Comparison: 5 Resonator Guitars You Should Know About

National Steel Tricone Resonator

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Here are five acoustic resonators in an array of prices and designed for a variety of players

Selecting a resonator guitar can be tricky. Is wood better than a metal body? Do they all sound similar? Why is there such a price disparity among models?
We looked at an assortment of instruments and evaluated their sound quality, construction, pricing and reputation. The examples here range in cost from $322 up to $3,000. Review our ratings and then compare for yourself.

[table id=6 /]

Johnson JR-410

[rating:2]

The JR-410 looks and feels like a blues machine except it always comes down to a matter of getting what you pay for. In this price range, it’s an acceptable product.

Fender FR-50

[rating:1]

The only reason this model gets a star is because of the famous Fender® name. The FR-50 doesn’t provide the necessary sustain or volume that most slide players look for. You would expect something better from a company with such a celebrated legacy.

Regal RD-40N

[rating:3]

Though an import, the RD-40N sounds surprisingly good. Sturdy construction and vintage tendencies offer something more than just superficial good looks. Countryish and folky at times but tuned to open-G and it can deliver a bluesy Delta quality. It’s definitely worth the money.

Wechter™ RS-6610F

[rating:3]

This model is also a well-constructed, fine sounding imported resonator. Add another half of a star because the RS-6610F is set-up in the U.S. Pickers will pay more money than for a Regal due to the slightly finer tonewood and cone.

National Reso-Phonic Steel Tricone

[rating:5]

Not only is the Tricone domestically made, National is part of the American music tradition. For example, influential blues pioneer, Son House and Texas slide king, Johnny Winter, are both known for playing National guitars. It’s not just mystique. The Tricone is the highest rated of the bunch due to the quality materials that are used and its unique resonant character. Bluntly speaking, there is nothing like a National.
If the National Tricone is out of your price range, try the Regal RD-40N. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

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Paul Wolfle

As a vintage and contemporary music enthusiast, guitars dominate Paul’s life. He plays slide in open tunings on a National Steel Tricone resonator and electric blues, in standard tuning, on an assortment of other instruments including his white Fender Stratocaster.

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George Anderson
5 years ago

“National is part of the American music tradition.”

The current manufacturer has absolutely no connection whatsoever to the original maker of these instruments. The licence to use the name was purchased in the 1980s. Yes the instruments made by the National Resophonic Company are very high quality but they have no more link to the National that Son House played than any other of today’s other resonator companies. Whoever wrote this has succumbed to the marketing flim-flam.

Jim Robinson
5 years ago

I’m sorry, but all 4 of those single-cone spider-bridged guitars are very similar in their sound — thin and terrible for the blues (perhaps okay for playing country music) — in fact, I think their guts are nearly identical and if judged by sound alone, there is no difference. Even the old Epiphone Biscuit sounds better than any of these 4. If your’e going to play the blues and want a single cone resonator find something with a biscuit bridge like a National, or a James Trussart Resogator.

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