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!
6918 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Greenville Guitars
I have a 1928 AT Granada that I have played for 34 years. For the past 4 years I have been playing a Top-Tension Custom Harry Lane Model G flathead. I have gotten used to the flathead tone and response, so the AT doesn't appeal to me any more. I wanted a backup banjo. After reading other raves, I found this Scout locally and played it. I liked it enough to buy it and I'm kinda fussy about sound and playability. In other words, it takes a lot to impress me.
Sound Rating: 10
These banjos are advertised as being set up by Charlie Cushman. Mine is #25 and the set-up was not very good. The neck had a bow. It had a crappy Grover-style bridge and the coordinator rod nuts were only finger-tight. It had light gauge strings and had a few rattles. Even with that, I could hear the tone I liked.
I tightened the Remo head several times, changed the bridge from the stock bridge to a Scorpion to a Snuffy II and finally used a Kat-Eyz Canadian maple/purple ebony top that I had on my Lane. American-Made Banjo Cryogenic medium strings.
After tightening everything, this banjo is a killer. Good clean tone, nice sustain, plenty of volume and punch. I have the action set at 7/64" at the 3rd string 12th fret. 11/16' Kat-Eyz bridge. I don't use a drum-dial so I don't know what the head tension is.
I installed RR spikes at 7 & 9, wish it was a factory option.
There was a faint nut squeak when tuning, so I applied a little graphite and it went away, but using mediums instead of lights, I've noticed it has returned, so I may have to open up the slots slightly.
Setup Rating: 5
Flawless finish. It's curly maple with a reddish-gold sunburst on the resonator. The neck is the same color as the resonator sides. I wish it was less red, more brown and had a sunburst neck. The red color is too much like mahogany. I like my maple a little more on the brownish side. The flange is clean and sturdy-looking.The nickel plating is excellent. I'm considering having it gold-plated, just because I like gold banjos. The rim laminations are a little "coarse" showing a pretty good seam in the finish at the joints. I don't especially like the matte finish, but it's OK.
The inlay design is a little underwhelming, but they're OK and well-executed. The peghead is overlaid, except for the pearl recoding King Block, which appears to be inlaid. The truss-rod cover is real pearl with a modern script "Scout" silk-screened on it. I had to use a magnifying glass to see the fingerboard inlay filler.
I would have preferred that they use a white/black/white binding combination on the neck and resonator, just to dress this banjo up a little. It's just a quality detail to me. That may be something I'll do to it, down the road.
Appearance Rating: 9
I'm a little concerned about the rim laminations. While it seems well-constructed, the visible scarf joint is a little bit ugly. The finish is apparently catalyzed polyester, so I don't think normal playing will be a factor for wear or durability. I'm using this as my primary banjo while my Lane is undergoing some neck repair and refretting, so I have no problem with its quality.
The tuners seem OK, copies of 2-bands. They work smoothly.
Reliability Rating: 9
Lifetime warranty. No registration needed, just sales receipt and deal with the retailer, not RK.
I have had no dealings with the company for service questions. I own this banjo, an RD-227 guitar and a Savannah-labeled mandolin that was supposedly a prototype for the new The Loar models. Quality is excellent on each. They are trying to "do it right."
Customer Service: 9
The rim as mentioned is a little concerning. I'd like to see the binding upgraded as mentioned above. Excellent RK case. The resonator screws are a little rough on the top. I'd like to see polished tops on these. They show some machining marks under the plating. the standard bridge is a basic cheap Grover-type maple/ebony. I think the banjo should at least come with an upgraded bridge, maybe a Snuffy?
Components Rating: 8
I've been shopping for a used Fender Artist. I could have bought one for the price I paid for this banjo. After Cliff Fitch raved about the Scout and I saw that Dana Cupp, Carl Jackson and Robbie McCoury all liked them, I decided to try one. Sonny is still my banjo hero, but I really don't need an Osborne Chief as a backup banjo. I get the Sonny influence without the Chief price. I don't think you're supposed to tell what the discounted price is, so I won't. This banjo is as close to a pre-war Gibson in sound and playability as I have played. Appearance is professional-quality. It will hold its own in sound and appearance. My Lane is still my #1 banjo,but until I get it back in playing condition, this banjo, for my money, is a winner. I just played it alongside a Fender FB-58 for my daughter, who is about as impartial as one can get,who was really impressed by the superiority in sound of the Osborne Scout. if this banjo was stolen, I'd get another one, if I could find one. They are still relatively rare in the marketplace.
I like this better than any of the other RK models I've played(RK-85, Deco-King) and better than Morgan Monroe, and contemporary Gold Star or the GoldTones.
Overall Rating: 9
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