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: Directly from Gold Tone
Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: $775 ($US)
Very mellow tone. For those who believe these Banjolas sound like a regular banjo with a mute, you're missing something. In case you're not familiar with them, they are a banjo neck mounted to a large mandolin body. Martin used to make them almost a hundred years ago, called Banjolins. You play them just like you do a banjo. True, the sound is quieter, but so is a loving woman as compared to an angry wife! This banjola has an even tone throughout the fret board and each individual string. It's a pleasure to sing with and works not only for slower tunes, but can sound good with the faster stuff as well. This banjola shines in four situations: First, when you're in a mellow mood and don't want to play at break-neck speed but want to play something like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" - but NOT like Jens Kruger! Second, when you want to play on a summer evening on your porch or patio and don't want your neighbors trying to flush you AND your banjola down the toilet. Third, when you have tunes going on in your head, can't sleep, and want to play late at night without your wife or other family members calling the neighbors for help in flusing you and your banjola down the toilet. Last - when you go to a jam and you want to look really cool and have folks ask, "What's THAT you're playing?" I have never played any other banjola, so I can't make comparisons with other models or brands, but I can tell you that my wife loves the tone of this banjola. It's very rich and, much the same as most politicians, not overly bright. But in this case, not being bright is a good thing.
Sound Rating: 8
This banjola has a truss rod, but doesn't have any way of adjustng the bridge or string height as the neck is set in and the bridge is non-adjustable. I set up the truss rod several times before the instrument settled down. The best strings are mediums to heavy because they don't buzz and they have the richest, loudest (for a banjola) tone.
Setup Rating: 7
Beautiful with flowers and hearts inlays. Walnut sides and back, mahogany neck, pine sound board. Inlay is accurate. See my pictures at Banjo Hangout.
Appearance Rating: 9
Now that I've replaced the tuning buttons, everything else should be long term. Once I fix the neck (see Sustomer Service and Components), should be very dependable. Using on a gig would not be a concern as this is a novelty instrument and would not be used the entire gig.
Reliability Rating: 6
This banjola came directly from Gold Tone. It was a replacement for one I bought from a music store (don't want to mention the name) because the one I bought had a cracked neck. Maybe at the factory, maybe later on when humidity changed, the neck split for 2 to 3 inches beginning at where the 5th string tuner is inserted and ran paralell toward the body. This music store (who was moving locations at the time and in utter chaos) referred me to Gold Tone who initially suspected I might have damaged it or, more likely, that it had been damaged in shipment. When I e-mailed photos, their customer service agreed the split was their fault. They paid for shipping back to the factory and sent me a replacement immediately. However, as received, this banjola had a severly cracked 5th string tuning nut. I notified customer service again, who sent out a replacement, but the replacement was cracked also (obviously it was used as the inside was full of dirt and black residue). I decided not to bother them anymore and bought a complete set of buttons made from ebony, from Janet Davis Music. I had to find replacement screws, and I polished them to a mirror finish. Again, see my photos at B.H.
Customer Service: 7
Finish is great. Looks fantastic. Originally with very cheap tuning buttons, as discussed, but now the neck is warping. Please note that I use a humidifier religiously. I contacted Gold Tone over the holidays, and heard from the president who said he'd be in touch after the holidays, but I haven't heard back from him (a/o Jan 08). I think there is a lifetime warranty, but what good does that do if they won't get back to you? I get buzzing at higher registers (8th fret onward) only on the G, D, and 5th strings. The high D and the B don't buzz, indicating a twist since it didn't buzz before. I might have to just live with it, but the $775 I paid is a low price and this instrument has a suggested retail of over $1,200 - that's way too much to pay for something that warps and buzzes. I might add a 1/64th" shim under the bridge and that would raise the strings, which are low action, but I believe it will cure the buzz on the two bass strings.
Components Rating: 4
I recommend this banjola as something different for the player who wants a more mellow and quieter sound. I love to play it but am concerned about the buzzing. I love the sound and the looks. It's also light weight.
Overall Rating: 7
'Custom Fretboard Size?' 21 min
'John Prine -- Long Monday' 24 min
'John Prine has died' 31 min
'John Prine' 1 hr
'Super Moon' 1 hr