The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!
6919 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: The Fret Shop
Year Purchased: 2003
Price Paid: 400 ($US)
I ordered the kit with a Whyte Laydie tonering instead of the standard alloy ring. It has excellent tone and quick response for both clawhammer and bluegrass. Handles both rhythmic and melodic forms of clawhammer, and has good intonation for chromatic bluegrass licks up the neck. However, it took two years of tweaking to get it how I wanted it.
Some bluegrass players have mistaken its tone for that of a flathead, and are shocked to discover the Whyte Laydie ring.
Sound Rating: 10
Since it came as a kit, I had to set it up myself.
Setup Rating: not rated
I had to finished it myself. Since it was my first experience with varnish and laquer, it didn't come out so well. The wood could be nicer, though.
Appearance Rating: 8
I will probably replace the stock guitar-style tuners eventually. Structurally, everything else is fine.
Reliability Rating: 9
Goldtone was very helpful and readily answered all my questions. They really went the extra mile.
Customer Service: 10
The best component was the Whyte Laydie tonering, which, coupled with the substantial multi-ply rim, produces great tone and volume.
I replaced the tailpiece with a Kirshner. It came with a chrome-plated steel Price knock-off, which really deadened the tone. I also replaced the nondescript stock bridge with a medium-weight Moon bridge.
The flanges included for attaching the resontor caused the tone chamber to be way too deep for clawhammer, so I bought some Gibson-style L brackets and screwed them to the side of the rim and attach the resonator that way. It isn't very pretty, but now the resonator is close-fitting (like some of the old Vega resonators) and it helped the tone tremendously.
Components Rating: 7
I would highly recommend this banjo to any do-it-yourselfer who already has a little knowledge of banjo design and the patience to tweak it until it sounds like they want it. If it were stolen, I would just build another one from a kit. I love it for its tone; it's a real ugly duckling. Even though it sounds great, it can't compare to a real Vega Electric or Whyte Laydie.
Overall Rating: 9
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