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!
7180 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: eBay
Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 400 ($US)
The 5th string tone is rather easily lost, but the sustain, especially on the 4th, is fantastic. Very mellow and soft indeed. When you simply don't want the high pitched twang or even the down, dirty plunk - this is the sweet answer.
Somewhat wish I had the Pat Cloud Banjola, however. The built in pickup would be nice to pump out more volume.
Sound Rating: 10
I bought it new directly from an eBay seller, so it didn't come to me from the Gold Tone factory. However the seller had only opened up the outside box to photo it, so the setup was untouched. And I have had zero issues. In fact, after two months of constant playing, I still have the original strings on it without an issue.
A side note about fretting, it seems particularly picky - no real "lee way". Need to finger right on spot next to the fret, or the tone/buzzing will be obviously off. However, I just took this aspect as a inducement to work on otherwise 'not so precise' fingering.
However, a strap peg-stud on the neck heel would really have been superb (there is a peg-stud on the tail) as I really never liked the headstock strap option. And as mentioned in another review, some sort of finger-post guard would have been an excellent addition (fortunately, I play in a clawhammer style primarily, but if I wanted to play 3 finger, I would switch to something different as I get uncomfortable with the thought of my fingers posted directly on the wood).
Setup Rating: 9
Mine has very minor cosmetic blemishes (thus the price tag), but it polishes up beautifully with a micro-weave cloth, and the gold highlights of the planetary tuners / tailpiece is very pleasing. The inlay is flower-style, which is also very complementary to the design.
Additionally, since the wood body is a "mandola" style (tho far thicker), it doesn't quite cause as much comment from others when playing in a "subdued" group accompaniment setting.
Appearance Rating: 10
Over 3 months of constant playing. Not one issue. Nada. Doesn't feel fragile at all to me, and it has already taken a couple falls from nearby kids playing and bumping it.
Reliability Rating: 10
I did register the warranty with Gold Tone (5 years for wood-body instruments), but in a previous dealing with Wanye and the folks up there on another banjo issue, I am absolutely confident of any possible covered service.
Customer Service: 10
One thing to be aware of is that the body is 2 3/4" thick. I really wanted to put an armrest on it so my sweaty arm wouldn't be laying across the wood edge... and it took me some "investigative work" to put one on. In the end, Cumberland Mills made me a "mandolin-style" twin arm screw armrest with longer arms (2 1/2" arms or thereabouts) that fit the curvature nicely.
This is a 8 or 9 since Gold Tone would have made a home-run if there were custom pick-guard and/or armrest available from them.
Components Rating: 9
Absolutely love it. :)
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: Amazon (Hot Strings Guitar Shop)
Aside from one icky aspect, a truly worthy addition to a banjo reference library... Jamie Boss is a superb restorer (I have seen his craftsmanship on Ebay - NICE!! ) and a clear, illustrating speaker (coming from a near zero-point of knowledge, not once did he leave me scratching my head going, "huh?"). In fact, I would go as far as to say this DvD SHOULD be included in any aspiring banjo player's "Welcome to the Pickin' World" introduction. ;)
HOWEVER!! Now for the icky part:
Be aware that there is no menu selection on the 2nd Disk (Set-up and Adjustments). So tracking down a particular part, like fret harmony tuning, is relegated to hitting your chapter skip and looking for it by eyeball.
Honestly, for me this would drop my rating to even lower if it wasn't for the fact that the content itself is excellent... I really want to give it a 10 ... but that lack of a menu kills me. A technical oversight in DvD presentation that I can hope Mr. Boss will consider fixing in the future.
Overall Rating: 8
Where Purchased: Amazon.com
Its not leather. But for sheer comfort, ease of use, and comparative low pricing, it is tops in my book. Plus, its a pretty solid matte black, so it matches with anything! ;) I have not a single issue at all with the clips and the cloth leads will slip thru any space available between the shoe and rim (something my one and only leather couldn't do easily with one of my banjos without pushing, shoving, folding, and otherwise mangling).
I own 3 now (2 Super Banjo Straps and a Super Mandolin Strap), and if you simply don't know what to buy or already had some negative experiences with other straps - you won't go wrong with this one.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: Banjo.com
Year Purchased: 2011/09
Price Paid: 337 ($US)
Warm, note clarity with a little plunk with the Fyberskin head/brass tone ring. And all it takes is to angle the pot out a tad from the chest to drown out a guitar sitting next to me. Hammer-ons good, and pull-offs full volume. Scoop sound full and rich.
For me personally, the sound fits the bill exactly what I was looking for.
