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View Full Version : Need help picking a banjolele



UKEonomics
01-23-2012, 06:52 AM
I know there's been a zillion threads about this...but hear me out.

The first time I saw/heard a banjolele I KNEW that I had to have one. Well, we got our taxes done early this year and we've got some money comin' in and my birthday is right around the corner so I've begged my wife to buy me one. That being said, I'm trying to narrow it down to THE ONE. I've read a ton of reviews and considered the prices, but I'm having trouble deciding between these four...

The first two are some of the least expensive on the market....

Lanikai LB6-S Openback Soprano Banjolele

Eddy Finn EF-UB-1 Banjo Uke Banjolele - Soprano


These choices fit my wallet a little bit better...but I wonder about the overall quality. The next two options are to buy one from Mainland Ukes or Waverly Street. I've always heard a ton of good things about both companies and the ukes they put out. I sort of see them as a step up from the Lanikai and the Eddy Finn. Would I be correct in making this assumption? Is it worth to just dish out the extra $50 or so to buy from Mainland or Waverly?

Bottom line - I'd like to get a new one and these four seem to be more along the lines for someone who is a novice to the banjo uke. After reading countless reviews and watching numerous youtube videos I simply can't make up my mind. If you have any of these/have played any of them please let me know your thoughts. The last thing that I want is to end up with something that I'm not happy with. Thanks!

Lalz
01-23-2012, 07:35 AM
Hi!

I haven't tried the models you are listing, but I have a Gold Tone BUS and I'm extremely pleased with it. Didn't have to break the bank either because I was lucky to win it on ebay for a good price and to get it from an excellent e-seller. It was perfectly set-up and sounds really nice.

Not sure how much they cost in shops, but it's definitely worth having a look at this model if you have a chance to try it.

UKEonomics
01-23-2012, 08:11 AM
Thanks for the suggestion! I did seriously consider a Goldtone, but I read a number of bad reviews that really turned me off to one. Also read some where people had nothing but praise for them. It seems really split...either you are going to absolutely hate it or absolutely love it.

PedalFreak
01-23-2012, 10:30 AM
Gretsch released a new one at NAMM this weekend, it was pretty nice :)

Jnobianchi
01-23-2012, 10:45 AM
Banjo ukes are like regular ukes only more so.

Eddie Finn and Lanikai models you're talking about and their Gold Tone equivalent are ok; they're affordable and you get what you pay for.

My advice is to spring for the Mainland or a Waverly street, because you're going to be getting a better instrument that's more satisfying to play.

Note that EBay is absolutely crowded with bottom end slightly used banjo ukes being sold by folks who quickly got tired of the sound or wrestling with a middling set up.

If you already know you want to play and like the sound, get as good a uke as you can.

Chap
01-23-2012, 11:53 AM
Out of the ones listed, I'd pick the Mainland.

Colonel Uke
01-23-2012, 01:09 PM
I've never been a fan of the Lanikai banjo ukes. Those 6" heads are really small, they sound kind of tinny to me, and they are way expensive for what they are. I do really like the Gold Tone banjo ukes though. They seem well made. I've played the Mainlands and they do sound good, I just wish they came with removeable backs to give an additional tonal option. The Eddy Finns are nice too, I believe they are just rebranded Morgan Monroe banjo ukes. Mim has a good video online demonstrating those. Interesting timing of your post, I just received notice today that my semi-custom made, Wim van der Leden banjo uke was shipped out from his shop in the Netherlands today. I can't wait to play it. His prices are incredibly reasonable. I'm getting a tenor sized banjo uke with resonator and a traditional curvy shaped headstock with upgraded geared tuners for $320 shipped. I couldn't even get an off the shelf Gold Tone for that price. Reviews and videos online sound really good. It should be here in a week, I'll post a full review and video then.

Lori
01-23-2012, 01:50 PM
There is a pretty wide range of banjo ukes out there, each one with a different character. You might even consider a vintage banjo uke. Also take a look at a resonator uke, since they have a bit of that banjo-like tone, but not as much as a banjo uke. You should probably buy in person if you can, to make sure it is set up well, and sounds the way you want it to. So many variables... but that makes it more fun.

–Lori

UKEonomics
01-23-2012, 06:53 PM
Thanks everyone for the feedback.

I'm starting to lean the direction of a Mainland. Heck, they're not much more than one of the cheaper Lanikai banjo ukes and people seem to appreciate them more. Plus, I've always had an eye on other mainland products and I've heard that the owner is a super nice guy. I'm a big fan of helping out smaller businesses rather than dishing out my money to a large company.

