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: Banjo.com
Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: 1,500 ($US)
Great sound but make sure you get it fully set up to bring out it's full potential, sort of a low crisp sound.
Sound Rating: 8
Not bad, but needs some fixing up, needed the head tension fixed and the back bow taken out of the neck. Took an hour to fix up not bad at all.
Setup Rating: 6
The nicest looking banjo I have ever seen for the price, I put a black head on it and WOW it looks breath taking.
Appearance Rating: 9
Good parts for a good banjo, nothing more to say.
Reliability Rating: 9
Very helpful, kept me intouch and made sure they were looking out for me and my new banjo.
Customer Service: 9
An upgrade never hurt but not needed.
Components Rating: 8
I love it and I have a feeling this will last me a life time.
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: Angies Banjo
Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: Good Price ($US)
The Sound is clear with nearly the crack of a bluegrass style banjo when played with picks, but a smooth, sweet, woody sound when played clawhammer style. It has a real big sound for a banjo under $1000.
Sound Rating: 9
I did a direct pickup from Gold Tone. I was standing right there while they were doing the work. There attention to detail was quite impressive, from the adjustments made to the instrument to the cleaning of the banjo when all the work was completed. They adjusted the action on the spot to suit the type of playing that I do. The WL250+ played like a banjo much more expensive then what I paid for it. You can judge a book by its cover at Gold Tone. The shop and the office area was neat as a pin. I was very impressed.
Setup Rating: 9
The Gold Tone WL250+ speaks for itself. It's absolutly beautiful.
The abalone and mother of pearl inlay is flawless. The binding on the rim is so rich looking. It makes such a great contrast to the dark finish on the neck and the rim itself. When combined with the gleaming, chrome hardware it appeals to the eye like a piece of fine furniture..
Appearance Rating: 10
So far so good.....
Reliability Rating: 9
I've been a musician for over 30 years. I've owned just about every type and major brand of instrument there is from extremely low price to ridiculously high dollar. Gold Tone has impressed me. They are courteous, precise and seem to genuinely concerned about the customer. I truly believe it will carry over if God forbid, I have any problems in the future. Tommy Sivert and the whole crew at Gold Tone are top notch.
Customer Service: 10
Everything seems to be of very good quality. It's built and assemble quite well
Components Rating: 9
Give a Gold Tone instruments a try, I did. The dollar value is unbeatable. When you combine it with good old fashioned American fit and finish, customer satisfaction and service, well you've one heck of a dollar value.
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: Local Store
Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: 775.00 ($US)
Sound Rating: 9
Loose bracket shoes needed to be tightened.
Setup Rating: 8
I ordered a Gold Tone White Laydie Plus, based in part on reviews here and elsewhere. It arrived at the local store I ordered it through and all seemed well for a few hours until I noticed 5 cracks in between the bracket shoes on the rim. The store agreed to let me keep the old one until a new one could arrive to replace it. This took almost three weeks, although admittedly over the holidays. The next one arrived with a very damaged 5th string pip, a crack in the fingerboard extending from the pip, a deep flaw (1/8" or so) where some binding on the side had either been glued together poorly or damaged and simply finished over, a very poorly fitted armrest (I don't care for the way in which Gold Tone bends and crams the Vega style armrests on, in fact, I ordered and paid for a new one, unbent as well as shorter hooks to fit it on properly.) In addition, the inlay on the second piece was very poor in comparison to the first, with lots of very visible filler. The first banjo had really well done inlay.
Needless to say, I passed on the second banjo. I e-mailed Wayne and a third hand-inspected banjo was to be sent. He also mentioned having some troubles with a batch of paint causing the cracking in the finish. The third banjo arrived and was indeed, in comparison, the best banjo, but it did in fact, still have a crack in the finish on the rim, under the heel and extending to the edge, right where the binding doesn't quite meet. With some small resignation, I simply used the appropriate cryanoacrylate glue and sealed it.
I also noticed after a few days that the hooks seemed misaligned, some pointing lefter and some pointing righter- the tailpiece was shifted noticably to one side to position the strings correctly... i.e. the bolt holding the tailpiece angled to one side. I loosened the hooks and moved the tension hoop to try and center things, but this inevitably put other hooks out of perpendicular. In fact, no matter where I put it, some of the hooks would lean to one side and some of the hooks would lean to the other. Either the holes for the brackets or the notches for the hoop are out of alignment. The second banjo, with a repaired pip back at the store, displays the exact same degree of misalignment. I bought a grooved tension hoop and everything aligns quite nicely now, leading me to believe that the tension hoop notches are more to blame than any mis-drilled bracket holes.
The shoes on all three banjos had extremely poor plating quality. I had first thought the castings porous and thus the plating spotty, but since I replaced the notched hoop and the round brackets, I figured I might as well go ahead and also replace the shoes with Stewmac parts. I filed some of the original parts down to see what was the cause. The castings seem solid, but the plating is bubbly and some of the bubbles can even be pushed or popped. I'm a jeweler by trade, so I know there's no real need for this to be. It's not that hard to plate well.
Now mind you I still do like the banjo. It sounds great. I heard a bunch of nice, respectable banjos at a recent Ken Perlman workshop and to my ears, mine sounded second only to Ken's. I like the inlay and the general appearance of the banjo, but today I decided to post this veritable essay after noticing the cracks in the tuner buttons. This seems to be a recurrent issue for Gold Tone banjos, having searched the forums. I called about getting some new buttons and they wanted pictures, ostensibly to determine the proper buttons, but it felt like they didn't believe me or something. After. All. This.
So. I just ordered some 5-Star tuners, having heard about slippage issues and assuming future Gold Tone buttons will eventually crack anyway...
Once again, I do still like the banjo. But next time I'll save up some more and buy something handmade by an actual craftsman, that's for sure. At this point it wouldn't have taken much more of an initial investment to obtain such an instrument.
As far as ratings go, the first banjo gets a 5 for deep cracks in the finish. The second gets a 4 for all the issues mentioned and the final banjo gets a 7. I'd even call it a 9 after replacing all the hardware. I'll average the difference for a 6.25.
Appearance Rating: 6
The original hooks and nuts were fine. The original bracket shoes were terrible; every piece had plenty of bubbles in the plating. The original notched hoop, while sturdy and cleanly plated, seemed to be out of alignment as far as the notch placement goes. The tuner buttons have cracked.
Reliability Rating: 5
Customer service seemed decent enough, but I sure did need a lot of it.
Customer Service: 8
Please see the above. ;)
Components Rating: 4
I bought the instrument for $775 plus $50 for The Taxman. I added $285 in parts as well as $140 for a decent case. That's $1250 for a banjo with a case that sounds really good, looks pretty good and has sturdy parts. Not bad, but not great either. I won't be ordering sight unseen ever again, and if this banjo was stolen, I'd save up for something made with a bit more attention to detail.
Overall Rating: 7
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