They are available as either open-back or resonator.
The type of wood has a lot to do with the quality of sound produced by a banjo. Since the hoop, which is also known as the “pot” is a crucial sound-producing component, it must be made of good quality material. Therefore, carefully consider the wood quality and type of the banjo you wish to purchase.
The Rogue B30 Deluxe is a 5-string banjo with a resonator. It is a 30-bracket rogue resonator with 20 tuners. It features a chrome-plated armrest, allowing to use the instrument comfortably for hours. The geared tuners are chrome as well, which helps keep the instrument perfectly tuned. Lastly, it is a budget-friendly product that will perfectly suit a beginner.
- Super affordable
- Good sound projection
- Chrome armrest
- Chrome tuners
This 5-string banjo from Ibanez is closed-back. It features a basswood rim with 24-lug configuration along with a mahogany resonator and a rolled brass tone ring. In addition to that, the mahogany neck has a fingerboard made from rosewood with mother of pearl inlay. This is a well-made product that produces a powerful solid sound. The combination of price, quality, and sound quality make it an excellent value for those seeking a perfect balance.
- Basswood rim
- 24-lug configuration
- Mahogany neck made from rosewood
The Jameson 5-String banjo houses excellent features. It has a 5th tuner gear with a closed back. In addition to that, there is an adjustable tailpiece, maple bridge, three-ply maple rim mahogany resonator, and a glossy finish to top it off. All these top-notch quality features help the Jameson banjo produce impressive sound, which makes it worth considering.
- Geared 5th tuner
- Close back
- Adjustable tailpipe
- Glossy finish
Vangoa 5-string banjo is a mini-sized portable product. It has a body made from superior mahogany, which produces a warm, solid tone. In addition to that, the high-quality strings made from Alice steel help produce a punchy sound. There are 12 durable chrome-plated brackets to ensure even head panel tension to produce melodious sounds by simply hitting on the head. The pegs are anti-corrosion chrome plated for long-lasting. You can also adjust the string height to meet different needs as well.
- 12 durable chrome-plated brackets
- High-quality Alice steel strings
- Anti-corrosion, chrome-plated pegs
- Adjustable string height
5. Kmise Banjo
The Kmise banjo has its drumhead made from polyester, which provides its great elasticity. It features Aquila string made in Italy along with closed geared tuners of high quality to produce a percussive and a bright sound. Furthermore, the banjo has a 3mm action at the 12th fret, which does not require pressing too hard with low action. You can detach its back to make it a traditional open back style or resonator style depending on your preference. The truss rod inside the neck could be adjusted with a wrench as well.
- Polyester drumhead
- Open back or resonator style option
- Aquila string
- Adjustable truss rod
6. Aklot Banjo
The Aklot banjo is an open-back design. It features a deep rim pump, which helps forward the sound towards the audience. The Remo Fiberskyn Drumhead has a warm and round tone to it. In addition to that, this banjo employs 15:1 geared tuners to allow the user to tune the banjo more accurately and keep it in tune as well. The truss rod is two-way, which enables you to customize your action along with carefully sanded frets with a low hard maple fingerboard. The manufacturer provides a 2-year warranty in case the banjo becomes faulty after using it for a while.
- Open back
- Remo fiberskyn drumhead
- Two-way truss rod
- 15:1 geared tuner
This 5-string banjo from Costzon is made from a durable and solid plywood frame. The entire panel is wood, whereas the side and back are Sapele Wood along with the fingerboard, which is made from Ma Qiao Rosewood and is corrosion resistant. It features a 5th geared tuner side-peg. There are 24 adjustable brackets around the drum, which helps the user meet the sound requirements. The strings are made from mid-range steel, which is both flexible and solid to pluck.
- Durable & Solid Plywood Frame
- 5th geared tuner
- 24 adjustable brackets
- Solid construction and corrosion-resistant
This 5-string banjo from Pyle features chrome-plated hardware alongside rich wood and high-gloss finish with white jade machine head tuner key pegs. In addition to that, it has a mahogany neck, side, and back along with a rosewood fingerboard and maple wood bridge. The 5th geared tuner plays an important role in producing rich sound, which is perfect for bluegrass, country, and even modern rock. Since it is both full-scale and lightweight, the Pyle 5-string banjo is an ideal choice for hiking, camping, and traveling.
- Chrome-plated hardware
- Mahogany neck
- Rosewood fingerboard
Made of good quality Sapele wood with beautiful wood grain is the Vangoa 6-string banjo. The six steel strings deliver a punchy and bright sound. Its size allows it to be a portable banjo in addition to having 20 frets while being lightweight, allowing the user to practice for hours without becoming uncomfortable. There is a resonator that comes with it, which could be mounted or removed as well. The truss rod not only provides optimum comfort but also sets the banjo for optimal playability. Lastly, it comes with a strap, strings, picks, tuner, and a wrench to provide a beginner with a great head start.
- 20 frets
- Six steel strings
- Made from Sapele wood
- Convertible banjo
The Deering Goodtime 2 banjo is made in the U.S and is well-known for its durability. This instrument has been designed to last long, and the manufacturer provides a 6-year warranty to support its claim. Its resonator and neck are both made from blonde maple and satin-finished. In addition to that, the finish is resistant to both wear and tear of daily practice and scratches as well. It features a three-ply rim that is 11 inches in diameter with the bridge made from ebony and maple. To top it off, the tuners are sealed alongside a geared 5th tuner, which is included as well.
- Scratch-resistant finish
- Durable & long-lasting
- Geared 5th string tuner
- Three-ply maple rim
The RB-25 banjo from Rover is a five-string instrument that features an 11-inch rim along with standard spacing. It is an instrument that is ruggedly built and provides a comfortable playing style, thanks to the Deluxe Vega armrest design. The mahogany neck and East Indian rosewood fingerboard make the instrument an overall great combination of style, durability, and personality. It has an adjustable truss rod as well. Tuning the RB-25 is slightly easy due to its guitar-style gear head turners. The 5th peg tuning retention provides a wide tonal range, which is perfect for different music styles.
- Rugged construction
- Deluxe Vega armrest design
- Guitar-style gear head tuners
- Wide tonal range
This concludes our in-depth review of some of the best banjo brands and their products. We hope that highlighting all the prominent features of well-renowned banjo brands and their products will make your buying process easier. If you are still confused about which banjo to pick then, we would suggest the Vangoa 5-String banjo if you’re a beginner since it provides a good balance of both affordability and quality. But if you are looking for something that lasts years to come, then the Deering Goodtime 2 banjo is going to provide you everything from top-notch durability to premium sound quality.