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Mar 29, 2022 - 6:56:46 PM
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370 posts since 3/18/2013

Here we have a 1995 RB-250 Gibson Mastertone (with upgrades/modifications) that came in through the shop this week for setup. I walk through some of the process of a simple setup, and the differences in sound between a 5 star and Remo brand plastic head for banjos. I’m not necessarily saying one is always better than the other, just showing you all what I prefer and why.


Mar 29, 2022 - 8:02:53 PM
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14777 posts since 10/30/2008

Interesting! Good to see you again Lincoln.

Mar 30, 2022 - 3:54:50 AM

197 posts since 12/19/2017

I really enjoyed the video. I have done a lot of set up work for my banjos but you have given me a different perspective on it. I look forward to seeing you doing more work on a banjo.

Mar 30, 2022 - 4:19:28 AM
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Emiel

Austria

10142 posts since 1/22/2003

Very nice video.

Mar 30, 2022 - 4:37:38 AM

11280 posts since 6/30/2020

Lincoln,
I enjoyed your video! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on banjo heads. You’ve also demonstrated how to change out a banjo head with tips that may be helpful to someone who has not attempted to work on their own instrument(s).
FWIW, I agree with your conclusion that the Remo head has a better sound (at least to my ear) but that’s a issue that is totally subjective.
I also use GHS PF175 Sonny Osborne Signature strings on my three banjos. I do find the .013 G string to be perfect for my old RK-R36 but it is little weak as compared to the other gauge strings in the set when on my two Nechville banjos, So I have upped the gauge to .014 or .015 which works well.
Thanks again.

Mar 30, 2022 - 5:23:13 AM

2973 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

Good to watch this video from you Lincoln. I could not help but hear that banjo with the 5-Star head resonate when you spoke specific words. I used to use 5-Star heads. I have several high crown used and abused. To me, they were too mushy/rubbery as they aged within a year. The bridge would create deep rivets into the head. They are permanent indentions.

I was learning head management without the internet and BHO. AMB is now my head of choice. What sunk the 5-Star was 1) the neck notch wasn’t deep enough to keep the bridge from sinking 2) The OEM specifications called for a low crown. I tried a medium crown once and dumped the OEM specifications.

Mar 30, 2022 - 6:56:13 AM

beegee

USA

22965 posts since 7/6/2005

quote:
Originally posted by gibson49classic

Here we have a 1995 RB-250 Gibson Mastertone (with upgrades/modifications) that came in through the shop this week for setup. I walk through some of the process of a simple setup, and the differences in sound between a 5 star and Remo brand plastic head for banjos. I’m not necessarily saying one is always better than the other, just showing you all what I prefer and why.


I used 5-star heads for several years. When I witched to Remo, I never looked back. 5-stars would stretch and stretch and then stretch some more. Kind of a crashy tone. I switched to Remo on my old Granada AT and have used them exclusively except for the time I used a Rogers skin head. I'm back to Remo pre-EPA now and I can fairly predict how it will sound with each 1/4-turn of the head wrench. I have customers that request 5-Stars. I'm kinda glad they are no longer available. I use only the AMB Remos now.

Mar 30, 2022 - 7:37:42 AM
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14777 posts since 10/30/2008

BTW I never knew 5 Stars were "thicker/heavier" than Remos. For some reason I always thought they were thinner!

Anybody got weights on the two heads?

Mar 30, 2022 - 7:39:14 AM
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76276 posts since 5/9/2007

I don't miss anything about the 5-Star heads.

Mar 30, 2022 - 7:57:18 AM
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Emiel

Austria

10142 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

BTW I never knew 5 Stars were "thicker/heavier" than Remos. For some reason I always thought they were thinner!

Anybody got weights on the two heads?


Comparing the weights of the heads will be of limited information, because the difference in weight in mainly caused by the heavy flesh hoop of the 5 Star heads (like the Taiwan Remo heads, also crimped). You would have to weigh only the plastic. The 5 Star will still be heavier.

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Mar 30, 2022 - 8:00:03 AM

Alex Z

USA

4869 posts since 12/7/2006

The 5-stars always felt "heavier" than the Remo because the flesh hoop was much heavier.  Couple this with the fact that that they felt different when not mounted, and the result is "heavier."  The only way to check is to measure the mylar with coating, and I'll try to do that for both.

It was only a couple of years ago that the current Remos were deemed too thin -- and they were, I could read newsprint through them, and I think it was the coating that was too thin, not the plastic -- and the ones made in Taiwan were better, more like the older versions.  I believe this had to do with the thickness of the frosting, not the thickness of the mylar.

A lot of what we hear is what we expect to hear.  The heavier head is generally too dull, the lighter head is too bright, and the "pre-EPA" Remo is just right.  smiley

Mar 31, 2022 - 8:31:37 AM

76276 posts since 5/9/2007

5 Stars have a very narrow power band concerning head tension.
There are wonderful nuances of tone in a Remo.When you make a change in head tension or distance from the bridge the Remo is there responding to every change in a welcoming way.

The 5 Star seemed to have more of a one-setting focus with a penchant for an A+ head played near the bridge.