A month has passed - a pronounced twang has developed in the sound, especially over the head and on the 1st/2nd strings, as the head/strings have settled in.
Sound Rating: 10
The setup was done by Banjo.com - the bridge used is fantastic. Keep meaning to send them an email to find out what they used - its a straight bridge with a small compensated circle cut-out for the 3rd. It came with everything up and intact, just tweaks (naturally) on the guitar tuners. Head was/is on tight - when I finally tapped it (after about a month), was D#.
One issue was that the included vega-style armrest was kinda sloppily put on. Two hooks of a slightly different flat-style were used to affix the armrest, and looked like someone used a machine drill to tighten them - denting the armrest underneath the hooks, and slightly bending back, creasing the hooks themselves.
2nd issue is the flat hooks themselves won't allow dovetail armrests (e.g. Thinline Armrests) to be fitted on. The flatten flange part along with the style of shoe brackets simply will not allow the dovetail pinions to fit on. Makes me sad I can't put on my beautiful 80 dollar armrest on it - but all other styles of armrests are perfectly fine (I ended up with a Wire Rest).
Setup Rating: 8
I love dark wood cosmetics, so the dark, MATTE (I emphasize matte ... no shiny save the metal bits) wood look of the CC OT is perfect in every way - except, yes, the peg-head is just a tad cheesy looking with the matte black, white Gold Tone name and star in the center. Honestly, if they had used something other than that name/single star design on the peg-head, it would look better.
If I look closely, I can find a minor finish issues. Light lines around the frets (possibly they put the frets in first then stained the fingerboard), but that is looking intently - from a normal distance, don't see it at all.
Appearance Rating: 9
Aside from the two j-hooks, I haven't done a thing to the hardware. Have had it for 6 weeks now, daily use, absolutely no issue - I have been using it to practice on as well as travel/play for hymnal singing... very easily drowning out the guitar if I am not careful.
With my first banjo, I have swapped and tinkered with nearly every aspect of banjo set up... with the CC OT, only thing I want to do is change the armrest. Everything else is rock solid.
Reliability Rating: 10
Concerning the two bent j-hooks, I sent an email on a Thurs. evening to Gold Tone with the situation... Friday, had an email from Wayne himself, saying he forwarded my email to Brenda and just needed my shipping address, and on Monday, Brenda sent an email saying the two hooks were in the mail. Now that is service!
Customer Service: 10
I really like the "compensated" bridge used (not sure if it was banjo.com supplied or Gold Tone), and the scoop was (along with the dark wood cosmetic) the reason why I chose the CC OT.
As mentioned, the two j-hooks used on the armrest were in fact different than the factory defaults (confirmed when Gold Tone sent me two new ones) - making me suspect the armrest was likely put on at banjo.com. So I don't hold that against the factory installed components.
Components Rating: 10
All in all, great open back banjo that satisfied everything I was looking for... dark wood matte, scoop, sound (with brass tone ring). Peg-head design is meh - but if it wasn't for the flat head hook/shoe bracket shape issue with my Thinline Armrest, be a solid 10... yes, I have a good-looking wire rest on it now, but man, I really really wanted my dark brown, deerskin leather armrest on it. The two torqued j-hooks on the original armrest doesn't impact my over all impression since it was so easily fixed by Gold Tone.
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: Online Site
Playing clawhammer, my middle nail gets pretty shredded. I bought a pair of Fred Kelly's Freedom Picks ($4 each) as an experiment as I had originally planned on wearing one on my index as well as my middle (I use both to pick). Only medium size was available, so I bought them with a little trepidation about fitting (I have typical male sized hands), but it fit my index about perfectly. I had to shape it for my middle (hot water and filing), and the greatest challenge was getting the side of the pick (as it juts out quite a bit to the first knuckle) not to be pushed up by the fold of skin at 1st knuckle when curled. I trimmed both sides and got it to fit well enough tho not 100% comfortable.
Then I discovered due to the thickness of the picks, I could NOT wear both at the same time as they obstructed each other in clawhammer position.
I began playing with just the one on my middle, and the tone that results in from the derlin is indeed very mellow and pleasing, making me wish I could play with both of them on as natural nail has a noticeable, brighter difference.
However, the sides of the pick continued to be an issue, being pushed down by the fold of the flesh and sliding forward. Honestly, it was enough for me to try a different style of frailing picks. I may come back to these and keep working on modifying the fit, but for now, they are going into my spare pick bin.
Overall Rating: 7
'Thinking of an A Scale' 26 min
'Bridge lifespan' 3 hrs