Recording King RK-20 Banjo Reviews

Recording King RK-20
submitted 7/28/2015

Submitter

Properpat (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Craigslist

Year Purchased

2015

Price Paid

250 ($US)

Sound


So I am a beginner level clawhammer player who to this point had only played a cheap open back banjo that I had converted to fretless. I love that cheap banjo... but wanted something with a little more umph.

The RK-20 delivers that umph and a whole lot more. The flat brass tone hoop sounds beautiful compared to my wood rimmed open back. The resonator adds some serious volume as well.

Heres where things got interesting. I bought this wanting a resonator back to add some volume to my playing. I decided to experiment and pulled the resonator off. As an open back banjo, the RK-20 just sings!! It sounds way too good for the price I paid.

Dont let anyone fool you... This banjo is serious, and that flat tone hoop adds some beautiful intonation!

:::Update:::

I removed the resonator and flange permanently. This banjo just sounds utterly amazing as an open back. The brass tone hoop really fits with the open back sound.

Sound Rating

9

Setup


I purchased this from a man through a local craigslist ad.
He had it for three years. He played it one time and stored it away in a closet.... A SINGLE TIME!! He said he had it professionally set up when he purchased it locally. But after three years of sitting, it needed a tiny bit of work. I tightened the head, added some new strings, and made a minor adjustment to the action and she sang!

Setup Rating

5

Appearance


I have heard that this is a generic banjo made in a factory and sold under many different brands. This does not bother me in the least bit.

My friends were so used to me playing my matte finish, basic dot inlay, open back for so long, they literally gasped the first time they saw this banjo. Hahaha it was a nice stroke on my pride hahaha.

This banjo is absolutely beautiful. Mother of pearl floral inlay in the peg board. Flower MOP inlays in the finger board. Chrome hardware. A wood finish that brings out the fiery red in the wood. It really is a show stopper for a banjo costing less than $500. You really cant find a better looking banjo in this price range. Whatever factory that is churning these out, knows how to make a banjo look great.

Appearance Rating

10

Reliability


The fit and finish on this banjo are just stunning. I have no reason to believe that this banjo wouldnt be reliable for gigging... but I didnt get into banjo for gigging. Just a time consumer for me. Playing on camping trips and what not.

Reliability Rating

9

Customer Service


N/A

Customer Service

5

Components


I have owned this banjo for just a week or so. SO only time will tell. The tuners seem to work perfectly. A little touchy compared to my cheap banjo's guitar tuners. But everything feels like this will last for years to come.

I just ordered the three pack or the Spillway Dam Banjo Bridges from Don right here on this forum. From what I have read, a bridge upgrade is the best first thing to upgrade and I have heard nothing but awesome things about these bridges.
A rennaissance head will be next as well.
These changes are being made, not because they are needed, but because half the fun of playing banjo, is making your banjo yours.

Components Rating

7

Overall Comments


For anyone who tells you that this isnt a step up from a bottom of the barrel banjo is just a banjo snob. I had a bottom of the barrel banjo, set up right and sounding awesome... and this RK-20 still blew my mind. Having a heavy weight banjo with such a nice finish and beautiful sound just forces you to be more confident in learning and playing. 

I got this banjo for about half the price it actually sells used for. I would have easily paid double or triple for it without hesitation. 

This is only my second banjo and, for my needs, I dont think I will be stepping up to anything pricier for a VERY long time.

This banjo just struck a note with me. (haha puns). 

I love everything about it. 

 

:::Update:::

To anyone contemplating this banjo for both a resonator and an open back model, dont be afraid to take the resonator and flange off of this banjo. It just sounds so good, both ways!! But I have decided to keep my resonator off for the time being. 

Overall Rating

9


Recording King RK-20
submitted 7/23/2015

Submitter

Banjo Fanatic (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Woodwind Brasswind

Year Purchased

2012

Price Paid

450 ($US)

Sound


After having this banjo for three years, I really like the sound it has. I have changed the head to a rennaisance vs the frosted one, which gave it a deeper, more pleasing sound. Even without the head change, it still sounds great.

Sound Rating

9

Setup


The banjo was not set up very well when I got it. The head tension was pretty good, but the action was very high, I switched to a lower Big Foot banjo bridge, and that helped considerably.

Setup Rating

3

Appearance


What have I got to say? It is beautiful! The wood is a very nice reddish color, the headstock has very nice mother of pearl, and the fretboard has very nice inlay work on it. It is not real mother of pearl on the fretboard however.

