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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!

6919 reviews in the archive.

Gold Star  GF-200 Banjo Reviews

Submitted by sierra11861 (see all reviews from this person) on 3/5/2008

Where Purchased: Friends Music, NC

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 1,049 ($US)

Sound

Sounds great. Very crunchy sound when hitting 3rd and 1st together open position in G. I love rosewood fretboards, this one gives a very solid (like an axe hitting a tree stump) sound in upper neck area without the harsh overtones that ebony boards produce.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

I bought this on e-bay from a music store in NC and had it shipped straight to Arthur Hatfield in KY without seeing the banjo. He shaved the outside of the rim down so the tone ring fit better. I had him replace all 5 tuners with Gotah brand tuners and he added spikes, his compensated bridge and his med/lite strings along with set up. Also he installed a better Presto tailpiece. He filed down the nut flush to improve the sound ans playability. Arthurs total cost turn-key with shipping to me was aprrox. $270.00.

Setup Rating: 4

Appearance

The resonator does not fit exactly the way it should to the flange but I can adjust this myself fairly easily

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

The hardware is not Pruncha quality but its probably 90% as good. Looks liike it will be OK. I repaced the turners with Gotah so that is more than half the battle.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

You have to call a local registered dealer to get parts. I had a GF-100 a few years back and tried to get a part and the distrubuter could not come up with the part for the local dealer after several weeks, so my experience is a bad one. Forget e-mailing the Saga website, that is a joke, you will not hear anything back.

Customer Service: 1

Components

Tailpiece: Junk
Tuners: Junk
This GF-200 maple neck is about as solid as a good (American made) mahogony neck so it's satisfactory. I had a GF-100 with a mahogany neck and that thing was so flimsy it was scary, so this GF-200 with a maple neck solves the problem I had with other model Goldstar necks.

Components Rating: 5

Overall Comments

Here is the deal. I prefer Maple/rosewood banjos. The only other Maple/rosewood banjo in this price range is the Sulivan Festival. I tried finding one of those used for around $1,200-$1,300 but could not find one until about a week after I bought this banjo (isn't that the way?) Unless I am missing something, the only other Maple/rosewood banjos other than these two are well over $2,000.00. This is a good overall banjo and is fun to play and feels just like a Mastertone. I have owned at least 10 Mastertones and it sounds every bit as good if not better than many of them. Make sure the head is tight on this banjo to get that good crack. Use medium lights .10's 1st and 5th not .09's. Send it to Arthur Hatfield and invest the extra $270 for the upgrades I mentioned above and I think you will be very satisfied overall.

Overall Rating: 8

Submitted by Gijs Tegelberg (see all reviews from this person) on 1/17/2008

Where Purchased: Instrument Alley

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 1300 ($US)

Sound

As a jazz banjo player (tenor &plectrum) I was also interested in learning to play bluegrass and was looking for the best possible value for money. I really researched stuff and came up with the Gold Star GF-200.. I took a risk because I purchased it unheard, but I know how important quality banjo components are and how "tweakable" the sound is. I have not been disappointed. After the little bit of tinkering I had in mind, the sound is really perfect, good volume, clarity throughout, rich bass, a lot of sustain, and very responsive to the touch, so that you can be expressive.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The setup from instrument alley was not great, but nothing that was not easy to fix. I had already ordered a Fults 34 parallell tailpiece, and a Jim Farquhar bridge, put those on and I immediately achieved a measured 15% increase in volume, while deepening the bass end, right now I have put on an Emerson II sweet bridge, and boosted the volume and brightness a tad more.

Setup Rating: 6

Appearance

The finish is perfect, warm glowing book matched maple resonator, tightly tiger striped maple neck, buffed to a lustrous finish, as is the ebony headstock. The mother of pearl inserts just keep drawing you back to play.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I was not too impressed by the stamped brass presto tailpiece or the bridge, but I was expecting that, because Janet Davis recommends changing them anyway. For the rest everything is great! Sturdy, reliable, with the Fults tailpiece (very adjustable and stable) everything stays perfectly in tune.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I have had no further experience with the company so I will give them an average score.

