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Washburn Sonny Smith B160 has a vintage look and many redesigned features.
For the B160, Washburn collaborated with banjo virtuoso Sonny Smith, winner of the 1998 National Banjo Championship. Sonny developed this banjo with a wider fretboard to accommodate bigger fingers, and also moved the 5th string nut between the 5th and 6th fret for improved tone, sustain and intonation. It also has a redesigned smaller headstock and is fully bound with old style inlays.
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Comments about Washburn B160 Sonny Smith Sunburst 5-String Banjo w/case:
I bought the Washburn B160 Sonny Smith Banjo in January 2008 and I absolutely love it. It replaced a more expensive 2004 Gibson RB which sported a brass tone hoop (they now come with a Mastertone tone ring). The Gibson was a good banjo, but there is no substitute for the tone that you get from a good, well-fitted bell brass tone ring, which the Washburn B160 has. It was an excellent value and I would put its quality and tone up against banjos that cost two to three times as much. On the "good" side, the finish on the Washburn is flawless. It has a nice vintage look, especially the unique copper colored tuning knobs. I actually saw Sonny Smith play a B160 at Dollywood before I bought mine, and the first thing that caught my eye was the interesting block inlay pattern on the fingerboard. Sonny told me that it is an old-style pattern from the Washburn archives. The second thing that I noticed was the great classic bluegrass tone that the banjo has. It notes very true up and down the neck. My favorite feature is the wider-than-standard neck. It accomodates my large hands and the extra space is just what I needed to avoid inadvertently picking the wrong strings when playing fast tunes. On the "needs improvement" side, I would really like to see Washburn use better quality planetary tuners on the B160. I plan to replace the stock ones soon. I tweaked the setup slightly and upgraded the 3/4" stock maple Crowe spaced bridge with a 11/16" Gary Sosebee Style 3 with Crowe spacing. It really opened up the sound of the banjo and gives it a smooth, even tone. The frets needed to be polished also, but my issues with the tuners and frets are very minor compared to my overall satisfaction with the banjo.It seems that Washburn banjos don't have the large, devoted following that other brands enjoy. I think that is due, in part, to a lack of marketing on Washburn's part. If they made a concerted effort to get their products in the hands of acoustic/bluegrass music lovers I believe they would experience more converts like myself. They did well in partnering with Sonny Smith. He is a first-class individual. And always remember Sonny's motto: "Banjers Rule!".