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Which replacement head would be the best choice-Mastertone Archtop banjo

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Feb 19, 2020 - 4:26:34 PM
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16 posts since 1/25/2019

There seem to be a few manufacturers of banjo replacement heads.
As I read the specifics of these replacement banjo heads, I have not found any information regarding flathead vs. archtop replacement heads. Do flathead banjo replacement heads fit onto an archtop ring of a Mastertones? My pot is from a 1954 Mastertone Archtop 5-String.

Feb 19, 2020 - 4:31:42 PM
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1185 posts since 2/2/2008

The last archtop I repaired had a 5star medium crown head.

Feb 19, 2020 - 4:35:40 PM
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Players Union Member



5142 posts since 10/12/2009

Good ol' frosted top, low-crown, 11" Remo is all you need.

You'd have to search for a used 5 Star, since they're not available any more.

Feb 19, 2020 - 4:46:55 PM
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3308 posts since 7/12/2006

if you want the Stanley archtop sound then go with a 5 star smooth (unfrosted) head. you might contact some banjo luthiers they may have some used ones lying around

Edited by - stanleytone on 02/19/2020 16:47:55

Feb 19, 2020 - 5:12:22 PM
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1180 posts since 7/12/2004

I'd recommend an AMB low or medium crown head. I put one on a 1928 style 3 archtop a few years ago and it made the banjo sound fuller.

Full disclosure: I have a set of signature strings on AMB, but their heads truly are terrific.

Feb 19, 2020 - 8:02:45 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)


23228 posts since 6/25/2005

Different players have different tastes. Heads are cheap (relatively speaking). I’d try several and see which you like. My old archtop had a rock-hard 5-Star and I thought it sounded great. But you have to go with your own taste.

Feb 20, 2020 - 3:42:57 AM
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2586 posts since 12/4/2009


I use AMB heads. So, I will add my endorsement of AMB as a replacement for a 5 Star.

I think I still have my old 5 Star heads. I would not recommend using a used 5 Star. I must have had a bad batch. The two I have failed at the bridge. The bridge would create a sinkhole. The bridge imprint is still visible after removal and storage. The intonation had to be right because it couldn’t move.

Feb 20, 2020 - 7:30:31 AM
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93 posts since 8/9/2019

What brand / model of banjo heads are recognized as being 'very good'? Or are they mostly the same and it comes down to personal preference?

Feb 20, 2020 - 1:28:02 PM
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12723 posts since 6/29/2005

After using a low-crown 5-Star on my 1927 Ganada for what seems to be about 35 years, I switched to an elite amber, and have not looked back.

I find it to be more expressive than the frosted kind (archtops are not noted to be expressive), and people who have heard sound files made with it have remarked that it sounds a little like a flathead.

The 5-star never fit right, either—it was a little too large diameter, and it was hard to get the hooks into the tension hoop notches without bending them.

Feb 20, 2020 - 2:06:08 PM
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12667 posts since 10/30/2008

Decades ago everyone more or less settled on the 5 Star head from Stewart MacDonald as "they" head for an arch top Gibson. And they were tightened up REALLY tight. There was some folklore suggesting they stood up better to high tension without the mylar pulling out of the flesh hoop bead.

Then for whatever reason, they are no longer available. I used a number of 5 Star white top frosted heads in medium crown. Low crowns were developed for arch top players who REALLY crank those heads down so low that the fetch up on the step in the neck heel and can't be tightened any further (I guess).

Remo Weatherkings were the "old standard" prior to the 5 Star becoming available. Again, medium or low crown for an arch top.

There are other choices now, as you've seen some already above.

I've never cared for banjo heads with no top frosting. Too slippery.

I don't think there's any single clear leader, nor any total lemons, in the market. You have to experiment over a period of years to find what you prefer.

Have fun.

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