Customer Service: 6

Components

As stated earlier, bridge and tailpiece are really worth upgrading; once you've done that sound heaven shines down on you!

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I would recommend this banjo to anyone with a good ear, common sense and love for music.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by carteru93 (see all reviews from this person) on 11/4/2007

Where Purchased: Janet Davis

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: $1300 ($US)

Sound

I play bluegrass on this banjo. The tone is pretty bright but still bassy. There is a real difference while picking by the bridge and up by the fingerboard. It sounds very clean and has quite a bit of sustain. It pops rings like a bell. It sounds very good for my tastes. Check out my music for sound clips of this banjo.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

When I got this banjo, the setup was pretty poor which surprised me from Janet Davis. The head was real loose, the coordinator rod nuts were stressing the rim a lot, and the rods weren't even snug and caused for a lot of neck flex.

I have the banjo set up now with the head somewhere around a G#-A. Snuffy Smith bridge, JD Crowe GHS strings, and Presto tailpiece just under 1/4".

I would highly recommend taking it to an expert to get the ring and rim fitted properly.

Setup Rating: 4

Appearance

H&F inlay, shiny nickel playing, great finish. Typical Masterclone looking banjo. Only thing different from a Gibson is the name on the peghead.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

This banjo is built solid definitely. I have played it REALLY hard since I got it and the armrest is showing practically no wear at all.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Never dealt with Saga, but Janet Davis was really helpful with any questions or requests I had.

Customer Service: 8

Components

3 ply rim, 20 hole tone ring, maple neck and resonator, Presto tailpiece.

I replaced the bridge with a Snuffy Smith and will replace the tailpiece soon with something lighter like a Prucha Presto or a Clamshell.

Other than that all stock.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

This banjo is definitely a god buy. Sounds really great. If it were stolen I might try an RK, but would probably end up selling that on eBay and getting another Gold Star :D. It completely blows my $600 Samick away.

Although I did need to shave down the rim to make the tone ring a bit looser. It would be best to take it to a pro and get it set up properly.

Overall Rating: 8

Submitted by perfectsleeper (see all reviews from this person) on 6/24/2007

Where Purchased: Gift from Folkladen (Germany)

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 0,00 ($US)

Sound

First the sound was not optimized (in my opion). There was nothing that I expect from a bluegrass banjo with that reputation from the past. This is the really first one of the new gold star line. It was a present which comes in detour from Richard Keldson from Saga to my hands. The banjo looks like played a lot. Later I read in the net, that this piece was on Namm-Show 2005 and was viewed by a lot of players.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

I had to do a lot of set up (and I'm not a practitioner in banjo set up!!). The sound comes not out of the box - no typical twang that I want from it. After I study the "Killer Tone" DVD from Steve Huber I'm more courageous to "deconstruct" the banjo completely. With a new snuffy smith 5/8 bridge and a better worked tailpiece (a prucha Presto-style!) and better tuning of the head the banjo sounds good....., but not perfect?! Why? As I dissmantle the banjo I could see that the tonering don't fit the rim perfectly. Shocking!! There is a big space between the ring and the rim to put in a credit card - for a length of maybe 20cm!!! As I could see on the back of the tonering there was a flash which I could work on with sanding. So the ring fits better but allready not perfect. Also the rod which held the neck was too tighten as I get the banjo. So the whole pot was compressed by it. Well...., now all this unbelievable mistakes was revised but the there is already space between ring and rim because the pot outside is not good milled - so the ring contact first out side of the pot before it could reach the rim. I have to bring it to a good luthier to bring out the complete sound of it! Installed tuners were absolutly crap - they do nothing for which they are buildt! I installed new schaller tuner (they are also bad, but a little better).

Setup Rating: 4

Appearance

The banjo looks awesome. Very nice looking flamed maple. Absolutly perfect (except the namm-show dirt...., iiiih!!)

