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Gibson rb800 vs stelling sunflower

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Sep 23, 2019 - 12:26:04 PM
10 posts since 9/23/2019

Ive heard a lot of bad press about gibson rb800 mine is a 1970_71 model and it looks like a 5 ply rim compareing it to my 2016 stelling sunflower there doesnt seem to be much in it sound wise and they are both very playable the rb800 weighs in at 11lb the stelling at 11lb 6 there are a shortage of good banjos here in the uk ive also owned a gibson ess 1991 and a stelling 1984 both nice the rb800 has a fiddle headstock wreath inlay and a 2 piece flange made in usa on the head stock. Has anyone had a good rb800 cos this one seems ok thanx karlo

Sep 23, 2019 - 2:44:52 PM

505 posts since 5/19/2018

no Reason to give a RB800 bad press.

They may not be the best Gibson made. They may have lousy gold plating. They may also look somewhat odd to some, but when set up correctly, they can stand up against any other Gibson out there.

I really love the Fire Engine Red and Yellow ones.

Sep 23, 2019 - 2:53:31 PM

Karlp

UK

10 posts since 9/23/2019

Hey a guy who thinks like me i love rb800s they play n mine also sounds amazing thanx karl

Sep 23, 2019 - 2:58:58 PM
Players Union Member

heavy5

USA

955 posts since 11/3/2016

I have a good one & enjoy it !

Sep 23, 2019 - 5:42:47 PM
likes this
Players Union Member

KCJones

USA

490 posts since 8/30/2012

I've never played an RB-800 but I'm lucky to have access to Elderly and Spruce Tree so I've test driven a lot of Gibsons from 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s and honestly they all sounded great. Every one of them sounded great. That's just from test playing them while looking to buy, not long-term ownership. I can't speak to their build quality or to the issues I've heard about splitting rims or bad plating, just the sound.

If you listen to a lot of folks on this forum you'd think a 70s Gibson is a terrible banjo and not worth purchasing but I've never heard a Gibson that sounded bad. Of course I've only played maybe 15-20 Gibsons in my life, so what do I know honestly. But I've never heard a bad one. You'd also think that a "Greg Rich" Gibson sounds like angels singing but I've played a couple of them and they sound great, yes, but not much different than the other Gibsons to be honest.

Same with "non-Tony Pass" Stellings, the way people talk about them around here you'd think they don't sound all that great, but I played my 84 Sunflower next to a 2002 Sunflower, in the same room at the same time back and forth for a couple hours, and they sounded nearly identical. I think my older rim looks way cooler with the angled edge vs round edge, but that's pretty subjective and looks are looks, not sound. But personally I think the Tony Pass vs non-TP thing is overblown. Maybe I'm biased because I own an older one. (Probably)

Maybe I'm missing something, but that's just my experience as an amateur. Keep in mind that when most people give advice about consumer products, regardless of what they are... banjo, car, cell phone, anything....most people will simply recommend what they chose to go with. So someone with a RB800 is going to say they're the best, someone with a Greg Rich era will say they're the best, etc. etc. That's not to say people are intentionally misleading, it's just that all humans have a tendency to want to recommend their own choices. We all do it. This isn't always the case though and we do have some great honest experts here at BHO that give excellent objective advice, but it's something to be aware of. And realistically, "great sound" is in the ear of the banjo-holder. After a certain point it's all personal preference, and I think if you're talking about Gibsons and Stellings you're not going to find any that don't sound great. I think if online reviews have you doubting the quality of your Gibson or Stelling, the best thing to do is turn off the screen and start picking tunes. Your ears know better than anyone else.

Just my 2 cents as a guy that knows basically nothing. Take everything you read online with a grain of salt, including this comment. Cheers.

Sep 24, 2019 - 4:46:16 AM

134 posts since 5/3/2004

Well put KC.

Sep 24, 2019 - 5:11:33 AM

Karlp

UK

10 posts since 9/23/2019

Thanks i spend too much time listening to other peoples reviews of banjos really both the stelling and rb800 play great and sound amazing no rim seperation or plating issues . i should really just be enjoying them instead of dissecting them under a microscope thanx again karl

Sep 24, 2019 - 6:36:02 AM

627 posts since 12/26/2006

For me, an RB800 is not in the same league as a Stelling. Any Stelling. At the end of the day, it is what YOU like that counts.

