History of the Gramophone or Phonograph

The gramophone is a record player that you’ve probably seen – the one with the horn on the side.

Even if you’ve never seen one up close and personal, you know exactly what it is. They were the first devices invented to play back music and other forms of sound.

Before we jump into the history, here’s a quick video showing a gramophone that is still functional playing an old record, so you get the idea, even if you have no idea what I’m rattling on about up until now. 

What is a Gramophone?

The gramophone, or phonograph, is a device that records and plays sound. While we’ll be touching on the exact nature of the gramophone, it makes sense for us to talk about the disc phonograph record, which is a vinyl record as we know it today. These two concepts go hand in hand.

The waveforms of sound were impressed onto a wax cylinder when inventors were first experimenting with the device. The device was handcranked and produced a sound that wasn’t suitable for listening at all. It was awkward and cringe-inducing.

Musicians would find that they had to record music continuously because the wax cylinder couldn’t hold the tone. The cylinders used were very bulky, too.

As it was improved upon, the gramophone would record and play sound on discs made of tin and, finally, other materials.

It wasn’t until the gramophone used flat disks that it became more popular and successful.

Parts of the Gramophone

Disks

The disks brought the gramophone to life around 1892. They measured between 5 and 10 inches at that time. It was in 1908 or so that it was possible to record on both sides of the disk.

Turntable & Spindle

The turntable itself is made of a round steel or aluminum piece that is turned with a rubber belt. The turntable and spindle work together to spin the record for playing. The turntable keeps the disk in place while turning, too.

Stylus

This is the needle that plays the record or disk. It reads the music or sound for the listener. Early models would have a sapphire or diamond as the playback device. The early 1900s brought about copper and steel options instead.

The Horn

The horn of a gramophone is the iconic look that most people understand when you say gramophone or phonograph. It was the part of the device that allowed for playback to be heard.

To alter the volume of the sound emitting from the horn, they would use a muffling ball in the opening of the horn.

Who Invented the Gramophone?

In 1877, Thomas Edison came up with the concept of a device that would play back sound. He used a tinfoil design that could only play a recording one time.

Edison’s phonograph was pretty much a bust when Alexander Graham Bell created a graphophone. 

Here is a video showing a graphophone in action, so you can distinguish between a graphophone and a gramophone, as they are not the same thing.  The one in this video happens to be a 1896 American Graphophone Phonograph Washington Type A.

Unfortunately,Alexander Graham Bell came up with the wax cylinder that didn’t quite work. Each cylinder had to be recorded separately, which meant hours and hours for one cylinder.

Finally, Emile Berliner created the design we’re familiar with today. He applied for a patent in 1887, which was 10 years after Edison tried and failed at the same type of play back system. Berliner stopped trying to stick with the cylinder idea. That’s when it started to see success. He used flat disks. They were made of glass at first.  Here’s a newer record, made of glass.

Back then, the sound information was etched into the disk and played back with the stylus through the arm of the gramophone. The needle would transmit the vibrations to the horn, which would bring sound to the listener.

Berliner was the first to create a mold of a disk, which could be mass produced for a wide audience. Each mold would allow for hundreds of disk pressings.

The Gramophone Company

Berliner started the company to produce the gramophone he’d created as well as the disks to be played on the device. He had to persuade musicians to create music for his disks.

The company took on a painting by Francis Barraud as its trademark. It’s one that most people are still familiar with today (the picture with the dog looking into the horn). He sold patent rights to the gramophone as well as how to make records to RCA, The Victor Talking Machine Company. They were the ones to bring the product to the US.

The Automatic Gramophone

In the days when the gramophone was first patented, the listener had to hand crank the device. It would wind up the spring that would play out the record. It would play at an uneven speed based on the amount of tension in the gramophone.

Berliner and Elridge Johnson worked on a motor for the spring that would allow playback without having to crank. Without the cranking, the playback of records was even and smooth. Johnson had created a motor that would keep up a speed of 70 rotations per minute.

From the gramophone, other recording and playback devices evolved. Record players became more advanced. The horn was replaced with speakers inside the device.

Current Devices

Today, we have turntables and records for those who want to still hear vinyl records. These diehard record lovers are often called audiophiles. They’d rather hear a vinyl record from their favorite singers and musicians than digital reproductions.

There are also turntables used by DJs to create music mixes, but even most of those are done on digital turntables with digital recordings.

All of the current turntables and record players exist because of the invention of the original gramophone.

ION Audio Road Warrior Portable Speaker Review

Today we review the ION Audio Road Warrior Portable Speaker, which is everything you could possibly need in a speaker, more or less.

It’s got an FM radio, the ability to stream music from any device, a microphone input for karaoke, performances, speaking engagements, or backyard parties. It can be carried easily and be used as a powerbank for your devices, too.

There’s almost nothing this speaker can’t do.

Feature Pick

Ion Audio Road Warrior – 500-Watt Portable Bluetooth Stereo Speaker System With Twin Lighted Speakers, On-Board Fm Radio, Rechargeable Battery And Ac/Dc Power Inputs

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Features

  • USB powerbank
  • Microphone input
  • Transmits 100 feet
  • Portable
  • Rechargeable battery
  • 70 to 20000 Hz frequency response
  • Wired or wireless

ION Audio Company

The company has been around since 2002 providing electronics to customers. They strive to provide innovative, fun products to their customers.

