Does Deering's most affordable professional-grade banjo measure up to professional expectations?
By Phil O'Keefe
The Deering Banjo Company is an American small business success story, having been started as a family-operated business by Greg and Janet Deering in Southern California back in the mid 1970s. They have become one of the most recognized and respected banjo manufacturers in the world, with lines that include Vega, Deering, Tonebrook and Goodtime banjos, all of which are still hand-built in the USA. Their latest instrument is the Eagle II, a model that is designed as an affordable professional-grade banjo. Let's see how well it measures up to professional standards.
What You Need To Know
This Deering Eagle II is built like a tank. At ten pounds, it's not particularly heavy by professional banjo standards, but it has a definite aura of quality and durability to it.
The items I mentioned under limitations are really minor quibbles, and the spikes can be easily added later, or ordered with the banjo for a slight additional cost, while the visibility of the side dots is probably not that bad for younger players with better eyes than I have.
The Deering Eagle II is an excellent multi-purpose banjo that works well for playing in a variety of styles, including Bluegrass and Clawhammer. The tone is warm and full, with plenty of bass and great projection and more than ample volume. The highs are bright and crisp without being strident or overbearing, but it is the midrange of this banjo that is of particular note - it's punchy and present, with a unique and very cool voice. Sustain is also very good. Playing closer to the neck results in a rounder sound, as you might expect, while rolls played near the bridge snap and chime wonderfully. It's definitely a flexible banjo, with a sound that works very well with a variety of playing styles and across multiple genres.
This is the kind of banjo that makes a great long-term companion for the serious player; and by "long-term", I mean "lifetime partner." Sure, there are fancier banjos on the market, but the Eagle II has enough beautiful inlay, binding, and sparkling nickel-plated hardware to stand tall even in comparison to other high-end banjos, and more importantly, professional-grade sound and build quality that will delight its owners and audiences for years to come. It's certainly worthy of your consideration if you're ready to move up to a truly professional-grade instrument that can serve well in a variety of genres. It's a delightful banjo.
$2,549.00 MSRP, $2,119.00 "street"
Deering's Eagle II web page
Deering Banjo's web site
Deering Banjo's Eagle II demo video:
Harmony Central Review Preview - Deering Eagle II 5-string resonator banjo
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.