Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

1340
Banjo Lovers Online


Gold Tone Béla Fleck Signature - What Configuration? Opinions and Feedback

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!
Aug 9, 2022 - 2:33:50 PM

mamero

Canada

83 posts since 7/19/2018

I am about to pull the trigger and order a Gold Tone Béla Fleck Signature banjo. I love the idea of a Béla Fleck signature model and am the perfect customer for this banjo.

In regards to aesthetics of this model I am 50/50 on the "Bluegrass Heart" theme. I am not a huge fan of the hearts on the neck (perhaps they will grow on me). The black Corian armrest is unappealing to my eyes and I am uncertain which colour tuner buttons to order, brass or red. On the Gold Tone website a "No-Hearts Béla Neck" is available under their parts category (with or without the Gold-Tone logo). The Little Mountain Armrest can also be ordered in walnut instead of Corian. On the one hand I might prefer to order a "sleeper" Béla Signature banjo (No-hearts neck with "Mastertone" instead of Bela's signature, brass tuner buttons, and a walnut armrest instead of Black Corian). On the other hand, Gold Tone intended this to be a Béla Fleck signature model. It is kind of the whole point. So, perhaps the hearts and red buttons would be better and it will grow on me. Again, I’m 50/50. I still prefer the walnut armrest though. Down the road if for some reason I don't gel with the banjo my gut feeling is a configuration closer to advertised (with hearts and red buttons) would be the easiest to resell in a worst case scenario.

I realize this is a very subjective, personal, and superficial post but I am legitimately curious what you think of this styling, what you would order, and why or why not. This is my first time ordering a NEW banjo. Despite being advertised as an “economical” version of Béla’s TB-75, it still is a significant commitment financially. As such I want to order smartly. I’m looking to order this week if possible so am looking for timely feedback. Thanks!

Edited by - mamero on 08/09/2022 14:34:22

Aug 9, 2022 - 3:05:47 PM

2982 posts since 12/31/2005
Online Now

Aug 9, 2022 - 6:15:08 PM
likes this

leehar

USA

139 posts since 2/18/2018

Ultimately the decision has to be yours. Nobody can really tell you what the right choices would be. Since you are soliciting opinions on the esthetics I will say that the styling touches do not appeal to me. I prefer the more traditional look. I have played some Gold Tone banjos and they seem well constructed but I don’t think I could pay that kind of money for one of them.

Aug 9, 2022 - 6:32:08 PM
like this

KCJones

USA

1778 posts since 8/30/2012

Aesthetics are a personal choice, but I agree with you on most of your points. Quite frankly, the styling on the Bela model is just ugly. That said, doesn't it defeat the purpose of getting the Bela Fleck model if you're removing all the unique custom Bela Fleck features? Even within the Gold Tone catalogue, if your goal is a sleeper you could get an OB-3 which is basically the same pot assembly with more modest appointments like what you're describing.

As far as the Mastertone block... Just don't do it. Get something that doesn't say that. It's just not right, but more importantly if you get a Gold Tone with a Mastertone block you'll probably be subjected to people commenting on it every time you bring it out and have to explain how Gold Tone does indeed own the Mastertone label now. You probably don't want to deal with that, I know I wouldn't. 

Other thing to consider... If you're going to get a "sleeper" signature model without any of the signature branding, why not just get a quality built standard model banjo from a builder in North America? You could look at Bishline or Hatfield, who both offer higher quality products for a lower price than the Gold Tone Bela model. Don't fall for marketing BS. At the end of the day you're looking at dropping nearly $4000 on a banjo that's made on a Chinese factory assembly line. Is that really a good idea?

Edited by - KCJones on 08/09/2022 18:37:30

Aug 9, 2022 - 7:21:06 PM

mamero

Canada

83 posts since 7/19/2018

quote:
Originally posted by KCJones why not just get a quality built standard model banjo from a builder in North America? You could look at Bishline or Hatfield, who both offer higher quality products for a lower price than the Gold Tone Bela model. Don't fall for marketing BS. At the end of the day you're looking at dropping nearly $4000 on a banjo that's made on a Chinese factory assembly line. Is that really a good idea?