After their first USB-conversion turntable, they realized they could take vinyl records to the next level. That’s the kind of electrifying products they like to give the world.

Since that time, they’ve taken conversion to the next level as well as providing products like the advanced speakers we’re reviewing here.

Portable and Wireless

You can use these stereo speakers absolutely anywhere. It has recessed handles, so it can be carted anywhere you need it. Along with being portable in terms of weight and bulkiness, it can work wirelessly, too.

It can plug into the wall or be used with the included battery. Some people use this in the trunk of their car and when it’s needed, they pull it from the trunk and port it around to their destination.

Uses and Specifications

The speaker can be used with your favorite device to project and stream music from your phone, tablet, or computer. It has a built-in FM radio, so you can listen to the show while sitting in the parking lot.

It’s great for use with other applications coming from your favorite podcasters, radio announcers, or music sites. The angle of the speaker is perfect for projecting the sound into the crowd, too.

Along with your favorite music and sounds from others, you can use this speaker to project your own music or voice. This is a perfect speaker for karoake and performances in public where you’re making your own music.

This is a great speaker for the stage you erect in your backyard to perform for all your friends. It’s a terrific speaker for parties since you only need the sound to reach within your own property. The 100 feet of range is perfect.

Output Power

These 10-inch lighted speakers have incredible bass. You’ll be able to bring this to any event and project loud, clear sound at the crowd.

It’s built with enough power at 500 watts to really transmit sound over 100 feet. The design elements of the speaker provide even more power and projection since it’s angled for that purpose.

ION includes the ability to plug this directly into your car’s 12 volt input jack. They also send the wiring you’ll need to marry this speaker to your car. If you don’t want to power using the car, or want to have mobility in your speaker system, use the ION Warrior’s battery.

Rechargeable Battery

When you’re ready to break out the speakers at your next event, you’ll want to ensure they’re fully charged.

At full capacity, they can last for hours. If you plan on having an all-night party with this speaker, it can be paired with another power source to extend the life and music of the party.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does the battery actually last?
The manufacturer boasts a 12 hour battery time, but customers have said it’s between 4 and 6 hours. After that, it has to be plugged into a power source.

Is it water resistant?
This isn’t splash resistant, so it’s important that you’re careful at the beach or around the drink table at the party. Consider placement before setting up the speakers.

Can it be paired with an MP3 player?
Hook up the cable from the MP3 player to the speaker. It works great for streaming from many devices. It’s not limited to MP3 players.

What kind of microphone can I plug in for karaoke?
You can use any microphone that needs to be plugged into a speaker.

Conclusion

This ION Audio Road Warrior Portable Speaker is a great portable option for times when you want to carry an easy sound system with you.

It’s terrific for parties and places where you might not be able to easily find a PA system.

That could be the beach, the back of your truck, your backyard, or a meeting room without its own system.

We Review the Best Gold Tone Banjos for Players

Back in the days before the Internet, companies that had products to sell would have to rent or purchase space for a store or sell through other methods like direct mails and catalogs. The Gold Tone Music Group was founded by Wayne and Robyn Rogers who sold their first banjo, The Traveler, by mail. They saw incredible success with their first banjo, and it prompted them to expand their offerings. They now have a wide array of stringed instruments including four-, five-, and six-string banjos.

We’ve gathered up some of their best sellers as well as ones that customers can’t stop raving about online. These cover a wide variety of their offerings. They have had success across a ton of their banjos from 4 strings to long necks. We love the sentiments of the company, which basically come down to the fact that music comes from the heart, and the expression of that music is the “ultimate statement of our humanity.”

Gold Tone Cripple Creek Banjo

Feature Pick

Gold Tone Cc-Plectrum Cripple Creek Plectrum Banjo (Four String, Maple)

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To start the list is the 4-string banjo from Gold Tone. The 4 string isn’t tuned like the 5-string counterpart. They are tuned to tenor or plectrum based on the sounds the player wants to produce with the instrument. This one is tuned to plectrum. It’s a beautiful instrument with incredible wood that produce a great sound.

Features & Specifications

  • Hard maple construction
  • Convertible resonator
  • 2-way adjustable truss rod
  • Plectrum tuning
  • 4-string banjo

We absolutely love the way the banjo looks. When you’re playing in front of an audience, the look of the instrument matters. You want it to be a visually beautiful experience for your audience. This banjo has so much going for it. It’s a lightweight instrument even with the resonator. You can take it with you on the road quite easily. Speaking of resonators, this one is removable, which changes the sound of the banjo completely. We love everything about this instrument and recommend it for our readers. That’s just a taste of the great things we adore about the instrument.

Read more in our full review of the Gold Tone Cripple Creek Banjo


Gold Tone AC-6+ 6-String Banjo

Feature Pick

Goldtone Ac-6+ 6 String Banjo With Gig Bag

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Next, we move on to the 6-string category. This appears to look like a traditional banjo with the common amount of strings, but it’s actually a 6-string banjo, which is like a guitar. They’re often called guitjos or banjitars. This instrument is easier for those who learned an instrument with the guitar and want to switch without that huge learning curve.

