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Checked out Guitar Center's starter banjos, Recording King Dirty Thirties

Oct 25, 2021 - 9:52:20 AM
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14305 posts since 10/30/2008

Out of curiosity I stopped in the Guitar Center for Portland Maine this weekend to see what this Christmas' crop of starter banjos looked like.

They had two slightly different models of Recording King Dirty Thirties open back banjos. The 3S at $199 and the 30S at $219.

Both had the guitar style tuners and plain Jane appearance. However, the 10% price increase for the 30S was for three important changes. The 30S has 16 tension hooks. The 3S has only 12 IN SPITE OF THE OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION ON THE TAG CLAIMING IT HAD MORE! Incomprehensible. All these hooks were the same cheap stamped hooks. They are weak enough to break the tips off, so I think having more would reduce the strain on any one hook. The other improvement was the 30S had a metal bead tone hoop. The 3S has the head sitting directly on the thin wood rim.  Finally, the 3S has a No Knot type tailpiece; the 30S has a Presto type.

Of course neither of these banjos was set up other than a guess at where to put the bridge, both of which were slanted forward almost enough to tip over. Tuned quite low below standard G.

All that said, I believe these are very worthy entry level banjos for the novice/beginner taking up our sport. Certainly better than what was available in the early 1960s for us beginners!

Apparently no Epiphone MB 100s nor Gretsch Dixies this year at GC.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 10/25/2021 10:01:39

Oct 25, 2021 - 11:57:56 AM



1046 posts since 3/22/2017

Yeah, GC's mandos, banjos and resos are in sad condition. I think their drum head tensions average about 60 on the Drum dial. One GC has a Gibson RB250, i asked if i could remove the resonator, the sales associate asked why anybody would want to do that, then said he'd have to ask the manager, then came back and said he couldn't find the manager...  I called another GC on a weekend, asked same thing, photo without resonator, they said to call back on Wednesday when the only employee that knew how to take off the resonator would be there.

My first was a turquoise RK w/cracked neck, Starlight model? It was great for $150, had 24 decent (round cross section) tension hooks

Edited by - gtani7 on 10/25/2021 12:02:09

Oct 25, 2021 - 12:00:32 PM

2050 posts since 2/4/2013

This is interesting and confusing. The Dirty Thirties RKOH-06 is supposed to have a tone hoop, 16 hooks and a no knot. The Dirty Thirties RKOH-05 is supposed to have 16 hooks and a Presto tailpiece and no tone ring. So you found versions with the opposite tailpieces and one with 12 hooks. Although I like Recording King sometimes things are a bit confused. While I claim to have a Recording King RK-OT25 it's really a mash up of the RK-O25 and RK-OT25.

Oct 25, 2021 - 12:54:38 PM

14305 posts since 10/30/2008

Graham, I double checked the RK website for their specs on the 3S vs. 30S. Just to reinforce my memory of what I saw in the store. The text on the tags on the instrument pegheads were full of mistakes.

Oct 25, 2021 - 1:09:39 PM

2050 posts since 2/4/2013

Originally posted by The Old Timer

checked the RK website for their specs on the 3S vs. 30S.

Thanks for clearing up my confusion. I've never heard of the RKO-3S and assumed it was one of the others. Only the 16 hoop, presto tailpiece no tone ring version RKOH-05 seems to have made it to Europe.

Oct 25, 2021 - 1:17:57 PM

2791 posts since 4/7/2010

I stock the Recording King Dirty Thirties RKOH-05 openback 5-string banjo. Though I do not get excited about low end instruments, I realize that having an affordable beginners option is important. I sell then for $300 and include a Superior II Gig bag. I also inspect every one carefully. The last 4 batches I received 1 out of 4 had a neck alignment issue. I repaired some and I sent some back to the distributor to be shiipped to another retailer.

Even with those issues, every time I pick one up to play, I say; "This is alright!" They really are good sounding and for the most part decently constructed banjos. I know of no other that can compete in that price range.

Bob Smakula

Edited by - Bob Smakula on 10/25/2021 13:20:30

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