1920s Vega Tubaphone No. 9 Banjos


Vega’s Tubaphone banjo has been praised by players as one of the finest sounding banjos for over a century. Vega designed the Tubaphone to be the ultimate classical banjo but it works very well for old-time music, and, in its four-string configurations, it’s perfect for backing up a jazz band or leading an Irish session. We are very excited to offer three top-of-the-line Tubaphones in each of its popular configurations: the five-string, the tenor and the plectrum.

During the heyday of American banjo production at the turn of the last century, the Vega “No. 9” was just about the most elaborately decorated and expensive fretted instrument in production. While other makers offered fancy instruments, Vega specialized in elegant mother-of-pearl inlay with engraved floral motifs and delicately carved neck heels.

It has long been known that the metal structure that supports a banjo head can have a real influence on the responsiveness and tone of the instrument. Starting around 1900, the Vega banjo company was among the most prolific and successful at perfecting the banjo “tone ring.” The endpoint of Vega’s tone ring development was called “Tu-Ba-Phone,” which referred to the appearance of the square section tubular tone ring perforated by holes and clearly visible on the inside of the banjo. This particular tone ring was one of the most successful with its bright ringing sound and was fitted to all of Vega’s professional grade instruments for 6 decades or more.


This is perhaps the best Vega Tubaphone we have ever offered. The original engraving is still crisp and clear and the overall condition is excellent. A fine example of the best banjos ever made.


This 17-fret tenor Tubaphone is in all-original condition. It has a clear, ringing tone that would sound great in classic jazz band or picking out a few old-time fiddle tunes.


This plectrum Tubaphone has seen well-done restoration in its day. Like its shorter-necked sibling, this is a great banjo for jazz. Guitarists may be interested to know these can easily be tuned to the same pitches as the top four strings of a guitar.


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