Features & Specifications

  • Maple neck
  • 2-way adjustable truss rod
  • Satin finish
  • Magnetic pickup
  • Case included

This is a light 6 pounds, so it can be taken on the road when you’re performing or practicing for friends around a campfire in the woods. There are a few added accessories that the company has given to customers free, which are the magnetic pickup and the case. Both make it easier to perform for a live audience or record for playback later.

Read our full review of the Gold Tone AC-6+ 6-String Banjo


Gold Tone CC-Mini Cripple Creek Banjo

Feature Pick

Gold Tone Cc-Mini Cripple Creek Banjo (Five String, Maple)

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This is the miniature version of the CC banjo on the list already. We had to include the mini version because it’s an incredible instrument that can be used for learning purposes.

Features & Specifications

  • Geared tuners
  • Vega-style armrest
  • 2-way adjustable truss rod
  • Gig bag

Imagine if you have a child that wants to learn the banjo. He or she will have a hard time holding the banjo and reaching all the parts needed to play. You could have the standard size while providing your child with a mini version. Playing together will be a blast.

Read our full review of the Gold Tone CC-Mini Cripple Creek Banjo


Gold Tone Maple Mountain 150LN 5-String Long-Neck Banjo

Feature Pick

Gold Tone Maple Mountain Mm-150Ln 5-String Long Neck Banjo

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We’re moving on to more uncommon styles like this long-neck option. While it might seem unusual, this style has been around for years. It was first brought to prominence by Pete Seeger who was a folk music icon throughout the 60s and 70s.

Features & Specifications

  • Maple neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Planetary tuners
  • Vega-style armrest
  • Gig bag

This open-back banjo was made of strong maple that has a great tone. It’s lightweight with a satin finish, so you’ll want to take this banjo on the road with you and show it off to all your musician friends.

Read our full review of the Gold Tone Maple Mountain 150LN 5-String


Gold Tone Banjolele

Feature Pick

Gold Tone Banjolele-Dlx Banjo Ukulele Deluxe (Maple)

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Last on the list is an adorable instrument that’s a cross between a banjo and a ukulele. This hybrid instrument leans more towards a banjo sound, but weaves the tone of the ukulele through it. People will wonder what you’re playing and have a new appreciation for this kind of instrument.

Features & Specifications

  • Resonator
  • Curly maple headstock
  • No knot tailpiece
  • Lightweight

With the banjo pot, you’ll get a banjo sound, but with ukulele tuning and frets. It’s a sound that you can fine tune and make your very own. Every musician wants to be known for something and stand out from the crowd. This instrument will definitely set you apart in the best way possible.

Read our full review of the Gold Tone Banjolele


These are our favorite instruments from Gold Tone, and we’d love for you to check out all the reviews to see which one draws your interest.

Gold Tone Maple Mountain Open-Back Long-Neck Banjo Review

The Gold Tone Maple Mountain Open-Back Long-Neck Banjo is a five-string instrument with a long neck that will make you feel like you’re playing an instrument made for folk and old-timey music. It’s a style of instrument that was made popular by Pete Seeger and others in that time who were creating folk music and iconic songs we still know and love today.

Feature Pick

Gold Tone Mm-150Ln Maple Mountain Openback Banjo (Long Neck, Five String, Maple)

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Specifications

  • Vintage headstock design
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Snowflake inlays
  • Vega-style armrest
  • Planetary tuners
  • 11” Renaissance head

First Impressions

The Gold Tone Maple Mountain Open-Back Long-Neck Banjo was crafted by a company that cares about your satisfaction. They create all their instruments in the US using qualified artisans who take care with every banjo they craft. The Maple Mountain has a replica White Ladye tone ring for a strong, soothing sound.

The Maple Mountain was the first open-back banjo created by the company. It has incredible features, which are more often found on expensive banjos ranging from a few thousand and beyond. This is a great banjo for a reasonable price.

Company: Gold Tone Music Group

Folk musicians, Wayne and Robyn Rogers were active in the 1970s years before starting their own music center in 1978. They began Gold Tone Banjos, which became Gold Tone Music Group in 1993. It’s still located in Florida where the company was first incorporated. The company’s first banjo was the TB-100, which was called the Traveler. It was sold by mail order in those days. With some great reviews, the demand for the banjo grew and allowed them to expand their offerings of stringed instruments.

The company creates many fretted instruments with strings of varying numbers from 4-string to 6-string instruments. They believe in providing quality products for less than you’d expect. They want to provide an instrument for every musician. If you want a banjo, guitar, or mandolin, there’s a price range and an instrument for you.

Required Setup

Most stringed instruments have to be sent with their parts loosened. Unfortunately, shipping can take a toll on the instrument itself, so reputable companies don’t want to send you a banjo that will be broken upon arrival.

When you receive your instrument, you’ll need to make your own adjustments. If you’re an experienced player, you’ll know exactly how to adjust the instrument out of the box. It can be confusing for new players, though. They’ll assume that the instrument has been damaged or sent without being fixed.

