When it comes to traditional wood body resonators currently priced under $1,000, the Regal RD-40N Dobro guitar is one of the better-quality, affordable models offering warm twang. Distributed by Saga Musical Instruments and imported from Asia, the RD-40N provides satisfying consistency and melodic depth generally associated with more expensive reproductions.
The RD-40N Has Distinct Features
While a spruce top, rosewood fingerboard and dot inlays are all here, these are not the details that set this guitar apart. Clean fret work, solid binding around the body and neck and sealed die-cast tuners render this resonator a consistently accurate box that easily stays in tune. The RD-40N, available in a variety of gloss finishes and often with a gold hardware option, comes with mahogany back, sides and neck.
Regal’s RD-40N maintains more of an open Bluegrass Country quality than that of the introspective Mississippi Delta. The Saga Musical Instruments website describes some of the particulars:
“The body shape is much like those Dobros made in California during the 1930s, while the inside has been redesigned to include the exclusive ‘Power Reflex’ sound chamber for increased volume and unsurpassed tone.”
The “Power Reflex” is a plate at the base of the resonator that changes the course of the string noise inside the body cavity by acting as a sound deflector; added volume is then pumped out when the guitar is picked or plucked. Two screened sound holes sit within each bout, three smaller portholes between them.
The RD-40N has a 19 fret fingerboard and is a comfortable 1-3/4″ wide at the nut. The aluminum cone and cast aluminum bridge that sit beneath the chrome cover plate produce a tone much less shrill than that of a metal bodied resonator. An adjustable truss rod and a 15:1 gear ratio add to its above-average profile. The binding, which comfortably counters any unwanted vibrations, is multi-ply ivoroid.
The RD-40N presently lists for $650 online at Saga Musical Instruments, while the street price remains well below that. There are no on board electronics though the guitar can easily be amplified with any number of solutions; these include the Fishman Spider-Bridge Resonator Guitar Pick-up for around $189.00. The entire expenditure should be less than $1,000, a sizable chunk of change for most but quite reasonable for a new resonator. By comparison, an American made National Steel single cone resonator, manufactured in California, starts at around $2,000.
The Sound of an RD-40N
When compared to other moderately priced guitars manufactured outside of the United States, the RD-40N is well worth the expense; matching it to a resonator produced at home may be another matter.
Similar domestic instruments can carry a high price tag, leaving most starting at more than twice the cost of the Regal. Speaking musically, American made resonators can be noticeably louder than imported models. In addition, wood bodied National and Dobro products, two well established home grown icons that have been around for many years, offer a more complex and richer sound when up against the Regal.
But for those who do not have a couple of thousand dollars ready to invest, the Regal RD-40N, distributed by Saga Musical Instruments, is perhaps the next best thing.