Appearance Rating

10

Reliability


The hardware is very good. From the Waverly tailpiece to the tuners, everything on it is very high quality. I have played this for three years, and there is not sign of deteriation on any of the finish.

Reliability Rating

not rated

Customer Service


I never had to contact Woodwind Brasswind on this specific instrument, but I have contacted them about other things, and they are very responsive.

Customer Service

not rated

Components


I really like the tailpiece it has on it, and the geared 5th string tuner was a big plus compared to the friction tuner I had on my old banjo.

Components Rating

not rated

Overall Comments


If you are wanting to get started playing bluegrass banjo, this is a great beginner, intermediate, and semiprofessional banjo. This banjo does not have the full size tone ring, it just has a rolled brass tone ring (hoop). However, this banjo can be converted to an openback, so if you decide bluegrass is not for you, you can play old time on this banjo too. All in all, a great banjo.
 

Overall Rating

10


Recording King RK-20
submitted 5/31/2015

Submitter

spini (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Ottawa Music

Year Purchased

2014

Price Paid

500 ($US)

Sound


This is a nce entry level Banjo. It has a roled tone ring, which is good for this price point. Depending on how fast you learn you will outgrow this banjo fast.

Sound Rating

8

Setup


I had it set up by a Bluegrass guy in MO. I had the head tightened, spikes added and a new bridge and strings. Also put a new tail piec on. This greatly improved the sound. This will never stand up to a higher end banjo, but it is one of the nicer banjos in this price range.

Setup Rating

8

Appearance


This is a nice looking banjo for the price.

Appearance Rating

9

Reliability


This is a well put together banjo, I had one tuner that was loose and RK sent me a new one. The finish is nice and

Reliability Rating

8

Customer Service


Recording King seems to be a good company to deal with. Like I said, they sent me a new tuner with no questions asked. Ottawa Music in Ottawa Kansas is also a great place to deal with, they stand behind everything they sell.

Customer Service

9

Components


This is a inexpensive banjo that has very nice fit and finish with a tone ring. Once set up its a nice little banjo that will serve its purpose for several years. It will never be a Deering or Gibson, but one of the nicest entry level Banjos you will find.

Components Rating

8

Overall Comments


I like this banjo. However, I was disappointed to learn that Recording King does not actually make this banjo. This is a mass produced banjo that wears many different brands on the peg head. They may assemble this banjo, but other than that it is not a Recording King Banjo! I like the banjo, but knowing what I know now, I would not buy this banjo again. I would save up a couple more bucks and get a Deering, or a RK-35. I was very disappointed to find out this was not an RK Banjo! If you MUST have a $500.00 or less banjo, I would recommend this banjo or a Deering Good Time. Otherwise save up a few more bucks and buy a better banjo.

Overall Rating

8


Recording King RK-20
submitted 7/15/2010

Submitter

Svan (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

On Line

Year Purchased

2008

Price Paid

300 approx ($US)

Sound


The sound is crisp and projects very well. A fellow band member believes it to be "loud." This is an entry level resonator banjo with lighter weight wood components. It's oriental in origins, probably chinese. The sound it produces is clear and sharp, well suited for bluegrass pieces.

Sound Rating

9

Setup


It was not a wonderful setup, and I have struggled a bit getting the adjustments. I'd recommend the buyer obtain one through a reputable dealership who shows some pride in setup of new instruments. Janet Davis comes to mind. Set up properly this banjo can really be pleasant to play and work with.

Setup Rating

5

Appearance


The color of the finish is an orange tinted laquer, and looks pretty nice. Mine had a color flaw on the upper back of the neck, which resembled a dark paint stain about an inch in diameter that hadn't been washed out cleanly, and it was coated over. Otherwise the finish was very nice and nothing to be ashamed of. If you can examine your instrument before buying, it's advisable. A reputable dealer is again a good idea. I made no complaint about this flaw though, and cannot complain further now.

Appearance Rating

8

Reliability


The hardware looks solid, and plating is sound. I've used the banjo in performance, but it's more of a learner / practice instrument for me. I do find myself playing it more than some of the nicer instruments I own, so it's easy to pick up, play and perform with.

Reliability Rating

8

Customer Service


No comment. The internet is sometimes a crap shoot, and I've learned to be cautious. There are reputable dealers on the internet, Janet Davis Music, and Elderly Instrments to name two.