I am looking for a Fleck setup (wide and radius neck) and have settled on the Gold Tone signature model because it surprisingly is the only model out there I am aware of Bela Fleck has been directly involved in developing. It is the only model I am aware that has a neck based on direct measurements of his TB-75. The fact Fleck partnered with Gold Tone rather than Deering (his Crossfire is Deering) or other N.A. builder must say something about Gold Tone as a company. Even if I went with a North American builder and asked them to build me a banjo with a Bela Fleck neck and setup there is no guarantee unless the builder has direct hands-on experience with Bela's TB-75. To me, the Gold Tone Fleck signature model is reliable path to get a Fleck setup as a primary daily player. I agree the signature model pricing seems a little out of wack. It is much more than Gold Tone's nearest banjo offering despite using their OB-3 pot which appears to be from their Twanger at half the price. However, I had been saving (very long-term) for a Deering Tenbrooks Saratoga before the Gold Tone Fleck model was released but the Deering is more than twice the price, has gone up even further in price recently, and despite having a radius neck, may not have the neck width or feel I am looking for. I'd love a Jens Kruger Deering but ALL Deering top end banjo prices are absolutely astronomical and difficult to swallow.

Aug 9, 2022 - 7:38:26 PM
likes this

Walker

USA

335 posts since 10/28/2003

I've got one and have really enjoyed it. I got it with the black head ( I like that it is matte and not shiny) and red buttons. Like you, I wasn't sure about the red hearts, but I've warmed up to them, especially the 12th fret as it really makes it stand out. It took a few weeks for it to settle in and now I'm really happy with the sound.

Aug 9, 2022 - 7:49:07 PM

mamero

Canada

83 posts since 7/19/2018

quote:
Originally posted by KCJones

As far as the Mastertone block... Just don't do it. Get something that doesn't say that. It's just not right, but more importantly if you get a Gold Tone with a Mastertone block you'll probably be subjected to people commenting on it every time you bring it out and have to explain how Gold Tone does indeed own the Mastertone label now. You probably don't want to deal with that, I know I wouldn't.

Gold Tone appears to have three Fleck neck offerings.

1. The Fleck neck as fitted on the stock signature model: WITH heart inlays, with a heart on the headstock, and "Bela Fleck" signature block at the 21st fret.

2. The Fleck neck WITHOUT heart inlays, WITHOUT the heart on the headstock and Gold Tone logo instead, and "Mastertone" block at the 21st fret.

3. The Fleck neck WITHOUT heart inlays, WITHOUT the heart on the headstock and NO Gold Tone logo (bear headstock), and "Mastertone" block at the 21st fret.

There does not appear to be an option for a non-heart neck WITHOUT the Mastertone block. Perhaps however that could be customer ordered.

Aug 9, 2022 - 7:56:05 PM

mamero

Canada

83 posts since 7/19/2018

quote:
Originally posted by Walker

I've got one and have really enjoyed it. I got it with the black head ( I like that it is matte and not shiny) and red buttons. Like you, I wasn't sure about the red hearts, but I've warmed up to them, especially the 12th fret as it really makes it stand out. It took a few weeks for it to settle in and now I'm really happy with the sound.


Thanks Walker! I really appreciate the direct feedback! Happy to hear you really like the sound in addition to warming up to the hearts. Did you come from a previous wide radius neck or was this a switch for you? I currently play a Davis Vintage tone which has a very traditional neck. I find this neck cramped. I'm sure the Fleck neck will be an adjustment but I'm certain it will accommodate upward progression for the type of playing I ultimately want to do.

Aug 9, 2022 - 8:47:53 PM
likes this

klgera

USA

539 posts since 12/3/2004
Online Now

I really like my Bela Fleck model, mine is pretty standard as advertised. As far as the hearts on the fingerboard, I am slightly red/green colorblind, so I don’t even notice them. I don’t care for the big heart in the peg head, but it is better than the large gold tone logo.

Aug 10, 2022 - 7:21:03 AM
likes this

lazyarcher

Canada

7154 posts since 4/19/2004

If you're at the point of ordering modifications, changing things around, Ill also go with the suggestion to have a banjo custom made by one of the boutique builders. The BF model sounds good in the videos, but honestly, the $3699 tag is pretty steep for a Gold Tone..even with the quality parts. Im not knocking the BF banjo, and if you have your heart set on one, definitely go for it...no doubt really good banjos...but they are an off-shore built instrument(China) and there's quite a bit of hype comparing it to a prewar flathead, etc. Someone like Arthur Hatfield could put together a custom instrument with all of the BF features..but it would be a custom shop instrument..for around the same $$$.

