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pjlama
Nov-10-2007, 6:11pm
I've been trying to write this for two months but have been terribly busy. A few months ago I saw this BRW blackface in the new classifieds. Ben built this and a few others for Winfield. I'm a sucker for blackfaces and was starting to get curious about Ben's work, especially after seeing pics of his three point oval. So my curiousity got the better of me and Ben sent it to me to evaluate.

First off, I was really impressed by how clean Ben's work is, it's not perfect but close, the attention to detail is there. The binding, inlay and finish are quite good, as is the symetry in the carving. The workmanship easily surpasses the price, under 4k. All this was noted without playing a note.

As for playability it came with slightly higher action than I like so I lowered the bridge a bit to accomodate my preference. I feel like a good mandolin retains it's sound and volume regardless of string height unless it's extream in either direction so getting comfy is a must. The set-up was pretty good but I tweaked the induvidual string heights just a bit with my trusty nut slot files. I worked for a luthier as a kid so I can make minor adjustments without too much stress. It was darn good out of the box but I got it really working for me and was starting to fall in love. The BRW has a little bit beefier neck than my Ellis or Gibby stuff but still nice, it's got just a bit of substance. So the playability overall is very good even with my picky preferences.

I chose to leave sound until the end because it is so good I still shake my head two months later. This mando has an Engelmann top and laquer finish. I love the sound on the Engelmann, it's not traditional but I love the bottom and the big complex sound. Right away the BRW was very loud and open. This mando has it all and is very flexible. I've found that although many believe the Loar sound is it, it's not the sound for every situation and style. This mandolin just has it's own sound and it's beautiful.

I haven't seen anything that matches the BRW in value, this mandolin was $3965 delivered and was a steal. I think anyone looking for a mandolin, even if you have more to spend should consider Ben's stuff. I'll also note that I had a chance to try out the BRW #three point oval I mentioned earlier and was equally impressed. I told Ben the most striking thing about his mandolins was the they possessed their own sound. #Both mandolins were very powerful well built, and while completely different felt familial.

Enough of me rambling here's the pics,

pjlama
Nov-10-2007, 6:12pm
antoher

pjlama
Nov-10-2007, 6:13pm
and the headstock

pjlama
Nov-10-2007, 6:14pm
more

pjlama
Nov-10-2007, 6:15pm
the money shot

JEStanek
Nov-10-2007, 6:18pm
Ben's tops look practically injection molded. It's hard to believe that was once a tree! That scroll volute looks like you could cut your finger on it it's so sharp. Amazing looking instrument. Enjoy it.

Jamie

John Hill
Nov-10-2007, 6:20pm
Awesome. Ben's getting close to starting on mine and I cannot wait to get it in my hands!

Kevin Briggs
Nov-10-2007, 7:19pm
Looks darn great. I want one.

pjlama
Nov-10-2007, 9:38pm
NM John, what's he got cooking for you?

mandomick
Nov-10-2007, 10:20pm
I've been waiting for somebody to show us a new BRW. Very nice as always coming out of Ben's shop. If you're looking for a hassle free building experience with a beautiful sounding and looking mandolin at the outcome, give him a call.

I have #'s 32 and 50. What's the serial # on this one?

Barb Friedland
Nov-10-2007, 10:31pm
I'm very impressed with the 2 point BRW mandolin I got a little over a month ago. It has a sound all its own- it can sing and it can cut through the mix with an impressive chop. Ben Wilcox makes a mighty fine instrument!

John Hill
Nov-10-2007, 11:52pm
NM John, what's he got cooking for you?
He's working on an F-5 with a red spruce top & red maple back. Sorta standard except with an amber finish & tortoise bindings like the Nugget on this page. (http://www.mandolincafe.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST;f=15;t=17762;st=100)

Fretbear
Nov-11-2007, 12:25am
That headstock, to me, is perfection. It pays respect to the past, and then states it's own identity. Very nice.

Bill Van Liere
Nov-11-2007, 12:35am
pj, thanks for the pics, that money shot is clean, clean, clean.

Owner of BRW #51 here, red maple/red spruce/varnish. Been pounding on it for a year and a half now, just keeps getting better. Nice top end voice.

I know what you are saying about the neck; large, beefy but with substance and quite playable. The whole instrument is just big in character.

Sounds like you have a nice family of mandos there, hope the BRW gets along well with it's siblings.

Nope, not really a Loar sound, but I had fun playing mine along with Ricky during an instrumental he played on Prairie Home Companion radio this AM. I like the sound of Ben's mandolins, really sweet.

pjlama
Nov-11-2007, 11:34am
I think it's 76, i'm out of town right now. John, I'm sure you'll be floored and save a good 20k. It's to hear from other happy BRW owners, Ben's like a secret that people need to know.

John Hill
Nov-11-2007, 11:48am
I think it's 76, i'm out of town right now. John, I'm sure you'll be floored and save a good 20k. It's to hear from other happy BRW owners, Ben's like a secret that people need to know.
I had #59, one of Ben's first 2-point ovals...phenomenal instrument even though I eventually decided to pass on the oval tone and sell it.

Wish I didn't do that... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif

TNT
Nov-11-2007, 11:58am
I Have #73 #Got it about 3 weeks ago and I just can't put it down ,Red Spruce top,Red maple #with Varnish finish.. #It was the one he built for Winfield.. #Just waiting to get my camera back so I can get some pics up. if I had paid twice as much for it I would still feel I would have got a deal! #Thanks Ben! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Dave Reiner
Nov-11-2007, 3:18pm
<Comment removed. Instruments being sold need to be listed on the classifieds or on other external sites, not listed here.>

sgarrity
Nov-11-2007, 3:30pm
Those are beautiful. And very tempting.....

