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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!

6627 reviews in the archive.

Gold Tone  Bob Carlin BC-350 Banjo Reviews

Submitted by chelseaoz (see all reviews from this person) on 8/24/2013

Where Purchased: www.Banjoteacher.com

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: 900 ($US)

Sound

This banjo is made for clawhammer! A perfect mellow sound with a bright higher end - gives great definition to melodies played in the higher range. There is no big twang here - which is why I bought this model over the White Laydie (although I'll probably purchase this one at a later date). We all have different tastes I guess!

Sound Rating: not rated

Setup

Banjo was set up already. No complaints.

Setup Rating: not rated

Appearance

My 9 year old daughter touched it with clean but sweaty hands, and her finger prints have melted into the nickle plating, and I can't seem to wipe them off! This might not be an issue if you get the BC-350+ which is triple gold plated.

Other than that, it looks good. I preferred this model to the BC-350+, only because I'm not into the gold look. I wanted a mellow banjo with a humble, light appearance. That's what the BC-350 gave me, with its light maple, nickle plating and simple star fingerboard inlay.

To view complete specs:
https://www.goldtone.com/products/details/w/instrument/46/BC-350

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

One of the tuning pegs cracked after only a few weeks. I think this was just bad luck - nothing to do with the seller. Gives me an excuse to learn how to change pegs...

Time will tell if it lasts, but so far so good!

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

I haven't dealt with Gold Tone directly.

I live in Australia and bought off Ross Nickerson at www.Banjoteacher.com

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Ross. Great personalised service, advice etc. He made the shipping experience really straight forward and gave generous discounts. Also just a really nice guy who knows a LOT about banjos. Buying from overseas is always a bit risky - I would have no hesitation in buying from Ross again.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

This banjo has a No Knot tailpiece, which looks a bit strange!

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

I'm really happy with this, my first banjo. It has quite a wide neck, which makes the left hand work with chord transitions, but the pay-off is extra room between the strings, which makes learning clawhammer a bit easier I think!

The scooped neck is designed for serious frailers - I'm yet to reach the point where I can take advantage of it - but I look forward to the day :-)

There is nothing really bad to say about this banjo. I would recommend it if frailing is your focus.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by Slick Salmon (see all reviews from this person) on 10/13/2012

Where Purchased:

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: 850 ($US)

Sound

Not sufficiently different from either a WL-250 or OT-800 to justify the design. Plunkier than I expected without a robust bottom end.

Sound Rating: 5

Setup

The setup was excellent.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Quality construction and finish; no complaints.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Seems solid, but the tuners have to go.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

No direct dealings with the company

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Sticky tuners.

Components Rating: 5

Overall Comments

Bad design. The extra-wide neck appears to offer no advantage, and it's so heavy that it throws the banjo out of balance. It's difficult to hold the instrument on your lap without the neck sagging. I don't understand what they were shooting for when they designed this banjo.

Overall Rating: 3

Submitted by Hawgfiddle65 (see all reviews from this person) on 9/24/2010

Where Purchased: Andy Perkins traditional Instruments (Andybanjo)

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: 695 (GBP) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Rich full warm sound .Plenty of volume ,middle and bass tones,
Wide fingerboard is great and easy to get around
Smooth and easy to play no effort at all

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

well written set up instructions came with the instrument.Tape with crosses to mark bridge postion . Position was spot on. Great action .Have made no changes

Free capo spike installation

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Vey simple and tasteful, this was one of the reasons I bought this model,just reflects my taste.

A couple of very minor finish flaws , casting flash, glue marks, but you REALLY have to search for them!

I would change tuner buttons to ebony or matt black to match the lovely ebony fingerboard. But not in a great hurry!

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Early days, looks pretty robust. Will let you know!

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Andy banjo 's servce was exemplary. Lots of pre-purchase questions answered prompmtly online. I live a long way from his work shop (600miles or so!). He even played a range of banjos to me over the speaker phone!

delivery was by FedEx who were to be frank ,very poor .They could not deliver the item in the time they promised .They should not offer their customers a service they cannot guarantee .Not a difficult thing todo .Arrived safely .