The Gold Tone Group completely sets up their banjos with a detailed 12-point inspection, but they leave it loosened to ensure that their hard work isn’t destroyed during the shipping process.

Instrument Materials and Details

The tone ring is a replica of the popular White Ladye model with a scalloped tone ring made of three pieces of brass. It encompasses the 11-inch Remo Renaissance head.

The wood of the banjo is a warm Rosewood fingerboard with a maple neck and a ½ inch maple rim.

The banjo doesn’t come with any accessories, so you’ll need to worry about a gig bag if you plan to bring this out with you. The measurements can help you purchase a bag since one isn’t included. The banjo is 44 inches by 3 inches by 12 inches. With the long neck, you’re not going to be able to use another instrument’s bag. You could buy the gig bag that Gold Tone recommends, which is the HPBLNO or purchase one yourself based on the measurements provided. If you want a hard case, they recommend their model HD14LN.

Resonator or Open Back

The resonator or open back is a choice you’ll have to make based on the style and tone of the music you’d like to play. A banjo with resonator will bring a twang and loudness that won’t be audible with the open-back models.

The Gold Tone MM-150 doesn’t have a resonator. The open back produces a warm sound that is warm and rich without being overpowering and twangy. It’s a great instrument for folk music or other music where you want to accompany it with singing. This instrument won’t overpower your singing. We’ve included a video from the company that highlights the beautiful tone of the instrument.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the banjo tuned?
The strings are .012, .026w, .018, .016, .012, which gives it an EBEG#B sound.

What’s the shipping weight?
The banjo will be 15.4 pounds when delivered because of the packaging, but the instrument itself only weighs 7 pounds.

Conclusion

This review of the Gold Tone Maple Mountain Open-Back Long-Neck Banjo covers the reasons that we believe this banjo is a great instrument for the price. You could spend thousands on the same style and type of instrument from another company. This one rivals those more expensive options at a fraction of the price.

Gold Tone WL-250LN 5-String Long-Neck Banjo

The Gold Tone WL-250LN 5-String Long-Neck Banjo is a great instrument for those who want something that’s more traditional but unique at the same time. The long-neck banjo was brought into the spotlight by Pete Seeger who was an icon in the height of the folk music days. You’ll be able to learn his songs on an instrument that looks much like the one he used for his famous songs.

Feature Pick

Gold Tone Wl-250Ln 5-String Long Neck Banjo W/Gig Bag

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Specifications

  • Maple neck
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Bone nuts
  • Maple bridge
  • Lightweight
  • Renaissance head
  • Maple rim
  • White Ladye tone ring

First Impressions

This is a lovely banjo that has a vintage feel. When you’re a fan of old-time and folk music, you’ll want a banjo that looks like it came from the same era of music. It has a plunky tone but one that is focused. One of the best ways to get this kind of sound is by maximizing the air chamber in the back of the banjo. This is done using a replica of the White Ladye tone ring for this banjo with a ½ inch rim made of maple.

It has an extra long neck with a Fairbanks-style headstock shape. Along the ebony fretboard, there’s an inlay of beautiful clouds. With the distinctive tuners, these details make this banjo really stand out among its competitors.

Company: Gold Tone Music Group

Gold Tone is a company that’s been around since the early 90s. It was started by Wayne and Robyn Rogers who are folk musicians in the 70s. They opened a music center before founding the Gold Tone Music Group. The couple wanted to provide musicians with a quality banjo for folk music.

The company started with the Traveler and saw wonderful success after a review of the instrument in a banjo newsletter. They’ve expanded their offerings to four-string, five-string, and six-string banjos as well as mandolin banjos and steel guitars. The Gold Tone Long Neck White Laydie 250 is one of their most popular banjos featuring an open back.

Required Setup

Every stringed instrument that comes in the mail will need to be adjusted to play properly. The company will normally leave the entire instrument loose to avoid it breaking during shipping. You’ll need to bring this to a musician or learn to tune it and tighten the instrument yourself.

Instrument Materials and Details

The bulk of this instrument’s body is created using maple. This is a tone wood that creates a great resonating tone in the instrument. Instead of deadening the sound, it rings true through the entire instrument. There’s a ½ inch maple rim surrounding the head. The headstock and extra-long neck are made with maple, too. The fretboard itself is made with ebony as is the bridge that you’ll need to install when you get the instrument.

The brackets are chrome plated like the 24 that surround the rim. The nuts are bone and measure 1 – 3/16.” The Vega-style armrest is chrome plated, too.

The scale length is 32 inches with 22 frets. The pot is 11” with a Remo Renaissance head as well as dual truss rods for solid adjustments that might need to be made to the instrument. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means, the person who does your instrument adjustments can tell you that that is a good option to have for your instrument.

Resonator or Open Back

The warm tone of the instrument comes from its lack of resonator on the back. The open-back banjo is light and sounds incredible. We’ve included a video of the sound and tone of the instrument for your enjoyment. You’ll be able to tell if this is a sound you want to have in your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the tuning of the instrument?
The strings are .012, .026w, .018, .016, .012, which gives a tuning of EBEG#B to the banjo.

Does the banjo come with accessories?
The banjo comes with a gig bag that will keep the banjo snug and secure if you decide to play the banjo outside your own home.

