Yeah, for while, the Dean Backwoods was the 'budget' alternative to a Deering. But Dean's a guitar company, a long way removed from its Dean Zalinsky originals. Gold Tone's stuff is import-made, of course. But they are known for their banjos as quite decent. Dean? Not.
A mark of Gold Tone's quality is their alliance with Paul Beard on an import line of resonators, and the license to make Weissenborn reissues. Neither of those would happen if they were a crappy outfit. They're carried out here by a few bigger, yet indy, dealers, the closest to me being Buffalo Bros, pretty close to the Taylor HQ, actually. About 2 hours away, and that's where I tried them out.
Do you play any guitar Open G tuning? If so, you might think about going 'straight' banjo. My problem is the disciplined fingerpicking and right hand a banjo needs. Real Fingerpicking has never been my thing. So I took up banjo to back into it, applying my familiarity with Open G from the guitar.