I've definitely thought about going vintage...everyone seems to agree that the ones made in the 1930's era were the best. Problem is - I've been burned on ebay several times so I don't trust many sellers. And I also don't trust people to have taken care of one over the years.

cb56
01-24-2012, 01:53 AM
I love my Gold Tone banjo uke. Mine's the BUC concert scale.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIgqFEFQhrQ

ukeeku
01-24-2012, 01:57 AM
Here is a link to all the Banjo Ukes
http://ukeeku.com/category/size/banjo-size/
I loved the Goldtone Banjolele. It just sang

ukeeku
01-24-2012, 01:59 AM
Gretsch released a new one at NAMM this weekend, it was pretty nice :)

Really? How did I miss that. Can you send a pic?

cb56
01-24-2012, 02:32 AM
Is this it?
https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/402465_307043032664095_100000752019042_772070_1254 916734_n.jpg
Found it here about halfway down the page.
https://www.facebook.com/faziosfrets

Sporin
01-24-2012, 02:34 AM
My buddy got an Eddie Finn for Christmas, it's bigger then soprano though, maybe concert sized? Not positive. It's a heavy sucker with that big wood resonator. He calls it the hammer of Thor. :) Build quality seemed superb to my mostly untrained eyes.

I loved playing it, so loud and crisp and banjo-y. Lots of fun.

PedalFreak
01-24-2012, 04:23 AM
Is this it?
https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/402465_307043032664095_100000752019042_772070_1254 916734_n.jpg
Found it here about halfway down the page.
https://www.facebook.com/faziosfrets

Yep that is it. My Gretsch rep left early so I couldn't get any details on it. One person thought it was going to street for $199.

UKEonomics
01-24-2012, 07:21 AM
@cb56 - that thing sounds very nice! Good crisp sound.

Also, it's interesting that Bye Bye Blues was the selection...my great uncle (Fred Hamm) co-wrote that song with three other guys.

Paul December
01-24-2012, 09:24 AM
Here is a link to all the Banjo Ukes
http://ukeeku.com/category/size/banjo-size/
I loved the Goldtone Banjolele. It just sang

+1
I ended up getting the Goldtone Bajolele Delux because of your review, thanks!
I played several different brands and this Goldtone was in a class all its own. Yes, it is larger & much heavier, but really does "sing". Please note that the Banjolele is not the same as the Goldtone BUS, BUC, and BUT. The "deluxe" also comes with a removable resonator. Tip: if you decide to get one, track the price on Amazon for a month. The price changes +/- $150. I got mine for $320 shipped. Oh, and it was perfectly setup.
On a side note, I also ended up getting a Firefly which is the exact opposite: light & plunky sound. It is a nice choice if that is what you like...though IMO it is over-priced (I got mine used).

Jnobianchi
01-24-2012, 09:46 AM
Agree that the big Goldtone is a better instrument and its a great way to jump in with both feet.

Re: vintage. I've owned several over the years, currently own four: Gibson UB1 and UB2, a black-stained Stromberg-Voisinet and a Ludwig Wendell Hall Professional - all made in the 20s. I think no banjo ukes sound better than high-end ukes from the golden age 20s-through early 30's.

You can get good prices for these on ebay, but you do have to know what you're looking for and looking at. Ask the questions you need the answers for: is the neck straight, do the frets need to be dressed, are there any cracks in the laminate or pot, any repairs, or other issues?

I wholeheartedly endorse playing vintage banjo ukes, but would steer you to a great new one first. After you've had time to figure out how to adjust, modify, and get a level of comfort with a new uke, vintage is much easier to get the most out of. You should be someone who isn't afraid to tinker, even with a new one.

I like Mainland, Waverly Street and Goldtone Deluxe. I really enjoyed playing the couple of Fireflies I've gotten my hands on - it's a different sound and feel. I also LOVE Beansprout, but that's as high-end as you can get and if you got one of those, you're basically all set for life. :)

cb56
01-24-2012, 12:17 PM
@cb56 - that thing sounds very nice! Good crisp sound.

Also, it's interesting that Bye Bye Blues was the selection...my great uncle (Fred Hamm) co-wrote that song with three other guys.

Very cool. Great song!

cb56
01-24-2012, 12:25 PM
Just to clear things up. The Gold Tone Buc does come with a removable resonator. It's just a different style resonator (Plate resonator)
Here's a link to their Banjo uke line up.
http://www.goldtone.com/products/w/c/90/Banjo-Ukuleles

zac987
01-24-2012, 12:34 PM
Is this it?
https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/402465_307043032664095_100000752019042_772070_1254 916734_n.jpg
Found it here about halfway down the page.
https://www.facebook.com/faziosfrets
Props to Gretsch for bringing back that vintage style! I abhor geared guitar tuners, and it really hurts to see banjos and banjo ukes with modern guitar tuners.

arpie
01-25-2012, 09:21 AM
I love my Mainland - so much so that in the last 3-4 months, I've arranged for 12 more to be brought into Australia for members of my ukulele group & and family & friends!!

Personally, I prefer the mahogany over the maple

Make sure it has a grover ebony bridge (not the redwood one) and Jnobianchi has suggested a 2 footed 1/2" bridge is preferable to the 3 footed bridge. I've got my eye out for one of those now!!

Just make sure you TRY before you BUY! The Mainlands are nice & light & you don't get big metal bits digging into your arms or chest as you play. The older ones & the Goldtones are WAY heavier & more uncomfortable to play.

If you want to learn Formby style, the soprano would be the best, for easier finger reach for all the 'tapping' required. I like my Concert sized tho

Good luck - it is a unique sound that you will love

Roberta