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Dec 7, 2023 - 9:52:39 AM

chips

Canada

14 posts since 3/5/2015

Hi folks. A few years ago I was forced to sell my Recording King RK-R80. It was a beautiful instrument and was supposed to be my forever banjo. However, I fell on hard times and unfortunately it is now in someone else's ownership. It's been 5 years and I want to get back into playing. My budget is around $500. I can't stretch to an RK-R35 or 36 at the moment, so I've been looking at banjos which I can get back to playing on that would still be good enough to be a second banjo for travelling with in the future if I were to upgrade.

I've narrowed it down to the RK-R20 or the Ibanez B200 or B300. I have experience with Recording King, if the RK-R20 is indeed of the same quality. I don't have any experience with Ibanez. The reason I'm on the fence is because of the block pot and flathead tone ring on the Ibanez. It seems closer to a bluegrass banjo than the RK-R20, which has a much thinner ply rim and I assume a tone hoop. I can also get a B300 for 3/4 of the price of the RK, but would need to factor in upgraded tuners.

Does anyone have any experience or knowledge of both of these banjos that could help me make a decision? My picks are sitting here in front of me ready to go!

Dec 7, 2023 - 10:54:52 AM

banjonz

New Zealand

11952 posts since 6/29/2003

Go for the RK, not the Ibanez. I am currently working an a B200 and am very unimpressed with the workmanship. The neck is OK but the fit of the tone ring to the rim is supposed to be a slip fit. This is a SLOP fit where there is about 3-4mm side to side movement. I am currently in the process of correcting this by adding a 2mm shim all the way round the rim where the ring sits. RK have much higher quality control.

Dec 7, 2023 - 11:10:10 AM
Players Union Member

TN Time

USA

836 posts since 12/6/2021

I owned an RK20 at one time. It sounded pretty good and played well. I was playing it on a music store float in a Christmas parade when I worked for that music store in Plant City, Florida. It projected well and the crowd had no trouble hearing it. If you don't mind the bracket and shoe construction on the rim, I say go for it.
Robert

Dec 7, 2023 - 11:13:24 AM

14828 posts since 6/2/2008

Specs for B200 and B300 seem identical, so I'm confused.

Anyway, the Ibanez block rim is basswood. Sometimes used in electric guitar bodies but rare in banjo rims. I don't recall anyone ever discussing it here and can't think of any brand of good reputation and desirability using basswood.

The tone ring for both B200 and B300 is listed as "rolled brass" which to my understanding makes it the same type of hoop ring as in the RK-20.

I personally don't like the vine inlay and can't play on such a fingerboard.

If the RK-20 available to you is the current model with the "Madison" series headstock (same as RK-35), I would much prefer that over the Ibanez. This version of the RK-20 is made by Recording King, not a rebadged banjo made by someone else. It feature's Recording King's US-threaded hardware.

The Ibanez costs less for a reason.

Good luck.

Dec 7, 2023 - 11:21:12 AM

2933 posts since 2/4/2013

The new in house version of the RK-R20 is a well made (I'm guessing here Recording King do have a clue) multiply rim, rolled brass tone ring banjo. The Ibanez has more of the twang but as Wayne says the quality is dubious. I have the same pot on a Gewa tenor. I also employed shims with the tone ring and flange. The components are cheap and the quality control seems non existent. I've read a number of unfavourable comments about the Ibanez. However if I really wanted the bluegrass twang, at the right price, I'd still be tempted by the Ibanez knowing work would be required. But as a travelling companion in the future I wouldn't trust it at all.

With a $500 budget I'd be looking for used Japanese made flathead tone ring banjos from the 1970s.

Dec 7, 2023 - 11:23:29 AM
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2933 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory

The tone ring for both B200 and B300 is listed as "rolled brass" which to my understanding makes it the same type of hoop ring as in the RK-20.

 

Never trust a guitar company when it comes to banjo specs. They have cheap pot metal flathead tone rings.

Dec 7, 2023 - 11:26:31 AM

chips

Canada

14 posts since 3/5/2015

Alright, thanks folks. That's enough info for me to go for the RK. I'll get it ordered and hopefully be playing again in a week or so!

Dec 7, 2023 - 11:37:33 AM
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2933 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by chips

Alright, thanks folks. That's enough info for me to go for the RK. I'll get it ordered and hopefully be playing again in a week or so!


Make sure it's the new version rather than old stock of the old version. The old version was ok and a rebadge from another factory. Recording King seem to do these much better. I have an RK-R15 which was an in house multiply rim, brass hoop banjo and it's better than banjos of the old style of the RK-R20 which I've owned a couple and played a couple more.

Dec 7, 2023 - 11:45:09 AM
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chips

Canada

14 posts since 3/5/2015

Thanks Graham. I was aware of that and there seems to be quite a lot of visual differences to tell them apart.

Dec 7, 2023 - 3:15:40 PM
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3278 posts since 5/2/2012

I used to do some wood carving, 3D and some relief carving. Basswood was my material of choice. Lightweight, soft, easy to carve. Wouldn't really think of basswood as a good choice for a banjo pot.

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