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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!

7099 reviews in the archive.

Gold Star: GF-85

Submitted by Hedge Hog on 3/25/2008

Where Purchased: E-bay

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 690 delivered ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

When I got this banjo it was not setupl. After some attention and a set of American Made Banjo Co. Cryo strings it was ready to play. This banjo can sit up and bark when asked.

Rated an 8 because I don't want to over rate the sound, but it's very nice.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

The banjo was purchased used from E-bay, but it was as close to brand new as any used banjo can possibly be. The original owner said the banjo was only a month old and it shows. I don't believe it was ever touched. The head was loose and unevenly tightened, and brackets were loose as well. I was an easy job to correct all these problems. The action was nice without any buzz. The setup could probably be better, but so far I'm impressed with the banjo.

I gave the setup a 5 mostly because the action was spot on. The other adjustments were straight forward with no problems.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

People say this model is plain, but I find it to be just right as far as inlays and glitter is concerned. The finish is as close to perfect as I could ask for.

I rate this a 9 because there's always room for improvement, but to be honest this thing is beautiful in my eyes.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

At this point I can't comment on reliability. Everything seems well made and strong. If I was pressed to mention something it would be:

- One of the tuners doesn't seem as smooth as I'd like it to be, but it responded to preload adjustment well and time will tell. (it turned out that the tuner knobs were very loose, after some shimming the tuners are much better)

Edit: After shimming the tuners were far bette, but after about a year they started to loosen again. they were replaced with Waverly tuners, a great upgrade to a very nice banjo.

- When the banjo arrived the 5th string tuner was knocked loose, UPS handling no doubt, it was easy enough to put back in and seems tight, I'm sure there will be no further problems

I rate this an 8, but can't actually fault the banjo at all.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Haven't dealt with Gold Star at all.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

As mentioned above:

One of the tuners is a bit rough, but fussing with the pre-load screw helped. (the knobs were very loose on the tuner shaft, after a little shimming the tuners are much better, Edit: Shimming worked well, but the tuners were replaced with Waverly tuners)

Everyything else seems well built and strong.

Rated an 8 over all, but I have no real complaints.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I would definitely recommend this banjo for the price I paid for it, but I got a screaming deal, I'd also recommend this banjo for it's for the normal retail price.

At this point I'm definitely beginning to love this banjo. It's got good weight, it sounds great and is getting better all the time. The finish couldn't be better. Others claim the GF-85 is plain, but to my eyes it's about perfect for a mahogany (sp) banjo.

I rate this banjo an over all 9. Yes, I know if you average my other responses the 9 doesn't work, but I think an over all 9 is fair, after all this is not a $3000 banjo, you can't expect everything, but this banjo really delivers all I wanted and then some.

Overall Rating: 9

Framus: N/A

Submitted by Hedge Hog on 3/25/2008

Where Purchased: Canton New York (college town)

Year Purchased: 1980
Price Paid: 135 + trade ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

I purchased this banjo to learn on, loved it from the first time I saw it, money was hard to find, but I never regretted it a bit. This is a arch top resonator 5 string with little in the way of inlays or fancy stuff in the Rose wood fret board, there is a very ornate rolled engraving on the res. flange and arm rest, the chrome is very bright, but after 30+ years its pealing a bit.

The sound always was big and bright, but with the addition of a Remo bluegrass head the old girl barks. However as others have said, the 4th string is a bit weak.

Sound Rating: not rated

Setup

I've been told that there is no banjo in the world that is easier to set up than the Framus, no muss no fuss, a simple screw adjusts the neck, you can't do that on any other banjo, head tension is done from the top, the extremely sturdy tail piece is easy to manage.

Setup Rating: not rated

Appearance

Well this is a tough one. This is a German banjo after all and they have a much different spin on what's attractive, at least when compared to a North American made banjo. However this banjo looks much different from when it started out, sort of Americanized. The original color was very bland on the neck, the back is a nice mahogany (sp) with a single white strip. The frets are nice and wide and the fret board is Rose wood. The tuning head was rectangular and the tuners were garbage.

I did quite a bit of work on her. The tuning head was re-cut to a nice fiddle head design, the top and bottom surfaces were laminated with Rose Wood, the tuning pegs were replaced with Gold Tone tuners, the whole banjo was refinished to a much darker color, I replaced the resonator binding with two slightly wider bands one on top, one on the bottom . I have always loved the old girl, after the mods I really love her. ..... if her neck were only a bit wider....

Appearance Rating: not rated

Reliability

Absolutely reliable. the laminated neck is not beautiful, but it is strong and straight and will never break. The tuners could be better though and are easily replaced. This banjo has always been completely reliable.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Framus has been out of the banjo business for quite a few years ... decades now. But in their time I bet with German workmanship being what it was, they were great .......

Customer Service: not rated

Components

All are solid and robust .... except for the tuners, even those served the banjo well for many decades.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

The Framus banjo is old, it's funky, it's solid as a rock. They are undervalued in the used market and play far better than similarly price banjos. If you are looking for a decent inexpensive used banjo with some out of the ordinary personality definitely look at a Framus you get a lot of playing for your money.

Overall Rating: 8

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