Update: A crack appeared on one of my tuner buttons and eventually prpagated and I needed to replace the button.Andy Perkins sent me a full set of buttons free of charge! Thanks Andy.

Andy Banjo 10 Fedex 2

Customer Service: 10

Components

For the price I am very happy . The only thing I'd change is to matt black buttons . But that is a matter of taste

Update: Apparently the tuners have an unusual shaft size and alternatives are not available . Will have to be happy with what I have .I have no intentions of swapping tuners as they work to my satisfaction.

Update 2 Replacement black ebonite type buttons for the BC 350 now available from Elderly music. Another of the white pearl buttons was beginning to crack so I ordered up a set. I think it looks much more elegant

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

A good choice for that more ancient old timey sound. Not too punchy.This is my first decent banjo and hope we'll travel many miles together before one of use has to retire!

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by snapjackson (see all reviews from this person) on 7/4/2010

Where Purchased: Artichoke Music (Portland Or.)

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: $750 ($US)

Sound

I LOVE this banjo! It has a beautiful clucky tone and surprisingly great volume for an openback. I play it mostly in the clawhammer style, but on many occasions I have played it Scruggs style, and in both styles there is great volume and note separation.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

I use a Gary Sosebee bridge and Dean Markley medium gauge strings. I have a spike installed at the 7th fret.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

It is a gorgeous banjo. Simple and pretty. Nice color with a dark deep brown ebony fret board. I really like the scoop.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Zero problems and zero complaints.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Very helpful.

Customer Service: 9

Components

No complaints here.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Great sound. Great look. Great price. I don't see me ever getting rid of this one.

Overall Rating: 8

Submitted by Scanbran (see all reviews from this person) on 9/3/2008

Where Purchased: Frailers (UK)

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 659 (GBP) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I was upgrading from a very poor grade starter banjo, and from my favoured style of play, I was recommended a 'frailing banjo'.
This Gold Tone BC-350 did not disappoint. A very loud sound for an open back banjo, but also slightly plunky for that old time tone.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The banjo was selected by the shop tech as the best set up and most playable of the models available. It arrived with a very nice, playable action (not too low).
I'm none to experienced with banjos so far, but it played like a dream right out of the box for me.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

I love the look of this banjo - attractive blonde maple rim and neck, and beautiful striped ebony fretboard and headstock faceplate. The fretboard is not overelaborate with too much inlay work - instead it has simple MoP dot inlay fret markers, with a star inlay at the 5th fret, and a star motif on the headstock.
I like the fact this banjo does not have the makers name emblazoned on the headstock - it's very understated and classy.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

It seems very solid and well put together.

I've only had it a month, so it's hard to judge, but the top quality materials used suggest it will last just fine.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Frailers in Runcorn, UK were good to deal with. Helpful over the phone in making a selection, and very quick with delivery too. The banjo arrived in good order as described, with a hand written note from Dave asking me to call him if there was a problem. There was even a complimentary pack of strings in the case, in the event that any strings were broken in transit.
I think the warranty is the standard Gold Tone Limited Lifetime, but I'm not sure.

Customer Service: 8

Components

The fretboard is beautiful and the neck is easy to play being a little wider than normal.
The flesh hoop was bent slightly, but makes no difference at all.

Good quality components as far as I can make out.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

I would certainly recommend this banjo for those looking for a frailing banjo with an old time sound, but not too soft and great volume levels if required.
I paid a little too much, but the price included a decent quality Gold Tone branded TKL hard case, specifically designed for a 12" pot and overnight shipping.
So, looking at it that way, the banjo may only have cost me about 550.
I love this banjo, and would definitely get another if it needed to be replaced.