What’s the shipping weight?
The instrument weighs 7 pounds, which is lightweight for the size of the instrument. The shipping weight is twice that because of the shipping box as well as the gig bag that’s included.

Conclusion

The Gold Tone WL-250LN 5-String Long-Neck Banjo is an incredible instrument that is made from quality materials by a company that cares about the production of instruments. They were musicians themselves, so they understand the value of a great instrument. Whether you’re playing as an amateur or make your living as a musician, you’ll be able to appreciate all the work that went into making this banjo.

Deering Goodtime Americana Banjo 12 In. Rim Review

The Deering Goodtime Americana Banjo has a grand 12 inch rim and a beautiful Renaissance head. These combine to give the instrument an incredible bass response with a warm tone. From the peghead with the Americana name all the way down to the blonde rim, this banjo will look great while you’re learning to play or when you’re standing in front of an audience.

Feature Pick

Deering Goodtime Americana Banjo 12 In Rim

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Specifications

  • Grand 12” rim
  • Renaissance head
  • Rock maple neck
  • Hardwood bow-tie inlay
  • Nickel-plated hardware
  • Geared fifth string
  • Long-neck 22 frets

First Impressions

This is a stunning instrument that has a great sound. This is actually an upgraded model with a grand 12” rim and Renaissance head. We’ve included a video from the manufacturer, so you can hear how much warmer the tone is with the new, improved banjo.

The Goodtime Americana is a long-neck banjo that has been around for years, but the current new model has a warmer sound. It’s made of natural woods with quality construction from a company that cares about its customers. They only create a certain amount every year because they take the time to make quality instruments that are good enough for their customers.

The Americana has the Deering fiddle-shaped peghead with the name engraved on it in beautiful script. We love the fine details and satin finish of this instrument. When you’re purchasing accessories for your banjo playing, make sure you buy a stand to display your banjo when you’re not plucking those strings.

Deering Company

The Deering Banjo company has been around for over 40 years. They’re the company that actually made Pete Seeger’s long-neck banjo back in the day. He’s the one that made the Deering Vega incredibly popular. They have been creating banjos that customers love for generations.

The company creates banjos with artisans who have a total of 271 years of experience. They provide some of the best banjos in the world. They are a family-run business that cares about the quality of the products they produce. They back those products up with great customer service and warranties for their instruments.

Required Setup

The banjos delivered to customers are left loose to ensure that they are not destroyed during delivery. When you buy a banjo from any company, you can be assured that it’ll come with loose strings and a bridge that needs to be placed. It’s always best to expect that you’ll have to make adjustments yourself or bring it to a professional who can perform those tasks for you.

The strings will need to be tightened and tuned to get the warm sound that the Americana can produce. There are markings on the bridge where you’ll want to place it under the strings, but in some cases, the markings might not be accurate. The professional will be able to accurately insert the bridge where it’ll produce the best sound. All the bolts and brackets should be tightened, too.

Instrument Materials

The rim is made of blonde violin-grade maple while the neck is a slender rock maple. The bridge is maple as well with an ebony top. This gives the entire banjo a lovely light appearance. The blonde material looks great with the dark, hardwood bow-tie inlay along the fret and the nickel-plated hardware.

Resonator or Open Back

The warm sound of the banjo is further enhanced by the open-back design. A resonator works to give a sound with more twang, which is great for certain kinds of music. Other styles need a warmer tone with less twang and resonance. You’ll love the warmth of the tone created with the open back on this Deering Goodtime Americana. If you haven’t, make sure you listen and watch the company’s video that we linked above. You can hear the beautiful tone of the instrument for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does the banjo weigh?
This isn’t one of the most lightweight options for a banjo. It weighs approximately 11 pounds. It’s shipping weight is 11.35 pounds.

Does it come with any accessories?
This doesn’t come with accessories. You’ll have to measure the length and width of the instrument to find the right case for it.

Does the banjo come with a warranty?
The company provides for a 6-year warranty. You can contact their responsive customer service to report any problems.

Conclusion

From the beautiful fiddle-shaped peghead to the lovely blonde finish and the grand rim, this instrument is a true representation of the Deering quality of instruments. It’s a long-neck five-string banjo that looks as good as it sounds. We recommend this instrument for those who want to play something a bit different than the same old five-string that other musicians have played. You’ll catch the interest of everyone in your band as well as the audience.

Gold Tone Maple Mountain MM-150LN 5-String Long Neck Banjo Review

The Gold Tone Maple Mountain MM-150LN is a stunning instrument that doesn’t look like other banjos on the market. First, it’s a long-neck instrument that has more frets than a traditional one. This will change the sound of the banjo as well as how it looks and plays. If you’re looking for a different kind of banjo than one you’re already playing, you should try this banjo. The long-neck banjo was played by a folk legend, and while not as popular as other types, it’s a fantastic instrument for adventurous players.

Feature Pick

Gold Tone Maple Mountain Mm-150Ln 5-String Long Neck Banjo

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Specifications

  • Maple neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Planetary tuners
  • 11 Renaissance head
  • Maple bridge with ebony
  • Vegas-style armrest
  • Gig bag included

First Impressions

The long-neck banjo was one that was first brought to the public’s attention when Pete Seeger used one in many of his iconic songs. It became his trademark after he created his own long-neck style. Since that time, other musicians jumped on the bandwagon of interesting long-neck options. Many companies are providing long-neck options for their more adventurous banjo players who want a different sound.

