Saga SS-10 Old Time Banjo Review – Sound, Usability and Price

ModelRatingTunerRim diameterOur topCheck
1Saga SS-10 Old Time Banjo 5th-string3⁄8-Inches1

1
Saga SS-10 Old Time Banjo
Rating
Tuner5th-string
Rim diameter3⁄8-Inches
Our top1
Check


SMT – Saga Musical Instruments – has been around for more than 4 decades, supplying the beginners and professionals with state-of-the-art instruments. Their focus is on the traditional European and American instruments that represent the very essence of a nation and/or community. Without a doubt, this is one of the most trusted and recognized manufacturers out there, especially if you’re looking for mandolins, banjos, ukuleles, violins, and guitars. The Saga Gold Star Banjo series is their pride and joy. However, it’s intended for the intermediate/pro musicians, and the price range of 1800-3300 dollars isn’t really affordable per se.

Tip:So, if you’re looking for some low-budget options, check out the amazing Saga SS-10 Old Time Banjo that will cost you 530 dollars. It’s safe to say that with any Saga banjo you choose, you’ll always get a solid instrument in your hands, one that will not disappoint. Even the entry-level models are made using the best raw materials on planet Earth so that they can last for decades and sound like music to our ears.

Alright, now let’s get down to business and see what this low-budget option from Saga has to offer. Is it really one of the best banjos on the market right now? How does it sound? Is it easy to play this instrument? We’ll talk about it all right now!

Learning More About The Saga SS-10 Old Time Banjo

One thing you gotta understand is that this banjo is heavily based on the classic models from the early 20th century. Back then, the market was lacking some high-quality US-made “native” instruments. And when the very first international bands brought the traditional vibes to a wider audience, the Saga 5 string banjo models helped them turn the industry around. It was the Golden Age, and this company did a fantastic job of recreating that iconic sound, feel, and appearance. It doesn’t really matter what style of playing you prefer: this amazing “axe” will be perfect both for the three-finger style and claw hammering.


This is a one-of-a-kind open-back banjo with a 3/8-inch maple rim that makes the process of learning easier and more enjoyable. Besides, the somewhat heavier rim allowed the manufacturer to make the SS-10 Old Time look and feel even more like the iconic banjos from the previous century. Don’t worry: the planetary pegs will make sure the modern-day strings with high levels of tension and torque won’t be a problem. The No-Knot tailpiece and the adjustable truss rod give the players the opportunity to fine-tune the instrument to their liking. The thing is – even if it was perfectly-set, tuned, and adjusted at the factory, you still might feel the need to re-adjust it.

The SS10 is an open-back banjo with strong decorative references to the old S.S. Stewart banjos still prized by old-timey banjo players. It has a rolled tone ring on the wood rim, like many of the old banjos. The dark wood stain is nice looking. The tone is perfect for clawhammer playing. (I modified mine with a fiberskin head to make it a bit tubbier. I also replaced the tuners with Grover pancakes and added a discreet Stewart-McDonald Vega-style armrest. Still a bargain after all that.) I recommend this highly to players getting started on traditional banjo styles. If you get really good, you may find that spending over a grand on a fancier banjo doesn’t improve on this puppy so very much. Donald Ridgway
Pros
The tone is beautiful and doesn’t sound “cheap”
For the price/quality/reliability/sound/looks, this is arguably the best deal on the market
Strong decorative references to the old S.S. Stewart banjos
The tone is perfect for clawhammer playing
It has a rolled tone ring on the wood rim
Cons
For that price there are no cons

 

What Is The Banjo Capable Of?

Ok, now we know that the manufacturer took its time and used high-quality materials for the instrument. But will it be able to hold its own in real life? Absolutely! The mahogany neck is fast, smooth, and comes with a rosewood fingerboard that feels amazing under your fingers. The rolled brass tone ring gives the instrument a clear, balanced, defined tone. By the way, if you’re looking for more Saga banjos to choose from, take a look at SS-10P and SS-3. SS-10P is pretty much the same thing, but it’s more suited for traveling and that camping lifestyle. As for the SS-3 model, it comes with a resonator, which makes it perfect for Bluegrass.

Back to the SS-10: Mr. S.S. Stewart created this now-classic banjos more than 100 years ago. And thanks to Saga, we can all enjoy the same level of quality with this affordable model.  The tone is pretty much ideal for the fans of good old traditional American music. And, even though it is open-back, you’ll still be able to rock some Bluegrass tunes with ease. Experts around the world name the SS-10 one of the best entry-level banjos for the beginners. You’ll spend hundreds, if not thousands of hours with this instrument, perfecting your skills and creating some wonderful music.


Summing Up

It’s worth mentioning that even though the “elder brothers” from the Gold Star series do have some advantages over it, many famous musicians prefer to stick with their S-10s and take them on their gigs. Therefore, don’t expect to outgrow this fine banjo any time soon. As the old-timers like to say, it all comes down to the sleight of hands. So, what do we have at the end?

  • The tone is beautiful and doesn’t sound “cheap”, plunky, or zingy. And, despite the modest price-tag, the SS-10 Old Time Banjo looks like the more expensive models. Over time, you might want to change those planetary tuners with some geared ones. The body will wear out in time, but that’s totally normal.
  • The 2500-3000 dollar banjos are usually heavier and come with more sophisticated hardware. However, unless you’re planning on making a living playing banjo, you’ll be totally fine with this low-budget option. For the price/quality/reliability/sound/looks, this is arguably the best deal on the market right now. Don’t miss your chance to take advantage of it!
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