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.
I play mostly bluegrass and gospel. I prefer it for the classic bluegrass sound. I play it with a birch Z-bridge for a mellower sound than maple. However, it can be played in the extreme x-position for plenty of crackle and pop when needed. Perhaps it's my setup, but I definitely feel that this banjo wants to be played aggressively, as opposed to some of the more modern sounding banjos that do well with slower sustained stuff and strumming chords. Overall, a great sound for that person who wants to play just like Earl.
Sound Rating: 9
The nut seemed to be a little low, making it difficult to get decent action up the neck without buzz. I've learned to play with higher action up the neck and it's no big deal now -- some say you get more volume that way anyway. The fifth string tuner makes it difficult to capo cleanly at the fourth fret, but I think RK fixed this on newer models. Making changes is straight forward. It's not a Nechville for simplicity, but a great classic build that I learn a lot from. Parts are all very high quality.
Setup Rating: 8
I love the way the R80 looks, even with the thick white neck binding. It's just the way they made them back in the 30s and 40s. Beautiful.
Appearance Rating: 10
Most banjos are pretty heavy. At 11+ lbs, this one is no exception. With this weight comes concern that if I drop it it's going to break badly. When I perform, I don't bring my backup Goodtime. With all the good that can be said about Goodtimes, they're just not stage-worthy instruments in my opinion. (But great for camping!)
Reliability Rating: 9
Greg Rich and Scott Zimmerman are very available to answer any questions or concerns here on the Hangout.
Customer Service: 9
As stated earlier, maybe the nut. The stock bridge was pretty cheap, but for $30 you can get the best out there. I really like the flange of the R80. Very pretty and classic.
Components Rating: 8
I'm a value guy. I don't buy cheap stuff, but I don't want to spend any more than I have to either. The Recording King lineup is great for people like me who want to get bang for their buck and aren't hung up buying from an American company that happens to operate a factory overseas. I am very detail-oriented and inspect my instruments very closely. The fact is, China can build to whatever level we spec to. What has tarnished the image of their manufacturing is that many companies spec to very low levels and have little QC when outsourcing manufacturing. Neither of these issues are factors with Recording King. Just go to a guitar store yourself and pick up a recent Gibson, made right here in the USA. They're a lot cheaper than anything that comes from Recording King. Being American doesn't mean you automatically make superior instruments. That's just crazy thinking. (ADDED LATER: I now own a Deering Sierra and it is a great player's instrument, but in the final analysis, a quality used RK-R80 is the best bang for your buck in the banjo market.)
Overall Rating: 9
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