The Gold Tone Maple Mountain Banjo is a versatile instrument that has a scale length of 25 frets compared to the standard 22 fret G tuning banjo. The 25 fret gives this instrument an E tuning. When an E is played on a traditional banjo with a shorter neck, it’s not giving players the low notes they want from the E chord. Along with the tone, the banjo itself is incredibly interesting looking. Long-neck banjo players will have other musicians asking them about how to play. The audience will be fascinated with the instrument, too.

Gold Tone Music Group

The Gold Tone Music Group always tries to give customers the best instrument for their money. The company was started by Wayne and Robyn Rogers who were folk musicians in the 70s. They started a music center in the late 70s, and founded Gold Tone Banjos in 1993 before it became known as Gold Tone Group. They began selling their first instrument, the “Traveler” by mail order. They received rave reviews and began making more banjos before branching out into other banjos like the 4-string as well as guitars and mandolins. The Maple Mountain was Gold Tone’s first open-back, long-neck banjo option.

Required Setup

Every single instrument that is shipped to a customer’s home has to be shipped in a way that it doesn’t get damaged in transit. This leaves the instrument in need of work when it arrives. The bridge will need to be placed, the strings tightened and tuned as well as some parts needing to be tightened. This doesn’t mean that the manufacturer was sloppy with packing. It means they care about the instrument and don’t want to see it ruined during shipping.

If you don’t know how to fix the instrument when you receive it, you can bring it to your local music shop. Professionals there are trained in setting up instruments and tuning them properly. They can certainly give you a lesson if that’s a service they offer.

Instrument Materials

The long neck of the banjo is made of maple, which is a great tone wood that helps the sound of the instrument. The 5/8” bridge is also made of maple, but it has a cap of ebony on the top. The fingerboard is traditionally made of rosewood and that’s the case with the Gold Tone Maple Mountain banjo. The fingerboard inlay is in the shape of snowflakes to give this instrument fine details that really make the look and feel of the banjo incredible.

Resonator or Open Back

This is an open-back banjo. Having a resonator or an open back will influence the tone and volume of the instrument. This one has a beautiful tone that doesn’t have the loud twang of the resonator banjo. We’ve included a video from the manufacturer, so you can hear the wonderful tone for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does the banjo weigh?
This banjo weighs 7 pounds. It can easily be taken with you anywhere you’d like to show off the instrument as well as your playing.

Does it come with any extras?
This instrument comes with its own custom gig bag. As a long-neck instrument, it would be difficult to use bags you might already have. It saves time and money to have the instrument come with its own bag.

What assurances does the company provide?
The company provides a limited warranty for their instruments, free railroad spikes, a free starter pack with tuner and DVD, and free support for customers. They definitely care about customer satisfaction.

The Gold Tone Maple Mountain is a beautiful instrument for beginners and advanced players alike. It’s a banjo that you’d expect to pay thousands for when purchasing new, but it’s reasonably priced and an absolutely stunning instrument.

We Review the Best Banjoleles for Players

The best banjoleles for players will be ones that are easy to play and don’t require extensive knowledge to begin.

Once the banjolele is tuned and tightened, the player will be able to get a rich, warm sound from the instrument.

We’ve chosen some of the best banjoleles for our list. These are some of the best looking and best sounding instruments on the market.

Luna Ulu Concert Banjolele

This is a beautiful banjolele that was inspired by the plants of Hawaii.

The ukulele originated from the islands, and the Luna company used laser etching to create a design on the banjo that reflects the artwork of the people.

The banjolele has a see-through head so that the etchings are visible as the musician is playing the instrument.

Features & Specifications

  • Maple body
  • Chrome hardware
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Tobacco finish

In our review, we included a video made by the company to test out the instrument.

You’ll love the way this sounds more than you’ll like the look of it. Instead of leaving it on the wall as purely decorative, this instrument will be one you can’t stop playing.

Read our full review of the Luna Ulu Concert Banjolele


Gold Tone Banjolele

This is a lovely instrument that is the perfect size for children or those who want a lightweight, compact instrument to take with them on trips or to a friend’s house to jam.

The banjolele is a great hybrid instrument that has a twang that makes it great for playing in bands. You won’t have to compete to be heard with this instrument.

That’s mostly because it has a resonator that transmits sound.

Features & Specifications

  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Curly maple headstock
  • No knot tailpiece
  • Compact and lightweight

The Gold Tone Company has been making instruments for musicians for years. They have a reputation as a good company with quality products.

This lightweight, portable instrument is just the right size for traveling – whether it’s to your music teacher for lessons or to a friend’s house for band practice.

Read our full review of the Gold Tone Banjolele


Kmise 4-String Banjolele

This is a compact banjolele that measures 23.03 inches and has an 8 inch drum. The small profile of the instrument doesn’t impact the sound of the banjolele at all. You’ll get a full, rich sound that can compete with any other instrument in your band.

