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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!

6861 reviews in the archive.

Recording King: RK-Elite-77

Submitted by impickin5 on 4/28/2015

Where Purchased: From Estate Sale

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 1450 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Awesome, full tone all up and down the neck.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Only thing I changed was to raise the tailpiece a little.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

One beautiful banjo. Love the dark gold plating in lieu of bright shiny gold plating.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

No problem with the hardware. Everything excellent.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Not under warranty since I bought it from original Owner's estate.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

All parts are of the finest quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo is equal to or better than new banjos costing $3000-$4000 or more.

Overall Rating: 10

Tuners: Cheat-a-keys

Submitted by impickin5 on 3/10/2015

Where Purchased: Used from a HO member

Overall Comments

Actually this is the 3rd set of Cheat-a-keys I've owned. With the two previous sets, I just could never get used to the fact that both tuners had to be turned in the same direction to tune up or down as I was used to Keith's and Schaller's turning in opposite directions, so I sold them. Then, with this 3rd set, it just dawned on my old brain "DUH", just look at what position the tuner buttons are in before tuning up or down, something you really can't tell with the Keith's and Schaller's tuner buttons. Highly recommended. 

Overall Rating: 10

Recording King: RK-35-BR Madison

Submitted by impickin5 on 6/13/2014

Where Purchased: ebay/Clevelandpawn

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Great tone, much like Earl's early Granada

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Just so-so. Head was not tight enough and tailpiece was pulled down too far for my liking. String action at the 1st couple of frets was too high for my playing, so I deepened the nut notches a little.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

Excellent

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

All excellent except I don't think they used the best tuners they could have although they work okay.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Have not had a problem.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Should have better tuners.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

You cannot buy a better quality banjo with the workmanship, tone and playability than a RK-35  for the money. Highly recommended.

Overall Rating: 10

Tuners: Gotoh

Submitted by impickin5 on 7/24/2013

Where Purchased: Smakula Fretted Instruments

Overall Comments

This the 3rd set of Gotoh tuners I've owned. They are absolutely the best tuners available on the market today. What I especially like about them is that they are very smooth and "HOLD" equally well whether you are tuning up or down. And you can't beat the price. I will never use any other tuners.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Tim Purcell Piano Bridge

Submitted by impickin5 on 8/17/2012

Where Purchased: Tim Purcell

Overall Comments

I bought 1928 TB3 conversion back in April, 2010 and it had a Frank Neat bridge on it. I really liked the tone I was getting with that bridge, but being the "tinkeraholic" that I am, I tried 6 or 8 other top name bridges that I had in my collection, but always went back to the Frank Neat as the best. In August, 2012, I decided I wanted to try something else, so I ordered and received one of Tim Purcell's "Old Piano Wood" bridges.

After receiving the bridge from Tim and after switching back and forth between Tim's bridge and the Frank Neat a few times, I liked Tim's bridge better. It gives the banjo a little "drier", clearer tone with volume to spare. I would highly recommend Tim's bridges.

Overall Rating: 10

Recording King: RK-R35 Madison

Submitted by impickin5 on 10/25/2011

Where Purchased: The Banjo Hut

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 700 Including case ($US)

Sound

Right out of the box it sounded awesome. A real prewar flathead tone for a bluegrass banjo even with the original bridge. I replaced the bridge with a Yates and it sounded even better.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The only thing I did for setup was raise the tailpiece and the armrest a little and checked the coord rod nuts. The upper coord rod nut was about a half turn tighter than I like. I like the nuts just about 1/8 of a turn past snug. The action was just perfect for my liking.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I love the matte finish and aged binding. Though the banjo doesn't have some of the frills of higher priced banjos such as fancy inlays, concentric inlays in the resonator, fancy cut peghead, etc, it doesn't bother me. Hey, it's the tone and playability I'm looking for.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Completely satisfied with all wood and metal parts except the tuners. See below.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Haven't had any trouble or need there.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

I'm not impressed with the tuners. Wish they had used the Gotoh's like the higher end RK's. Would have preferred ivoroid tuner buttons rather than the pearloid buttons as the ivoroid buttons would look nicer and match the aged binding.

Also, would have been nice if the banjo included RR spikes at 7th, 8th & 9th frets.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

The overall quality and tone of this banjo would exceed the quality and tone of any banjo costing 5-8 times the cost of this banjo. IMHO, it's the best buy anywhere for the money.

Overall Rating: 10

Cases (Hard, Flight): Guardian Standard Fiberglass Case

Submitted by impickin5 on 11/24/2010

Where Purchased: Larry Perkins

Overall Comments

This case really exceeded my expectations. I can't find a single thing wrong with it except for maybe just a little more padding on the yokes where the neck rests. I would highly recommend this case to anyone looking for fiberglass case and doesn't want to shell out the big bucks for a Price or Calton.

Overall Rating: 10

Huber: Jim Mills

Submitted by impickin5 on 11/19/2010

Where Purchased: Private Seller

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Rich full sound. You can pick really hard on this banjo and it still produces excellent tone, unlike some banjos where if you pick really hard, the volume is louder, but you lose some tone. Not that way with this banjo.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

According to the seller, the banjo was set up by Charlie Cushman (including a new AMB top-frosted head) about 18 months ago before I bought it and was apparently played very little during that 18 months. When I got it home, the head tension was 86 on my drum dial (obviously the head had stretched some). I set the head tension to 90 on my drum dial and the banjo really came alive.

Setup Rating: not rated

Appearance

Appearance amazing. No problems. It just doesn't get much better than the combination of gold-plated parts on a mahogany banjo.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Gold plating is amazing. According to Steve Huber, this banjo was made in 2002. I question that, but if it's 8 years old, there isn't the slightest wear on the gold plating. Not even on the armrest which you normally see the first signs of wear.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Not applicable.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

I think Huber used the absolute finest parts available for this banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This Huber Mills model banjo is the 34th banjo I've owned in my life, and I honestly think it's the best sounding and playing banjo I've ever owned, bar none.

Overall Rating: 10

Gibson: J. D. Crowe Black Jack

Submitted by impickin5 on 7/25/2004

Where Purchased: Fret Mill Music, Roanoke, VA

Year Purchased: 2004
Price Paid: 3250.00 ($US)

Sound

Wonderful dry/hollow sound much like J.D.'s RB-75, all the way from the open 4th string to the 22nd fret on the 1st string.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The action was a little too high for me personally even though it had a Snuffy Smith 5/8" Crowe spacing bridge. After 2 weeks though, I'm getting used to the action. BTW, I found that a Gary Sosebee "submerged wood" bridge sounds best on this banjo. I had to tighten the head a little as would be expected on a new banjo from the factory. Also, I think the height of the strings at the nut is a little high, but got used to that in a few days.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

Fantastic. The satin gold finish on this banjo makes this new banjo look like an old prewar banjo. The fretboard inlays are truly fantastic and unique. The finish on the mahogany neck and resonator is also fantastic.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Only time will tell. Will have to wait and see.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Have bought from Fret Mill Music before and have been satisfied.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Other than the planet tuners being a little on the loose side, everything else seems to be just fine.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Banjo arrived with pearliod tuning buttons instead of ivoriod tuning bottons as shown on Gibson and other websites. I contacted Gibson and they sent me the ivoriod buttons. Also, the banjo arrived with the plain oval Gibson decal instead of the Gibson old style "Warranty etc." decal except instead of Kalamazoo, Nashville. I'm still working with Gibson on this. I think Gibson has a real winner with this banjo. I love it.

Overall Rating: 9

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