The Huber Truetone is not so much a model, as a tone production system that is standard on Huber Truetone banjos. Any professional grade banjo can be retrofitted with this system in our shop.
Two components make up our Truetone system: our HR-30 tone ring and Engineered Rim. Both were developed over more than 2 years of rigorous analysis, testing, and prototyping using state-of-the-art scientific equipment. We refer to any Huber banjo with the Engineered Rim and HR-30 ring as a Truetone.
When Huber Banjos was launched in 2000, Steve Huber quickly established himself as an innovator in banjo construction. His Vintage Flathead tone ring replicated the formula of the vaunted flathead rings from the 1930s, and his exacting attention to detail in reproducing other prewar specs showed the banjo world how closely the tone and response of the celebrated pre war banjos could be found in a new instrument.
At the time, Steve fully believed that only time and seasoning stood between his new banjos and the pre wars that sell for over $60,000 in the current market. But further study over the intervening years showed Huber that certain banjos among these sought-after prewar flatheads stood out above the others. Of course most of the early recordings that set the standards for bluegrass banjo tone were recorded with relatively new instruments, so Huber knew it was possible to achieve this in a new instrument.
HR-30 Tone Ring
The Huber HR-30 tone ring is one half of the Truetone System. It was developed over the course of several years of detailed scientific research, followed by extensive product testing. It has resulted in a replica of the finest prewar flathead tone rings, accurate not only content, but in the actual acoustic properties and sonic response as well.
It can be installed in any flathead banjo with an 11” rim (3/4” thickness), and we can make custom cuts to fit any existing rim. Combined with our Engineered Rim, the HR-30 can deliver the highly desirable prewar tone at a fraction of the cost.
We offer a rebate program for owners of our Vintage Flathead ring, or a Huber Banjo with a stock Huber ring. If you return your rim/ring or your banjo to us to have an HR-30 ring installed, we will give a rebate of $200 for your nickel or $225 for your gold Vintage Flathead ring.
The Engineered Rim
The Engineered Rim was developed using similar approaches and measurements as those used for the development of the HR-30 ring. The studies have taken almost two years to reach the point where we believe they are ready to go into finished banjos.
Initially, the vibration properties were measured for 28 isolated Gibson prewar rims. Of those, two were deemed by knowledgeable listeners to make the best sounding banjos when used with other Gibson prewar banjo parts.
The goal then was to design 3-ply rims that matched these two prewar rims. This required developing quantitative procedures for selecting wood at the lumber yard. When this was accomplished, detailed measurements of the wood’s vibrational properties were done to determine what changes would be necessary to make the wood match the properties of the prewar rim wood.
This required working out ways to treat the wood that modified its vibrational properties in repeatable and measurable ways. Many measurements were taken as well as repeats of the processes to determine levels and durations that resulted in the desired wood properties. It was equivalent to “tuning” the wood to the desired properties.
This was done on every ply of every potential rim and then the plys were assembled so as to best match the prewar rim properties. We also had good measurements to quantify the vibration transfers that occurred between the original prewar rims and their prewar rings when the ring was sitting on top of the rim on isolation mounts. The best pairs showed substantial ability for the vibrations to flow between ring and rim.
So, this criterion was also incorporated in the design requirements for the HR-30 rings and the Truetone rims. Not only did each part vibrate in ways we could control but they also matched to an extent that vibration transfer between the two was facilitated. To date, only about 15% of the starting plys match the stringent requirements we have set and thus end up in Truetone rims.
Our Huber HR-30 tone ring and Engineered Rim is the result of the most extensive, scientific and detailed measurement of the acoustical properties of pre war banjo components ever performed.
As he became more and more familiar with dozens of pre war flatheads, Steve took note of certain banjos that stood above the rest – the best of the best. These were the banjos which were selected for our testing.
This was a rigorous and sophisticated study, incorporating the analytical expertise of Dr. Jim Rae, a recently-retired research scientist from Mayo Clinic. Rae made his mark with groundbreaking research into techniques for measuring the tiny currents that flow through individual protein molecules called ion channels many of which are involved in diseases of the heart, nervous system, hearing, vision and many other human organ systems. Many aspects of this research used techniques that are also used in physical acoustics.
After his retirement, Jim created a lab at his home to study the physical acoustics of 5-string banjos. He has published several papers and a book chapter in the scientific literature dealing with banjo vibrations and sound emission.
Jim, or “Doc Rae” as Huber calls him, had also developed a fascination with the banjo and agreed to use his gear to define the ways in which rings and rims from these exceptional banjos differed from the run-of-the-mill. Doc Rae studied the vibrational characteristics and helped us develop production methods for the Huber HR-30 tone ring and the Huber Engineered rim.
We can retrofit any modern, professional grade banjo built to Mastertone ® spec with our Truetone System (Engineered Rim and HR-30 tone ring). A special discount/rebate offer is available for existing Huber owners, and any order for a new Huber can be upgraded to a Truetone as well.
If you have a banjo that plays well but lacks the clarity, responsiveness and prewar tone that you long to hear, upgrading to a Truetone system will get you there for a fraction of the cost of an original prewar or conversion.
We can install our Engineered Rim and HR-30 in your banjo at our shop, or you can purchase just the components.