View Full Version : Help! I Hate My New Gold Tone Banjolele!

Papa Tom
01-05-2011, 06:35 AM
What a disappointment. I just tore open the box containing my new Gold Tone BUS Soprano Banjolele and I almost want to cry. I've wanted one of these for so long and thought I was getting a quality instrument for $315. Although I realize it's not right to judge a stringed instrument right out of the box, I've gotta tell you that this one has a long way to go just to be satisfactory as a new instrument with crappy strings.

The main problem is that the resonator board and the bridge are both buzzing like crazy and I can't seem to stop it. I spoke to a very helpful rep from Gold Tone and followed his suggestions, but the instrument still sounds buzzy and muddy as heck. Not a very pleasant sound at all.

Am I over-reacting? Does anybody have any suggestions for setting this up, or should I put it back in the box and send it back to Amazon?

01-05-2011, 06:37 AM
Being a rank beginner, if that happened to me, I'd sent it packing back to them the fastest way. Put it in the past.

01-05-2011, 06:45 AM
That sucks.:mad:
I would wait and see if anybody on the forum has some setup advice that may help. If not, I'd send it back within the time frame allowed.
$315 is a lot of money to waste.

Good Luck!

01-05-2011, 06:49 AM
I'd send that one back, but not give up on Banjo ukes.. You may just have a lemon instrument. I wouldn't sent it in for a replacement, I would send it in, then re-order it again if you want to try that model again. Maybe it's paranoya, but that will keep a lazy RMA person on their end just sending back the same unit you have now.

Also, Im sure you know already, Banjo ukes do not sound like a regular hollow body or electric uke. They have a very tinny, cartoony sound to them. it's the nature of the banjo beast, and that is their charm. It doesn't sound like you are just dealing with the new sound, because it shouldn't be buzzing. But, just food for thought, don't expect a banjo to sound like a standard bodied instrument.

01-05-2011, 06:56 AM
I have played a few Gold Tones and was pleasntly surprised.
Most likely a set-up will cure the problems. New strings are almost always a good start.
You may need to let the instrument set and acclimate for a few days.
Depending from and to where it was shipped it maybe suffereing a weather change.
Over playing a banjo uke is easy, if you strum to hard it the voice can turn to mush.
A bussing resonator points at something loose. Remember buzzes can travel (like water leaks), the source can be far from where you hear it.
How long to wait before returning it is a tough call. Banjo Uke are really cool and a lot of fun, so don't give up totally you may have just gotten a bad one.
Good Luck.

01-05-2011, 06:57 AM
If you do decide to return it...

Have you heard about Waverly Street banjo ukes? They are reasonably priced, and Dave, the maker, is a member here on UU.

01-05-2011, 07:06 AM
Finding someone to set it up well, for a reasonable price, can be a challenge...but when you order from Amazon, there's no set-up at all.

Personally, I'd try to find someone to take a look at it locally, and let you know if the problems are fixable with a set-up, or if there's something wrong with the instrument, and then go from there.

I had an Anuenue banjo uke from Amazon that I didn't really care for until I got it set up at a music store here, and now I'm much happier with it.

01-05-2011, 07:51 AM
What a disappointment. SNIP ... or should I put it back in the box and send it back to Amazon?

I think I'd box it back up, send it back to Amazon & talk to hoosierhiver (Mike@mainlandukulele.com) about the new Mainland banjo uke. You'd get the setup that you need & the customer service to boot.

01-05-2011, 08:05 AM
yea, those Mainlands look nice, I'd like one myself.

01-05-2011, 08:44 AM
But, does Mainland take Amazon gift cards?
That's how the OP came to purchase originally.

01-05-2011, 09:26 AM
Fluke is about to make a banjo uke.

I *think* the following is all true: It will be soprano size. The price will be around $200. It will be very light (I believe with no metal). They should have them for sale within a few months. They will show one at NAMM.

01-05-2011, 09:51 AM
Fluke is about to make a banjo uke.

I *think* the following is all true: It will be soprano size. The price will be around $200. It will be very light (I believe with no metal). They should have them for sale within a few months. They will show one at NAMM.

