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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-R85-SN Banjo Reviews

Submitted by BanjerJeff (see all reviews from this person) on 6/27/2008

Where Purchased: ebay.com

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 950 ($US)

Sound

Good tone for what I paid. It sounds esp good to my ear with .010s and a .023 4th. It has a fairly good punch to it. Not as loud as other banjos I've played though. You'll definately need to change the bridge. Ive tried Sporpion,Moon and then Wadsworth is whats on it now. Sounds good. At jam sessions Ive been offered many trades.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Unplayable at first. Action was way too high etc This is why I got such a good price..It was a blem and one of the earlier models. RK has FIXED this now I hear. So you won't have the same problem I did. I sent mine to Fitch banjos in Texas immediately. Spent another $300.00 and came back to me a different animal. It turned out very nice after he refitted the neck and turned the pot for a better fit for the tone ring. Now its a 10.

Setup Rating: 1

Appearance

Again, this was a blem. No flaming on the neck(who cares?) or resonator(again who cares?) Its still purdy thing and I give it an 8 for the value.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Purty darn good for what you pay for. No complaints for far. The tailpiece cover vibrated at times so I just took it off. The tuners may need replaced after some years.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

n/a

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The inlay is nice. The tuners are not the best but they work for me. Again as I said the stock bridge just sucks.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

I spent $1250 total with setup and shipping to and from etc. I'll tell ya, I'm betting this banjo sounds better than the ones "on sale" for $1400. If you don't mind waiting, check out ebay and save yerself alot of cash. This a an awesome "middle of the road" banjo and should last a lifetime. At the moment, I plan to keep it that long.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by Bohonkie (see all reviews from this person) on 1/20/2008

Where Purchased: Angie's Banjo

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 1,450 ($US)

Sound

Edit: I thought I'd include the serial number: 0000077. I lucked into this one; couldn't try her out before purchasing. Sound is what most folks call "pre-war." Bright (not as bright as an archtop), rings true through the upper neck. Deep tones on the bass stings with a lot of "punch." Very clear, once set up properly. As they say, "Rings like a bell." Very close to my archtop, but more depth and grunt and more ringing in the upper registers. Very clear with absolutely no muddiness.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Banjo was not set up well as received. Spikes were installed opposite of how most would do them, one of them too high, and interfering with each other, which causes a buzz when used. Action extremely high (didn't know you could get it that high), head very loose (didn't expect it to be spot on, though). Truss rod was way off (bowed). Bridge in wrong place. Was extremely disappointed when I received this one. From Roger Siminoff's book, I set the truss rod (press 1st & last frets, distance from bottom of G string to top of middle fret is .015) and action (.094, 1st string @ 12th fret; .078, 4th string @12th fret). I like a medium-high action and this one sounds best this way. I replaced the tail piece (original is way too weak and thin and non-adjustable) with a heavy Kershner (13 degree or so angle). New bridge is a Snuffy Smith premium 11/16 (tried several). GHS medium phosphorus. Head tuned, evenly with torque wrench, to D#. Also replaced truss rod cover (see Customer Service). Set up rating is now a 9, but as recieved is 1 because she was pretty much unplayable and proper set up should have been easy for any shop.

Setup Rating: 1

Appearance

Beautiful banjo. Even better now that I have fixed the damage and the factory and set up problems (see Customer Service). The maple is not highly figured, but that might contribute to her wonderful sound. I really like the appearance of the headstock. The neck is not too thick - another feature I like and one that is enabled by using maple in lieu of a softer wood. Nickle plating is clean and bright. Only change I would make would be to add an inlay ring on the back of the resonator, similar to my old Granada. Inlays are clean without fillers. Frets are a bit rough, but correct heighth and shape. Ebony fretboard is even and dense. Binding is even and solid. Good tuners. Plan on installing Keith D tuners.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

I've only had her about 7 months (a/o Jan 08), but so far everyting is lasting. I had to set her up at least 4 times before she settled down and aclimated. Finish seems good; only time will tell if she's dependable enough to use on a gig without a backup. Might earn a higher rating later on.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

After writing, e-mailing, and posting several comments on B.H., Angie finally replied. Very nice lady and I still don't know why she didn't receive my attempts to contact. Apparently she believes her set up is good because, after telling her of the problems, I never heard from her again. Expect this if you buy from her, but I'm not so sure that's a problem. As banjo players, we should expect to know our instruments and be able to set them up for our own tastes and to get the best (what is the best to us as individuals, anyway) out of them. I didn't like the non and the slow response, though. As far as R.K. - forget them honoring any warranty or replying to you. I've heard they have a lifetime warranty, but from my experience you'd never guess it if you try to contact them. I wrote letters, I sent e-mails, I called, I wrote to the company headquarters - have never received a reply. My biggest complaints were a sloppy paint job on the rim of the resonator (spots where paint was missing, fingerprints where it was handled before drying, etc.) and a scratched truss rod cover (and head) where someone (factory or Angie's) had obviously slipped with a screwdriver and actually sanded the cover to remove the scratches so the upper half of it was very dull and scratched. All I asked for and expected was a replacement cover. Since I never heard from either of them, I made one out of German silver (using the old cover as a pattern) and polished and engraved it. See my photos at Banjo Hangout. For the rim, I steel-wooled it and hand painted it and used a razor blade to scrape off the excess. Looks better now than it did from the factory.

Customer Service: 1

Components

Maple and inlays are outstanding as is the finish (except the problems outlined in Customer Service). A bridge is a personal thing, but the tailpiece is definitely something they should replace. Also, just my opinion, as are all of the things I am writing, but they might charge $17.00 extra and inlcude a copy of Roger Siminoff's book. Not to continue to berate them for poor set up, but this book should be read by all banjo players and if they use it to get the best set up, that would be a good thing for RK. I believe all banjo manufacturers should include this book. A final word about the banjo overall - component wise - this banjo has so much potential and if I had given up on her, I'd not only be out $1.5K but I'd never realized her great sound. Lots of potential in these banjos!

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Price is way below the potential of this banjo. Again, the book is a must (for ANY banjo), "How to Set Up the Best Sounding Banjo" - Roger H. Siminoff; Hal-Leonard Books, ISBN: 0-7935-8998-3. I honestly don't know what I would do if this banjo was stolen. I would lean toward and exact replacement, probably the gold-plated model, but would expect to set her up as well. I love the way she plays and sounds like a pre-war Gibson (which I also own). If I didn't want to accept the responsibility of setting one up, I'd ask the store to set her up per Roger's book with a meium-high action. I have not played a lot of the newer banjos, but can't imagine any of them sounding this good. I'm sure there are some that do, but they cost a lot more. Some of the newer banjos sound like rubber bands stretched over a cardboard box (one major brand in particular and it costs thousands of dollars), but I'm not going to mention names. Haven't played one of the new Gibson's yet; might buy one of them if my RK was stolen.

Overall Rating: 8

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