Enjoy,

Dave

Sep 24, 2019 - 7:12:45 AM

banjoez

USA

2323 posts since 7/18/2007

quote:
Originally posted by KCJones

..............Same with "non-Tony Pass" Stellings, the way people talk about them around here you'd think they don't sound all that great, but I played my 84 Sunflower next to a 2002 Sunflower, in the same room at the same time back and forth for a couple hours, and they sounded nearly identical. I think my older rim looks way cooler with the angled edge vs round edge, but that's pretty subjective and looks are looks, not sound. But personally I think the Tony Pass vs non-TP thing is overblown. Maybe I'm biased because I own an older one. (Probably)

Maybe I'm missing something, but that's just my experience as an amateur. Keep in mind that when most people give advice about consumer products, regardless of what they are... banjo, car, cell phone, anything....most people will simply recommend what they chose to go with. So someone with a RB800 is going to say they're the best, someone with a Greg Rich era will say they're the best, etc. etc. That's not to say people are intentionally misleading, it's just that all humans have a tendency to want to recommend their own choices. We all do it. This isn't always the case though and we do have some great honest experts here at BHO that give excellent objective advice, but it's something to be aware of. And realistically, "great sound" is in the ear of the banjo-holder. After a certain point it's all personal preference, and I think if you're talking about Gibsons and Stellings you're not going to find any that don't sound great. I think if online reviews have you doubting the quality of your Gibson or Stelling, the best thing to do is turn off the screen and start picking tunes. Your ears know better than anyone else.

Just my 2 cents as a guy that knows basically nothing. Take everything you read online with a grain of salt, including this comment. Cheers.


A 2002 Stelling would not have a Tony Pass rim unless it was retrofitted. It would have a 3 Ply Cooperman rim. 

Edited by - banjoez on 09/24/2019 07:23:14

Sep 24, 2019 - 7:35:39 AM

5150 posts since 12/20/2005

I am replacing the head on a 1973 Gibson RB250 for a friend. The current head is split in 2 places. Even with the torn head, this banjo sounds amazing.
Surprised me quite a bit. I've read the 70's Gibson's were not very good.
I'm anxious to see how it sounds after replacing the head, strings and setting it up.

Sep 24, 2019 - 7:57:11 AM

Karlp

UK

10 posts since 9/23/2019

I agree with the comparison stelling 2016 is built better and more attention to detail but playability and sound there is not a lot in it with the stelling and rb800 saying that the stelling is a keeper thanx karl

Sep 24, 2019 - 8:58:02 AM

1240 posts since 2/10/2013

Based on my experiences with Gibson banjos, I would have to say quality was inconsistent. While visiting Elderly Instruments, a customer asked me to demo banjos for him. Eventually we ran out of banjos. The sales clerk asked us to wait a minute. He went into the basement and came back with a dusty case that contained an old RB250. My initial though was that this would be a waste of time. But after I tuned that old stored RB250, it sounded great. I hopefully thought "If the Canadian doesn't buy this, it will be mine". It was the only instrument I decided to buy with out wife's O.K.. Unfortunately, the Canadian bought the banjo. He even tried to talk me into bringing "my banjo" into Canada so he could avoid tariffs.

IMHO, the banjo seems to respond more to "ideal" setup than other instruments.

Sep 24, 2019 - 12:10:19 PM

Karlp

UK

10 posts since 9/23/2019

Ive owned a couple of gibsons 2 rb250s and 1 ess and 1 rb800 they were all good banjos the ess sounded best the rb800 was best playability the rb250 were fairly consistent although the rb800 plays nice and sounds ok the workmanship is a bit not up to scratch ive also had 2 stelling sunflowers 1 was a 1984 the other 2016 very good banjos saying that i would still buy the same again all good really. Just nit pickin really ha

Sep 27, 2019 - 11:46:07 AM

Karlp

UK

10 posts since 9/23/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Leslie R

I am replacing the head on a 1973 Gibson RB250 for a friend. The current head is split in 2 places. Even with the torn head, this banjo sounds amazing.
Surprised me quite a bit. I've read the 70's Gibson's were not very good.
I'm anxious to see how it sounds after replacing the head, strings and setting it up.


Sep 27, 2019 - 11:50:36 AM

Karlp

UK

10 posts since 9/23/2019

Let me know how the rb250 sounds with the new head on it ive had 2 rb250s both nice banjos one 1970s the other 80s. I also had a earl scruggs standard sounded fantastic i was sorry to sell it but i like the sound of stellings now people should not write off 70s gibsons some are fantastic sound and great to play thanx karl

Sep 27, 2019 - 1:49:17 PM

12187 posts since 10/30/2008

Do you like a gold banjo better than a nickel? If so buy the Gibson.

How about the wood? Which one looks better to you?

An old Gibson has a certain "cool" factor. They're not common anywhere, let alone in the UK.

Supposedly even during Gibson's "least favorite" period of manufacturing, the model 800s got select/better rims than RB 250s, and should have a shot at having a better, more consistent sound. At least so I've read here. I would think a good looking 800 with good gold should be the safest bet of any Gibson of that period.

Good luck with your decision. Keep us informed, and PHOTOS please!

You don't mention price, but of course that will play a part.

Sep 27, 2019 - 2:14:29 PM

2559 posts since 11/15/2003

I had a Rb 800 as my first banjo in 1973, it was probably a 1970 or 71 model.
we never thought the banjo sounded good, and sold it....but.....

It seem i heard Kenny Big K Ingram say that everything he cut with lester flat, was on a RB-800.....i could be wrong, and i have heard some good sounding RB-800.s though mine wasn't .

My favorite older Gibson was the Rb-500.s. Good solid three ply maple rims, and my favorite bow tie inlay....even in arch-top, i've never hear a bad sounding RB-500!

just food for thought
Warp!

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