Overall Rating: 8

Submitted by gkuchan (see all reviews from this person) on 1/23/2008

Where Purchased: Different Strummer

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 750 ($US)

Sound

Rich warm sound with a hell of a lot of bass, which I love...Rumbles well, with out buzz. Very nice Clawhammer Banjo.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up beautifully, haven't had to change anything yet.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

No flaws, but I am a sucker for darker wood

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Good and sturdy, tuners a little less responsive than I might like but overall very nice

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Haven't delt with them yet, but it does have a lifetime waranty

Customer Service: 9

Components

The wider neck and 12inch pot are wonderful. The mandolin frets are going to take some getting used to.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Went into the store to test out a WL-250, and I wish I could put this a little less emotionally, but when I picked up the BC-350 it just felt right, very easy to play. Beautiful warm sound and a quality instument. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to upgrade from their student/starter Banjo, but only on the condition that you get a chance to hold it before purchasing.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by scruss (see all reviews from this person) on 11/21/2007

Where Purchased: The Twelfth Fret (Toronto)

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: $899 (CAD) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Loud, plunky sound - just about right for clawhammer. Initially there was too much sustain, so some foam between the head killed the brightness just right.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Rather nice - Grant fitted spikes while I waited, which is a tough job with this banjo's very low (mandolin) frets. Head tension just right, and likewise action.

Only major change I've made was shifting the armrest around. Stock, it's just plain in the wrong place. If you shift it round one bracket towards the tailpiece (which requires you to release some brackets and swap the shoes) it's much more comfortable.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

It's a very dignified, simple banjo. Big wide black fretboard, single star inlay on the peghead, and basic dots on the frets. Translucent head and dowel stick make for a handsome banjo.

I'm not wild about the high-gloss lacquer on the neck. It isn't the most enjoyable to play in hot, sticky weather.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Tuners have a little more play in them than I'd like, but I haven't had it go wrong so far

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

No dealings with the company, but The Twelfth Fret are great..

Customer Service: 8

Components

Tuners are of middling quality, and no-knot tailpiece is rather flimsy.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

It's a nice instrument and good value, but if you want more plunk for your buck, try the Enoch Tradesman.

Overall Rating: 8

Submitted by bananabanjo (see all reviews from this person) on 8/6/2007

Where Purchased: instrumentalley.com

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 800 ($US)

Sound

This banjo has a rich, deep sound, almost a bass sound. No need for the optional resonator, especially if you're a clawhammer player. I added the GTS head, which deepens the sound even more, but requres that I tune it more often, despite the claims that this "new" type skin head doesn't react to humidity changes.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

It was on backorder from Gold Tone, so when I finally got it (over a month and a half from when I ordered it) it was basically set up, but not as well as the White Ladye I purchased several years ago from Folk of the Woods. I immediately replaced the arm rest, which is more of a meat grinder than an arm rest. I had to swap some of the tension hook nuts around to accommodate the new arm rest, but it works fine now.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

It's an okay look, light maple all over. However, I was expecting the same quality of finish I got on my GT White Ladye and was disappointed. The neck finish doesn't match the finish on the peg head, and the layers are plainly visible on the heel where they glued them together. And you can feel them when you run your finger over them. The finger board is also about a 32nd inch too high above the banjo head. You can see that the neck mounting is what is causing it. The cuts on the base of the neck don't match up properly with the tension ring.

Appearance Rating: 6

Reliability

The tuning pegs slip a little. I plan to take it into the local banjo guy for a complete checkup and to add some capo spikes. I'm also changing out the tuning buttons for ebony--just for fun. The varnish on the finish is solid, with the exceptions mentioned already.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

I got it from an online retailer, who I will not use again. Not very good customer service. However, I have dealt with Gold Tone directly in the past, and they've been very responsive. I'm a bit sorry to see that the quality of this banjo isn't up to the standards I expected based on my last Gold Tone purchase.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The pot size is great. It's hard to find a 12" pot at this price with this sound. I have to commend Gold Tone for bringing this out. I just wish the workmanship was up to the sound standard.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

If you can get this under $800, it's a good deal. I played several other banjos around this price range, and they don't compare. I love the sound. The finish and overall construction lacks attention to detail that I expected from having bought a Gold Tone White Ladye. Maybe I was spoiled by that experience, or maybe they're slipping. I wish I had had a chance to see the banjo in person before purchasing it. Appearance makes a difference to me.

