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Thread: Recording King RA-998

  1. #1

    Default Recording King RA-998

    Does anyone have any experience with Recording King's mandolin resonator RA-998? I have listened to a video of it on YouTube and it sounds pretty good for the price. However, videos can be unintentionally deceiving. In particular, I was wondering: (i) how is the voice of the instrument?; (ii) how good are the tuners? and (iii) can the instrument be amplified? Any thoughts on any of these subjects or anything else you can tell me about the instrument would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    From what I can see, it looks pretty much like the Asian-made, brass-bodied resonator mandolins that have been sold for years under names such as Johnson, Republic, et. al. I played a few of them and was less than impressed by the sound quality, which seemed harsh and raucous. Now, in some ways those are the qualities that people actually desire in National-style, biscuit-bridge resonator mandolins; I have a '30's National Triolian that is, to put it mildly, NOT SUBTLE in its sound.

    Difference, as with all resonator instruments, is in the resonator cone. Republic advertises its cones as "hand-spun aluminum"; aluminum is standard, but if more care is taken in crafting the actual cone, you may get a better sonic response from it. Concur that you can't really tell from YouTube vids, which depend largely on how they're recorded -- what mic is used, etc.

    Having said that, I haven't played a Recording King, compared it with the other Asian-made National clones. These instruments are at least affordable, much more so than vintage Nationals or the new RM-1 (see adjacent thread on that subject). If you can get to a dealer who has an RA-998, that would be the best way to evaluate it.

    If it's as assertively voiced as other similar Asian-made reso mandolins I've tried, you might not want to amplify it...
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    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    Once you amplify an instrument what difference does the instrument make, the sound is from the amp, I know there are different opinions on that but I love the sound of a good instrument and amplifying a resonator instrument reminds me of Buck Trent’s or Sonny Osborne’s (of early 70’s)’banjo, definitely not an improvement, IMHO

  5. #4

    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    I have not seen a Recording King RA-998 resonator mandolin.

    The Recording King uses a 10" hand-spun European Recording King cone.
    National cones are 9.5" as are most other options I have read about.

    Though it might be just spec inflation I would first check out whether
    other brand cones are compatible with the Recording King instrument.
    Some people do replace the cone.
    Thanks,
    sounds_good

  6. #5
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    They also have a 14 7/8 scale, not 13 7/8. Just to point it out.
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    I played one, sounds like a trash can with strings. Go with the National.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  8. #7

    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to write. This is all very helpful. Mike

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    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    I know I've played a couple of the Johnsons and I think I played a Recording King at some point a few years ago. IMHO the RM-1 is a far superior instrument wrt build quality, tone, all the boxes. That said, sometimes brash and nasty are what you want, and I remember one member on here a few years ago who bought one of the Johnsons for a recording project because he didn't feel the RM-1 was brash/nasty enough. Of course, there's also a substantial price difference. I bought my RM-1 instead of one of the cheaper imports because I wanted louder but not necessarily brash and nasty all the time (though it can definitely be coaxed out of the RM-1). Prior to the world stopping in 2020 I headed up the youth praise band at church and we were usually in a pretty dead room acoustically for those services, but often had a couple of acoustic/electric guitars, electric bass, and drums. If we didn't amplify everything/run it through the board the RM-1 worked great.

    If you do go the Recording King route I'd suggest buying from a Cafe sponsor that will do a good setup, and let them know if you want it set up like a regular mandolin or a little high to facilitate slide playing. The Johnsons I played were both really high at the nut straight from the factory.

    There is a "hot plate" pickup National uses that I assume could be used on a Recording King, though you may want to check with a luthier to confirm.
    Chuck

  10. #9

    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    If you do go the Recording King route I'd suggest buying from a Cafe sponsor that will do a good setup, and let them know if you want it set up like a regular mandolin or a little high to facilitate slide playing. The Johnsons I played were both really high at the nut straight from the factory.
    I am skeptical about people wanting to play slide mandolin.
    I searched youtube and found 7 videos. So, there are some.
    You can do the search and listen for yourself if you would
    like to try that effect.

    I would not ask to have a mandolin set up "high". Later if I
    wanted to experiment I could get a taller nut for that purpose.
    Thanks,
    sounds_good

  11. #10
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    It's surely not news, but there is a quantum price jump between any of the Asian-made "National" clones, and a US-made National RM-1. Like 5X, even if you buy a used RM-1. So unsurprising that the RM-1 is a much superior instrument.

    Many people have an "interest" in trying a resonator instrument; few decide to make that instrument their "main" mandolin. I have 1930's vintage Dobro and National resonator instruments, and I get them out now and again when in search of that particular sound. I've owned them a long time, but probably wouldn't have bought them "back in the day" if I'd had to spend thousands on them.

    Though I've never played an RM-1, and have only been in sessions with one once or twice, I respect what others have said about its quality, volume and tone. But for someone who's only "resonator-curious," it may be a bit more of an investment than I'd recommend. Too bad that the lower-priced alternatives are so inferior. I had the experience of being in a jam with a mandolinist playing one of Stuart Wailing's resonator instruments, and I thought the one I heard sounded pretty good. He's a UK builder, and here's his website.
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    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    They also have a 14 7/8 scale, not 13 7/8. Just to point it out.
    And a good piece of information to note! I attempted to string mine up to pitch, and the resistance made me reach for a measuring device to make this discovery. I ended up going with just slightly heavier strings, tuning down three half-steps to E, suitable for the blues material I had in mind for the instrument. I tried many combinations, such as stringing the low course, then the two low courses as octaves, requiring modifications to the nut. Through every mutation the instrument was consistent in sounding like crap...very much like a tinny sounding cheap banjo, which was not exactly the sound I was going for. I have played both old and new National resonator mandolins, all of which sounded so far superior to this import metal trash can. I was happy to sell it, but almost felt sorry for the fella that bought it!
    too many strings

  13. #12

    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    I own both an RM 1 and a Recording King resonator. Naturally they both have a different sound. There are times when I favor the Recording King over the RM 1 for its “metallic” sound. I’m surprised that so many responders here don’t care for it. I have also played a vintage metal bodied National and quite honestly I prefer the Recording King.

  14. #13

    Default Re: Recording King RA-998

    Thanks to all who responded. All the comments were very helpful.

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