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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-R36 Madison Banjo Reviews

Submitted by alejandro (see all reviews from this person) on 5/31/2014

Where Purchased: Apple Music

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 999 ($US)

Sound

Rich full sound with plenty of volume. Amazing step up from my beginner Harmony model that I played for 15 years. I love playing this new banjo and find that everything I play sounds better, not just louder.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Well set up, except a slight buzz in the 5th string, easily fixed. Still new to me, so I haven't yet taken the time to fiddle with it (to busy enjoying playing it). And man, this thing stays in tune!

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

I like the gloss finish, and the mahogony neck and resonator are beautifully done. Inlays are just the right amount of fancy for my taste. Nice hardware all around.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Seems like a very well built banjo, and I expect the hardware and finish to last me a long time.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

The guy at the local music shop (Apple Music in Portland) was great to work with, and he ordered my banjo from RK and it arrived in a matter of a few days. I haven't had to deal with RK myself, but I was impressed they were able to get the banjo to me so quickly.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I wouldn't replace a thing, although I hear it can be interesting to try different bridges. Also I am impressed by the quality of the RK hard case that it came in.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I was a bit nervous buying a banjo sight-unseen, but I couldn't be happier. It helped to listen online to some banjos (compare RK-R35 and RK-R36) and also to see a lower end RK at my local shop before ordering. Its hard to imagine a better banjo at this price point (or any, for that matter).

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Cue Zephyr (see all reviews from this person) on 3/25/2014

Where Purchased: Thilo Hain

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 760 (€) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

It's the only banjo I've ever played or heard so it sounds wonderful to me and it's pretty loud for what I'm used to. It's a warm and earthy sounding banjo, even if I pick a little too close to the bridge - it gets bright but not shrill or painful. It's quite punchy as well. Those are all reasons why I wanted the mahogany-built R36 over the maple-built R35.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I assume that the set-up wasn't ideal, since the person who sold it to me set it up beforehand. That set-up however, is fantastic - low action, also higher up the neck. I also asked the seller to change to a bridge for more bass response. It sounds very pleasant that way. I've heard the stock bridges on the Madison line aren't all that great. I can't speak for that though, since I never played the banjo with it's stock bridge.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's beautiful. I like the look of the mahogany neck and resonator. At first I was concerned with the gloss finish on the neck but the gloss finish is great all-around. I don't care too much about inlay work, but I do appreciate fancy inlays sometimes. I like how it's classy but still modest.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The finish looks and feels like it will last me a long time. The 5th string tuner was a little loose though. I'm not sure if it was like that out of the box, but I tightened it once I noticed it and all is well now. Having said that, the tuners do feel quite solid. I would happily gig with this banjo and I'll rely on it for my personal recordings.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

A little bit slow, perhaps, but the response is useful. I contacted customer service since none of the Recording King dealers knew when the R36 was coming back in stock. I got a reply in about 2-3 days with the exact information I was looking for. Not just that, the reply was very nice and casual. After my preferred dealer hooked me up with most likely the last R36 on sale in Europe (before new stock arrives), I sent another email to the person who responded to me earlier and actually got a reply asking for a video. How cool is that? I'm surely gonna send one once I feel comfortable with one of the brand's employees seeing what a new owner plays on their instrument.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The tuners are generic. Although they feel very sturdy and solid, I'd assume that a set of Gotoh tuners like on the higher end Recording King models would be even better. I can't justify the cost of them so I will keep what is on there now.
I might experiment with bridges and tailpieces. Not because I don't like what is on the banjo right now, but just to experiment a little and see what other tones the banjo is capable of making.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

It was a little on the expensive side - I could've gotten something like an RK-Elite-75 or RK-R80 for not much more money. The difference however, is that this RK-R36 was checked (for faults), set-up and spiked. I also requested a hardshell case instead of a gig bag, so that all added to the price. I'm very glad I did that - the set-up is excellent. I wouldn't have wanted to attempt that on my own, having no knowledge or experience with banjos at all.

