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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Recording King Banjos

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

nathan_s - Posted - 03/30/2020:  18:13:43

I have a Recording King rk-35. I have an addiction to researching different banjos in search of the next one I want. Recently, I’ve realized that I tend to prefer the sound of mahogany neck and resonator banjos over maple and walnut. I was wondering if the rk-75 is better enough than mine to be considered an upgrade. I realize they have the same pot, but the 75 has a longer scale, one piece neck and mahogany woods instead of maple. The rest of the changes are only visual. I’d like a second banjo, but can’t seem to make myself spend more than $2000. The rk75 seems to be the best option in my price range and I just wanted your opinion. Maybe another brand like a Gold Star JD Crowe model would be better? 

Edited by - nathan_s on 03/30/2020 18:16:27

Foote - Posted - 03/30/2020:  18:23:33

I would strongly recommend the pre Chinese Gold Stars made in Japan 85 and before. Right now in the classifieds there is an 84 flat head Gold Star for $1350 (approx..). I have an 84 GS and its the best value on the market. Just ask Russ Carson, Ricky Skagg's banjo player (81 Crowe).

nathan_s - Posted - 03/30/2020:  18:26:30

Foote thanks! I’ve only ever heard good things about them. Been considering getting one for a while, just waiting for the right time.

Blue20Boy17 - Posted - 03/30/2020:  18:28:29

Why not get the RK-36? It's identical to the 35 other than it being mahogany rather than maple.

nathan_s - Posted - 03/30/2020:  18:36:24

Blue20Boy17 I thought about that, but I’ve heard a few people say the longer neck gives the 75 a little more “punch”. Plus I like the inlay, headstock shape, and rings on the back of the 75 better. I know that might sound dumb, but if I get another one I want it to look a little different than mine so my family doesn’t judge me lol.

northernbelle - Posted - 03/30/2020:  22:07:06

I'd recommend trying the longer scale in hand lst (rather than via mail order/private seller) to be sure you'll like it. Some people adapt quickly others never do.
If you're fingers are on the short side a longer scale can make for a slightly longer stretch making that extra punch (maybe so, maybe not) more of a trade off than you anticipated. You might get similar "punch" via set up on a standard Gibson-ish scale length.

buckholler - Posted - 03/31/2020:  06:20:49

Being you already have a RK35, I'd say try a different brand. I've played a Japanese Gold Star and it was awesome. Or maybe when they are available one of those new Goldtone OB3 "Twanger" banjos.

beegee - Posted - 03/31/2020:  07:00:23

I have 2 RK-75's and an RK-85. I recently played a new Gold Star JD Crowe and it was a good banjo. Satin finish is not my favorite. The RK Elite longer scale sets the bridge in a slightly different position on the head. I don't know if has more "pop" as you describe, but my RK 75 is my go-to banjo, even though I have a PW Granada.

KCJones - Posted - 03/31/2020:  13:42:52

I've played a variety of the RKs and maybe it's setup but I couldn't really tell much of a difference between the 35s, 36s, and 80 that I owned. There was a particularly nice 36, had something the rest didn't, but idk if it was setup or the banjo. I'm not a setup wizard or anything and I did all the banjos the same so I think maybe it was just a particularly good one.

If you currently play a R35, you should probably hold the other options in your hands before making a switch. The difference might not be what you think it is.

banjoez - Posted - 03/31/2020:  13:57:01

Had a number of each. The RK 75,76, 85's are good banjos but the longer scale can be an issue for some especially if you find the 35/36 scale to your liking. My experience has shown quite a bit of variation in tone and QC from one to another also.

The new Goldstars I've tried have been great banjos (JD's and Wreaths) and are quite consistent. Try one before you decide.

Here's a sound sample of a new GS Wreath:

Edited by - banjoez on 03/31/2020 14:02:55

nathan_s - Posted - 03/31/2020:  21:24:46

Thanks everyone for the replies! Y’all have given me a lot to consider. I noticed most people mentioned trying them out first. Sadly, this isn’t a possibility for me without a pretty good drive. All the pawn shops and music stores I‘ve checked within an hour of my house only have cheaply made beginner banjos if any at all. I have friends with higher end brands like Gibson, Yates, Davis, and Deering. I really like them, but I just can’t make myself pay $3,000-$6000 knowing I dont deserve a professional level instrument. Hopefully once all this virus stuff blows over I’ll be able find somewhere to try these types of banjos out. Strongly considering an rk75, Gold Star, or the Gold Tone “Twanger.”

banjoez - Posted - 04/01/2020:  07:00:40

Most reputable dealers will give you a short trial period. If you’re not satisfied you can send it back (on your dime however).

Edited by - banjoez on 04/01/2020 07:12:28

Dieselten - Posted - 04/02/2020:  03:33:15

I have an RK75 and for the money it is very hard to beat. The slightly longer scale-length is no problem (I also have an RK82 and a recently-acquired Osborne Chief, both of which have shorter scale-lengths) but the set-up is critically important in any banjo.

A well set-up RK75 in good condition "punches well above its weight" and to get a banjo that sounds noticably better you have to spend double or triple the money. The RK75 is amazingly good value-for-money.

However, no matter what you end up buying, make sure it has been set up properly and you will be well-pleased with the feel, playability and tone.

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