I recently upgraded my banjo from my Epiphone MB 200 to a Gold Tone CB-100. I have to say I like the gold tone a lot better. It is so much nicer than the MB 200. I also realized for a bluegrass banjo the MB 200 is really light. I went to my favourite music store (Chuck Levin’s) and tried out a few bluegrass style Deering and Gibson banjos. They are way heavier. So that made my decision to get an open back a lot easier. I also play mostly clawhammer so an open back made a lot more sense. This banjo is a lot more sold and it has a scooped fret board so you can get that clucking holler sound. I know Gold Tone is a great brand for beginner and intermediate players. The parts come from China and are assembled in Florida. I also have played some of the Goodtime open backs and I like the Gold Tone a lot better.
It has a good action which was a big selling point for me. The tuners and hardware are also significantly better than the MB 200. It has a frosted head which I like and the color is kind of a deep greenish brown. The few cons are that the headstock looks a little bit off center from the neck and the neck is a little bit weightier because there isn’t a resonator to balance it out. I would definitely recommend this as a step up from a beginner banjo but for someone who isn’t ready to spend the money for a really good one.
A quick overview of Open Back vs. Resonator
– A lot lighter
– No resonator
– Used mainly for Clawhammer/frailing and old time music
– mellower sound, not used for cutting through a bluegrass band
– A hell of a lot heavier and you can usually judge how good a blue grass banjo is by how heavy it is
– Sharper ringing sound, has a metal tone ring to influence tone ( open backs also have tone rings, but lower end ones probably won’t)
– Used for bluegrass/Earl Scruggs style, that’s three finger picking. It’s harder to learn than clawhammer.
– Wooden Resonator used to project the sound. The one I had was mahogany but the good ones use violin quality 3-ply maple.
Also when it comes to tone rings, try to get a brass one.
Some more photos