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Jan 19, 2024 - 8:58:53 AM
14 posts since 12/8/2015

I am wondering what are the main differences between an RB-100 and an RB-250. Is there much difference in weight? Also, what was the RB-100 made with in terms of a tone ring or did it have a tone "hoop"? I'd appreciate any comments, thanks.

Jan 19, 2024 - 9:30:02 AM
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5631 posts since 5/29/2011

The RB100 was first produced in 1949 with a 1/4" brass rod style hoop that rested on the inner edge of the rim resulting in an arch top configuration. It weighed about 9 lbs. and had no inlays except for fingerboard dots. One strip of binding adorned the rear edge of the resonator, and the back had a sunburst finish that varied in shade over the years. The peghead was cut in the bow tie shape with the Gibson name silkscreened on the top and was fitted with Elton 2:1 tuners.
The RB250 made its debut in 1954. It had a cast arch top tone ring with four holes in it. There was binding on the neck and peghead. It featured bow tie inlays with a Mastertone block at the 21st fret which was later moved to the 22nd fret. The resonator was bound on both edges and featured two purfling rings in the back, as well as a sunburst finish. The peghead was fitted with Kluson "Battle Tank" tuners which all turned the same direction. The banjo weighed in at just under 12 lbs.
Both banjos originally came with a car trunk style tailpiece, with three wall lugs and thumbscrews to hold the resonator on. The RB100 was produced longer than any other Gibson banjo at the time. It was made from 1949 to 1979 with only minor changes. The RB250 surpassed it later, being produced from 1954 to 2009 with several changes to its design.
I'm sure others can address the other details but, right now, I have to get ready for work.

Jan 19, 2024 - 11:30:56 AM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

27869 posts since 6/25/2005

Don’t forget the RB-150, which, if I recall correctly, was essentially an RB-100 shell with a similar resonator and neck to the -250.

Jan 19, 2024 - 11:34:04 AM
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15641 posts since 10/30/2008

The RB 100 was the "entry" level Gibson resonator banjo after WWII and to the end of its production. Originally the "100" referred to its price point. There was a slightly fancier looking model 150 and the full tone ring 250 model a few years later.

I started on a 1962-62 RB 100 that my dad bought new. It cost more than $100 by then! It was constructed (wood-wise) in the same way a Mastertone 250 was constructed. Gibson quality neck shaping, fret work, fit and finish, truss rod in neck, and same metal parts as the Mastertone minus of course the heavy weight tone ring (adds nearly 3 lbs weight). A SLIGHT difference was the 100 had maple veneer on the back of the resonator. The 250 Mastertone had mahogany veneer. Both models had mahogany necks.

For a long time model 100s have had some "added value" compared to their original price difference as "conversion beds" to add a full weight Mastertone ring and perhaps had inlays to the neck to make it look "almost" like a real Mastertone. Especially in the 1960s when old Mastertones were relatively hard to find.

Nowadays good condition original RB 100s have found a market among older pickers who can't stand the weight of the Mastertone on their shoulders, back, etc. Carefully set up, and carefully played, the no-tone-ring RB 100 can sound REAL good, even to a listener used to the Mastertone sound.

Pre WWII Gibson made a number of different models that were not Mastertones (had no heavy tone ring). Off hand I can think of RB 00, RB 0, RB 1, RB 2, RB 10, RB 11 and variants. The RB 100 post-war, replaced all of these pre-war models.

Jan 19, 2024 - 11:40:34 AM

14 posts since 12/8/2015

Thanks for the comments! So the RB-150 also had the tone "hoop" like the RB-100?

Jan 19, 2024 - 11:44:16 AM

14 posts since 12/8/2015

Also I see a classified for a "Gibson RB" for sale here in BHO. So I am wondering why this is an "RB" with no number following the RB? See it here: banjohangout.org/classified/101294

Jan 19, 2024 - 12:08:17 PM

15023 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by JG_Banjo

Also I see a classified for a "Gibson RB" for sale here in BHO. So I am wondering why this is an "RB" with no number following the RB? See it here: banjohangout.org/classified/101294


Because that model (introduced in the 1990s, I believe) was simply called the "RB." It had no number.

It was pretty much a reinterpretation of the RB-100 in blond maple rather than natural mahogany (1970s) or sunburst on straight-grained maple (1950s-60s).