Customer Service

5

Components


The feature I liked best was the lighter feel in terms of weight that this banjo provided. I'm not a fan of 12 lb banjos, regardless of tone. The very good tone of this lighter instrument is a case in point. Heavy parts may over the long term bear up better, but only time will tell. The parts and tail piece are pretty fair, given the low price of the RK-20. Inlays were very nice too.

Components Rating

9

Overall Comments


A good instrument. Upgrading to the RK-80 or higher would not be a bad idea I think. If I lost this one to a theft, I'd probably not buy another simply because I already have three other banjos. But I'd get one for the kids or a friend, without hesitation.

Overall Rating

8


Recording King RK-20
submitted 7/9/2010

Submitter

Bluegrass Banjo (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Elderly Instruments

Year Purchased

2009

Price Paid

$350.00 ($US)

Sound


This banjo is great for playing bluegrass because it has an excellent sound that is rich, full, bright, and loud enough for people to easily hear from a distance without an amp.
I think it could be played to suit most any playing style.
I like everything about it and have NO complaints about the sound.

Sound Rating

10

Setup


It was set up well when I purchased it. When the resonator hardware came off it was fairly easy to fix, the resonator comes off without trouble, so it is easy to adjust the trus rod.
I took the middle screw out of the tailpiece so that it floats on top of the strings and doesn't apply any pressure across them, and that gave my playing a cleaner sound.

Setup Rating

9

Appearance


It is easy on the eyes. Maple rim, mahogany resonator and neck, rosewood fretboard, and M.O.P. floral fretboard and peghead inlays. I did not see any appearence flaws when I bought it.

Appearance Rating

10

Reliability


The hardware is, for the most part, good.
However, the hardware that hold the resonator on comes loose often and became stripped and fell out after a short time.
But that was fixed by using J.B. Weld glue.
The finish is really nice and seems like it will last a long time.
I am confident about playing this banjo anywhere and have played several times.

Reliability Rating

8

Customer Service


I have dealt with Elderly Instruments a lot, and they have always been very nice, helpful, and, unlike some companies, knows their products.

Customer Service

10

Components


The hardware that attaches the resonator to the banjo in my opinion is weak and should be a higher quality hardware.
Other than that, the banjo is excellent.

Components Rating

7

Overall Comments


This is probably the best beginner banjo you can buy and the price is excellent. The sound quality is comparable to that of a much more expensive banjo. Overall it is a very nice banjo.

Overall Rating

10


Recording King RK-20
submitted 11/1/2009

Submitter

JedNeedsCoffee (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

banjo.com

Year Purchased

2008

Price Paid

Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound


My first impression was that it is rather harsh. loud, yes..."bright", no. After installing a fiberskyn head and stuffing a sock behind the rod, the harshness was (naturally) toned down quite a bit and I found that these modifications brought the overall sound to just about where I want it. I like a banjo that sounds well with both Scruggs/Bluegrass and "folk-style" (which, yes, I realize is a nebulous term). The new head and sock provided a sound that lent itself well to both styles.

Sound Rating

7

Setup


The first thing I noticed was that this banjo had held its tuning perfectly during transit because I didn't so much as have to fine tune it when I took it out of the box...all strings were dead-on in tune. The only thing that I found very disappointing was the fact that the lenght of the fingerboard was not matched properly to the tension hoop, in other words, it was too long and therefore the heel of the neck didn't come in full contact with the rim. This may or may not be a "set-up" issue but I can't see how the folks at banjo.com could have overlooked this...we're talking about a 1/8 inch gap between the neck and rim! I took the neck off and shaved the fingerboard down, which of course altered the overall action height, which I then had to readjust.

Setup Rating

6

Appearance


Generally, a very nice looking banjo. Well done inlays, shiny chrome. Finish itself was pretty darn good except for the cracks (in the finish) which ran from bracket to bracket...almost as if the factory worker overtightened the hooks (or the brackets themselves) although when I got the 'jo, head tension didn't seem too tight.

Appearance Rating

6

Reliability


For what it is, a relatively lower-end banjo, it seems as sturdy as one would expect for this price range. I've had it a year or so now and nothing has broken. Tuners hold good.