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!
Aug 10, 2022 - 7:25:23 AM
likes this

KCJones

USA

1778 posts since 8/30/2012

mamero It sounds like what you're really interested in is the neck profile, width, and radius fretboard, more than anything else. In that case, you could just order the neck for $750 (linked above by Mr Brian Murphy) and have it installed on any banjo pot you want. Lots of options out there that could get you a good daily player with the Bela neck for under $2k.

If I was in your situation, with your budget, this is what I'd do. (Not that you asked...) Get an Aurora Rim/Ring currently listed in the classifieds, then get a Gill resonator, outfit it all with Prucha hardware (I'd go 2 piece flange), Rickard tuners, and then send it to any number of great banjo luthiers here on the BHO for final assembly. $750 for the neck, $800 for the rim/ring, $250 for the resonator, $550 for the hardware, $200 for the tuners, you're in for about $2600 in parts. Then you pay someone to put it altogether (idk what this costs). You're paying the same price (or less) for a much better banjo than the OB-Bela, you'll own a truly custom banjo, and you'll still get the neck you want for a daily player.

Aug 10, 2022 - 8:29:05 AM
likes this

RB3

USA

1430 posts since 4/12/2004

My first suggestion would be to just buy an OB-3 "Twanger". By all accounts, they're a good sounding, well crafted instrument, and you'll save a good deal of money.

If you're determined to have a neck with all the Bela Fleck preferred features, contact Gold Tone and see if they'll sell you a banjo with an OB-3 "Twanger" pot that's mated to a Bela Fleck Signature Neck with flying eagle inlay.

Aug 10, 2022 - 11:33:29 AM
likes this

1965 posts since 1/28/2013

The dimensions and set up alone is a good enough reason to buy the Signature Heart Gold Tone. You need to like the Mohogany sound though.

Aug 10, 2022 - 11:50:54 AM

mamero

Canada

83 posts since 7/19/2018

Here is a Photoshop mock-up I made. It is a BF Signature Model, no hearts, No logo, with red buttons, walnut armrest, and BF signature at the 21st fret. If Gold Tone can build this configuration I think this is my banjo.


 

Aug 10, 2022 - 11:55:06 AM

mamero

Canada

83 posts since 7/19/2018

quote:
Originally posted by mamero

Here is a Photoshop mock-up I made. It is a BF Signature Model, no hearts, No logo, with red buttons, walnut armrest, and BF signature at the 21st fret. If Gold Tone can build this configuration I think this is my banjo.


...and with brass buttons.


 

Aug 10, 2022 - 11:57:19 AM

mamero

Canada

83 posts since 7/19/2018

...and now the original for comparison.


 

Aug 10, 2022 - 11:58:13 AM

mamero

Canada

83 posts since 7/19/2018

The first image by far looks the best to my eyes.

Aug 15, 2022 - 12:41:58 PM
like this

mamero

Canada

83 posts since 7/19/2018

I'm excited to say I just ordered the Bela Fleck signature model. In the end I with with the hearts neck as it would have been an additional cost to swap to the non-hearts neck. So my configuration, red tuner buttons, hearts neck, spikes, frosted head, and WALNUT armrest.

Edited by - mamero on 08/15/2022 12:42:21

Aug 22, 2022 - 7:54:42 PM
like this

banjoez

USA

2452 posts since 7/18/2007

Congratulations on your purchase! Just remember it doesn't make a lick of difference what anyone else thinks. It's your banjo, your money and your choice of what pleases you.

Aug 28, 2022 - 3:05:57 AM

5144 posts since 11/18/2003

Cosmetics aside, it seems pretty strange to me - as a builder - that the neck angle and 7/8" bridge were not mentioned in this thread. Along with the neck shape (profile) and fingerboard radius these two factors are of paramount importance for playability. I am used to a 5/8" bridge with string height 7/64" at the 12th fret, but since I build banjos to custom specs I'm used to playing pretty much any bridge up to 11/16", and any fingerboard radius (or lack thereof). But a 7/8" bridge would be totally out of comfort for my right hand, no way I could play that, so THAT would be the first thing I would change if I ordered a custom BF model. Congrats on the purchase anyway, Mamero, way to go!

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.265625