Archtop to Flathead Conversion Tone Rings

In conjunction with the ongoing tone ring tests and the tests of the old wood rims, I have been trying out some of the archtop to flathead conversion tone rings on the market.

So far, I have tried the Sullivan conversion tone ring and three of the Hopkins-McPeake tone rings, one nickel plated, one chrome-plated and the third, gold-plated. The results have been quite interesting and, I might add, not entirely surprising.

I first heard a Hopkins-McPeake tone ring installed on a conversion TB-75 that Paul Hopkins owns. It sounded identical to a genuine RB-75 flathead that Paul owns. So I knew it was an excellent tone ring. These tone rings work very well on normal 3-ply banjo rims. But I wanted to give this tone ring a test on the latest discovery -- submerged wood.

I have tried the Sullivan conversion tone ring, the nickel plated Hopkins-McPeake tone ring and the chrome plated Hopkins-McPeake tone ring on a Tony Pass submerged maple rim. I have tried a gold-plated Hopkins-McPeake tone ring and a nickel plated Hopkins-McPeake tone ring on a Tony Pass submerged birch rim. The preliminary results are these. The Sullivan ring had an excellent flathead sound, but I liked the sound of the Hopkins-McPeake ring on the maple rim better. The chrome plated Hopkins-McPeake tone ring on maple and the nickel plated Hopkins McPeake on birch both sound interestingly close to a prewar flathead banjo. The gold Hopkins-McPeake on birch is also an excellent choice.

I have much more testing to do before the jury is entirely in on these. Watch these pages closely.

One interesting note is this -- there are some banjo builders who routinely use archtop to flathead conversion rings when building new instruments, because they like the sound. I can hear why.

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