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What can you tell me about this Vega Soloist Tenor?

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Sep 23, 2019 - 6:35:10 PM
12 posts since 8/27/2019

I have this from Guitar Center and have 3 days to decide whether to keep it or not. It was advertised as a 1930s Tubaphone No 3 Vega Tenor.

Previous owners signed the inside and the first was August 1931. The dowel rod is imprinted with the word SOLOIST.

Just spent a while restringing and tuning it. The bridge seems very low action still trying to coax it into the right spot. The 2nd string tuner likes to slip a little and it takes a little effort to fret the first string over the 12th fret.

So far I think I like it. I am comparing it to a brand new Gold Tone TS-250 which is loud as heck but weighs a ton and doesn’t have as much character as a vintage banjo. This Vega has a warmer sound that stays clear even with hard strumming.

What’d you think?










 

Sep 23, 2019 - 6:51:39 PM
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590 posts since 5/19/2018

Keep the Vega.

That’s a nice looking banjo, has some solid vintage to it and once you coax the little bugs out, is going to be a way fine sounding player.

Sep 23, 2019 - 7:18:37 PM
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DSmoke

USA

739 posts since 11/30/2015

Someone will come along and give you more info on the Vega, looks to be a later model based on the flange. If it was me, I would buy the Vega. I wouldn't buy a Gold Tone new, with a little search you can usually find any Gold Tone model you want for sale used for much less than new.

As for the Vega, you can tighten the screw on the back of the tuner to prevent the slipping. You can also get a higher bridge. It's usually the other way around where the action is too high and we are doing what we can to lower the action. You should make sure the neck is straight before buying.

Sep 23, 2019 - 7:29:07 PM

12 posts since 8/27/2019

Thank you for the advice. Sighting the neck like a 2x4, I detect a
slight dip on the right side. Camera doesn’t capture well. Not a keeper?

Sep 23, 2019 - 7:31:29 PM

12 posts since 8/27/2019

photos




Sep 23, 2019 - 8:08:23 PM
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2241 posts since 3/30/2008

I can hardly see your problem. Bottom line is, can you clearly detect a difficulty with playing ? ( is there a buzz, an intonation issue or what ? ) .   The "Soloist" is near the top of the Vega line, & is well worth fixing most  issues.

Whether  it's worth fixing or returning depends on what you actually paid. 

Edited by - tdennis on 09/23/2019 20:13:36

Sep 23, 2019 - 8:27:15 PM

12 posts since 8/27/2019

if it were a 2x4, i’d keep it.

all frets play without buzz

priced at $1070 which is the exact same price as the brand new gold tone

thanks for your advice!

Sep 23, 2019 - 10:28:13 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22533 posts since 6/25/2005

Keeper! The Soloist is a good two grades up from the style M tenor. There was never a #3 tenor. Plectrums and 5-strings were the #3s.

Sep 23, 2019 - 11:17:43 PM
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620 posts since 6/25/2006

Get the Vega. If you decide to sell-on at some point, it wil hold it's value.

Sep 24, 2019 - 2:59:23 AM
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1382 posts since 2/12/2009

vintage Vega Vs Goldtone ??? I would not think twice, Vega banjos are wonderful, buy it !

Sep 24, 2019 - 3:46:48 AM
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18 posts since 9/23/2018

A warped neck is not necessarily a death knell for a banjo. I have a Vega Little Wonder with a warped neck and it is evidently warped in the right direction as it plays great up and down the entire scale with zero buzzing frets. It is the sweetest sounding Tenor I own. I prefer it over my Vegaphone Professional and Style R. Play-ability and tone are the true tests of a banjo's integrity.

Sep 24, 2019 - 3:54:18 AM

12 posts since 8/27/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Keeper! The Soloist is a good two grades up from the style M tenor. There was never a #3 tenor. Plectrums and 5-strings were the #3s.


Thank you for that explanation. I was perplexed why I was not finding any info about #3.

Sep 24, 2019 - 3:58:48 AM

12 posts since 8/27/2019

quote:
Originally posted by vega nut

A warped neck is not necessarily a death knell for a banjo. I have a Vega Little Wonder with a warped neck and it is evidently warped in the right direction as it plays great up and down the entire scale with zero buzzing frets. It is the sweetest sounding Tenor I own. I prefer it over my Vegaphone Professional and Style R. Play-ability and tone are the true tests of a banjo's integrity.


Thank you for your input -- I think I'm convinced now that the Vega is a better value and worth whatever work needs to be done (doesn't seem like much!). Now, as you say, it's all down to tone and playability.

Honestly, after fiddling around last night the Gold Tone sounds brighter (maybe just louder?) and is easier to play than the Vega but I think I can attribute that to having owned the Gold Tone for about 4 weeks already. The Gold Tone also has a much wider fret board which is neither a pro nor a con just different. Tonight, I'm going to tighten up the head on the Vega and do some more comparisons.

Glad to hear the tuner is an easy fix, though it seemed to be stabilizing even a bit as I played it for an hour or so last night.

Edited by - gourmetbreakfast on 09/24/2019 03:59:24

Sep 24, 2019 - 6:00:45 AM
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179 posts since 4/11/2019

Keep the Vega!

Sep 24, 2019 - 7:30:48 AM
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12339 posts since 10/30/2008

My observations:

Tuners (nickel plated, not gold) appear to be replacements

Vega didn't use that make of armrest (it's Gibson-like), so it is an aftermarket

The finish on the peghead face would appear to be overspray or maybe a refinish, normally wouldn't be that shiny nor have those little lines it it (they don't look like normal "craquelure").

That's a very nice Oettinger adjustable tailpice.