As many say about the tone ring banjos from the Madison line, it's a lot of banjo for the money and it's in most cases all one needs in a banjo, unless it's very specific things. I'm glad that I held out for a Recording King and didn't settle for anything else. The dealer that sold it to me also has a hand in that, as well as all the praise about their instruments in general i.e. not just their banjos.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Banjophobic (see all reviews from this person) on 1/1/2013

Where Purchased: Endorsement

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: none historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The banjo has the classic mahogany tone and response, which is warm and full but also with a good attack and sustain, when needed.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The banjo was shipped with a 'factory' set-up but it was understood I would be doing my own set-up anyway, as I am also a luthier/repairman. But the banjo could have been played as it was set-up from the factory.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

I really like the whole look of the Rk-36. The gloss finish really highlights the grain and color of the mahogany. The 'gull wing' inlay motif and 'coke bottle' peg head is a nice combination. Its ornate enough to be classy and tasteful. There are no flaws in the appearance of this banjo.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This has been my "go-to" banjo for gigging over that past few months I've owned it. The hardware is top notch and is holding up as well as any banjo I've owned.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Greg and company have been great to deal with. All these models have the lifetime warranty. Many of my students and customers in the shop own Rk's and the customer service experiences i hear from them have been very positive.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The Rk pot assembly is one of the best values on the market today. There is nothing 'short' about the quality of them. There will always be an occasional quality control issue to deal with in producing banjos in higher volumes, from a 'factory' setting. Rk has been on top of those issues and I know Greg takes great pride in making sure they continue to improve. There was a small issue with one co-rod being out of alignment, but i reported to them that i was taking care of the repair myself,. Greg assured me that it would be reported to QC. As a repairman, I work on LOTS of banjos, from every maker you can think of, In terms of overall quality, the Rk is great.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

The reason i submitted this review was to give an honest assessment of this banjo. Yes, it was given to me as part of an endorsement deal, but I was a fan of the Rk banjo line long before that transpired. I would not play any banjo that I did not like, regardelss of how I came to own it. Nor would I play gigs with a banjo that did not perform well in those gig situations. This Rk-36 has done everything I needed it to do and beyond. I would not stake my reputation as professional player and teacher endorsing a banjo and or brand name that I had doubts about. Overall, this banjo gets a 10 from me for its tone and quality. If I was looking to buy a banjo in this price point, the 35 series is what i would get.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by egdyess (see all reviews from this person) on 12/29/2012

Where Purchased: Capo's

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: 899 ($US)

Sound

I had a Fender 58 for about 10 years and decided to purchase this as I have gotten serious about playing. I love it..it is well made and sounds awesome..love the mahogany wood.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Yes the banjo was ready to play when I bought it as it was set up by the banjo tech at Capo's and he knew what he was doing.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I bought it new and love the mahogany wood..

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

This is a great banjo and will serve me well for many years..

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Have owned about 3 months and no problems to need warranty work..

Customer Service: not rated

Components

I think the banjo is well made for the money. I may upgrade one day to an 82 or Elite but it will be a Recording King banjo..

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I am taking lessons from a guy who has played for over 30 years..he owns two Recording King banjos and says he would not trade for a Gibson. They are great banjos and well made..

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by andymc (see all reviews from this person) on 3/14/2012

Where Purchased: Fret Mill

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: 899 ($US)

Sound

Love the tone of this banjo! Very rich sound with a nice pop from the flathead tone ring.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Not set up too well. I had to move the bridge half an inch or so to get proper intonation. The head was just barely tightened down. But the neck angle and string height are perfect.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

The select mahogany with the gloss finish looks great. Very simple but classy inlays which suits me.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hardware seems top notch to me. Tuners arent the best but they get the job done.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

n/a

Customer Service: not rated

Components

I like the maple rim. I think it gives the banjo a great sound. RK;s presto tailpeice is nice. The only thing i want to upgrade is the bridge.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Great sounding banjo you wont be able to put down. I upgraded from a fender FB-54 and the RK blows it out of the water

Overall Rating: 10

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