Mar 31, 2022 - 8:34:24 AM

ChunoTheDog

Canada

1506 posts since 8/9/2019

Ok here's a weird question regarding head tension and banjo tuning.

Let's say someone is playing a Mastertone-style 5 string in open G# (not open G), would that banjo benefit from having the head tuned up to an A vs G# ?

Mar 31, 2022 - 8:41:45 AM
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76276 posts since 5/9/2007

Head tension doesn't care where the banjo is tuned unless you're using the tension to adjust string height,imo.
G# is good just because it is a good platform for stability and strong tone/power.Not because of its note compared to the tuning.

Mar 31, 2022 - 11:17:08 AM

76276 posts since 5/9/2007

Concerning weight I find the heavier 5 Star to be too bright.That's because of the tension needed to bring it to life.

Mar 31, 2022 - 5:40:21 PM

76276 posts since 5/9/2007

I think it's the extra weight that makes the 5 Star have a more narrow performance tension.

Apr 1, 2022 - 2:54:29 AM

banjo roo

Australia

107 posts since 5/12/2010

Thanks for sharing, Lincoln.
I moved to 5 Star clear heads. I think at the time Remo did not offer clear heads. Looks like they do now, might give 'em a go. Not sure how much the change of strings effected tone in your video, but the second set-up is clearly better tone by far

Apr 1, 2022 - 2:58:16 AM

banjo roo

Australia

107 posts since 5/12/2010

Although i am happy with the deeper tones, my banjo does not have much pop or volume in the high notes, so a head change might help.

Apr 1, 2022 - 1:53:27 PM
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76276 posts since 5/9/2007

A very common occurance is that a loose head has low end power,but struggles up the neck.
Adding 1/4 turn once around the hooks might improve your upper neck tone and projection.

Apr 1, 2022 - 3:39:06 PM

Joeblo

Australia

38 posts since 3/1/2021

Thanks for the video. I too get some of that muddy tubby sound he mentions at around 3.08. I have a remo head on an rb250. Anyone have any suggestions? Cheers joe

Apr 2, 2022 - 7:24:58 AM
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11280 posts since 6/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Joeblo

Thanks for the video. I too get some of that muddy tubby sound he mentions at around 3.08. I have a remo head on an rb250. Anyone have any suggestions? Cheers joe


Joe,

In addition to considering head types and manufacturer's variations, my experience (55 years of playing stringed instruments) is that every instrument prefers its own type and gauge of string to promote its optional sound. That is to say each string on an instrument should be evaluated against the the others on that instrument so that string balance, tone, and playability are all commensurate with a pleasing final result. 
Just because a person uses BRAND X strings in a light gauge does not mean every string in that package is the right gauge for that instrument. It pays to experiment. So if your G string is muddy maybe you need to go up or down a gauge size, etc.

Likewise, picks have an enormous effect on the sound of an instrument. I use a different combination of pick sets on each of my banjos. I play guitar as well and each guitar I have is set up with its own string combinations and if I use a pick it is one that will compliment that particular instrument and style of music.

While the banjo head and its tightness is paramount to good sound, it is only one factor in the equation which includes, bridges, picks, strings, tailpiece, and all of the other banjo parts as well as spot-on intonation. So if you have a muddy, tubby sound or any other unpleasant sound characteristic it pays to experiment with all facets of your instrument. There is a great deal of satisfaction in getting an instrument truly dialed in. 

Edited by - Pick-A-Lick on 04/02/2022 07:28:14

Apr 2, 2022 - 8:40:21 AM
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Eric A

USA

1516 posts since 10/15/2019
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Excellent video. The only thing I would point out is that the Remo also got brand new strings in your preferred gauges, whereas the Five Star had strings of unknown age and gauge. That might make a difference too.

The rule of "only change one thing at a time" is easy to say, and hard to do.

Apr 2, 2022 - 8:51:24 AM
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76276 posts since 5/9/2007

The most common cure for "muddy" is head tension.
A G or below head tends to favor "muddy".

Apr 6, 2022 - 1:54:10 AM

Ivor

England

90 posts since 11/18/2020

What a cracking video, with some really useful information and have to agree that the Reno head provides a bit more sparkle in my view.

Apr 9, 2022 - 6:15:12 AM

Ybanjo

USA

719 posts since 11/15/2009

Great video! And very useful! I agree about using the Remo head on the Gibson. I have tried the 5 star on my TB3 and it was just too muddy. However, I do use 5 star heads on my Stellings. They are set up to be much more mellow sounding and the Remo head tries to make them bright, but ends up just sounding "cheap". That's why we want to own several different banjos, each set up a little different. I use my Gibson for bluegrass and the Stellings for just about everything else.

May 1, 2022 - 8:08 AM
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Number Two

Canada

42 posts since 1/13/2014

enjoyed watching your video, and your banjo playing is great. Must say though I agree with EricA...since the Remo had the new strings, it makes it the harder to judge between 5Star vs Remo head. Correct me if I'm wrong...head tension was a little higher on the 5Star than the Remo head too.

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