I don't know about anyone else, but it is a constant source of amusement for me to read new classified ads that fall back on little catch phrases that really have little basis in reality. My most recent amusement is the mentioning of a "Crowe" tone ring. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past several years, you should know by now that the "Crowe" tone ring is simply a Sullivan flathead ring. They are and have always been a great ring. And they are one of the most affordable rings out there. I have to say that this bit of marketing muckery is right up there with the phrase "Rich era" that some people use when describing pre-94 Gibsons. Oh, and did you hear that the king has new clothes?
... catch phrases that really have little basis in reality. My most recent amusement is the mentioning of a "Crowe" tone ring. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past several years, you should know by now that the "Crowe" tone ring is simply a Sullivan flathead ring.
Well, Gibson really did make a Crowe model banjo and it really did have a tone ring, so there really is such a thing as Crowe tone ring.
Is that tone ring worth a premium of $200, $250 or even more above the $200 Sullivan SUL-1 ring that it really is simply because it has the Gibson USA stamp and was once inside a Gibson banjo?
Only the person who really wants one can decide that.
I certainly don't believe the Gibson USA stamp has any impact on the quality or sound of the Sullivan ring.
I do agree that there is a lot of hype regarding tone rings but I think a Crowe ring is different than a regular SUL-1. My understanding is that the Crowe ring is lighter, likely due to more machining. My Crowe ring weighs 2lb. 15 oz if I remember right. I bought it for a song and figured it will do the job in a TB1 conversion, not because of magic faerie dust.
The Sullivan rings I have had have always weighed 3 pounds, give or take an oz. Eric Sullivan himself stated the they are indeed the same ring, just without the Gibson stamp and number. I think he should know, since he made them both. Gibson used the Sullivan ring at other times as well, but they were marked differently, so I've read. It was when Kulesh had trouble keeping up with demand.
But when all is said and done, I still believe the neck and rim wood have a much bigger impact on the voice of a banjo. If you have good wood, new or old, any decent tone ring will work just fine.