Reliability Rating

8

Customer Service


I had purchased banjos from banjo.com before and was always treated fairly. Still, I am disappointed that the banjo had the obviously mal-fitted neck and finish cracks. One would think that such an item would have been returned to the factory/distributor rather than sold to a customer. I didn't raise a fuss with banjo.com about this, because personally, I didn't feel it worth the hassle of returning/re-shipping the item.

Customer Service

6

Components


Personally, I wouldn't invest in any major upgrades. The cost of upgrading in relation to the value of the banjo itself would be disproportionate. I must say however that I AM quite impressed with the tuners, I can play this banjo for quite awhile and even leave this banjo sitting in the corner quite awhile and it holds perfect tune. Swapping out the head is the only "upgrade" I made.

Components Rating

7

Overall Comments


I have mixed feelings about this banjo. Other than the mismatched neck and the finish cracks and the fact that I had to change out and stuff the head...it sounds good, plays good and looks good. Were it not fo the problems mentioned, I may have been happier with the purchase. Originally I bought it as a "knock-around" banjo, for camping etc., which it works fine for. I think I paid 375 +or-. My advice though (which you may take with as many grains of salt as you wish) if you are buying this as a "first" banjo, (i.e. to learn on)....save up some more money and get one in the next price catagory up. If you're buying it as a "second" banjo, or a knock-around banjo, I would say it's probably worth the $, (as long as it's under $400).

Overall Rating

6


Recording King RK-20
submitted 3/27/2009

Submitter

Viper (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Fitch Banjos (www.fitchbanjos.com)

Year Purchased

2008

Price Paid

400 ($US)

Sound


I bought this beginner banjo with the intent of learning Scruggs three-finger. It arrived with a nice bright tone with minimal sustain, but not exceptionally loud. I have since set it up for clawhammer and it sounds full and warm with nylons and a higher bridge. It sounds as good as any starter I've tried, but a starter nonetheless.

Sound Rating

6

Setup


This banjo was set up great by Cliff Fitch for bluegrass. It had a low action and played easily.

I had no problems switching it over to clawhammer set up. The banjo has only one coordinator rod, so there is not much more to adjust than the tailpiece and head tension. I added a higher bridge with no difficulty.

Setup Rating

9

Appearance


Of all the starter banjos I looked at, the RK-20 was most attractive. It has a nice wood finish and pleasing inlays. The metal doesn't knock your eyes out, but it does the job. The Recording King label kind of detracts from the otherwise nice headstock with its boring square label, but that's pretty nitpicky.

The RK-20 isn't going to win any beauty contests, but it's far from needing a brown paper bag to hide itself.

Appearance Rating

7

Reliability


So far the wood finish, metal parts and tuning pegs have withstood all wear and tear. However, the finger board showed early signs of wear. Overall, seems like it will last plenty long.

Reliability Rating

8

Customer Service


Did not deal with Recording King directly.

Customer Service

not rated

Components


I love the neck. It is slim and very playable. The frets were dressed well.

Otherwise, the parts are pretty basic for a starter. The multi-ply maple rim sounds nice, but is by no means great. It has a tone hoop. The factory bridge was replaced by Fitch, but was included. I will never use it. The planetary pegs look nice and do the job, but can be a bit a of a bear for fine tuning. The tuners hold their tune pretty well once tuned.

The RK-20 only has a single coordinator rod, which is a weak point.

Otherwise, everything else is satisfactory.

Components Rating

7

Overall Comments


This banjo is a great starter. It sounds good enough to keep for a couple years before upgrading to a keeper. The Recording King Songster is right on par with the Deering Goodtime and Gold Tone Cripple Creek. The price, neck and looks are what sold me on the RK-20 over the other two. (Also the set up with purchase from Fitch Banjos was a great value.)

Overall Rating

8


Recording King RK-20
submitted 1/29/2009

Submitter

dubtom (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

X-Music,Dublin,Ireland

Year Purchased

2009

Price Paid

359 (euro) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound


Sounds fantastic compared to my fender. Learning to play scruggs,it's got that ping that my other just doesn't.

Sound Rating

10

Setup


No,wasn't setup, The shop where I got it wouldn't have a clue,nor would they pretend too. I have read that with different bridges and a decent set up it can sound even better.

Setup Rating

10

Appearance


Excellent. The peg head and fret board are very nicely inlaid and the paint finish is flawless.

Appearance Rating

10

Reliability


It'll be a long time before I gig,yes it does seem very well put together.The hardware looks good,although time will tell.

