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View Full Version : Kala vs Gretsch vs Luna vs Deering banjo uke



weeshan
03-26-2017, 09:08 AM
Any preference over one or another and why? Is the Deering higher priced than the rest just because of the brand or is it considered higher quality than the rest?

Thanks,

Shannon

Mivo
03-26-2017, 09:17 AM
Nothing much to add, but I'm in the process of buying a used Deering banjolele after thinking about it for a few years (I want something acoustically loud). The reasons why I favor it are the size of the head (11") and that I like the sound best (in recordings). I also prefer the concert banjolele sound to the sound of the smaller (tinny) and bigger (muddy) banjoleles I've heard, but this is absolutely a matter of preference.

The Deering probably costs more because it's made in the USA, not in a cheap labor country.

acmespaceship
03-26-2017, 09:57 AM
Do you sing? Do you sing LOUD? Do you play with other instruments? Does your repertoire shade toward rip-roaring vaudeville songs, or more toward folk and soft rock?

I ask because I love the sound of a Deering Goodtime, but it's bright and LOUD and hard to tame. Not IMHO appropriate for every situation but great when it fits. I've met some Gretsch banjoleles that are very nice and a little easier to handle in a mix of instruments.

My own everyday preference is a Firefly. Lighter weight (no rim hardware) and a softer old-timey sound that blends well with vocals and other ukuleles. Just another option to consider depending on when and how you want to play. I should note that my first banjo-uke was a vintage Werco that sounds like a machine gun and made me appreciate the Firefly :-)

PhilUSAFRet
03-26-2017, 12:31 PM
Deering at a whole different dimension from other banjo ukes. Apples and oranges. Deering bigger, heavier, louder, and sounds more banjo like than the others. It also costs about twice as much. Have to decide about how and where you play, your expectations of volume and tone, weight, etc. etc. I recently bought a used Goldtone Irish tenor banjo and bought some Southcoast strings for it. I'll tune it linear GCEA. Less money than the Deering and it will fit in better with a bluegrass gospel jam group I joined. Even bigger and heavier than the Deering. I considered that. My Rally concert banjo uke with full resonator is a lot heavier than the Firefly, but it will absolutely hold it's own in the group as well. Not sure this was helpful, but all those banjo ukes you mention will work but as with other ukes, you will have to decide what feels best and gives you the tone and volume you want.

RichM
03-26-2017, 12:59 PM
Of the brands you mention, Gold Tone and Deering stand out. I am a huge fan of Deering banjos and play a Deering Maple Blossom five-string, which is a very fine instrument. The Deering banjo-uke is an excellent quality instrument. However, it's larger head gives it a deeper and more resonant tone, more like a "regular" banjo, and without the more "nasal" quality of a traditional banjo-uke. Some will find it a huge improvement, others will not. If you like the tone, you'll be very happy with the instrument.

I've had a Gold Tone BU-C for several years, and it's a good overall banjo uke-- good tone, quality build, overall reliable instrument.

Nickie
03-26-2017, 07:12 PM
I have a friend who has a Deering tenor, and wow, it really packs a punch. She won't lean into it when playing with ukulele players, because it blows them out of the park. It's a little too heavy for me. After reading the Ukulele Magazine reviews on banjoleles, and looking at the prices, I settled on a Duke tenor. It's not nearly as loud or punchy as a Deering, but it cost half as much. When I play with ukes, I don't have to amp, like they do. I love the darn thing, but it hurt my left hand, so into the luthier shop it went to have the neck resized to fit me. I wanted that darn black paint off too, I don't like painted necks. I can't wait to get it back, we have a gig Friday, and I wanna play it then.

SteveZ
03-27-2017, 02:44 AM
The Deering product line is a good one.* Still have D tenor banjo and used to have D banjo uke. The main reason I sold the D banjo uke was because it was too much like my tenor banjo. I prefer that the banjo uke be lighter and more convenient to play than the banjo, while still sounding good despite nylon strings. The Duke banjo uke (tenor scale) does that. The Lanikai (soprano scale) was acquired just because the deal was too good to pass, and it's now my only soprano scale instrument.

Just a hint - if you ever want to increase the sound of a Deering banjo uke, there is a product called a "Sosebee EZ Resonator" which can be clamped onto the rod. I had gotten one for my tenor banjo, tried it (and it worked) on the banjo uke, and now it's back on the tenor banjo.

