I think people are getting tired of my input...just bought a Gold Tone BG 150 F and i REALLY, REALLY like it! ....My vote is for the Gold Tone. But hold on to your hat...these guys will stir the pot...which is NOT a bad thing!
I re examined my options and had my mind made up for the goodtime II and at the last minute checked out the gold tone banjos and compaired the prices so It came down to these two. I Then I got the idea to post in the forum to ask for advice again. Im glad I did. Now It looks like Im gonna get the Gold tone. That PDF and the youtube video really helped me decide and of course mostly everyone that replyed.
The Gold tone would probably beat the Goodtime II given equal set-ups. However, one thing you should know is that the "rolled brass tone ring" listed for the Gold Tone is NOT a true tone ring, it is simply a light, rolled brass stock hoop. Nothing wrong with them, and they may give you a crisper sound than a "woody" like the Goodtime II. However, it's been in the last several years that the advertisers have started calling "hoops" rings... which I think can be very misleading. Beware the term "rolled brass" in conjunction with "tone ring". Especially when you read advise about buying a banjo with a "tone ring" and then you see the term used in advertisments of lower end banjos. I am replying, because I've had experience with "woodies" and "hoop" banjos and they are fantastic for starting and learning. However, if you ever plan to join a jam or play in a group, especially hard driving bluegrass, the woodies and hoopies will come up short in volume and penetrating tone.
Just one person's opinion, based on personal experience, but you are soooo close to the price range of finding a banjo with a full, heavier tone ring. I have an older tone ringed Goodtime SPECIAL and it beats any woodie or hoopie I've owned or played. Another great banjo would be something like the Fender FB-58 just listed in the classifieds for $400. Or even a better used Gold Tone a step or two higher. Epiphone and RK and MM etc, also make full blown tone ringed banjos very close to your price range. Something like that will get you further, before you have to upgrade. It took me 11 banjo$ to learn all thi$ the hard way.
My first banjo was a (gifted) used Deering Goodtime II. A fine instrument, but one without a truss rod! I had to set it up with a 1/2" bridge to make it at all playable. I sold it after six months and bought a Goldtone CC-100R, which I found to be a HUGE step up (though I did need to replace the tuners, the stock tuners were pretty terrible). I've played BG-250 and -250Fs that I loved, and I imagine the -150F is an absolute steal. If the "rolled brass tone ring" is, indeed, the same as the one on the 100R, 1four5 is correct - a proper tone ring it ain't. But my -100R played extremely well, sounded great, and was plenty loud for what was essentially my first banjo. I would recommend checking out the CC-100R+, too.