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Greg Rich and Later RB3 vs RB4 vs Granada Questions

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Jul 5, 2020 - 11:04:40 AM
30 posts since 3/22/2019

Forgetting about inlays, engraving and plating, is there anything about the materials, ie maple vs walnut vs mahogany neck/resonator or ebony vs rosewood fingerboard that makes a Greg Rich or later RB3 or RB4 or Granada a better constructed and/or sounding banjo in general? Other than inlay, engraving or plating, why would one want an RB3 vs an RB4 or Granada?

Just curious.


Jul 5, 2020 - 11:18:46 AM

13102 posts since 10/30/2008

I once owned both a GR RB 3 and a GR Granada, and one day I sat down in a quiet music room to do the A/B testing. Same strings, same Snuffy Smith bridges, same Presto tailpieces, same Remo heads tuned to G sharp, etc.

I've posted my observations here years ago. Bottom line:

Notes on the Granada sounded like (work with me here) a drop of water going down into a well PLOOP! with a little echo, sustain or reverb after the note, like a mini-ploop lingering on in answer. Like slow motion video of a drop of liquid droppingi into a pool with a secondary drop rising from the center of impact to make a tiny little secondary droplet that rises a bit and falls immediately.

Notes on the mahogany RB 3 went Ploop, with absolute no after-tone of any kind. Imagine a drop of liquid falling into a higher viscosity pool and making some ripples, but no secondary peak and tiny droplet rises up again.

In my own musical terms, I guess this is "sustain". The maple necked Granada gives the tiniest bit of sustain. The mahogany necked RB 3 does not sustain, in comparison. (Of course any Mastertone is going to sustain due to all that metal, but IN COMPARISON, the RB 3 doesn't give a strong impression of sustain.)

I've never owned a walnut RB 4 to try an A/B/C comparison, but from everything I've heard (and know) about walnut banjos, there would probably be an "in between" tiny tiny amount of sustain.

And by the way, there is no ebony (fingerboard) in the models you mention. If you include a Scruggs, yes there's an ebony fingerboard. But not on a catalog 3, 4 or Granada.


PS: Sonny Osborne has been quoted that he feels that the gold plate on a Granada has some effect on its refined tone.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 07/05/2020 11:19:49

Jul 5, 2020 - 1:17:18 PM
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1656 posts since 4/10/2005

Confused about what the OP is asking here.

A. Are you asking if there are quality differences between reissues from GR era versus those made later?

B. Or are you asking about reissues from both eras, and just wish to know if there is a quality difference between the maple vs walnut vs mahogany models?

If you are asking about B: IMHO there is no quality difference between the models/wood choices--the rims were all sourced and constructed the same.   But there ARE rough generalizations that often hold as to characteristic tonal differences between neck woods.  Or even fretboard woods.   That is totally a matter of your taste, not differences in quality.   Maple generally has been perceived as having more brightness, "cut," and sustain, mahogany as being more fundamental.

In other words, while the more deluxe and pricey models might be seen as the Granada, the Checkerboard Style 6, etc., there is nothing "better" about a maple reissue Gibson over the walnut or mahogany if YOUR TASTE prefers the tone personality of mahogany.

Between maple models, there's no quality difference unless you perceive a difference in tone personality between ebony fretboard (ESS Standard) vs. rosewood (ES '49 Classic or Granada).

Between mahogany models, people used to discuss whether there was a quality difference between the RB-250 vs the RB-3 or RB-3 Wreath, vs the JD Crowe and JD Crowe Blackjack. But to me they're qualitatively equal unless again you have a preference RE ebony fretboard (RB-25) vs rosewood.

There WERE different tone rings used.  But there was never any dominant view that one was "better" than others--there was a Gibson/Kulesh ring, a "no-name" ring, and the JD Crowe ring officially designed for the mahogany Crowe models but sometimes plunked into others.   And they all had their fair number of proponents.

It was very popular on this site during the reissue era both GR and after, to slag and complain about the tone rings and even the rims in the reissues.  It was extremely common for people to sub out their rings and/or rims.   Janet Davis Music even sold a package deal for this, featuring a Cox rim and a Kulesh Big 10 you could plop into your reissue.


But lo and behold, fast-forward 10, going on 15 years since any new Gibson banjos have rolled out of the shop, and original un-altered reissues with the original Kulesh rings are now highly desirable in some quarters.

Edited by - ceemonster on 07/05/2020 13:27:51

Jul 5, 2020 - 5:19:18 PM
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991 posts since 5/19/2018

My own personal observations....

The GR era banjos were all higher quality instruments than the original issue instruments they were built to replicate.

They all pretty much sound very good with the usual variations. Put in the right hands, they uniformly sound great.

That being said, add to it what Ceemonster stated almost to a word.

Jul 5, 2020 - 6:08:22 PM

1984 posts since 1/10/2004

The Gibsons across the entire re-issue era were mostly great or very good, with there being no real quality difference between models. Choice of model/style is mostly personal preference, with some minor though inconsistent tendencies between different tone woods. And now they've all had at least the roughly minimum 10 years of aging where the pot just starts to mate/gel/settle/whatever and reach peak potential. Always some people like to tinker, convince themselves of minor differences being revolutionary improvements by swapping this part or that part when often it's just a matter of setup and a little aging that's needed. To each their own. My RB-3 has survived 25 years all original and needs nothing changed.

Edited by - Bradskey on 07/05/2020 18:08:48

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