Croaky Keith
03-27-2017, 03:20 AM
I listened to a video of a Firefly the other day, & whilst I'm not a great fan of banjos/banjoleles, that one sounded quite good to me, but then I prefer mellow rather than brash. Might be worth taking a listen to before making up your mind.

timmit65
03-27-2017, 04:31 AM
I've had a Gold Tone BU-C for several years, and it's a good overall banjo uke-- good tone, quality build, overall reliable instrument.

+1 I tried Gold Tone, Kala, Gretsch and FireFly.....and bought the Gold Tone! Much more banjoish than the others, to me.

PTOEguy
03-28-2017, 05:12 AM
I've owned a firefly and currently own a Deering. I've also played several gold tone at music stores. Here are my thoughts:

The Deering is well built with some shortcuts to reduce labor costs (no separate fingerboard - which is actually a bonus - you get the maple fretboard and it can reduce the chances of neck profile changes). It uses parts from the Deering Goodtime line, but they've made some uke specific changes to the bridge. To me the tone has a lot of depth, good power and is nicely balanced. I really like the feel of Deering necks as well.

The Firefly is also built in the US (I think?) with shortcuts to reduce cost. The rim is high-class fiberboard and there is no adjustment possible on the head. If you get the lower end model you'll have friction tuners. It isn't as forceful as other banjo ukes and to me it didn't have as much "center" to its tone. Sometimes I felt it didn't differentiate much between some chords that were close together - more percussive than pitched. I occasionally had trouble getting a tuner to register the open strings, particularly with other noise in the room. Adding a sock or something under the head helped that out with some minor loss in projection. It was definitely quieter and way lighter than other banjo ukes.

The music store that I frequent also had a used Gold Tone Banjolele with a brass tone ring. The result was an instrument that could cut through anything - and take paint off the walls. I've also found some Gold Tones to be very narrow in the fingerboard, to the place where it is possible to bend the strings off the fingerboard if you aren't careful. Where the Deering has a "depth/width" to its tone, the Gold Tone was more focused, brighter, narrower. If the Deering is a floodlight, the Gold Tone is a laser. (Note that Gold tone also makes some without tone rings - which aren't quite as powerful and focused).

It all depends on what you want from a banjolele. The firefly plays nicely with other ukes. The Deering sounds great solo. The Gold Tone (with tone ring) can make you heard over a full jazz band. To me the Deering is in the middle and can be pushed either louder or softer as needed, so that's what I have. Play a bunch, buy one, develop your sound, sell it and get the one that meets your needs.

weeshan
03-28-2017, 06:23 AM
Thanks everyone for your responses. I learned so much just by reading your comments. I tend to play quieter, more folksy but love clawhammer style and am currently learning it. I know I dont need a banjo uke to play clawhammer but I have long loved the sound of banjos. With that said, I know the banjo uke is not a banjo. Im thinking that the Deering and Gold Tone, while high quality, may be a bit too brash for the way I play, despite the fact that I love the sound.

Thanks again for your input. Off I go to read into banjo ukes some more. Is there a good gathering place online for banjo uke players specifically? People seem to either love them or hate them.

Shannon

RichM
03-28-2017, 06:26 AM
Thanks everyone for your responses. I learned so much just by reading your comments. I tend to play quieter, more folksy but love clawhammer style and am currently learning it. I know I dont need a banjo uke to play clawhammer but I have long loved the sound of banjos. With that said, I know the banjo uke is not a banjo. Im thinking that the Deering and Gold Tone, while high quality, may be a bit too brash for the way I play, despite the fact that I love the sound.

Thanks again for your input. Off I go to read into banjo ukes some more. Is there a good gathering place online for banjo uke players specifically? People seem to either love them or hate them.

Shannon

If you love the traditional banjo tone, see if there is a place you can try out a Deering. With its larger pot size, it has more tonal range and is closer to what most would call the "traditional" banjo sound. Most banjo ukes have smaller pots, and tend to emphasize the trebles, create a unique, cutting tone.

Croaky Keith
03-28-2017, 08:05 AM
Is there a good gathering place online for banjo uke players specifically?

Don't know how much there is about ukes, but a quick look seems to be a nice forum.
http://www.banjohangout.org/forum/