Reliability Rating

10

Customer Service


One year warrenty,although RK's site says lifetime. TBH unless something drastic went wrong I wouldn't even consider bringing it back to the shop,I'd go to someone who knows banjo's first.Hopefully won't have to deal with CS.
I did get a free hard case with it,probably a mistake on the seller part,but I'm happy.

Customer Service

10

Components


Planatry (SP) tuners and geared fifth. Don't know enough about banjo parts to comment.

Components Rating

10

Overall Comments


Yes I would. If it was stolen I'd cry awhile and buy another. I love it. The looks and sound. None. Compared to my entry level fender it's a dream machine.

Overall Rating

10


Recording King RK-20
submitted 2/12/2008

Submitter

Banjo Squid (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

BanjoHut

Year Purchased

2008

Price Paid

399 ($US)

Sound


Great Sound! Even with my inexperienced picking it sounds like a bluegrass banjo. Would sound like a 10 if it had someone playing it who could do it justice I'm sure.

Sound Rating

8

Setup


Great setup! Easy to play.

Setup Rating

9

Appearance


To my beginner eyes its absolutely beautiful! My entire family loves this banjos looks.

Appearance Rating

9

Reliability


So far so good. Don't foresee any problems with reliability. Should last the rest of my lifetime.

Reliability Rating

9

Customer Service


Haven't had to deal with customer service.

Customer Service

5

Components


Everything looks great to me. A very solid banjo.

Components Rating

8

Overall Comments


Great banjo for the price. It has the look and sound I wanted for a banjo. Wouldn't trade this Banjo for the world! I see no reason to ever get rid of this banjo, and plan on buying another RK product in the future. Highly recommended for any beginner!

Overall Rating

9


Recording King RK-20
submitted 8/13/2007

Submitter

A.J. Taylor (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Banjo Hut

Year Purchased

2007

Price Paid

399 ($US)

Sound


I was surprised when I first played it because it sounded so great. I only payed 400 bucks for it and it sounded better than my more expensive one. It has a nice loud,bright sound.

Sound Rating

7

Setup


When I first bought it , I noticed it had a buzz in it from a few of the frets that the strings were touching. It should'nt have been doing that since ithey told me that all of the banjo's were professionally set-up before shipped. I just raised the strings a little bit and it was fixed,but they should have fixed it before they sent it to me. Also it didn't have the engraving on the armrest like the description showed. That didn't bother me a whole lot because the sound has nothing to do with looks,but they shouldn't have showed a picture with engraving and wrote in the description that it had it. I also tightened the banjo head , and added a thinner bridge,and all together it is a wonderful banjo.

Setup Rating

6

Appearance


It has a nice finish, and is made of mahogony. It has nice inlay on the fingerboard,nice inlay on the headstock,and has nice abolone binding on the resonator and neck.

Appearance Rating

8

Reliability


It is crafted very well and I think I can depend on it for many years,

Reliability Rating

9

Customer Service


It comes with a lifetime warranty and the guy I taled to was very friendly

Customer Service

10

Components


Probably the loub bright sound. I would like to get a moon bridge also.

Components Rating

8

Overall Comments


I have already told people i know that iif they got one they would love it.. My friend played it and he liked the sound of it better than his gibson. I love this banjo.

Overall Rating

9


Recording King RK-20
submitted 4/28/2007

Submitter

Canuck Picker (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Banjo Hut

Year Purchased

2007

Price Paid

436 ($US)

Sound


For an inexpensive intermediate banjo the sound is bright and loud; It blows away the Gold Tone Cripple Creek for the same money!

Sound Rating

8

Setup


The Banjo Hut setup was great right out of the box; I just tuned it up and off I went. I've since put a new bridge on it but the initial setup was great with nice low action. The Banjo Hut does a great job!

Setup Rating

10

Appearance


There are no flaws in the appearance; the banjo is ornate for this price range with nice inlays on the neck.

Appearance Rating

9

Reliability


It's well made and should last as long as any banjo

Reliability Rating

9

Customer Service


Lifetime warrany from Recording King; I haven't had to deal with them; however, my 1st banjo was destroyed by the postal service and the Banjo Hut sent another right away; I can't say enough about how happy I am with the customer service from the Banjo Hut.

Customer Service

10

Components


The "pop" and the clear tone are exceptional in this price range.

Components Rating

9

Overall Comments


There is NO better banjo anywhere for this kind of money. If this is your price range then don't even think about it, just buy one!

Overall Rating

10


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