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

With all of the sad, sad components that were installed it was a complete failure! No clean tuning. With new set-up, better tailpiece and tuners it works fine.

Reliability Rating: 6

Customer Service

Customer Service: not rated

Components

brazillian rosewood finger board, flamed maple neck and resonator, 1 peice flange goldstar engraved tuners, hearts and flowers inlay, geared fifth tuner, nice binding all around very well made banjo,

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

If all the parts from this prototype were better it has to be a very good banjo for a good price. There were a lot of big mistakes on this "number 1" that belittle the first impression of a new to astablished banjo. I would hope they do it better in present time.

Overall Rating: 7

Submitted by medic579 (see all reviews from this person) on 6/10/2007

Where Purchased: Ebay store

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 1298.00 ($US)

Sound

great pop has a bright sound but still has good low end growl

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Not really, i adjusted the tailpeice, and the bridge, and tightened the head, and it sounded great neck seems to be adjusted well. after a little playing i will have my luthier go thru it i also installed d-tuners and a shubb 5th capo tailpeice seems to be a little better than the 85, presto style

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

Awesome, looks geat, very nice looking flamed maple unable to find any flaws.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

tailpeice seems good, arm rest will need to be replaced with a two foot model for my liking tuners seem very good i think it will last a long time

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

n/a

Customer Service: not rated

Components

brazillian rosewood finger board, flamed maple neck and resonator, 1 peice flange goldstar engraved tuners, hearts and flowers inlay, geared fifth tuner, nice binding all around very well made banjo,

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

i really like this banjo, i played a few deerings, sierra, boston, and this one sounds better in my opinion, and much cheaper i paid 1298 shipped from an ebay music store list is 2295. JDM can ship it to you for about 40 bucks more than i paid, and their setup is better, but i was changing a lot of parts right off the bat, so i just did it this way i am using an emerson sweet power II bridge, schaller d-tuners, shubb 5th capo, and i was able to buy all this stuff for less than most places sell the banjodefinately better than my epipnone mb-250 or my deering openback good time, if stolen i would buy the same banjo

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by 4drsleeper (see all reviews from this person) on 10/6/2006

Where Purchased: Janet Davis Music

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 1399 ($US)

Sound

Sounds absolutely wonderful. I'd only been playing for 5 months when I decided to upgrade from my JB100. As expected, it destroyed my JB100 in comparison. So much easier to play, the sound was amazing, and looks beautiful. I know I'm only a beginner...having played now for 9 months but I think you'd be hard pressed to find any other banjo this nice in the same price range. I would recommend it to anyone. It's hard for me as a beginner to give a true "rating" for sound but it sounds great to me so I rated it as a 9.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The banjo was well setup as expected from Janet Davis. I did have the bridge and tailpiece changed by JDM before it was shipped to me. I went with a Snuffy Smith bridge and a Price tailpiece. Also, I had the railroad tacks installed at JDM prior to shipment. Upon receipt, all I had to do was tune the strings and I was done. JDM had already set the banjo to medium action prior to shipment. It can't get any easier than that.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The woodwork looks great to me. Again, I'm an ameature when it comes to things like wood work but I couldn't find any flaws. The GF-200 comes with mother of pearl which is beautiful. I've gotten some nice comments on the pearl...it really stands out nicely.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

JDM was wonderful to work with. They offered advice and explained everything to me in detail so that I felt comfortable with decisions. They had to delay my shipment by a couple of days due the tailpiece being on back-order. They actually contacted me via e-mail to let me know there would be a couple extra days. Most companies would have just put it asside and never let the customer know the order status.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I didn't really care for the GF-200 standard tailpiece and replaced it with the Price tailpiece. I think this is a must. Also, it seems that the tuners loosened up during my first string change which is easily fixed but a minor annoyance none the less.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I would absolutely recommend this banjo from beginners to advanced. A friend of mine plays banjo as a full-time job and has the GF-100. After 6 months of playing I don't think he'll ever buy anything but Gold Star from now on. If my banjo was stolen I would replace it with the exact same banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

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