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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!

7108 reviews in the archive.

Harmony: Reso-Tone

Submitted by shane_lxi on 7/15/2013

Where Purchased: Craigslist

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: $30 (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I play clawhammer, and I think this thing sounds great! Granted, I'm a bit of a beginner, and I don't have any really high-end instruments. I do have a Gold Tone CC-OT, and a CC-Traveller, and I can say this thing sounds as good if not better in my opinion. I was pleasantly surprised when I reassembled this thing and started playing it. In fact, I've been playing it more than any of my other banjos, and it was supposed to be my beater/camping banjo! I am playing it without the resonator with a Remo Renaissance head, and it does seem a bit quieter compared to my other banjos. I do not have the bracket to bolt the resonator on, so I cannot say how much it helps with volume.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

I got my banjo in pieces, so I honestly cannot say. From the look of the nut that was on the banjo, it looked like the action was very low. These have a dowel stick style neck with a round dowel instead of a square dowel, as a result, it is a bit easy for the neck to twist unless you have the dowel-stick bracket very very tight.

Setup Rating: not rated

Appearance

It's ugly. But it's fixable!! And easy too! They come with a very very ugly and quite sticky poo-brown paint on the neck, which is likely to be cracked and chipped by the time the old thing reaches your hands. I stripped mine off and underneath was a nice looking neck, poplar I think, but pretty. A little polishing, and it honestly didn't look bad at all! The stock Waverly tuners are very pretty as well! Unfortunately, mine were stripped out so I had to replace them, but I didn't want to, lol. The factory tail-piece is very plain, as is the factory dowel-stick bracket. Also, the dowel-stick is round, which is kind of different, but not necessarily ugly. I have no idea what type of wood the fretboard is... maybe oak or poplar? Mine was extremely dried out, but a little lemon oil and it brightened right up. The frets are brass, which is kind of neat. The rim is dark brown bakelite with an integrated shoe/bracket thing, and actually doesn't look bad, also makes it a bit more comfortable on your legs!

Appearance Rating: 6

Reliability

There are obvious flaws with the cheap, ugly paint used on the neck. Best to strip it off to reveal the wood underneath! The tail-piece is a very crappy thin piece of tin which is likely warped already and should be replaced. The Waverly tuners I'm sure worked great when new, but are likely to be stripped, or at the very least extremely dry by now. Also the nut is plastic, but usable. Also, the 5th string tuner is a friction style tuner, which is fine, but can be annoying. On a plus, the hooks are very stout, as is the tension hoop. The dowel-stick bracket, though plain looking, is actually very ingenious and functional :D. If you don't mind changing some parts out, they can be very reliable, but I am going to give it a 5 because it's a bit questionable out-of-the-box.

Reliability Rating: 5

Customer Service

Customer Service: not rated

Components

There's good and bad. The hooks are very good, the tension hoop also. The dowel stick bracket is plain, but functional and kind of a neat design. However, the tail-piece is garbage, the tuners are likely worn out (but pretty! save them if you can), and the 5th string tuner is a low-end friction style. The nut is plastic, and though usable, you might want to upgrade. Older models have a skin head, which is nice! The resonator is quickly and easily removed and re-installed on the fly with one thumb-screw. Kind of a neat feature!

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

If you can get one of these for less than $100, buy it! These are great if you don't mind switching a few parts out for inexpensive upgrades. You can buy new guitar style tuners with a geared 5th tuner for around $20, a no-knot tail-piece is around $12, a bone nut is like $3 and paint stripper is $5 (if you don't already have it). I also put a Remo Renaissance head on mine from Smakula ($22 shipped, takes a medium 10 7/8" head), and an ebony topped maple bridge. If you don't mind putting in a little work, you will have an awesome sounding knock-around banjo! I'm extremely happy with mine!

Overall Rating: 9

Gold Tone: CC-OT

Submitted by shane_lxi on 5/12/2013

Where Purchased: Ebay

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 420 ($US)

Sound

This is my first banjo and I actually like it alot. Since purchasing it I've played a few other banjos including a Sagmoen, an Enoch Tradesman and a Vega. Does it sound as nice as a high dollar banjo? Actually, it sounds pretty damn good! Seems like what GT was going for was a kind of neutral/generic old-time sound. The Enoch is very "earthy", the Sagmoen with a Dobson ring was very bright, and the CC-OT is somewhere in between. And I think that's the point, really. It's an inexpensive, mass produced, generic (but very good quality) old-time instrument designed for learning frailing and old time music, while being neither extremely bright nor extremely earthy. The neutral sound gives a newbie like me a starting point to decide what sounds I like and don't like for my next upgrade. Or if you are happy with a neutral sound, that's fine too! The only thing I've changed is the strings to a set of brass wound GHS's. I'm very happy with it.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The banjo was setup pretty well. Even though the assembly of the instrument is in China, the final setup is done at the Gold Tone facility in Florida, and they did a decent job. No buzzing which is nice. Action seems a bit high, but I kind of like it that way for frailing. One of my rim hooks was cross threaded and I had to remove the shoe from the rim so I could break it loose. I had to run a thread chaser on it to get it to thread properly, but it wasn't too bad. I was a bit dissapointed because this was right out of the box. Intonation was way off, but that's easy.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

It's not a bad looking banjo! The veneer on the rim is nice, but the seem is a bit ugly and poorly executed. The neck is stained dark with black paint faded in from the headstock and heel and a nice matte finish that I like. My only major complaint is that the "Gold Tone" lettering and the star on the head stock are decals, not inlaid. It's obvious and very cheap looking. The star isn't even symmetric. Other than that, I really like it aesthetically. I tend to be partial to a dark finish though :).

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Ive played it every single day since I bought it, and it hasn't let me down yet. I bought mine with guitar tuners, and I would definately recommend upgrading to planets. Also the tension hooks kind of suck, both aesthetically and in quality. Like I said earlier, one of mine was even cross threaded. I have one that looks like its starting to give that I need to contact GT about soon. I've heard that people have problems running them at higher tension, but I haven't tried, so I can't attest. Finish is a nice matte texture and seems a fair quality.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

I have never dealt with Gold Tone about this instrument, but will soon about the crummy tension hooks!

Customer Service: not rated

Components

I would upgrade the tension hooks to some better quality, stronger hooks. Also, I would upgrade to planets, but the guitar tuners work fine. The bridge is interesting, it has a recession on the 3rd string, supposedly to assist intonation when frailing on the neck scoop. I don't know if it really helps, but it's there, lol. I wish the scoop was a bit bigger, but I understand why some players would want those higher frets, so don't blame Gold Tone for making it so small on a mass produced instrument.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I think the CC-OT is great! Just don't expect a $1000 instrument for $400 and you'll be happy too. It serves it's purpose as a generic-oldtime-sounding instrument well and gives new players a great starting point without being extremely one way or the other as far as sound is concerned. It's a decent quality instrument that doesn't break the bank, and even looks great! It's got some negatives, sure, but waay waay more positives. I would recommend one to anybody just starting out and not wanting to spend too much money.

Here's a mp3 I made on my CC-OT so you can hear how it sounds! (keep in mind I'm just learning, lol)
http://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/music.asp?id=87251#

Overall Rating: 9

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