The Steve Huber Vintage Flathead Tone Ring
I have started phase 1 of the tests on the Steve Huber Vintage Flathead tone ring. I will admit that I did not look forward to testing this tone ring, simply because I have tested so many tone rings, and I am beginning to tire of it. I'm glad I tried it out. I have mounted this tone ring on a maple rim, using a standard Gibson mount and Gibson hardware. The neck is a maple/rosewood flying eagle neck and the resonator is maple veneer. Tailpiece is a Price tailpiece, and my standard hardware was used as in all of my normal testing.
This is a loud, clear, clean, sweet tone ring. The response is good all the way through its range. There is also plenty of contrast between picking near the bridge and picking near the fretboard. There is plenty of sustain if you need it, but it doesn't have the strident ringy quality on the 5th string that some tone rings produce. This is one of the best tone rings I have tried. It was a little louder than the control banjo, which is a loud instrument.
When I conducted the resonant frequency test, I noticed that the fundamental really stood out. On most tone rings the next two harmonics are so loud that it is difficult to hear the fundamental. This certainly contributes to its overall sound.
I really like this tone ring. If you can afford to pay $340 plus postage and handling for a tone ring, you should consider this one.
It is no coincidence that many of the top banjo players in the business are now using this tone ring. Even Sonny Osborne, who was absolutely convinced that there would never be a tone ring like the old pre-war tone rings, has fallen in love with this one--it is the heart of the new banjos he is producing in cooperation with Frank Neat. You can contact Steve Huber at Huber Banjos.
Huber Meets the Tone Bell (TM) Rim
On June 2, 1998, I tried the Huber Vintage Flathead tone ring on a Tone Bell (TM) rim. The sound is exceptional. The differences in tone available from this mount and this tone ring open up a wealth of possibilities for the banjo player who wants a powerful banjo with a flexible tone and more sustain than normal. It will require a certain amount of restraint to play, if you are not accustomed to a banjo that sustains well. Be that as it may, this tone ring is fine in a standard mount and should not require a Tone Bell (TM) installation, unless you just happen to want to try it.
Gold Plated Huber Ring Tested
On July 17, 1998, I tried out the triple gold plated Huber Vintage Flathead tone ring. I sent my original ring to him and he replated it. This is an excellent sounding ring. I had not realized until earlier this year what a difference gold plating makes on a tone ring. I had always figured it to be a cosmetic difference, but there is a certain indescribable difference--the operative word here is "mellow." It did change the resonant frequencies of the tone ring slightly. If you can afford this tone ring, get the gold plated one--even if your banjo was not equipped with a gold plated ring in the first place. It does make a difference!
For those of you with Scruggs model banjos, something to bear in mind is that Earl's banjo has a gold-plated tone ring. This is not found on the standard Scruggs models. This plating can be clearly seen in the picture on page 115 of Gibson Guitars, 100 Years of an American Icon by Walter Carter.
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©2006 Bill Palmer. All rights reserved. For permission to republish contact Bill Palmer. The opinions expressed on this page are strictly Bill Palmer's. Mastertone, Stelling and the other brand and model names are the property of the manufacturers and other people who own them.