If true, sounds like a MINDBLOWER! :music:

01-05-2011, 10:07 AM
If true, sounds like a MINDBLOWER! :music:

I saw the prototype, which was not finished yet. It was just the pot and neck. They were in the process of choosing which skin to use.

My wife has wanted a banjolele for a while, so we'll be looking closely at this one. I was very impressed by the light weight and simple design. Since it was not fully assembled, we'll have to wait a little while longer to find out more.

01-05-2011, 11:07 AM
I got a Mainland concert from Eagle Music in the UK. It came double boxed, and the outer box was for a banjo. My husband was so so sad that it wasn't a banjo in there. :)

But Hoosier seems to even set up the ones going to the UK, because this Mainland was properly set up. Although I don't hold it against a company to leave it a little high, because going lower is easier than going higher.

I have no answer for you. On the one hand, if something's a dud out of box, it's best to send it back. On the other, a good setup might be all it needs, and that's a reasonable thing to do for any new instrument. It's part of the care and feeding.

It's a tough call, but maybe a luthier can at least have a look at it to help make the choice more clear.

01-05-2011, 12:01 PM
Just a thought...but...is the skin tight? You described it as muddy and a lot of buzzing, and a loose skin (from weather change or just not set up) could cause both of those...

We've got a guy who plays djembe in our band and it sounds horrible when the weather is humid and the head is "soft" (it's one of those rope-tuned things so not easy to adjust). It sounds amazing when the weather isn't humid.


Papa Tom
01-05-2011, 12:40 PM
>>>Just a thought...but...is the skin tight? <<<<

Good thought, but the head was one of the first things I checked. I thought, perhaps it might need to be tuned to a certain harmonic, but after playing with a few tunings, I heard no improvement. I also took off the resonator and tightened all the parts inside the shell. In general, even without the buzzing, it has a very poor overall sound. I expected the "cartoonish" sound someone else described, but it doesn't even produce THAT sound. This sounds more like a really cheap tourist uke. And it isn't even loud.

Thanks for all the recommendations for "better" banjoleles, but as I said originally, I needed to use some Amazon gift certificates for this. Otherwise, I can't really afford to buy one of these right now. On top of everything, now I'll probably have to plunk down $25-30 to ship it back to Amazon!

Papa Tom
01-05-2011, 12:58 PM
I should add that the folks at Gold Tone were really friendly and helpful on the phone. I guess I mistakenly thought these instruments were made by a Mom-n-Pop shop here in the states, but the first thing that hit me when I unpacked my instrument was the "Made In China" sticker that was peeling off.

Also, it took me less than ten minutes to arrange a return and refund from Amazon. They're even paying the return shipping. Classy operation.

01-05-2011, 01:49 PM
So disappointed for you. Hope it eventually works out, you were really hanging out for that BU.

Uke Whisperer
01-06-2011, 04:37 AM
Now what? As you remember, I am sitting-on Amamzon Gift Cars too. Been waiting for inventory since you ordered Sunday.


Haven't read anything negative about the BUS Banjo Ukulele in all my research (not many demos or reviews out there though).

Anyone else had experience with the Gold Tone Banjo Uke? Wonder if their Banjolele or Deuxe Banjolele has same problems?

Don't want to waste my gift cerificates or go through what Tom did.

I'll start checking for more demos/reviews.....

Tom, sorry you went through all this. I had hoped to come back on-line and find that you were happy as "you know what".

Tom (the other disappointed one)

01-06-2011, 05:00 AM
My Daughter recently bought a Banjo Uke ( countryman ) it sounded dead and muffled straight out of the box. Usual change of strings helped but the thing that borught it to life was after i tuned the skin to A. There was a slight buzz prior to this but it has now gone and the uke is lous and the notes sing and sustain really well. It may not be this but the difference was huge on my daughters banjo uke.

Papa Tom
01-06-2011, 05:52 AM
>>>>the thing that borught it to life was after i tuned the skin to A.<<<<

That was my initial thought, to tune it as close to Am7, the same chord as the open strings, as possible. No improvement. At this point, I've played enough instruments right out of the box to have a good idea about what's normal and what's not. This just didn't feel like a $300+ instrument. I thought it would be overkill, as it's about the most expensive soprano banjo uke I could find out there, but I immediately found myself feeling as if I had just bought another "toy." My wife descibed the sound as "a poor recording of a banjo uke!"

