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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

6919 reviews in the archive.

Recording King  RK-ELITE-85 Banjo Reviews

Submitted by beegee (see all reviews from this person) on 9/19/2018

Where Purchased: Music Link

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 0.00 ($US)

Sound

Sounded good out of the box, sounded better when I tweaked the set-up. Great bluegrass sound, balanced up and down the neck, once set-up

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Banjo was passably set-up when it arrived.
1. Tightened the head 3 rounds
2. Action fine with 5/8" bridge, shimmed neck for 11/16" bridge
3. Changed bridge to a Kat-eyez
4. Slightly slackened the head after installing Kat-Eyez

After tweaking the sound is nearly identical to my RK-75, but ever-so-slightly crisper(brighter?) as might be expected with maple vs. mahogany

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

Beautiful curly maple, antique golden sunburst, flawless finish
Hearts & Flowers with no visible flaws or filler
The binding joint on the resonator is nearly invisible.
The nickel plating is bright and shows no flaws.

I would like to see this banjo in antique gold and with the addition of b/w binding strips below the fingerboard and resonator bindings. It would be a killer...

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I have been playing my RK-75 Elite on stage for 8 years and it shows no deterioration of plating. I have no reason to expect less of the RK-85. The nitro finish is easy enough to repair if damaged.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Greg Rich was easy to communicate with and very helpful

Customer Service: 10

Components

The only two concerns I have:
1. The resonator thumbscrews seem slightly smaller than Gibson screws and the knurling ridges are larger and sharper. I'd like to see a slightly domed top on the thumbscrews.
2. The bottom co-rod has a sharp edge where the shaft is machined to accept the threads. I plan to chamfer that shoulder.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

If I was looking for a quality fancy maple banjo at an affordable price, this would be my choice. I have owned an RK-Osborne Scout, 3 RK-75s and now the RK-85. I have found no faults in any of them. I have played my RK-75 as my primary banjo for 8 years, even though I have a PW Granada that was my  only banjo for 30 years. I own 2 RK-75s, 2 Harry Lane custom top-tensions, 2 California Fender artists and a Sullivan Festival Deluxe. I choose to play the RK 75 because I like the sound and appearance and playability. The RK-85 will joing the RK 75 as my performance banjos.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by seehad (see all reviews from this person) on 2/23/2017

Where Purchased: banjoteacher.com

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 1599 ($US)

Sound

I don't have a ton of experience with different banjos but I was blown away by the sound of this instrument. I played a couple of banjos in the 1000-1500$ range including the Gold Tone OB250 and a used custom franken-banjo and there is no comparison. Every note on this instrument is near perfect intonation which is something I was told by my teacher only happens when you spend closer to 4-5k. To get the full effect of the sound, I've tested it throughout my house (including the bathroom), and on a stage and this instrument shines. I handed it over to my teacher who has been playing for 40 years and the way he lit up verified I had a great instrument.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo shipped with a professional setup, a zero glide nut, and a Snuffy Smith bridge. The arm rest was too far down causing a slight buzz on the B notes so I adjusted it up to fix that issue. The action is perfect; smooth like butter.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Being a violinist, I am partial to highly flamed maple. The Canadian maple on this is flawless and beautiful. The craftsmanship on this instrument is superb and there are no appearance flaws.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I've only had this a few weeks but it feels like quality hardware that will last

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Have not had to deal with Recording King but banjoteacher.com has superior service. I spoke to Ross Nickerson a few times before, during and after the purchase; it was always a pleasure and a very informative conversation.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The Gotoh Planetary tuners were a huge upgrade from my last banjo. Much easier to tune and keep in tune. The presto style tailpiece is solid. At this point, there is nothing I would change.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

While I am no expert on banjos, I am no stranger to a great instrument. In high school, my violin teacher let me perform the Mendelssohn violin concerto on his 1760 Gagliano. While not as recognizable as Stradivari, they are every bit as good. Heck, I've even held a Strad at one point. Just like when I upgraded my first violin, this banjo inspires me to practice more as it is a pure joy to play. I don't see any need to upgrade in the future.

Overall Rating: 10

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