Comparison: 5 Resonator Guitars You Should Know About

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National Steel Tricone Resonator

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.

Johnson
JR-410
Fender
FR-50
Regal
RD-40N
Wechter
RS-6610F
National
Steel Tricone
Fender FR-50 ResonatorRegal RD-40N ResonatorWechter RS-6610F ResonatorNational Steel Tricone Resonator
$322$500$650$1,065$3,000
Body: Maple back and sides with mahogany top; 2 round soundholes.Body: Laminated mahogany back and sides; laminated spruce top; dual F-shaped soundholes.Body: Mahogany back and sides; spruce top; 2 round soundholes.Body: Mahogany top, back and sides; 2 round soundholes.Body: Steel back, sides and top; ‘30s Art-Deco styled open bouts.
Neck: Maple (round)Neck: Nato (round)Neck: Mahogany (round)Neck: Nato (round)Neck: Hard Rock Maple (round)
Resonator Cone: 10.5"aluminumResonator cone: 10.5"aluminumResonator cone: 10.5"aluminumResonator cone: 10.65"aluminumResonator cone:
6" aluminum x (3)
Coverplate: Chrome plated brass; fan pattern design.Coverplate: Chrome; fan pattern design.Coverplate: Chrome plated; fan pattern design.Coverplate: Chromed; fan pattern design.Coverplate: Matching steel; diamond shape pattern design.
Extras: Satin vintage sunburst finish, cream color binding, optional square neck.Extras: Die-cast chrome tuners, custom Fender® F holes.Extras: Exclusive “Power Reflex” sound chamber for increased volume.Extras: Binding; hardshell case included.Extras: Fretboard binding, bone nut, optional flat neck and case included.
Reputation:
Nice looking but save up a little more and get the Regal.
Reputation: Forget about this one. It lacks a decent tone and has little character.Reputation: This is what you want. Looks, feel and a respectable sound - they’re all there.Reputation: Good quality, not too steep a price.Reputation: This is what started it all. Can you say legend?

Johnson JR-410

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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: ★☆☆☆☆

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: ★★★☆☆

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: ★★★☆☆

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: ★★★★★

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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