Toward the end of 2015 I decided it was time to get serious and purchase a 'real' banjo. I've been playing since the early 80s on the same aluminum cast iida banjo which has no tone ring or rim at all, so the thought of a 'real' banjo has always been exciting. For the greater portion of 2015 I was toying with the idea of upgrading with a new rig and began seriously researching my options... it didn't take long to come to my decision of purchasing a new Huber banjo. However, as a minister I don't have much coin to throw toward such a purchase and had to be careful. Knowing the quality of Steve's banjos and his passion for the pre-war sound, I began a list of features which were important to me.
As I looked at the Huber line it didn't take long to see the Jim Mills signature model (now called the VRB-75) met all my desired options with price being the only deterrent. (Isn't it always?) In terms of budget, I was slightly above the Workhorse model but it just didn't have the tone set-up I really wanted because I was shooting for Steve's 'True-Tone' sound. However, upon comparison it occurred to me they were pretty similar (other than some of the 'bling' I didn't want anyway) and the True-Tone upgrade might be an option if I could afford to do it.
After a couple email volleys to the folks at Huber I realized, the man responding to my emails is Steve Huber himself. (Holy cow!) Steve was very patient and gracious in answering all my questions about options, set-up, cost and timeline so I decided to go the whole measure and ordered my custom upgraded Workhorse. In February 2016 I received my shipping notice and in a couple days my Huber banjo arrived. My wife laughed at me while I unboxed the case which contained my new treasure. Truly, I was moved to tears when I saw it for the first time. In my opinion, it is a stunning work of art. The quality of workmanship is beyond what I hoped for in my price point and Steve really cut no corners. The rim and ring he puts as 'standard' in the Workhorse would have been a huge upgrade over my old rig but I am so thankful for choosing to have this rig upgraded to True-Tone.
As I type this blog post it is nearing the end of May 2016 and I have played this rig each day since delivery and am more in love with it now than the day I first received it. Over the years I have heard fellow pickers talk about the tone of the pre-war banjos and how you can 'feel the note' as a player. Having never been fortunate enough to play a pre-war, although I have played some nice rigs, this is the first banjo I have ever played where I can say I understand what these guys were saying all these years. No doubt, I could have spent a whole lot more money on a fancier rig, but I will put my rig up against any other in terms of tone and playability. Out of the box, this thing is a beast.
If you are considering a purchase, especially if you are looking to upgrade, I can offer nothing but praise for the good folks at Huber based on my experience. If you, like me, are 'cost sensitive', I'd encourage you to consider the Workhorse as a viable option. Granted, I did not get the standard Huber 844 brass alloy tone ring and Sims vintage rim because I upgraded mine to the True-Tone package so, I cannot comment on the standard ring & rim. However, the Workhorse with the Huber True-Tone HR-30 ring and Engineered Rim is well worth the money for upgrade in my book and I have no regrets. In fact, if I had an unlimited budget and were ordering again, I would go the same route with the only change being the addition of D-tuners. (I should have had them installed in the build and just cheaped out, so now I will add them at another point.)
Just my '2-cents' so, take it for what it's worth.
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Playing Since: 1980
Experience Level: Purty Good
Doyle Lawson, JD Crowe, Earl, The Good Doctor... Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Ron Block, Jim Mills, Steve Huber, Steven Curtis Chapman, Hank Williams, Ron Stewart, Noam Pikelny, Doug Dillard, Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Dailey & Vincent, Sammy Shelor, Charlie Cushman, Chet Atkins, my Dad and many more.
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Husband, Father, Grand-father and Minister in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky. I have loved bluegrass music in general, and Banjo specifically, since a young boy. Growing up in a music loving family I chose to learn banjo and began taking lessons on a used iida 5-string banjo my parents bought for me when I was around 13. After an extended period of playing strictly the acoustic guitar, I revisited my first love not so long ago and haven't looked back.
'20's Tenor Banjo' 10 min
'Gibson Serial Number' 24 min
'Little Black Train' 48 min
'Merlin banjo parts' 4 hrs
'Our Town in the Ozarks' 5 hrs