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: www.banjoteacher.com
Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: $900 ($US)
With the parts that came with this kit, the instrument was only so-so on sound quality. It had an annoying brightness (I ordered it with the same Sosebee bridge that comes with the ready-made OB250+; that bridge is thin and does not contribute to a Gibson Mastertone" sound). After replacing a number of parts, the sound quality was exceptional. See the "components" section of this review for the parts I swapped out.
Sound Rating: 9
The neck was cut such that when mounted to the pot assembly, there could be no string clearance. In addition, the bottom of the fretboard was putting force directly on the tension hoop, which is contrary to accepted practice. I reshaped the neck joint by hand, and added a .032" brass shim at the bottom of the neck joint, which gave me proper string clearance, and also relieved the pressure of the neck from the tension hoop.
Note: I tuned the Remo Weatherking head to a drum dial tension of 89. This gives the best brightness versus resonance. I had tried the Goldtone skin head and the Steward Macdonald Elite, but found the Remo to be superior in tone when the Fults tailpiece was used.
The tone ring did not mate properly with the head of the rim, resulting in a .007" gap one-third of the way around the top of the rim. This was overcome by a thin brass shim (with brass locally obtained from a hardware store.)
Setup Rating: 3
The maple wood is nice. I finished it with alcohol-based stain obtained locally, with the finish being Tru-Oil Gunstock finish from Walmart. This was recommended by Kimerer on his excellent Goldtone assembly website, www.thekimerers.com; (Google search will possibly find it easier.)
Appearance Rating: 7
The fifth-string tuner that came with the kit has too much free play in it, and annoys me every time I tune the instrument. I will replace it with a Schaller tuner, as I already did on a custom Whyte Ladie kit that Goldtone provided as a special order for me.
The Strightline tailpiece that came with the kit is average in quality compared to other low-cost tailpieces, but I replaced it with a Fults BlueRidge Parallel tailpiece, which gave vastly better sound quality. These are available at www.banjotailpiece.com
The Tru-Oil Gunstock finish I used is great stuff. It can give a moderately shiny finish, is easy to touch up, costs almost nothing... I would not recommend the use of laquer finish, which is costly, gives overspray, and is a hassle.
Reliability Rating: 5
Goldtone said the gap in the seating of the tone ring on the head would make no difference in the final sound. This is contrary to Steve Huber's policy of tone ring mating to the rim at all points around the top of the rim. (I shimmed the head to give proper mating surface to the tone ring.)
As to the mis-cut heel on the banjo neck, Goldtone offered to re-cut it, but didn't offer to pay for the shipping to do so. I did the work myself, by hand.
Customer Service: 5
To obtain really great sound, I went to the following parts:
Genuine bone nuts from www.janetdavismusic.com (the kit came with plastic nuts; then Goldtone sent me a bone nut, but it looked like porous bone.)
Fults BlueRidge Parallel tailpiece. This is the latest creation from Bob Fults, and it made a tremendous difference in sound quality. A Fults tailpiece is a "must buy" item.
Kat Eyz Pegged Top bridge, medium width, ebony top (available from www.kateyz.bb.com). This made a very significant increase in tone quality. Another "must buy" item.
Tone Mate tone enhance (brass piece that attaches inside the resonator; it really does enhance the sound... available from www.janetdavismusic.com))
Gibson Earl Scruggs light gauge strings. These really made a tone quality difference too.
Components Rating: 4
The Goldtone Deluxe case I ordered with this instrument is a great case, except that I had to make a rod to hold the top open! The top of the case will not stay open on its own.
This OB250+ banjo kit was not a bad deal... and the banjo has good sound... but if I had it to do over again, I think I would buy a pot assembly (high quality tone ring, precision mated to a Tony Pass rim) from Janet Davis Music, buy an OB250 Goldtone neck, and assemble this myself. That would give me the "guaranteed best" tone, for only a few hundred dollars more.
One advantage of building this kit is that it taught me how to be a banjo luthier. I would not have that skill today if it were not for my building a kit banjo. However, I do not recommend a banjo kit for anyone who is not mechanically minded. This thing does not just bolt together; the frets have to be installed by hand; the holes in the neck for the lag bolts have to be drilled with precision.
I spent 40 hours in construction, and another number of hours and expense in replacing parts, as I searched for that ideal sound.
Overall Rating: 7
'New Tune Posting' 52 min
'Up 18 North' 5 hrs