Overall Rating: 8

Submitted by parwoody (see all reviews from this person) on 6/19/2007

Where Purchased: Janet Davis Music Co.

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 675 ($US)

Sound

This is a great banjo! The bass is warm with a strong presence, and rich-full overall sound. A beautiful open-back from Gold Tone.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

All set-up was fine except the action was just a little higher than I wanted.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Very nice detail on this instrument. I prefer the gloss finish over the satin finish on my GT CC100+. There are no apparent flaws.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Too soon to know, but overall quality would predict very good reliability.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I have not dealt with Gold Tone.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

I appreciate the wide (1 3/8") neck and the Ren' head. The ebony-rosewood headstock, heel and pot-binding are nice touches. I have had no problem with the Hot-Dog armrest which others have not complimented. Very good for the price.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Very nice banjo! Great for the way I play . . . a blend of 3-finger and clawhammer. Favorite features are the 12 inch pot which provides very good volume and strong bass, and the wide neck. I much prefer the CB350 to my GT CC100+ and my old Epiphone MB250 resonator. If stolen, the BC350 or a perhaps a Ramsey would be 1st replacement choice primarily because of the wide neck.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Gus Bloch (see all reviews from this person) on 5/11/2007

Where Purchased: banjo.com

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Excellent sound. Great tonal range depending upon where it is strummed. The scooped next helps this.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Was set up OK, but needed some re-tuning which is expected. Action was quite high and bridge measured 3/4" high. This is a plus as it allows the customer to make easy adjustment. Sanding and polishing
the base with fine sand paper mounted on a glass surface to remove about 1/16+ solved this. Polishing the bridge base to 600 grit seems to imrove tone a bit. Neck setup and head tension were perfect.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

Nice looking and understated. No manufacturer's name on headstock.
Only the cognosenti will know the brand name which may be a plus for
some. Finish excellent at any price. The flush execution of the truss rod cover is a nice touch.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

My fourth Gold Tone product from Banjo.com. All have been completely reliable and stable once broken in. I expect the same from this one.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

They have always been helpful and friendly. A good friend of mine visited the them last summer and enjoyed their hospitality. 9Call first)
The dealer did a good job as usual.

Customer Service: 9

Components

I removed the armrest. Its a nice piece, but I find it unnecessary.
Lugs are good quality. I have had no problems yet with the stock
OEM planetary tuners. The rest is fine and even better considering the price.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

The wide neck and miniscule frets took some getting used to. Probably not a great choice for a beginner or someone who has never played a string instrument. I plan to install Aquilla Nygut strings after break in.
This will likey require some polishing of the tailpiece and such. I'll report on the results at a later date. I already really enjoy this instrument and I'm sure it will be a keeper.

Overall Rating: not rated

Submitted by MossPiglet (see all reviews from this person) on 2/16/2007

Where Purchased: Zepp Music

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 700 or so historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Sounds great ... 12 inch pot gives sublime tone for clawhammer and gets loud too, you can be heard in jams or stringband. Its loud and plunky with nice overtones, its got a rich bass, sounds so nice in double C with that low C (for stagework I usually keep it in this tuning, and have another banjo for my G stuff) , yet its still got a treble cut to it also, thanks to the simple rolled brass tonering .... it really has quite a full spectrum sound. I always get complements on its tone ... I also have a heavy artificial nail kept up by the local nail salon, which really helps the clawhammer tone on any banjo.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Only thing I changed was to a heavy moon bridge ... I tried moon medium also, but just love the deep sound on the low strings with the heavy. I did order it with the matching resonator, however the resonator is a junk tray in my studio now ... I never use it. It sounds fuller and more resonant without it. I use ghs medium gauge phosphor bronze string sets, the phos bronze helps the bass sound rich.

