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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  ne plus ultra 036 Banjo Reviews

Submitted by psikes (see all reviews from this person) on 5/16/2010

Where Purchased: Used (Mando Mutt)

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: 750 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

When we received the banjo it only had a 1/2 inch bridge on it and the action was too low. I built some 5/8 bridges and installed one and the action and sound was greatly improved. We got this for my wife to learn old time banjo styles and the sound is great for that style. Even playing Scruggs style the sound is pretty good.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

Coming from a mandolin shop the setup was less than stellar. But, for a used banjo it wasn't too bad other than the bridge.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

The instrument is beautiful. The maple is very nice and the inlay was very well done on the tree of life. The headstock is a little busy but very attractive.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The hardware seems to be okay for the most part. The 5th string tuner was loose on arrival and it took some work to get it to stay in place. We will probably replace it the next time I order strings and other parts.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

I did email Recording King twice and received very prompt and informative replies. They seem to be a good company to deal with.

Customer Service: 9

Components

None apparent so far.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Great banjo that plays as good as it looks.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by erstokke (see all reviews from this person) on 11/9/2009

Where Purchased: Centsible Sounds

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: 920 ($US)

Sound

It has a Whyte Laydie Tone Ring which makes it "medium bright". Properly setup it will sound just fine. It is an all round openback banjo.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

The banjo head was loosened so there was not much sound at all. Even worse, they hadn’t released the tailpiece first, so the tailpiece fastener was bent. The banjo was not set up.

You may want a Renaissance head on this banjo instead of the supplied Fiberskyn.

Setup Rating: 1

Appearance

It has a lot of inlays on the fretboard. Which would have been great if the job was properly done. I got a lemon with several flaws which just made the inlays look gaudy. The nut was also too small for the notch. There were also minor flaws in the finish.

This banjo is called "Ne Plus Ultra" which means perfection.

Appearance Rating: 2

Reliability

I returned the banjo.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

I got an email from Greg Rich saying they would get me a hand picked replacement banjo. After two or three weeks they still hadn’t found one, so I returned the banjo and got my money back. They did not cover my return shipping expenses, which I found unfair.

Customer Service: 5

Components

My RK-R80 bluegrass banjo has Grover tuners which are great. The Ne Plus Ultra did not have the same quality tuners. According to the specifications it should have a Kershner tailpiece, but it was delivered with a "no-knot".

Components Rating: 5

Overall Comments

Most reviews here are 9 or 10 because people are excited about their new banjo. I think it is only fair to post a story about a lemon as well. Most other Ne Plus Ultras reviewed here are "Made in Korea", while mine was "Made in China". But what puzzles me most, is how on earth this banjo made it through factory, importer and dealer QC. Anyway, the lesson to be learned is to buy from a good dealer and ask them specific to inspect and set up the banjo before shipping. I bought from a small family run company that are very nice people, but they didn’t know a thing about banjos.

If I should buy an asian Whyte Laydie again, I would probably get the Gold Tone WL 250 which is basically the same banjo but much cheaper.

Overall Rating: 3

Submitted by maryzcox (see all reviews from this person) on 4/19/2008

Where Purchased: Recording King

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

Sound

Ne Plus ultra has a white laydie style tone ring and it has a warm,yet bright tone. It is one of the nicest tones on a maple rim with a white laydie tone ring I've heard. The tone is close to that of a vintage banjo.
It fits my style of clawhammer quite well.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup included my name engraved on the truss rod cover and railroad spikes installed for the fifth string.
It came slightly damaged in shipping--the tailpiece screw was bent and the tailpiece was out of place.
I took it to a local luthier for the repair and set up--and it sounded awesome.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

The inlay is awesome--Greg Rich designed it and it looks like a cross between tree of life and flowerpot except it is all in motion. An exquisite piece of art. I also love the appearance of the blonde maple with the ebony stripe and cap. I fell in love with this banjo the first time I saw a photo of it.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

It appears sturdy and the gears keep it nicely in tune. I've already taken it out to a couple performances and in the field and it holds up very well.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I love Recording King and Ali and Greg. They have been very generous with me and I've only had positive dealings with them.
They offered to fix the part that was damaged in shipping, but it was easier and quicker for me to have it done here.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I think this banjo is worth about double of what you would pay for a new one. It is a nice all around clawhammer banjo that looks as nice onstage as it does in the campground. The gears work nicely and everything about it sounds good. I may in the future, change the bridge to a moon bridge (because I like them) and the head to a real skin head--but the sound is so nice as is that I'm hesitant to change anything at the moment. The neck fits my hand well, not too thin or thick and it fingers easily and in tune all the way up the neck.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is about the nicest banjo I've seen in this price range. You can buy this banjo from Elderly Instruments for just under a grand and it is one of the best deals around. It sounds and plays much like a Wildwood Troubador that I owned years ago--except the Ne Plus ultra has a prettier tone, and it is actually prettier with the fancy inlay and the contrasting maple and ebony woods.
Please don't steal this banjo--it has my name on it--and I love it.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by george kraushaar (see all reviews from this person) on 11/30/2007

Where Purchased: the music link

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I play mostly traditional clawhammer (I live in western north carolina), although I occasionally will play 3 finger bluegrass style. I use a standard 5/8 bridge and a fairly loose head. The banjo has a very precise, silvery tone with very clear articulation. Although not as inherently loud as my old banjo by Daniel Lee, it will really bark if you lay into it. Although not as adept for pure old time woody tone as some, it is very versatile for a wide variety of uses. I am finding that I like it more and more as I play it. This banjo has a Whyte Laydie tone ring, which seem a little harsh on some banjos, but it works well in this application. The rim is pretty deep, which probably gives some more fullness to the sound.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

I work as a set/up quality control person for The Music Link so I will have to say that it is set up perfectly. I set it up! I got the banjo at a reduced price as a company benefit. I could tell you the price, but then I'd have to kill you.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The banjo has an incredibly beautiful fingerboard and headstock inlay by Greg Rich. I try not to be a vain person, but the fingerboard did have something to do with my decision. The neck is blond hard rock curly maple with a nice uniform curl. Some of the banjos I checked out had western big leaf maple, but I went with the hard stuff. The banjo has a stacked heel which on some of the banjos was glaringly obvious. I picked mine out because the stacking was well matched.

The metal plating is nice but not as nice as the plating on the new RK bluegrass models which come from a different factory.

I could not find any apparent flaws on this banjo.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The banjo is made in Korea in a very workmanlike manner. Everything is tight and neat. The finish is gloss poly which will probably last forever. I would take this rig to a gig without a backup; but I would take some extra strings and picks.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I'd say the company is pretty friendly while I work for them, but who knows afterward. That Greg Rich can be a mean son of a gun.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything is fine.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I was playing a Daniel Lee banjo with a thick, deep rim and a Whyte Laydie. It was great for old time but did not really work for 3 finger. This banjo suits a variety of styles better.

I got the banjo at an incredibly good deal as an employee. I would have paid twice as much for it and been satisfied.

I love the beautiful inlay and the musical tone.

Overall Rating: 10

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