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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

6991 reviews in the archive.

Tone Rings: Huber HR-30 Tone Ring

Submitted by Chris Quinn on 5/31/2010

Where Purchased: Huber Banjos

Overall Comments

Those who know me at all, know that I am not a big tinkerer when it comes to banjos. I have set-up many, many banjos for my students, but I don't do much with my own banjos. I set them up, play them, and don't look back. Unless something is simply wrong with a banjo, I don't believe in switching parts often because I am firm believer in developing a playing relationship with a banjo ahead of looking to parts to solve my tonal needs.

Last Wednesday, my 1934 Gibson rim came home fitted with a new Huber HR-30 ring sitting atop. I put this, my main banjo for the last 20 years, back together, got the head to G# (higher than before at around F#), and got it all back to playable status.

Just so folks know the overall set-up, it is a 1934 Gibson KK-10 serial #9822, an older maple and ebony re-production neck, Presto tailpiece, Huber bridge, D'Addario lights.

I have done four shows since last week and the banjo has never sounded better! I would not call it a "night and day" change, but the banjo sounds better in every way. Until now, I had never had the head as tight as G# because I had never found that I could get that deep 4th string with that head tension. I had favored the deep, open 4th string over the sparkle on the 1st and 2nd strings up the neck. What I ended up with was a limited voice for the mid and upper ranges of the banjo. Now, I have both the deep 4th and the clear, cracking 1st and 2nd up and down the neck.

Among the more noticeable things that have changed; I have found that, although I have never been a particularly hard picker, I can play even more lightly and still get plenty of volume and tone. On those hardcore bluegrass numbers, I have not had any issues if I do dig in for volume; I have not hit the ceiling or had the notes break-up. The notes up the neck have a clarity and separation from one another that I have not had before. At 150 BPM, the notes are distinct and the decay of the notes is quick enough to enjoy great separation. In this regard, my banjo has actually become easier to play.

Over the last several days, I can hear that my banjo is settling in with the new set-up and ring and I am getting used to the change. I expect that it will continue to settle for at least another month or more. Arthur Hatfield and I have talked about the re-assembly of banjos and I agree with him that it takes longer than one might expect for a banjo to "recover" from being re-assembled; even if no new parts are introduced to the equation.

During the process of fitting my old rim to the new ring, my conversations with Steve Huber were quite involved and he was very professional and thorough all the while. I have known Steve for a few years now and I have always found his commitment to his products to be admirable.

Lastly, I don't want anyone to think that I am trying to sell people on this new ring. I am merely relating my experience. I don't think that this, or really any, new tone ring is going to benefit everyone. If a person has limited skill on the banjo, is not yet capable of controlling their current sound and tone on the banjo, or has not yet learned the range of their current banjo's sound; tossing a new ring into the banjo may not be the solution. I personally feel that spending this much money on a ring is not a great idea unless you have already explored the sound of your current set-up very thoroughly; and for me, that takes years. To mixed reaction, I have said this before; if you can't play Cripple Creek, a tone ring is a paperweight. That said, if you can relate to much of what I have experienced since I began trying the HR-30, I imagine you might enjoy the sound of it too.

Best wishes,

Overall Rating: 9

Frank Neat: Neat Kentucky

Submitted by Chris Quinn on 9/27/2004

Where Purchased: Russell Springs, Kentucky

Year Purchased: 2003
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Fantastic sound! Deep, full fourth string. Clean, clear notes up and down the neck. Rich tone. Many people have said it sounds like an old RB-3 or RB-75.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up was perfect when it came out of the shop.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Inlay looks like what you'd find on the J.D. Crowe RB-75 model, except it says Neat on the headstock. Inlays beautifully cut and placed. High quality mahogany neck, Brazilian rosewood fingerboard. Zero flaws in workmanship! This is not a flashy looking banjo, but still very elegant and clean in appearance.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Absolutely reliable banjo. I've used it on stage and in the studio and I have had great results every time.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Frank and his son are terrific! These guys know banjos! No sales pressure. Frank knows his banjos speak for themselves.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Mahogany neck, Brazilian rosewood fingerboard. Pot components are identical to my Bean Blossom (also reviewed here.)

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is another superb banjo from Frank Neat. It sounds quite different than my Bean Blossom. Not better; just different. I have played banjos that were much more expensive which sounded like mud compared to this thing. As I continue to play this banjo, I expect it will open up even more. Highly recommended!

Overall Rating: 10

Frank Neat: Bean Blossom 72003-15

Submitted by Chris Quinn on 8/21/2003

Where Purchased: Frank Neat Banjo Repair, Russel Springs, Kentucky

Year Purchased: 2003
Price Paid: historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

It's a fantastic banjo! Great, deep fourth string. All the strings note clearly and evenly all over the neck. No dead spots. Volume is of no question! The tone is as close to pre-war Gibson as could be desired.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup is exactly what I requested from Frank. The neck fits the pot flawlessly. The action is moderate. Head tension seems just right. 11/16" Crowe-spaced bridge. This is the first brand new banjo I have ever picked up that didn't need any set up work.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The walnut in the neck comes from a tree that stood beside the stage at Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom festival. Frank's making a series of 24 Bean Blossom's from that tree. David Talbot has Bean Blossom #5 and mine is #15. The banjo has a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard, Jimmy Cox maple rim, mahogany resonator with 2 concentric circles (looks like an RB-3). The wood is stained a deep reddish brown. The three stained woods are matched perfectly. The headstock has a Gibson style double cutaway.
The neck inlay was designed by Gibson during the 1930's, but never used! A fern decorates the headstock and the tip of the fern arcs around the second string peg. Neat is elegantly written across the end of the peghead. There is a Bean Blossom block inlay at the 21st fret. This is a beautiful banjo! To see a few photos of this banjo, go to www.foggyhogtownboys.com and look in the gallery section.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo is top quality and I would not hesitate to use this without a spare banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Frank is a gentleman and a craftsman. He knows banjos!! Sonny Osborne, Ralph Stanley, J.D. Crowe, Earl Scruggs and many other top pros have banjos and necks built by Frank. There is a reason. He's the best.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Blaylock tone ring, Presto tailpiece, Keith D tuners on second and third strings and Keith tuners on first and fourth. Jimmy Cox says the flange metal is made of space age metal and is much stronger than pot metal. Good thing 'cause mylar heads are pretty tough on the old flanges. Everything on this banjo is first rate.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Pre-war flatheads are increasingly out of reach, but Frank has the sound captured and available. If my Neat banjo were stolen, I'd be on the phone to Frank the next day.

Overall Rating: 10

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