View Full Version : Gold tone tenor banjos

Feb-25-2008, 11:11am
Probably a little controversial I know, but I figured since im a mandoplayer 1st and foremost that it would still be semi-approppriate. #Plus you guys have always offered excellent advice.

Im looking to try my hand at tenor banjo and Ive been eyeing the goldtones on elderly. #I was fortunate enough to try a goldtone cripple creek tenor at Picker's Supply in Fredericksburg, VA and was very suprised by its playability and tone for only $450...and elderly sells them for $365! #Maybe the one I played was a rare good one, I dunno.

Im just curious if anyone has played one and/or its more expensive brother the IT-250 which is a couple hundred more. #Im not looking to spend a lot, but I might be willing if the quality difference is significant enough. #Also I'd prefer an open-back to a resonator.....I dont want to anger others dormmates too bad http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

And I also like the idea of labeling this as the "tenor" section.

Feb-25-2008, 11:37am
For what it's worth I've also been considering a tenor banjo. For some reason I'm fixated on getting an open back one though. I think part of it is the simplicity of the design and the other part is a more mellow tone.

Anyhow, I really like the look of the Gold Tone IT-250 (open back). Then again, the very simple nature of the Deering Goodtime Tenor is also appealing. On cosmetics alone, I think the Gold Tone is worth the price difference.

I guess my question is which one from purely a playing/tone/quality standpoint. Does anyone have an opinion?

Feb-25-2008, 11:44am
I recently purchased the Gold Tone Cripple Creek Irish Tenor from Elderly; I love it. I also think they just raised the price on these, at least on line they did? It suits me just fine, as it is a part-time instrument; mandolin being my main one of course. The resonator can be easily removed from mine, if you prefer; it is quite loud with the resonator on it. Of course, banjos are supposed to be loud, right? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif

Mike Herlihy
Feb-25-2008, 12:24pm
Yep, I have one. Don't play it that much but it's a nice instruments to bring to loud sessions.

Gerry O'Conner is the master of playing tenor banjo:

Gerry O'Connor (http://www.gerryoconnor.com/)

Youtube Video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMBjaif1b3Q)

Avi Ziv
Feb-25-2008, 2:14pm
I have the Gold Tone IT-250 and play it at Irish sessions. This is my first banjo ever and so I'm not an expert. I really like the neck - super comfortable and my session mates like the tone. It also stays in tune very well. What is hard is tuning the two lower strings - D and G in my case. The pitch changes without my really feeling the tuner move hardly at all. Maybe it's the turning ratio in these tuners but it may also have to do with the short scale of the instrument. I'm not quite sure yet. It is an open back, although I hear that Gold Tone is now selling a resonator that can attach.


fred d
Feb-25-2008, 2:43pm
M y Wife and I both have them and play them with Sacramento banjos, I have removed both resonators as I fell it gives them a more melow tone they are very easy to play, tune and carry around and I feel that the tone is as good as any regarless of PRICE

Feb-25-2008, 3:15pm
Also consider the Vega "Little Wonder". They have a 4 string 17 fret model for Tenor playing. I dig it.

Never played the Gold Tone so I can't compare.


Steve L
Feb-25-2008, 5:06pm
I own a Cripple Creek and have played an IT250 and think they are both decent banjos for the money and a somewhat "safe" purchase in that they are in current production. I think it's very possible to get more banjo for the money buying vintage and I have a $425 Weymann 140 and a $300 Slingerland Maybell that I like much more but buying vintage is a bit riskier and the market is less predictable. I would recommend the Gold Tones but would probably check the inventory at Bernunzio's before I made a purchase. A reputable dealer with an in-house shop is a much safer bet than Ebay, Craigslist, etc.

Feb-27-2008, 8:56pm
I have a Gold Tone IT-250 style with resonator and 17 fret neck. I'm a mandolin player, but got it after people complained they couldn't hear me at sessions. Now they really can -- and that can be a good or bad thing (banjo is not very forgiving)!! I considered a Vega or even a Deering, but for a first timer with Irish tenor banjo, didn't want to spend the huge bucks. I think it is definitely a good value for the money - easy to play, nicely finished, good tone and volume, but agree with improviz - the lower strings are very sensitive for tuning. Also, it's HEAVY!! I would have preferred something lighter (I guess I'm used to having a mandolin in my lap instead).

Feb-28-2008, 12:55am
A thought regarding tuning slippage on the G and D strings. Take a close look at the grooves in the nut. Even a little burr will make the strings snap in and out of tune, a stroke or two with some folded over ultra fine sandpaper (480grit or finer) or a very fine emory board followed with a stroke or two of graphite will often make the grooves slick and smooth. And ultimately, help it get and stay in tune.

The only cost is a bit of time. On a beautiful old MayBell I had for a few years, the Grover orbital tuners had taken an odd set on both the heavier courses (C and G strings - not Irish tuned). On a string change I just switched the tuners around (Bass now treble etc.) and found they worked as originally designed. The orbital tuners are really outstanding but ... when something goes wrong with the old ones, they can be a real problem. My favorite tenor now is a 1925 Vega Little Wonder with no resonator and a short scale. This old thing still has the original friction tuners and they work well - often. When it gets cranky or the moon is in the wrong house ... etc. I won't even try to play it.

It seems to 'want to be alone'.

As for the Gold Tones - I've played a few and they seemed to be really decent instruments, especially for the price. The weight of them (even without the resonator) was enormous compared to the Little Wonder. I think I like that instrument as it is very brite sounding but not hugely loud and raucaus. I don't often find myself playing with a brass band or someone on large pipes so the volume isn't needed by me or appreciated by others. Banjo's don't need to be obnoxious.

Mar-01-2008, 3:37pm
I was just looking at the Bernunzios site last night and it looks like they've got quite a few affordable vintage open back banjos - some Slingerland May Bells, some "unknown maker" ones that quite likely might be Slingerland made as well, all in the $250-400 price range.


Mar-13-2008, 8:44am
I went ahead, splurgeed, and got the IT-250 openback from Elderly from last week. #Ive been hardly able to put it down...the thing is fantastic. #Definately worth the extra $250 for the better tone, tuners, fiberskin head, and beautifully-stained woood. #Plus I do appreciate the more-mellow tone of the open back. It seems a lot more well-built than the cripple creek just from holding it and inspecting it.

For $625 i am incredibly pleased!!!

Mar-13-2008, 12:11pm
Well now you need to bring it to the beach and play for us!

Apr-02-2008, 2:46pm
My Gold Tone IT-250 is actually the new IT-250F with flange and resonator -- I like the sound better with the resonator OFF!! More mellow. I recently got an old Vega Type M tubaphone tenor and I like the sound of the Gold Tone better (although the Vega isn't properly set up yet).