In your pursuit for the best beginner banjo you will, or already have, stumbled upon a couple of great deals that offer different packages and promise that the $200 instrument will sound pretty much like any professional level instrument. In your research, you probably also figured out that that is mostly far from the truth. Don’t get me wrong there are so many amazing entry-level banjos that even intermediate players enjoy but juxtaposing them with the pro-level instrument will only result in disappointment. So, if you have figured out that much and have pretty realistic expectations (and by realistic, I don’t mean low) of your first banjo, let’s talk about one of the best options on the market today – Rover RB-20 Open Back 5 String Banjo.
When it comes to the build of an instrument, there is no bigger determinant of quality of sound and playability. While the more affordable models usually do not feature high-end details, what really matters is the craftsmanship and how every detail comes together. You can have some of the best quality material but without an experienced craftsman, you might as well build a bookshelf with several weird-looking decorations. The RB-20 offers an open back banjo with 11″ composite rim and a Grooved tension hoop.
The mahogany neck is pretty smooth and well crafted. On top of it, you’ll see an East Indian Rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays which is pretty smooth and well crafted. Apart from that, you get an adjustable truss rod which is always a great and functional addition to any instrument. The lightweight construction and material used for this banjo show that the main goal of this instrument is to bring as much comfort while not compromising the sound.
Moving on to the hardware, the RB-20 is equipped with nickel-plated grooved tension hoop, adjustable tension-style tailpiece and Guitar style geared tuners with a geared 5th peg. The action on this model is a bit too high to my taste. That might not be the case for everyone, but in any case, it is an easily fixable issue. All in all, this banjo creates decent quality, functional hardware. There is nothing mind-blowing about it but then again, if you want mind-blowing you should be looking into banjos at three times the price range. What really matters is that this hardware really allows for ease of playing and won’t really pose any troubles for you.
Rover RB 20 Sound
Traditionally, open-back banjos have quieter, more mellow sounds. That is also true of this model. While you won’t have the loud, forward sound of resonator banjos, what you will be getting is the sweet, balanced tone of this banjo. A lot of the time, especially with cheaper open-backs I dread playing them because I am afraid I will end up with toyish, small sound.
Fortunately, this model is very far from that. After adjusting the action and changing strings (because I always change them and with this model it actually improves the overall performance) I ended up with pretty much perfect sound and volume.
You might find the Rover RB-20 Open Back 5 String Banjo on many blogs and websites that create “the best” categories. And the reason for that (as far as I am concerned) is not because this model has some sort of insane marketing budget. The RB-20 is just a solid banjo that sound and feels good. If I had gotten this model many, many years ago my experience, at least for the first two-three years, would have been much more pleasant.
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