Gold Tone Banjos TS-250F Tenor Special Reviews 5

Bought two of these tenor banjos through an online dealer for $539 each, including archtop TKL cases. Shipping was $30 for each banjo. List price is $799 with no case. The cases list for $165 each. Shop for online deals, people! After many years of guitar, and not getting very good, I gave a lot of thought to switching instruments. I like old jazz, which has lots of tenor banjo. I thought, four fingers, four strings, makes sense ! And I started researching tenor banjos. These Gold Tones made the top of the list.

This tenor banjo is impossible to beat for less than twice the price. It's well built with an even tone balance and good volume. The action is low and even up the neck. All the wood parts are well shaped and fit, with tight assembly. This is best for good sound. This banjo uses shoe style lugs and a one-piece flange, so it's easy to change it to an open-back style.

Most of the hardware is chrome plated brass (very good), except the flat armrest and clamshell tailpiece, which are chrome plated steel (not so good). I replaced these, which ran about $30 per banjo. I would have replaced the armrests anyway, as I prefer Vega style over the Gibson style they come with.

Gold Tone designs the banjos and assembles them in Florida. Nearly all of the parts are actually manufactured in Korea to Gold Tone specifications. The slim neck and three ply rim are maple, with a mahogany resonator, and a rosewood fingerboard with 19 frets. The fingerboard and resonator have ivoroid binding. The fingerboard has "hearts and flower" style inlays, with side position dots. The peghead has a figured overlay, with the Gold Tone logo and a simple design inlayed. All wood is finished with a dark mahogany stain and several coats of lacquer. I have found no runs, bubbles, or cloudy spots. The tone ring is chrome plated, cast bell brass. It is a flat top, 20 hole Gibson style ring. The tension hoop is notched, with 24 hooks going into shoe style lugs. The flange is one piece and removable for open back style. You get double coordinator rods, and a two-way truss rod in the neck. Generic planetary tuning pegs work smoothly, with pearl-look plastic buttons. A bone nut, ebony-topped Grover bridge, and under-frosted Remo head finish the setup. Most everything about this banjo, except it using lugs, is designed similar to the Gibson Mastertone model. It is a good Masterclone.

This banjo is also available as a five-string bluegrass (BG-250F) or four string plectrum (PS-250F) model. You can get banjos with a prettier grain in the wood, or fancier inlays. You could get nickel or even gold plating. You can get a tiny bit better fit or finish. You can get more American made parts (virtually every brand of banjo now has some Asian parts). But you will pay at least twice as much. This banjo is well built, with just enough fancy trimming to give it class. For the price, Gold Tone has the best banjos on the planet. Even at list price they are a great buy. With a good discount, unbelievable.

Tim Givens rated this unit 5 on 2003-02-07.

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