Papa Tom
01-06-2011, 06:00 AM
>>>>Now what?<<<<

I'm thinking the same thing, Uncle Tom. If I were you, I'd wait a few weeks to make sure you don't get the one I just sent back.

For me, I'm not sure what's next. I don't think I'll buy another banjolele without playing it first. I may also just get myself a better uke, but the few more expensive ones I've played (ie the Oscar Schmidt/Washburn and even Martin models) don't sound a whole lot richer than what I've already got. I like the warm, mellow sound of the fluke and flea ukes, but my style is a little more aggressive, more like...a BANJO player, damn it!

But this is a topic for another thread...

01-06-2011, 06:04 AM
Hmmm...have you thought of trying the Lanikai Amazon sells?

01-06-2011, 07:03 AM
I think you got a lemon. You were right to send it back.

the head should be tight, should yield slightly to thumb pressure in the center, but should essentially sound like a tenor drum. If you get the head there, you should at least get some tone.

I expect you tried all of the following - tuned to C or D tuning; placed the bridge correctly; perhaps swapped out the strings it came with for good strings; examined the neck to ensure you weren't getting fret rattle; and you're still getting a buzz and no tone, you've got a problem other than what can be addressed through set up.

I wish you better luck next time. Try the Lanikai or the Anuenue, which I know you can get through Amazon. I personally don't like the Gold Tone, in sound or feel, too thick, and even properly set up, it doesn't ring like I think it should. I like the Lanikai a bit better in terms of sound and playability. No experience with the Anuenue.

Either way, I think you did right to ditch it and quit while you were ahead. It would have been worse to find, after a luthier set it up, that you still didn't like it.

Is there anyone locally that plays banjo - not banjo uke - that you can run it by?

01-06-2011, 07:21 AM
My Gold Tone Banjolele Deluxe was a gem, action perfect, sounded loud and clear. I liked it a little more after putting on a natural skin, but the plastic skin was fine.

Let me ask a dumb question, not to offend - does your new banjo uke have a proper bridge in a proper location and position, with the strings in the little tiny slots?

01-06-2011, 07:25 AM
Being a rank beginner, if that happened to me, I'd sent it packing back to them the fastest way. Put it in the past.

Same here! :agree:

Papa Tom
01-06-2011, 07:50 AM
>>>My Gold Tone Banjolele Deluxe was a gem<<<<

I'm sure most of them (particularly the "Deluxe" models) are. Mine was not.

>>>does your new banjo uke have a proper bridge in a proper location and position, with the strings in the little tiny slots?<<

No offense taken, as I have MUCH more knowledge about percussion instruments than I have about stringed instruments. Before I made my decision to return the uke, I got on the phone with Tommy from GoldTone, who walked me through the possible sources of the buzz. After checking everything, including the bridge (as you described), it was still buzzing. But even more than that, it just didn't "sing." I realize the strings make a difference, but even a 100% difference wouldn't have made this instrument palatable to me.

Papa Tom
01-06-2011, 07:53 AM
>>>Try the Lanikai or the Anuenue<<<

I've never heard of Anuenue, but the Lanikai is much more expensive than the Gold Tone - and I don't think they make a soprano. $315 was a big stretch for me, as I'm only a "casual" ukulele player. If I continue to look at banjoleles, I'll be shopping downward, rather than upward. And if no other manufacturers get on the Amazon bandwagon so I can pay with my gift cards, I won't be buying anything anytime soon!

01-06-2011, 05:38 PM
First, Papa Tom, you're right--Amazon is a classy company. My son works there, and even though he's in the fraud division for Germany and not customer service, he confirms that Amazon wants your business--always.

Next, I found this that you might like with your gift cards:

In the cart it's under $200.

Papa Tom
01-07-2011, 01:05 AM
>>>>Next, I found this that you might like with your gift cards:<<<<<

Thanks for the suggestion. I think I might try selling my Amazon credit and using the cash to buy one of the Mainland banjoleles everyone is raving about.