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Sep 26, 2020 - 9:11:08 AM
2204 posts since 9/25/2006

I guess folks would perhaps say pre war flathead Granadas and I know the Osborne Chief has a great following. I think my Lane Top Tension should also be considered due to its tone, volume, and playability.

So, give me your top two or three best bluegrass banjos ever produced. Not for the price and also not looking for individual banjos but make, model, and time period. Don’t forget to say why.

Go!

Edited by - revellfa on 09/26/2020 09:13:16

Sep 26, 2020 - 10:06:30 AM

Westvon

USA

3285 posts since 4/16/2006

I understand the question but it's nearly impossible to answer because it's so subjective.  There are certainly objective realities that would place one banjo over another.  For example, Earl's Granada is better than a brand new Gold Star GF-100 (no duh) or even a Huber Lancaster (which is what I currently play) for that matter.

Sep 26, 2020 - 10:11:33 AM
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11135 posts since 6/2/2008

Once 20, 30 or more different banjos have been named, what will we have learned?

Sep 26, 2020 - 10:17:44 AM

13353 posts since 10/30/2008
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To me, two pre-war Gibson models cover all the ground I care about.

The flat head Granada. 'Nuff said. The best of the post 1987 Gibson reissues would be the "affordable" versions, and good enough for me (I have a Greg Rich custom Granada)!

For an arch top, any of the tube/plate cast arch tops Mastertones. Styles 3, 4, 5, 6, G, VB, F, etc. That covers the sounds of Dr. Ralph, Don Stover, Douglas Dillard and many more. Different tones available via set up variables. Personally I prefer the Style 5 as the most desirable (based on beauty). Thankfully, 5 string conversions of these models are within the limits of affordability if you REALLY want one.


 

Sep 26, 2020 - 10:39:14 AM

2204 posts since 9/25/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Westvon

I understand the question but it's nearly impossible to answer because it's so subjective.  There are certainly objective realities that would place one banjo over another.  For example, Earl's Granada is better than a brand new Gold Star GF-100 (no duh) or even a Huber Lancaster (which is what I currently play) for that matter.

 


Go ahead then and be subjective.  Tell me what you like and why...

Sep 26, 2020 - 10:39:37 AM
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2204 posts since 9/25/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory

Once 20, 30 or more different banjos have been named, what will we have learned?


We will know which banjos the people on this thread prefer and why.

Sep 26, 2020 - 10:42:48 AM
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3338 posts since 5/29/2011
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quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory

Once 20, 30 or more different banjos have been named, what will we have learned?


Not a dad blamed thing. Except that everyone has an opinion.

Maybe it's time to put on the popcorn.

Sep 26, 2020 - 10:49:17 AM
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Alex Z

USA

3950 posts since 12/7/2006

I do think there should be one requirement for naming the banjos, and that is that the poster has to either (a) have played one or (b) heard one live.

Otherwise, it ends up as a survey of second-hand information.

Sep 26, 2020 - 11:10:35 AM
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Westvon

USA

3285 posts since 4/16/2006

quote:
Originally posted by revellfa
quote:
Originally posted by Westvon

I understand the question but it's nearly impossible to answer because it's so subjective.  There are certainly objective realities that would place one banjo over another.  For example, Earl's Granada is better than a brand new Gold Star GF-100 (no duh) or even a Huber Lancaster (which is what I currently play) for that matter.

 


Go ahead then and be subjective.  Tell me what you like and why...


Huber Lancaster (at the moment) because this thing feels perfect in my hands and it's a canon, a HOSS of a banjo that produces the kind of down and dirty tone and growl that I require for the way I play.  

Sep 26, 2020 - 11:35:16 AM
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Quinton McHale

Solomon Islands

1667 posts since 2/21/2011

Nah, ain't gonna jump through that hoop.

Sep 26, 2020 - 11:40:45 AM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

23972 posts since 6/25/2005

Based on what I’ve played: 1930s Gibson top-tensions....

For Stanley-style — 1927-28 no-hole archtop...

Contemporary—Huber By 2050 they may be considered the best bluegrass banjos ever.

My opinion, fwiw.

Sep 26, 2020 - 11:44:19 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

52785 posts since 10/5/2013

Can’t say I’ve played that many high-end banjos but in the past 3 years I’d say my friend’s 1992 Granada, another buddy’s Osborne Chief (#8, I believe it is),, a fairly new Stelling (can’t remember the model) ,,,& my 1930 TB-1 conversion (Blaylock ring).

Sep 26, 2020 - 12:00:23 PM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

24968 posts since 8/3/2003

I play a Stelling and have had for over 20 years now, and prefer that sound over any other I've ever heard. Again, it's a personal preference, but to me, Stelling has the sound, the punch, the crystal clear tone and can easily be heard over the noisy dreadnaughts and fiddles.

Some prefer the Gibson sound which is more in your face and if you like that sound, then that's the best for you personally, but I don't care for that sound, too brash, too brassy, too harsh.

Don't get me wrong, I've heard some mighty fine people play Gibsons and they do a wonderful job, but it's not the sound I like.

Sep 26, 2020 - 12:14:23 PM
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2174 posts since 1/16/2010

Many people may disagree or roll their eyes...but any of Sonny’s several Vegas sounded spot on for me in a bluegrass setting!

Same for Grandpa Jones and Stringbean!

I cast a vote for the ol’ Vega tubaphone as a runner up.