Jan 19, 2024 - 12:21:09 PM

15023 posts since 6/2/2008

The 1970s RB-100 had the same 3-piece laminated mahogany neck with fiddle cut headstock as that era's RB-250 but with less decoration: dot inlay, unbound fretboard. I think it had a guitar-style block "Gibson" decal instead of the script Gibson inlay of the Mastertone. I don't recall if it had only single resonator binding.

Also, the 1970s RB-100 had the always popular 1-piece flange instead of the 2-piece tube-and-plate flange of that decade's Mastertone. I believe it was still the Doehler cast flange.

Jan 19, 2024 - 12:55:51 PM

5631 posts since 5/29/2011

quote:
Originally posted by JG_Banjo

Thanks for the comments! So the RB-150 also had the tone "hoop" like the RB-100?


The RB 150 had the same 1/4" ring as the RB 100 but had the bow tie inlays and the crown inlay on the pegheads.

Jan 19, 2024 - 1:26:20 PM

14 posts since 12/8/2015

Thank you all for the detailed responses. The Gibson RB listed here in the classifieds is very pretty with the flamed maple. But I wonder how the maple would affect the tone. Compared to mahogany, does anyone think the maple tone might be excessively bright or brittle sounding? Of course I understand that tone is a subjective matter, but please share any comments. Thanks again!

Jan 19, 2024 - 2:05:16 PM

15023 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by JG_Banjo

... I wonder how the maple would affect the tone. Compared to mahogany, does anyone think the maple tone might be excessively bright or brittle sounding?


You decide. Sounds like it's low-tuned in this one, so that certainly contributes to the sound.

Big Sandy River/Monroe's Hornpipe.  Standard tuning, capo 2.

Player is Josh Turner (Joshua Lee Turner) who's been posting performance videos since he was a kid. 

Jan 19, 2024 - 10:15:06 PM
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5631 posts since 5/29/2011

Will the maple sound excessively bright or brittle?
No. The two biggest contributing factors in banjo sound are the player and the set up. A maple banjo can be set up to have a deep tone and a mahogany banjo can be set up to sound bright. Listen to Earl Scruggs with his maple Granada, then listen to Don Reno with his mahogany RB75. They sound opposite of what they should; Earl's banjo sounds dark and plunky, Don's banjo sounds bright and crisp. They are classic examples of what sounds great banjo players can get out of their instruments.

Jan 20, 2024 - 11:37:36 AM

3015 posts since 4/16/2003

The banjo in the ad posted earlier in the thread is an "RB".
It's not really an RB-100, it's just an RB.
It really doesn't have much in common with earlier RB-100's before it.

These were produced from (I'm guessing) the late 1990s into the 2000s.
I'm not sure if they were still making them at the end of production in 2009.
There was a similar model designated RB-Deluxe that had a tone ring installed instead of the hoop.

Having said that, it's still a decent instrument if you're looking for one with a "hoop" instead of a heavy tone ring. In fact, the one in the ad looks to be in excellent condition, ready to go. The price seems decent, too.

I believe the rims on these are "full-width", meaning you could have the rim cut to accept a flathead tone ring if you wanted to make that modification. But set it up right, and it should sound pretty good "as it is"...

Edited by - J.Albert on 01/20/2024 11:38:01

Jan 20, 2024 - 1:05:06 PM

15023 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by J.Albert

The banjo in the ad posted earlier in the thread is an "RB".
It's not really an RB-100, it's just an RB.
It really doesn't have much in common with earlier RB-100's before it.


I'd say it was essentially the RB-100 sub-Mastertone of its era: wood rim, brass rod tone hoop, simple inlay, unbound fretboard.

Just as there were three different RB-250s in the 50s/60s, 70s/80s, and 90s/2000s, there was a different RB-100 in the 50s/60s and then the 70s.  The 90s RB revived the RB-100 concept of a more plain sub-Mastertone in pretty much the same way as its predecessors. Gibson (Greg Rich?) just decided not to call it the 100.

Jan 20, 2024 - 1:12:49 PM

15023 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by JG_Banjo

. . . does anyone think the maple tone might be excessively bright or brittle sounding?


What Mark said. It's way more in the setup and the player than in the wood of the neck.

Remember: Even mahogany-necked banjos nearly always have maple rims.

Set the head at no tighter than 90 or DrumDial or G# in tap note, throw on a bridge no lighter than 2.2 grams, elevate the tailpiece no lower than half the bridge height with minimal down angle, and pick closer to the neck than the bridge I bet you'd be hard pressed to hear that banjo as excessively bright or brittle, regardless of the wood in its neck or resonator veneer.

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