Features & Specifications

  • Remo head
  • Sapele mahogany
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Included tuner and bag

One of the best things about this banjolele, aside from the great materials and incredible sound, is that it comes with a tuner as well as a bag.

You can learn to tune the banjolele yourself without having to resort to taking it to a professional. Although, you might want to do that if you’ve never tuned an instrument before.

The person will likely be glad to teach you how to tune it yourself.

Read our full review of the Kmise 4-String Banjolele


TFW Banjolele

This instrument has a resonator, which gives it a distinctive twang that you’d hear with many banjos, but it sounds more like a uke.

With the beautiful woods, this instrument has a rich, dark color and has an incredible tone to it.

From mahogany to rosewood, this instrument has some of the best woods available.

Features & Specifications

  • Rosewood bridge and fretboard
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Total length 24 inches
  • Remo head

This lightweight instrument weighs less than 4 pounds even with the resonator. You can carry it anywhere you like without feeling as if your arm will break.

The floating bridge and some other parts of the banjolele have to be adjusted after you receive the instrument, but it’s a banjolele made by a company that cares about quality. 

Read our full review of the TFW Banjolele


Kala KA-BJN-BKC Concert Banjo Ukulele

If you want an instrument that brings you back to a time where people played banjos on their porch or entertained each other in their parlor after dinner, this is the banjolele you want to purchase.

It looks like it came from someone’s great-grandfather. It has a nostalgic feel as well as being a rich, strong instrument when it comes to tone.

Features & Specifications

  • Concert length
  • Antique brass hardware
  • Black finish
  • Old-timey head
  • Includes bag

When choosing a banjolele, you’ll have to decide if you want one that sounds more like a banjo or one that leans towards the ukulele sound.

While this one is more uke, you can also change the strings to get the sound you most desire.

Read our full review of the Kala Concert Banjo Ukulele


Conclusion

These are the best banjoleles for players whether they’re just starting out on an instrument or if they’ve been playing for a while.

The smaller profile of the banjolele means that you could introduce your child to an instrument that they won’t struggle to hold in their small hands.

Beginners and experienced players will be satisfied with any banjolele on this list if you’re purchasing this as a gift. They won’t be disappointed.

Kala KA-BJN-BKC Concert Banjo Ukulele Review

This is a banjolele that feels like it was created back in the early days of the banjo when animal skin was used on the head. The finishes are antiqued and really quite rich and warm.

The Remo Weatherking banjo head recreates the charm of old-time banjos.

Feature Pick

Kala Ka-Bjn-Bkc Concert Banjo Ukulele

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Specifications

  • Old-timey head
  • 8” hoop diameter
  • Black finish
  • Concert length
  • Antique brass hardware
  • Bag included

First Impressions

This banjolele is an easy to play banjo and ukulele hybrid. If you play a banjo or uke and want to add another instrument to your musical repertoire, this is a great banjolele to try.

It sounds incredible and looks even better. Customers have nothing but great things to report about the Kala Concert Banjolele. They love the tone as well as the appearance of the instrument.

When players describe the tone, it’s always with words like warm and rich. You’ll end up with a instrument that sounds more like the uke than the banjo. Most banjoleles fall on the spectrum of sound leaning towards the banjo or the ukulele, and this one really sounds more uke.

If you don’t like the sound right away, you can also fiddle with the strings, bridge and tightening the head a little. All those tweaks will bring about a sound that fits your needs.

Required Setup

Every instrument that is shipped to a person’s home has to be tightened or tweaked in some way. The bridge will be loose or out of the instrument completely. The strings won’t be tightened. The head might need adjustments.

Overall, the banjolele you receive will need work. Don’t judge the sound until you’ve tweaked it yourself or had a professional musician make those adjustments for you.

Once the instrument is tightened and tuned, you’ll hear the sounds and tones as they were meant to be heard. It’s a little unfair to judge the instrument directly out of the box.

Customers who understand the process have had amazing things to say about this instrument. We believe it’s a great choice for those who are new to the banjolele, but make sure you’re able to tune the instrument or bring it to a professional.

Instrument Materials

The back and sides of the instrument are made of a hard maple ply. The bridge is maple as well, but it has an ebony cap on it. The neck is hard maple and the fingerboard is rosewood.

Layered over all the wood is a lovely, black satin finish. The hardware is antiqued brass and the tuners are covered with black buttons. The Remo Weatherking head looks like stretched animal skin even though it’s a modern material that won’t have you feeling bad for tiny animals.

Overall, the materials and look gives the entire banjolele an old-timey feel. This is an instrument you’ll want to stick on the wall to admire when you’re not playing it.

Here is a selection of popular banjoleles that we recommend to anyone looking to take up the hobby!

Resonator or Open Back

Feature Picks

Kala Ka-Bjn-Bkc Concert Banjo Ukulele

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Gold Tone Little Gem Ukes 4-String Ukulele Right, Blue Lg-S

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Tfw Banjolele Starter Kit – With Case And Accessories

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Luna 8″ Banjolele With Ulu Design, Tobacco Burst

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Most banjoleles are small concert-sized ones with a short scale length. This makes them small and portable. They’re usually pretty lightweight, too.