John Hill
Nov-11-2007, 6:43pm
Whoa! Dave you do have "too many mandolins"; however that's something only a spouse would say. Though I suggest the Gilchrist would cover a whole lot more tuition than the BRW...so would the Heiden...so would the Kimble...perhaps the F4...

But then again the kids can always get jobs!

Dave Reiner
Nov-11-2007, 7:23pm
Whoa! Dave you do have "too many mandolins"; however that's something only a spouse would say. Though I suggest the Gilchrist would cover a whole lot more tuition than the BRW...so would the Heiden...so would the Kimble...perhaps the F4...

But then again the kids can always get jobs!
Actually, the kids have jobs -- they play with my family band, as well as various other bands. They're super musicians. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif You can link to their websites through mine.

Dave

P.S. My wife plays b&#!@, so she would prefer less mandos and more b&#!@s.

John Hill
Nov-11-2007, 7:57pm
Whoa! Dave you do have "too many mandolins"; however that's something only a spouse would say. Though I suggest the Gilchrist would cover a whole lot more tuition than the BRW...so would the Heiden...so would the Kimble...perhaps the F4...

But then again the kids can always get jobs!
Actually, the kids have jobs -- they play with my family band, as well as various other bands. They're super musicians. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif You can link to their websites through mine.

Dave

P.S. My wife plays b&#!@, so she would prefer less mandos and more b&#!@s.
Looks like it's settled then...you keep all your mandos!

pjlama
Nov-11-2007, 8:09pm
Dave, As a fromer bass player I should send you some basses, there's still 16 or so around here http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Dave Reiner
Nov-11-2007, 8:57pm
Dave, As a fromer bass player I should send you some basses, there's still 16 or so around here http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif
At least my wife's grounds for complaint are bassless... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Dave

old9600
Nov-16-2007, 1:58pm
All of this is music to my ears. Ben is making me an F5 with a Red Maple top/varnish finish which I should have sometime in January. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

dirty harry
Nov-16-2007, 2:31pm
Well I have #25 made July 2003. Only complaint I have is the rear truss rod screw did not have sufficent headstock veneer to hold the rear screw. Well, I fixed it myself as the
E-mail I sent the builder about this problem resulted in no response. To be fair, this F-5 was bought as a used instrument and I bought it knowing of the defect. For $2000.00 it ranks right up there will any mid level F-5. Mr Wilcox did respond the first time I E-mailed him, when I asked what type top wood he used, He was going to look it up and get back to me. Still waiting...... Oh well, still a very nice F-5. Very nice attention to detail in workmanship, finish and tone.
No one is perfect, well maybe Bill Collings!
Harry :cool:

Lee
Nov-16-2007, 5:12pm
Wow, small world. I own #24. One of Ben's few A5's. I believe my top is red spruce.

Salty Dog
Nov-16-2007, 11:58pm
I agree with prior comments about the Engelmann Spruce tops - I bought #12 in early 2002 and loved it once it played in. #That's why I had Ben build #61 (also Engelmann). #It is not the "Gibson" sound but, even though I play bluegrass, I'm not enthusiastic about the Gibson sound (to each his/her own). #I have never played one of Ben's mandolins with a red spruce top (the Gibson traditional top), so I cannot comment on that.

pjlama
Nov-17-2007, 3:23pm
For sure, there's just something about Engelmann that I love and I think Ben's building brings out the best in it. Plus my Ellis is Red so I have the best of both worlds http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif I just installed a Schertler in it (the BRW) and it sounds good even plugged in, very impressive tone. Again, for the money BRW's tough to beat.

big h
Nov-17-2007, 5:34pm
If thats the one he had in Winfield then that's a killer mandolin.

TNT
Nov-17-2007, 7:41pm
If thats the one he had in Winfield then that's a killer mandolin.

yes mine #73 is the one Brian Roe won.. I absolutly love it...and Benjiman has been Great.. even though I didn't buy it from him direct he has answered all my questions and sent me the specs on her.. Great Builder.... Great Guy..

pjlama
Nov-17-2007, 11:13pm
This is the Winfield blackface, #76. Rob, I bet that red spruce, varnish is a killer. I'd love to hear it.

mikeo2
Nov-20-2007, 9:21pm
very nice... BRWs look so classy

Gutbucket
Nov-22-2007, 9:06am
That headstock inlay is one of the nicest I've seen. Super clean.

LKN2MYIS
Nov-27-2007, 6:17pm
I'm very impressed with the 2 point BRW mandolin I got a little over a month ago. It has a sound all its own- it can sing and it can cut through the mix with an impressive chop. Ben Wilcox makes a mighty fine instrument!

I have #72 - one of his Lt-H4-E models. The asymetrical 2-pointer. Oval hole. I believe it was the 3rd one he had made of this type. I actually just had the neck tweaked today, and the string slots brought down a tad. (My avatar is the fretboard from this with a custom inlay I asked Ben to do on the 12th fret).

Ben's work is really impressive. Sound, fit, and finish are truly hard to beat. The fellow that did the work for me today (himself a builder of mandolins and guitars), couldn't stop raving about the BRW.

Enjoy it. Ben's truly a master.