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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  California RB-012 Banjo Reviews

Submitted by saltydog21 (see all reviews from this person) on 6/7/2014

Where Purchased: Amazon

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 650 ($US)

Sound

It sounds very bright, not very much bass but it still sounds nice. It has a good amout of volume to it And usually can be heard well in jams .Overall the tone is great.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

The Action was a little too low for my liking but other than that it was fine.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

It looks very nice.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The Hardware Has lasted Fine and i have and will use it for giging .

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I haven't contacted them.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments


It's a great banjo, I love it.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by awaschka (see all reviews from this person) on 6/24/2013

Where Purchased: Pawn Shop

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 320 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Still figuring this out.

Sound Rating: 5

Setup

Not unexpectedly, no. Head too loose, bridge out of position. Wouldn't hold tune due to cracked tuner peg buttons.

Setup Rating: 3

Appearance

Other than cracked buttons, looked like new. Wood finish shiny with no scratches, no corrosion on metal parts.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Concerned that 2 out of 5 buttons were cracked, but don't know the history.

Reliability Rating: 5

Customer Service

Very poor customer service from Recording King. Will not sell, even inexpensive parts, direct. Web site not up to date with dealers, Sent me a list of dealers, contacted three out of five. None stocked parts. One said didn't know if he could order parts or accessories and had no catalog. Another said was not a RK dealer.

Customer Service: 1

Components

Direct drive friction tuners very sensitive. Two of five buttons broken.

Components Rating: 3

Overall Comments

I hope to be able to turn this into a playable travel banjo, but my inability to get parts may make this difficult.

Update - got some buttons from Janet Davis.  Great customer service.  Suggested which ones to buy and explained the differences between what they had and what was stock.  Originals were countersunk for the retaining screws, the new ones were not.  I didn't take the time to countersink them, just put them on.  Everything working as it should now.  Score - Janet Davis 10, Recording King 0.

Overall Rating: 3

Submitted by moholy210 (see all reviews from this person) on 10/28/2010

Where Purchased: Ebay

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Out of the box the instrument sounded thin and hollow. The lower registrar was weak. I replaced the bridge with a Moon bridge, added a Waverly tailpiece and a Renaissance head. I also had the neck scooped. I realize this considerably changes the instrument but the $140.00 investment greatly improved the sound and playability of the banjo. I give it a 9 after my improvements. I may change out the tuners at some later date.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

It was set up fine.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

This is a handsome instrument. I feel its aesthetics are as good as any instrument on the market.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The brackets and tone ring seem to be of good quality. As I stated above I replaced the bridge, tailpiece and head and if I decide to keep the instrument I will change out the tuners.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

N/A

Customer Service: not rated

Components

See reliability comments

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

Its a good second banjo. It is great for camping trips or jam sessions. I have another banjo I keep in D tuning and use the Recording King for G tunes. This is useful when playing out. It keeps tuning to a minimum and offers a slight change in the sound and texture of the tunes.

Overall Rating: 8

Submitted by nate_f (see all reviews from this person) on 12/5/2008

Where Purchased: banjohut.com

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 500 ($US)

Sound

As others have said, the sound isn't ideal right out of the box. Not bad by any means, but lacking the depth and feel of a banjo with nice "plunk" and "clunk." I look forward to experimenting with thicker strings and a different bridge, perhaps swapping the head at some point.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Setup was very good on arrival; very clean, super-accurate intonation, quite fast and easy to play.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Aesthetics weren't a major consideration when purchasing this banjo. That said, it looks fine to me, and I like the simple design and star inlay.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The banjo appears quite well-made with quality workmanship. I would certainly depend on it and expect to for many years.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

N/A, so I'll be nice and give them a 10. I have yet to deal with either Recording King or banjohut regarding any customer service issues aside from purchase and shipping, which was easy and fast.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything is quite nice for a banjo at this price (quite nice at any price, really); there is a rolled brass tone ring. As I said earlier, I plan on upgrading the bridge and possibly the head.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

This is an excellent banjo for the price. I'd probably replace if stolen. With a little tweaking, I'm hoping to add a little depth to the sound, but it's perfectly suitable for clawhammer right out of the box.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by Westelk (see all reviews from this person) on 12/15/2006

Where Purchased: Grand Central Music

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 500 ($US)

Sound

The banjo sounded thin right out of the box. The strings were too light and the Fiberskin head did not suit the brass-hoop tone ring. After changing to medium strings and adding an Renaissance head, it has a nice sound for clawhammer--sufficiently loud and woody. For the price and for my ear, it's perfect.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was setup well but with a low action, which does not suit my style. I added a new bridge and the setup was fine.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

This is a nice looking banjo. It has a thick gloss finish--too thick and shiny for me. The banjo has elegant lines and tasteful hardware.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

It is sturdy and well-made. I have not tested it over time, but the hardware is good and the workmanship is first rate. This banjo is certainly gig-tough.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I tried to contact the maker through email before I purchased the banjo, and recieved no response. Not especially bad, but not good.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The banjo's wood is beautiful and the workmanship is excellent. The hardware includes a nickel-plated notched tension hoop and nice ball end nuts on the hooks. The banjo has a brass-hoop tone ring--this is the most significant issue in this review, since most web sites state that it does not have a tone ring. The Vega-style arm rest was oddly shaped and I replaced it with a new one for $15.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

If you want an imported, walnut, 11 inch, openback, with a brass-hoop tone ring, this is your option. And, it's a good option. This is nice instrument for clawhammer. I would replace it, if it were lost. I love its looks and sound--after investing $30 in a head and armrest. The big issue before receiving it was the tone ring. Most web sites said no tone ring. Some pictures on the web suggested that it had a brass-hoop and one web merchant said it did. How does it compare to other banjos? Not as bright my Whyte Laydie and not as much bottom end as my 12 inch brass-hoop tone ring open back. I recommend this banjo, especially for the price paid.

Overall Rating: 10

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