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: Angiesbanjo.com
Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: $699 ($US)
I play Irish trad and folk. The banjo as received was a bit too bright for my taste, so I added a Fiberskyn head (standard 11" medium crown) and it settled down to just the right 'plunk'.
Just to clarify, this is the 19 fret flat top, standard flange, resonator model. Not the Irish tenor (open back), archtop (AT), or large flange (250F) models.
Sound Rating: 8
I ordered the TS-250 set up for Irish tuning (GDAE) and with the Gold Tone SMP pickup installed (at extra cost. The banjo was $699 and the total was $820). The set up required a bit of tweaking as recieved, but the action was set as low as possible. Tenor players using standard tuning would probably like it. Personally, I think ALL banjos need a little tweak by the player, but the GT is very easy to work on. I actually had to raise the action slightly for the heavier strings. Nothing unexpected in the design and all the tutorials on this site apply to it. You'll have no trouble fine tuning the set up for yourself.
However, I did ask for it to be set up for GDAE tuning, and all they really did was slap a set of heavier strings on. I expected a little more effort on their part, but there were no real problems with the set up either.
The SMP pickup was installed neatly. As it was no extra charge for installation, I recommend having it done at Gold Tone. You need a really good drill and soldering experience.
Since I expected to change things anyway, the factory set up was fine, so I give it an 8.
Setup Rating: 8
I have not found any finish flaws, but the banjo is pretty Plain Jane. Nice hearts and flowers inlay, plain resonator back, plain brown. It's a good everyday kind of banjo for those who like things simple and clean.
If it didn't say Gold Tone on the headstock, it would look like a four string version of my Epiphone MB-250. Nothing fancy, but well done.
Appearance Rating: 9
The banjo is a typically well made intermediate priced Korean import. Very similar in fit and finish to my Epiphone MB-250. It's solid, tight, heavily plated. Probably last a good long time with reasonable care.
Reliability Rating: 9
This was my only disappointment. Let me first state that the service from angiesbanjo.com was beyond reproach. Angie was right on top of everything and worked her tail off on my behalf. Good thing too. Gold Tone never responded to a single email or phone call from me. They did what I asked (restring, Irish tuning, install pickup), but they did not even attempt to work with me directly, they didn't really fine tune the set up, and they didn't respond to my complaint when all was said and done.
Angie gets a 10
Gold Tone gets a 1 only because that's the lowest number on the thing.
Customer Service: 1
The components are very good quality, Korean made parts. There is nothing at all wrong with a good import in my opinion. It's the best way to get a nice banjo at an affordable price. But beware: The Gold Tone site leads you to think these are hand crafted in Florida. They are assembled there from good quality imported components, but this is not an American made instrument.
Components Rating: 8
For the price I paid ($699 with TLK hardshell case and free shipping) it's a very good buy and I would recommend it highly. It's not worth anywhere near the MSRP of $929. This is basically a good imported banjo assembled by high-priced American labor. If it were imported directly it would probably cost around $400 from any number of Internet dealers (Elderly, etc). If I'd been fully aware of that, I would have haggled a little more. I'll bet I could have gotten another $50-$100 off.
But it is a nice banjo in its price class, and there isn't that much to choose from today in new mid-priced tenors. If it were stolen, I'd probably buy a second one.
Overall Rating: 8
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