It has one of the widest necks for a banjo that Ive seen, which has advantages and disadvantages ... Ive come to love it that way tho, lots of room to articulate complex melodic stuff ... however it can be long reaches sometimes too. The frets are very small, which also has good and bad points ... you have to have good technique to get bar chords to ring clean, however you can do real nice slide stuff so it almost sounds like a fretless. These are some unusual features, no doubt specified by Bob Carlin ... they really give the banjo a unique character.

I find no problem with the stock armrest that other reviewers have had problems with ... I just raised mine a hair to keep my arm up off that ringin Ren head.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

It has a simple understated look, perfect as I dont need or want flashy stuff. The neck is huge so it looks a bit funny there sometimes, but its a 12 inch pot too, so I guess its balanced. Some people have complained about the heavy gloss finish ... I dont have a problem with that esp since I live in minnesota and thicker finishes standup better to our huge weather and humidity changes .

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

Ive had it about a year and no problems ... and Ive played it alot cause I really dig the tone.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Havent dealt direct with goldtone ... ordering from Zepp was aok of course. Emailed Bob Carlin himself with a few questions before I bought it and he replied right away.

Customer Service: 8

Components

Its not perfect ... a small file mark on the neck ... a dark spot in the maple on the neck. Im sure at this price that some of the components are not the greatest, however Ive had no problems and it gave me a great clawhammer tone and playability at a price I can afford. I appreciate that they are making affordable banjos that are really designed to get the best out of what you can have at a reasonable pricepoint.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

Theres some other banjos I dream of owning but cant afford, so I really like this carlin model ... its got some unique features that give it character and its got sweet tone. I recommend it ... Ive played other brands close in price, ... Reiter, Ramseys ... I came away very glad I purchased the bc-350. None of them ring like this big 12 incher.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by Westelk (see all reviews from this person) on 12/15/2006

Where Purchased: playbetterbluegrass.com

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 750 ($US)

Sound

The 12 inch pot provides great bottom-end--the perfect balance between highs and lows for clawhammer. I did not need to do anything to make it sound good.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was fine, but as always I switched to a higher bridge.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Plain and well done. The finish is too thick and glossy for me.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Well made with good components.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have not contacted Gold Tone.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

This banjo has a marvelous wide neck, and the 12 inch pot really makes for a full sound. If you play clawhammer and you do not have a 12 inch pot banjo, you should get a BC-350. The "hound-dog" armrest is uncomfortable. I replaced it with a single-leg armrest.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I enthusiastically recommend this banjo. If I could own just one banjo, this would be it. Although it is more comfortable to nestle an 11 inch pot in my lap, the 12 inch pot definitely has the sound advantage.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by charliep (see all reviews from this person) on 4/5/2006

Where Purchased: Banjo.com

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Excellent sounding clawhammer banjo.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Banjo was setup perfect right out of the box. Action was great .

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Very pretty clawhammer banjo. Inlaid with star on head stock and another star at the 5th fret. Not fancy like a lot of resonator banjos but pretty in an understated way. The light finish is very attractive and I have found no defects in the finish.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

This is my third Goldtone banjo and I have never had any problems with reliability.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I overtightened an attachment bolt on the armrest and broke the bolt. Called Goldtone and they sent a new bolt and barrel nut free of charge. Excellent customer service.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The only complaint I have about the banjo is the armrest, which they call a "Hog Dog Armrest". After playing for an extended period of time the armrest begins to dig into your arm. I replaced it with a vega style armrest. After replacing it I realized an easier solution {and cheaper} is to go to the hardware store and buy a length of clear tubing , cut it lengthwise,and put it on the outside edge of the armrest. This would give the armrest a more curved face and give your right forearm a break. The scooped fretboard, the 12" pot, and the plunky sound make a great clawhammer banjo.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Dynamite clawhammer banjo for the money. I've played other handmade banjo that cost substantially more money and I don't hear or see much diference. I would definately buy another if this one was stolen.

Overall Rating: 9

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