The resonator looks to me to be aftermarket because of its plain-ness. One from the factory on a Soloist would likely have been much more attractive wood. Soloist was a high end model (e.g. the gold plate).

If it has a decent hard case with it, it's probably a good buy if you like it. Not a bargain, but not a rip-off either. Maybe look for a nice set of vintage gold tuners to put on it someday.

Sep 24, 2019 - 8:07:41 AM

12 posts since 8/27/2019

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

My observations:

Tuners (nickel plated, not gold) appear to be replacements

Vega didn't use that make of armrest (it's Gibson-like), so it is an aftermarket

The finish on the peghead face would appear to be overspray or maybe a refinish, normally wouldn't be that shiny nor have those little lines it it (they don't look like normal "craquelure").

That's a very nice Oettinger adjustable tailpice.

The resonator looks to me to be aftermarket because of its plain-ness. One from the factory on a Soloist would likely have been much more attractive wood. Soloist was a high end model (e.g. the gold plate).

If it has a decent hard case with it, it's probably a good buy if you like it. Not a bargain, but not a rip-off either. Maybe look for a nice set of vintage gold tuners to put on it someday.


Thanks for your observations. I was curious about the peghead face and the tail piece so that's good info.

When you say the resonator is after market, do you mean the wood piece that unscrews from the back or also the metal part as well? Other soloists I'm seeing have a different style--"pie-section" I think they call it.

Could it be that the neck and dowel rod are the only original Vega parts?

Edited by - gourmetbreakfast on 09/24/2019 08:10:39

Sep 24, 2019 - 11:10:45 AM
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rcc56

USA

2339 posts since 2/20/2016

The rim and tone ring appear to be Vega made.

That serial number corresponds to circa 1931. I believe that Vega had switched over to lacquer by the time your instrument was built. The crazing lines in the peghead are commonly seen in old lacquer. I cannot tell for sure if the peghead was oversprayed at some point, but if it was, it was a very long time ago.

Vega may have shipped the instrument with that plain resonator. Like everyone else, they were cutting back on some of their appointments to lower their manufacturing costs. Or the resonator could have been changed or added later. But that is definitely a Vega resonator. And, the resonator and neck finish are an awfully good color match. I would think the chances are good that the neck and resonator were made at the same time.

I would be comfortable calling the banjo largely original, with later armrest and tuners. If you like the banjo, don't worry so much about any possible minor changes, and enjoy it.

Edited by - rcc56 on 09/24/2019 11:24:33

Sep 24, 2019 - 11:12:34 AM

12 posts since 8/27/2019

Thank you!

Yes, I realized after I posted that the resonator has the Vega logo stamped inside it, which should be a dead giveaway.

Sep 24, 2019 - 1:13:17 PM

2364 posts since 4/16/2003

Perhaps I missed it, but...

Is your intent to keep this as a tenor banjo, or are you going to convert it into a 5-string?

In that case, the neck won't make any difference -- it's coming off anyway.

Sep 24, 2019 - 1:23:43 PM

12339 posts since 10/30/2008

I realized the resonator was VEGA made by the stamp in your photo. It was somewhat common for people to buy these resonators "after market", meaning after they bought the original banjo, and add them to the banjo, as resonators became MUCH more popular in the late 20s and early 30s.

My point was, a Soloist with a factory resonator sold "with it" would probably be much fancier resonator. Perhaps the "pie plate" or "pie slices" like you mentioned, or even fancier with Mother of Toilet Seat (MOTS) or pyralin or painted plastic veneer. The one in your photo is super-plain, almost "entry level". Not what you'd expect on a high end model like a gold Soloist.

But yes, it IS a VEGA resonator. Nothing "wrong" with that.

Also, VEGA frequently equipped their top of the line banjos with those fancy Oettinger adjustable tailpieces. That could very well be factory original with the banjo. Especially if it has "VEGA" and "SOLOIST" engraved on the fingers.

Vega's price/fanciness scale started with the nickel plated "Professional model", then up to "Artist" and the fanciest one of that line was the "Soloist" with gold and decoration.   There were fancier models in gold with engraved metal, abalone trim, carving, etc. also.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 09/24/2019 13:25:37

Sep 24, 2019 - 1:27:34 PM

rexhunt

USA

2641 posts since 10/11/2005

I once owned an earlier Soloist and the neck was not natural but much darker and the backstrap looked different.  Perhaps re-finished to match the resonator?  Mine had gold plated Planet tuners, individual flange plates, and the same Oettenger tailpiece.  The typical bridge height is rather low.

Rex

Sep 24, 2019 - 1:28:28 PM

12339 posts since 10/30/2008

Here's the first Vega Soloist I found via Google, a 1929, for comparison to yours.

guitarcenter.com/Used/Vega/Vin...K3wfD_BwE

Sep 24, 2019 - 1:48:41 PM

275 posts since 5/29/2015

The resonator looks like it needs some attention.

Many old banjos need their neck angle reset. This involves recutting the neck heel and resetting the dowel rod into its hole in the neck heel at a different angle. You can check for this problem by setting a 2 ft plus straight edge vertically on top of the banjo head. The neck should fall away (down, backwards) from the straight edge at about 2.5 to 3 degrees. If the ruler sits flat on the neck or breaks upward, you need a neck reset. Neck resets are pretty tricky. Smakula (Andy) does a spectacular job and has specialized equipment to do them safely with great accuracy. I have been quoted prices in the $200 to $250 range in the last five years for this sort of work.

Sep 26, 2019 - 5:04:04 AM

10463 posts since 10/27/2006

I see no reason to believe this resonator isn’t original. The first 2-piece resonators weren’t that fancy.

Is the scale 23”?

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