Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

New Banjo Recommendation

Hi @BanjoBen and others,
I am looking to upgrade my banjo to a higher end model. We are currently looking in the $3000 range and I was wondering what you guys might recommend. Right now I’m looking at the Huber Workhorse, the Prucha Legend, and a used Gibson (not sure which model). I’ve also looked at Gold Star banjos as a bit of a lower end alternative. Unfortunately, there aren’t any banjo stores in our area, so I am unable to play the banjos.
As far as my preferences go, I know I like the sound and look of curly maple, and I also like nickel plated hardware. Yes, partly because that’s how Earl did it… :wink:

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
-Michael

While I don’t have any experience with any of those, I don’t think you can go wrong with a Huber or a Prucha, the Gibson may depend on the model, age, condition etc. I have played a couple of Gibson banjos, one an Earl Scruggs signature, and can tell you that they are great banjos. I’ve also played a gold star (Mark’s) and it was great too. So I now have been utterly unhelpful, because I suggested all of the ones you’r looking at. Out of curiosity, what are you upgrading from? Keep us posted on what you decide

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I know you said $3000, but did you see the video Ben released yesterday of the new Gold Tone he and Jake helped spec out? I got to play the first prototype at camp. It’s a beast! I’d put it up against any $3000 on the market. Read the story and watch the video here.

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Hey Gunnar and Mark, thanks for the advice. I’m upgrading from a Gold Tone CC-50RP. It was a good starting banjo but is pretty basic and doesn’t have very high quality parts (the frets have worn down a good bit in about a year and the tailpiece bent and had to be replaced).

I’ve also emailed banjo expert Jim Britton for recommendations and am excited to see what he says as well.

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Hey Michael, I second @Mark_Rocka’s nomination of @BanjoBen’s new Gold Tone Twanger. It looks and sounds amazing and you’d save a lot of money. I play a pre-war Gibson now and have my RK76 Elite as a backup but I’m so tempted to replace my RK with one of these first 36 Twangers, signed on the inside by the designers themselves. It sounds as good if not better than my RK and there is the historical significance of owning one from the first production run. I think this is sure to be a popular model for Gold Tone.

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Jake tells me that even the folks at Gold Tone had to admit it was the best sounding banjo they’ve ever made. I personally think this banjo could be a new era of banjos for the Gold Tone company. It’s THAT good.

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The inability to play a variety of banjos is a problem. The Internet has killed local music stores. The few remaining stores tend to stock the lower cost instruments. It seems like a real leap of faith to spend $3k on something you can’t try out. Without the ability to try out different brands and models how can a player make an informed choice? Recently I had the opportunity to try out a few banjos that a local player owned and I noticed right away the neck thickness was significantly different between banjos. I know that Deering makes a banjo that reportedly replicates the pre-war Gibsons. The difference (I think) is primarily in neck thickness and fretboard width. I recently visited their factory, but the highest end banjos were not in the banjo showroom. I could have asked to try one, but since I knew I wasn’t going to buy one, I didn’t want to waste their time. I did try out a number of their other banjos and noticed differences in their feel and weight. Some people like radiused fretboards, have you considered that?

A forum member had a custom Bishline made and it looked good. Huber is a popular brand, but I’ve never seen one in person. I guess i could have summarized this post by noting that there are differences in banjo weight, feel, tone, and neck profiles. For guitars and mandolins people talk about variability between instruments, I don’t know if that exists in banjos but I would guess that there is variability in fretting. Because you already own a banjo you don’t have to rush a purchase. I’d look around, attend festivals where manufacturers display their products, and really get to know what you are looking for. Ben sells Huber and Stelling, probably can get Deering too so if you decide to buy new those are options. You can still buy from Ben’s store and have the added confidence that Ben’s satisfaction guarantee provides. You never know, by looking around you may decide that at $2k banjo suits your needs - or more likely that a $4k banjo is what is needed. Good luck with the search.

Have to say the Gold tone twanger sounds Awsome. It is difficult when you can’t try before you buy as each banjo has a different feel. Tone wise Huber, Prucha, Stelling all great. I think Huber and prucha do radius necks, I think Huber come with radius necks standard? Ben would know as he plays one. Also there is a difference in tone in the wood of different banjos. I don’t have one myself but I love the tone of a maple neck. Although in a lower price bracket I still love the sound of the rk35 maple. I used to think having a prewar would be great and I think it is if you know what to look for and are comfortable with the banjo.
If I lived in the US I would definitely go down to Ben’s place, they can advice you well and customer service second to none.
Either that or get a Huber vintage, they can also custom build to what ever you want.
Good luck and don’t forget to show us your spanking new Banjo, so we can all drool green with envy over it!
Oh one other important thing. If you buy from Ben or Huber, your guaranteed that beast is gonna be set up to play well right out of the box.

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Hey Michael, I just got a Huber and Yates in on consignment but they’re not on the site yet. Give us a call at the store and we’ll tell you about them: 833-226-5623

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Thanks for all the advice, everyone! Finally decided on a Gibson Earl Scruggs Standard. I’ll try to get some video up when I receive it. :slight_smile:

Cool! I got to play a Gibson Earl Scruggs earlier this year, quite possibly the best banjo I’ve played. Look forward to seeing it!

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I am curious how the Twanger would compare to a RB250 Gibson from 70s. I am looking at spending money some money on one or the other.

Hands down the Twanger will give you more banjo for your money. I’ve played 70s RB250s. They’re OK, but I feel they’re usually overpriced for what you get.

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Is it really that good? Its hard to tell with a YouTube video. I currently own a BG-150. Its Ok .

By far the best Gold Tone I’ve ever played. I’ve never been impressed with another Gold Tone, so when I heard Ben was partnering with Gold Tone, I was skeptical about the end result. Then I played the prototype he had at camp. My exact words to Jake were “This sounds like a banjo is supposed to sound.”

So glad I bought one.

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And with the money @Michael_Mark would save with a twanger, I’m sure @Jake would be able to find a mighty fine mandolin or guitar laying around the store - if that piques any interest? :wink:

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I have a pre-war Gibson which was my primary and I got the Twanger as backup. Honestly, I’m not sure which one is my primary now. Yeah, the Twanger is really that good.

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I’ve been playing my Twanger for a month. Boy am I glad my wife insisted that I get it. It looks, plays and sounds good.

One banjo spec I have never considered is scale length. The Twanger has a 26 1/4” scale length. It is over an inch shorter than what I was playing. It took me a few days to figure it out. I like it.

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I’ve been playing the Twanger for about two months. Today I measured the action at the 22 fret and it was a fat 1/8. I lowered the action to about a 1/64th under the 1/8 mark. Tuned, set the bridge, retuned, checked the bridge.

I think the lower action helped the playability. I think it sounds better at the 5th through 9th frets especially on the 3rd and 4th strings. When using a capo it requires less tuning. I don’t think I sacrificed tone with lowering the action.

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How did you lower the action? Coordinator rods?