, ,

Gold Tone musical instruments are available at banjocrazy.com. Call Paul Roberts at (970) 731-3117 for more information.

A classic example of the most sought after vintage Old Time design and tone. Includes vintage style tubaphone tone ring, engraved inlay plus a fingerboard scoop for harmonic plunkiness!

The Old Tone 0T-800 is an accurate reproduction of the most sought after banjo design in the classic Old Time sound, the Vega Tubaphone.  The Gold Tone 0T-800 incorporates a fitted metal bracket band to an 11” maple rim in which the shoe lugs bolt directly to the bracket band instead of the wood rim allowing for a more solid tone and increased sustain. The 32-hole brass Tubaphone-style tone ring allows the sound to ring loud and clear with maximum sustain. Improvements to the original classic design include dual coordinator rods (instead of a dowel stick) for a solid neck fit and easy adjustment capabilities.  Other features include a maple neck with bound ebony fingerboard with frailing scoop, a classic engraved fingerboard inlay design, a Fairbanks-style headstock, 11” Renaissance banjo head, and a No Knot tailpiece.  With final assembly and a complete setup at the Gold Tone Factory in Florida, this model delivers exactly what the contemporary openback banjo player is looking for!

The 0T-800 includes a deluxe arch case.

OT-800 Review
By Chuck Levy

Although outsiders might not know it, Florida has a lot to offer old-time banjoists, including the Suwannee Banjo Camp, The Suwannee Old-time Camp, The Florida State Fiddlers Convention, the Florida Old-Time Music Championships, and the banjo contest at the Florida Folk Festival.  Another one of Florida’s treasures is Titusville’s Gold Tone, a family-run manufacturer of musical instruments. Gold Tone was founded by Wayne and Robyn Rogers in 1993 with the creation of the TB-100, a small scale banjo designed as “traveler”.  Encouraged by the response to this instrument (aided by a positive review in Banjo Newsletter) Gold Tone has gone on to produce a wide variety of banjo and other string instruments.  Initially concentrating on resonator banjos intended for bluegrass, Gold Tone has been turning its attention to open back instruments in the last couple of years.  These efforts intensified in 2008 with the introduction of the cello banjos and the Old Tone line.  One of the most intriguing instruments in this line is the OT-800.

The inspiration for the OT-800 is the classic Vega Tubaphone banjos of the early 20th century (not to be confused with the Deering Vega banjos).  The Tubaphones, introduced in 1909, featured distinct perforated tubular tone ring (hence “Tubaphone”) with a rectangular cross section.  This tone ring was the successor to the Whyte Laydie tone rings, and produced a more bold tone than its predecessor. Like the Whyte Laydies, the tubaphones featured a bracket band, a metal band which runs along the waist of the rim, and to which the brackets connect.  Bracket bands eliminate the need for hardware (nuts/screws) to clutter the interior of the rim, and add mass to the pot. The OT-800 features a tubaphone-style tone ring, and a bracket band, but is not simply an imitation of the classic.  The rim, with a height of 3 inches, creates a deeper pot than the standard, while the thickness of the pot at approximately ¾  of an inch, is reminiscent of the early Whyte Laydies.  The neck of the OT-800 departs from the deeper “V”- shaped contour of the original, which grew gradually thicker towards the heel.  The OT-800 necks sport a more rounded profile with a constant depth as it approaches the heel.

While the Tubaphone assembly dictates the sound, the aesthetics of the OT-800 actually hearken to earlier Fairbanks and Fairbanks and Cole instruments of the turn of century. The headstock has a figure-of-8 shape as it approaches the peak, and is adorned with an etched star in the center.  The truss rod cover is hardly noticeable, inset into the headstock  just above the nut. A second etched star marks the 5th fret, with further etched inlays at the 7th, 12th and 17th positions, culminating in a scoop at the end of the fingerboard.   The A glossy finish completes the neck. Taken together, the OT-800 successfully integrates classic and modern elements to create a 21st century tribute to the first golden era.

When I first saw a prototype of the OT-800 in the spring of 2008, I thought the instrument had potential, but it also had some problems.  The neck was too narrow and the sound seemed a little thin at least for my taste.  So I wasn’t sure what to expect this fall when Wayne sent me a working model for my review. I compared the OT-800 to one of my favorite 5-strings,  one which has an original Tubaphone rim, with a new neck by Bart Reiter. Like the OT-800, the Reiter features Renaissance head, a bound fingerboard, and a frailing scoop, (the OT-800 has position markers in the binding). Both banjos feature low action throughout the neck, made possible by immaculate set-ups. I use the Reiter when I want punch and power, with a clear, penetrating tone.

I am happy to say that my misgivings about the prototype have been completely resolved.  The neck feels easy and natural, and the tone is robust.  The OT-800 compares very well to the Reiter, producing a similar snap with plenty of volume.  The OT-800 carries well in a session, and is great for solo playing.  It even works well with fingerpicks.

Overall, I am very impressed with the OT-800, especially considering its list price of $1,558.  It is a handsome and faithful reinterpretation of a classic, a crackerjack instrument.

From my perspective, 2008 has been the year of the big leap for Gold Tone. In the past, I would have characterized Gold Tone open back banjos as midline banjos that were a good value for the dollar. With the introduction of cello banjos and the Old Tone line, (especially the OT-800), Gold Tone now stands shoulder to shoulder with the first tier banjo manufacturers.

A word about frailing scoops:  I have read with interests some of the discussion surrounding frailing scoops.  It is generally understood that the scoop allows a lower action throughout the fingerboard while making it easier to play over the neck.  A sharper tone is produced playing near the bridge, while a more mellow tone is produced further away from the bridge (over the neck).  The cost of scoop is the loss of a few frets, which may be a consideration for those who play the very highest tones.  It has been said that there is a loss of volume with playing over the neck.    While this may be true in theory, in practice, there is no appreciable difference.  One aspect of the scoop that I have not seen discussed is that the scoop allows certain percussive effects that are hard to obtain at the head.   The “pop” (sometimes called a “chuck” or a “cluck”) is a right hand technique typically created by striking the first string at an angle with the middle finger and then immediately dampening the string with the index finger trailing behind.  In my observation, this movement is inhibited over the head, where the fingers are prone to strike the head if the attack is at angle.  This problem does not exist with play over the neck.

Neck Maple Fingerboard Ebony w/ Fingerboard Scoop
Bridge Maple w/ Ebony Cap; 5/8″
Finishing Touches
Wood Finish Vintage Brown Fingerboard Inlay Vega-Style w/ Engraving
Headstock Inlay Star w/ Engraving Neck Binding Celluloid
Parts & Hardware
Nut Bone Tuners GT Master Planetary Tuners
Tailpiece No Knot Tailpiece Flange Genuine Bracket Band
Tone Ring 32-Hole Tubaphone-Style Tone Ring Strings GDGBD – .010, .013, .016, .024w, .010
Rim 1/2″ Maple Plating Chrome
Tension Hoop Brass; Notched Arm Rest Vega-Style Armrest
Pickup Optional SMP+
Other Features & Options
Case Options Includes Hardshell Deluxe Archtop Case; Optional HPBO Heavily Padded Gigbag Other Options Lefty / Capo Spikes / Optional Resonator
Scale 26-3/16″ Weight 8 lbs
Nut Width 1-3/16″ Frets 18 Medium
Head Size 11″ Remo High Crown Renaissance