Sep 26, 2020 - 1:58 PM

13353 posts since 10/30/2008
Online Now

Bill Rogers, you think the Huber may be regarded as the top in a few more decades? Truetone or "Vintage"? I also have huge respect for Hubers although I don't own one. I played a pile of them at IBMA trade show though as was mightily impressed.

Sep 26, 2020 - 5:17:17 PM
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1724 posts since 4/10/2005

Prewars aside, I'm not really seeing how any one top-flight, premium-quality post-late-1980s Mastertone or Masterclone could take precedence over others as "the best" bluegrass banjo. The list of incredible stuff is nearly endless . . . Hopkins, Neat, Hatfield, Yates, Prucha, the Deering "Golden" series, so many more. And sorry, some Asian made Recording Kings are probably also destined in future years to be seen as on that list.

This is why commenters here so often repeat, "Truly we are in a Golden Age of banjo-making."

In the non-Mastertone/Masterclone department, Stelling banjos have made their place as superb bluegrass instruments. You may have your favorite rim era or neck wood, but these banjos will never not be prized for playing bluegrass among all sorts of other things.

Edited by - ceemonster on 09/26/2020 17:19:43

Sep 26, 2020 - 11:11:11 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

23972 posts since 6/25/2005

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

Bill Rogers, you think the Huber may be regarded as the top in a few more decades? Truetone or "Vintage"? I also have huge respect for Hubers although I don't own one. I played a pile of them at IBMA trade show though as was mightily impressed.


Probably Truetone.  That said, it will probably be a matter of taste,with both being excellent..

Sep 27, 2020 - 12:48:58 AM

661 posts since 12/26/2006

At the end of the day it is all down to personal preference. I have been playing since I was 19, now a youthful 56. Owned and played just about any banjo you care to name including original flat head Gibsons. My favourite ?... my 1979 Stelling Superstar. Just head and shoulders above anything else in every department.

Enjoy what you play !

Dave.

Sep 27, 2020 - 4:44:42 AM
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44 posts since 12/19/2017

I like seeing the subjective interests of people and then comparing it to an instrument in real time. I think a lot has to do with set up. I have a 1926 Gibson Tb1 conversion and once I got the neck building correct and I got the string height right and made a bridge that pops for this banjo, it now stands heads above the others I have played. Granted I have played a limited number of types but I have heard other people play most brands and era of banjo. Mine is still a tone hoop banjo but out sings my friends 1971 Gibson RB800. You have to know how to bring out the power of each banjo. They are all so different in what it takes to draw out their tone and power.

Sep 27, 2020 - 6:02:17 AM
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2264 posts since 10/17/2013

Gibson Granada flathead # 9584-3

Gibson RB-75’s, #453-1, 2

JD’s Banger RB-3

Any banjo that Arthur Hatfield builds.

Epiphone EB-88, #427538 (Kalamazoo, Michigan-built Epiphone that I used to own.)

Edited by - okbluegrassbanjopicker on 09/27/2020 06:03:40

Sep 27, 2020 - 6:35:53 AM
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375 posts since 5/29/2015

Harmony Reso-Tone with resonator. If these had been available when Earl was refining his choice of banjos, they would have become the go-to bluegrass banjo.

Sep 27, 2020 - 8:16:58 AM

2159 posts since 2/10/2013

I have played some excellent banjos. Unfortunately so much time has passed since I have played those banjos, I can't faithfully remember exactly how they sounded. I just remember that they sounded just right, had necks I liked, and sounded exceptionally good up the neck.

Every since I played my first Stelling, they became my favorite. The necks feel like they were custom made just for me, and they sound good no matter which 3 finger style I play. I'll bet they would sound good playing 2 finger style as well.

Sep 27, 2020 - 9:28:55 AM
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778 posts since 6/30/2020

Are we talking maple resonators and necks or mahogany resonators and necks, or other?

To my ear there are fine examples of each, but to my way of thinking these are totally different sound categories to which comparisons are impossible

As stated previously; this topic is totally subjective at best.

Sep 27, 2020 - 9:32:38 AM
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587 posts since 8/14/2018

quote:
 

As stated previously; this topic is totally subjective at best.


No no there is only One True Bluegrass tone. If it doesn't sound like Earl it is wrongness.

Sep 27, 2020 - 10:46:59 AM

2204 posts since 9/25/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Pick-A-Lick

Are we talking maple resonators and necks or mahogany resonators and necks, or other?

To my ear there are fine examples of each, but to my way of thinking these are totally different sound categories to which comparisons are impossible

As stated previously; this topic is totally subjective at best.


As I stated earlier, go ahead and be subjective.  I like hearing other people's opinions and why the believe the way they do.  As to wood of necks and resonators it doesn't really matter.....what is the best make/model/time period that YOU have experienced?

Sep 27, 2020 - 10:49:43 AM

2204 posts since 9/25/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Banner Blue

Harmony Reso-Tone with resonator. If these had been available when Earl was refining his choice of banjos, they would have become the go-to bluegrass banjo.


I've got two Reso tones right now and honestly, they don't have to take a back seat by MUCH.  I have one that I put together from parts which is set up for OT with a $10 Pakistani Goat Head, Presto tailpiece, $1 tuners from CB Gitty, a donated neck (I paid shipping), and the rim from a tenor I salvaged from a sale.  No resonator and the Hardware is all Tyler Mountain.  It couldn't sound anymore authentically Old-Time.

I have another model that is set up stock with a resonator, shiny head, and thick Grover bridge.  I sustains FOREVER and has tone to the bone.  It's setup for bluegrass styles.

I'm a big, big resotone fan.  

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