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6918 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Janet Davis Music
Year Purchased: 2002
Price Paid: 570 w/hard case ($US)
This is the same as Gold Tone's full flange bluegrass five-string BG-250F, except for the neck, tailpiece (clamshell), and head (bottom frosted).
Rich, even sound. Well balanced between bass and treble, good with my 1920's music. The tone ring is a chrome plated brass flat top Mastertone style.
I won't rate anything about any instrument a "10", because there's always that chance of coming across one that is a notch better !
Sound Rating: 9
Set up and action were good at first. Janet Davis Music does a good check over before shipping. But I had a later problem.
I actually bought two of these at the same time. They were furnished with medium gauge strings. I like light gauge to kill some of the bass. When I restrung, I had lots of open string buzz. The string height was fine, and the neck relief checked okay, but both nuts were slotted too low. Each string should clear the first fret by a couple thousandths when you note the third fret. These didn't; every string made light contact with the first fret. Wasn't noticable with the original medium strings.
Luckily I have some experience and re-nutted both banjos. This was actually okay, as I like a nut a little higher than average, and prefer Micarta over bone. Martin Guitar uses Micarta nuts and saddles, it's good material.
The new nuts do fine, and I like my Gold Tones again.
Setup Rating: 4
Maple neck and rim, full size mahogany resonator, all in a nice mahogany stain with clear lacquer. Rosewood fingerboard, bound in white with black side dots, with hearts and flower inlays. Peghead has a nice veneer with Gold Tone logo and a simple inlay. Resonator has double white binding. All very well done.
Appearance Rating: 8
Good weight hardware with nice even chrome plating. Not the heaviest plating, but very good. Would prefer traditional nickel, as the chrome won't ever get that attractive tarnish. But, chrome should be more wear resistant. The flange, tailpiece, armrest, and hooks are magnetic, probably steel. Other hardware is brass. Should wear well.
The planet tuners are generic Korean, but smooth working with good appearance. Most replacement buttons fit (brass shaft has two flat / two rounded sides), but you would need new screws, as these have countersunk heads.
This has shoe style lugs and round hooks, easily converts to an openback.
The lacquer finish seems as heavy as any instrument I've owned. It's applied even, and I've found no bubbles or runs.
This should be a good wearing, solid banjo.
Reliability Rating: 8
Previous Gold Tone dealings on another banjo damaged in transit went very well.
Janet Davis Music was super to deal with on purchase and shipping. Did excellent packing. Good discount as well.
Customer Service: 9
Wood parts very well cut and shaped before finishing. Good, tight fitting assembly. Bone nut, good if slotted right.
Steel tailpiece and armrest should be brass, clamshell tailpiece a bit lightweight. A Waverly or Presto might be a better choice for some players. I changed to heavier, nickel plated brass clamshell tailpieces and nickel plated brass Vega style armrests on these.
Components Rating: 8
Gold Tone has the best banjos for the price; even list price is a bargain. I think my string nut problem was unusual, I certainly hope so. Only one other person in these Gold Tone reviews has mentioned a buzz problem, so far. If either of these were stolen, I would be very upset.
I think they would be better still coming with a brass tailpiece and armrest, instead of steel. C'mon, Gold Tone. Upgrade this stuff, and add a few bucks to the price. Even doing these mods myself, the total cost is still a bargain.
This is otherwise well built, plays and sounds good, with just enough "fancy trimming" to give it class. Paying any more for a banjo would be silly unless you just have to have the status of a "better" brand, or a vintage banjo. ( But check the string nut first thing ! ).
You can get a banjo that is some better. But you'll pay 200% and up more money. You can get more ornamentation, but 20 pounds of inlay won't sound any better.
Overall Rating: 8
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