That’s true even when there’s a resonator on the back of the instrument. The resonator is what adds weight to the instrument, but it’s the reason that the banjolele is able to make itself known in a group of people playing instruments.

The resonator can also be removed from this banjolele. There’s hardware holding the resonator to the back of the banjolele, so you can have the hardware loosened to remove the back.

If you’re uncomfortable with that process, there are plenty of music shops where you can have work done.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can this be restrung to be left handed?
There’s no reason why instruments can’t be restrung to be used by either hand. It requires some work in the beginning, so it’s not something that can be done all the time, but you can certainly restring it once to fit your needs.

Does the instrument come with a case?
It comes with a gig case that can be used to carry the instrument. It’s a soft case, so if you want a hardshell one, you’ll have to order separately.

How many frets and what’s the scale length of this instrument?
It’s 14.75 inches and is 19 frets long.

Conclusion

The Kala KA-BJN-BKC Concert Banjo Ukulele is an instrument that looks like an old-time banjolele that would have been played by your great-grandfather or his father.

While you might not have had an instrument passed down in your family, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this instrument and imagine that it was played by members of your own family generations ago.

It’s a beautiful-looking instrument with an incredible tone and sound.

Luna Ulu Concert Banjolele Review

The banjolele comes from a company that believes instruments should be inspiring to their players as well as providing a great sound.

Feature Pick

Luna 8″ Banjolele With Ulu Design, Tobacco Burst

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Specifications

  • Maple body
  • Chrome hardware
  • Clear head
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Sealed tuners
  • Tobacco burst finish

First Impressions

We might have saved the best looking banjolele for last with this beauty. The Luna Ulu Concert Banjolele has an open drum head that allows you to see the beautiful etchings on the back of the resonator.

It was inspired by the traditional design seen on many Hawaiian quilts. When the ukulele was introduced to the people of Hawaii, it was around the same time as missionaries had brought fabrics and steel needles to the islands.

For this banjo, the Luna company was influenced by the taro plant, which is also called the KALO. The people of Hawaii were taught how to make patchwork quilts, but they branched out to make beautiful quilts with their own unique twist.

They would fold fabric like people fold paper to make snowflakes. This design is what you’ll see on the inside of the Luna Ulu instrument.

Luna Company

The people behind the company started the business with the idea that the instruments should be a reflection of the musician playing them. The company was co-founded by an artist named Yvonne de Villiers.

Her acclaim as a stained glass artist helped her visualize a company that would create instruments like banjos and guitars that had delicate inlays or designs that reflected nature.

There are often laser cuts on the instruments. The makers of the guitars, banjos and ukuleles are artists or inspired by artists.

Here is a selection of popular banjoleles that we recommend to anyone looking to take up the hobby!

Required Setup

Every stringed instrument that leaves a manufacturer will leave with loose strings and a bridge that isn’t attached. If the banjolele was packed with all its pieces tightened, the result on the other side of the transaction would be a broken mess.

Feature Picks

Luna 8″ Banjolele With Ulu Design, Tobacco Burst

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Gold Tone Little Gem Ukes 4-String Ukulele Right, Blue Lg-S

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Tfw Banjolele Starter Kit – With Case And Accessories

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When you receive your banjolele, it’s highly likely that you’ll have to tune the strings and place the bridge.

If you’re not comfortable making these adjustments yourself, you can bring the banjolele to a professional who can do that for you.

Plus, you’ll want to show off this beauty to everyone even if you don’t know how to play yet.

Instrument Materials

The neck and body of this stunning banjolele are made from lovely mahogany. This is a great tone wood for instruments because it really enhances the sound from the strings.

The fretboard is made from walnut and there are pearl dot inlays. While the wood with its Tobacco Burst finish is stunning, it’s the back of the resonator that’s visible through the clear head that makes this little instrument shine.

We should take a moment to talk about the clear head. Usually a banjo head is a material that resembles animal skin because that’s what was used back in the day.

This head is a clear material from Remo Weatherking that allows you to see the design specifically.

We’ve included a video from the Luna company that shows off the distinct sound of the banjo. Even with the clear head, it sounds exactly like a match of banjo and ukulele.

Resonator or Open Back

This banjolele has a mahogany resonator that can be seen through the clear head of the instrument. We love how the design on the resonator doesn’t impact the sound of the banjolele itself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this banjolele have geared or friction tuners?
The chrome tuners are open geared.

What is the tuning of the instrument?
It’s a standard concert ukulele tuning of G-C-E-A. Some customers changed the strings to Aquila concert ones that changed the tuning to C-G-D-A, which can be done by a professional if you like.

Are the strings on this banjolele nylon or steel?
The strings on this instrument are nylon like most ukuleles. It helps to create a loud, banjo-like sound for this banjolele.

The Luna Ulu Concert Banjolele is a great instrument if you’ve been playing the uke or the banjo and want a different sound. It’s a beautiful melding of the two instrument’s sounds.

While you get a lovely sounding instrument, you also get one that’s almost a work of art. The laser etching on the back of the resonator will make this a banjolele you don’t want to hide in a closet or a bag.

Hang this baby on the wall of your living room. When people comment on its beauty, you can pull it down and play for them. They’ll be just as impressed with the sound.