The 7 Best Resonator Guitars!

Check Out The 7 Best Resonator Guitars That You Can Find Available In 2022!

Introduction

It is obvious that resonator guitars are not receiving enough credit nowadays when we talk about mainstream music. Nevertheless, about genres like bluegrass and blues, resonators are used regularly due to their twangy metallic sound, which suits these genres well.

It seems that they are always pushed in the background in comparison with electric and acoustic guitars, and we think that is unfair because they are great gear pieces and not just because of their construction but because their look is beautiful as well.

The best Resonator guitars always stand out, with their eye-catching design, in addition to loud, resonating sound, especially if they have an all-metal physique, which is something that appears quite odd in case you are seeing a resonator guitar for the first time.

The main reason why resonator guitars have been invented in the first place back in the late 1920s is that common acoustic guitars were not capable of competing with loud brass instruments within the confines of a band. Because of the unique way they are constructed, resonators are capable of resonating more loudly and producing a sound that is grittier and sharper.

More About Resonator Guitars

Basically, resonator guitars are acoustic guitars that can produce a stronger and more natural output.

By guiding the string vibrations through the bridge via spun metal cones they produce the sound. These cones are what we all know as “resonators.”

So, as an alternative to the acoustic hole, we have a metal cone -or cones- in the center of the guitar’s body. The cones cover the inside of the body and have small vents, so the sound can come through.

Because the metal cones direct the guitar’s resonance, a resonator produces a brighter, louder, and clearer tone than conventional guitar models.

With all that said, the tonewoods do not affect the sound of the resonator that much. The defining factor is, instead, the design of the inside’s metal cones. For their bodies to increase the sound projection, there are one or two f-shaped holes that are on the top of the metal cones.

They feature the same design choice as the hollow and semi-hollow electric guitars, and that means that resonator guitars are partially hollow on the inside. Sometimes they are featuring honey-comb-like vents or mesh-looking breathing areas instead of F-shaped vents.

best resonator guitars

These guitars were created by the luthiers around 1927. They have been attempting to make the guitar louder so it could stand on par with the rest of the band members -percussion, horns, piano, singers, etc.

In this article, we made a list of the 7 best Resonator guitars that you can find available in 2022!

1. Gretsch G9210 Boxcar Square-Neck Resonator Guitar

Gretsch is a really great option when it comes to making guitars. They made many classics over the years. Chet Atkins, of course, Eddie Cochran and Bo Diddley, to name just a few. In later years they have been used by Joe Walsh, Brian Jones, George Harrison, and Pete Townshend that added a seal of approval on an orange 6120.

However, probably the most surprising player was Rory Gallagher, who used a red 1957 Gretsch Corvette for playing slide. They know a thing or two, so when they make a Resonator, it will have that Gretsch’ something’. In case you are searching for a guitar that might carry the label Greatest Square Neck Resonator Guitar, it will probably be here.

This is made with Mahogany back, top, and sides build for the body with a 25-inch scale neck. The neck is also Mahogany with the square design favored for bluegrass music, and it has a Rosewood fingerboard. It is not light-weight and his weight is just under 10 pounds.

For the people that favor playing the Blues, there is a round-necked model. The sound is helped on its way with an Amplisonic cone Spider bridge. This cone is created from hand-spun aluminum.

Up at the headstock, there are six die-cast Grover machine heads. There is a nut created from bone that is set tall to deliver the higher action required for lap steel playing.

What is kind of surprising about this guitar is the volume it generates. Part of this is because of a design characteristic.

Gretsch has included some traditional ‘f-holes in the front of this best resonator guitar. For those that know their Gretsch guitars, this is no accident. A feature of some of their iconic instruments, the Country Gent and the Tennessean, had ‘f” holes. So did many others in their range. A traditional Gretsch design is included here with great effect.

It is a typical instrument from Gretsch. Properly made with a pleasant metallic and wood combination sound. The Mahogany combines nicely with the spider resonator, which provides a lot of sustain. It does have a sound that is heavy with top end, but for the genre, it is designed for, that isn’t unusual.

It is a very nice guitar and at this price point, it offers great value.

Features

  • Squareneck with Mahogany body.
  • Mahogany neck25″ scale length.
  • Rosewood fingerboard.
  • Ampli-Sonic cone.
  • Spider bridge.
  • Case sold separately.
  • It has a square neck that’s preferable for bluegrass.
  • A round-neck version, which is better for blues-based music, is also available.
  • The G9210 features a beautiful mahogany body with traditional-style F holes.
  • The heart of this richly resounding guitar is the Gretsch Ampli-Sonic resonator cone.

Gretsch G9210 Boxcar Square-Neck Resonator Guitar

2. Pyle Electro Resophonic Acoustic Electric Guitar

Once you hear the name Pyle, guitars are not often the very first thing that comes to your mind. But right here we have the Pyle contribution to the Resonator guitar selection.

This is a budget-level guitar and is appropriate for starters or players that are new to this instrument. It is made with a mahogany back and sides and a spruce top. The neck is Nato with a rosewood fingerboard. A lot of materials that you are able to find on normal/standard guitars. It is a full-size scale length of 25 inches. The neck does appear to be slightly longer than some Resonator guitars.

This instrument gives you a total of 21 frets and 14 of them are available earlier than the neck meets the body. Played sitting down on your lap; this hardly matters. However using a traditional guitar style, it might. It is hand-made and given a stained physique and back. There are two round sound holes in the body.

Upon the headstock and chrome, plates sealed tuners. These are usually not the highest quality you’ll find but are satisfactory.

It has a built-in preamp that is battery-powered. Additionally has volume treble, bass, and mid-sound controls, that are conveniently positioned on the top edge of the guitar. And it comes as part of a package deal for younger players, which includes a tuner, strap, and picks in addition to a carrying bag.

It isn’t easy to find a low-cost resonator guitar, and this instrument from Pyle has quite a bit going for it. In case you are expecting a high level of quality in the construct and fittings, you might be disappointed. It is a starter instrument at a less expensive price; due to this fact, the quality can’t match its costly counterparts.

Having mentioned that, it is a respectable guitar with a great sound and a good choice for a starter or a young player.

Features

  • Pyle brings you a complete all-in-one acoustic guitar set, everything you need to start playing.
  • The full-scale 6-string classic standard guitar kit features a built-in preamplifier.
  • Perfect for use in guitar lessons, recitals, band rehearsals, or performances.
  • The classical guitar features handcrafted spruce & mahogany plywood construction.
  • White ABS binding, high gloss polished deep cherry stained body and back.
  • Dual circular guitar body sound holes, and diecast chrome tuning plugs.
  • This traditional sunburst design resonator stringed instrument is excellent for beginner and seasoned guitarists looking to create warm, vibrant acoustics.
  • It has everything you need to start playing straight out of the box.

Pyle Electro Resophonic Acoustic Electric Guitar

3. Gretsch G9220 Bobtail Acoustic-Electric Resonator Guitar

Gretsch is a guitar producer not considered in the same way as we consider Fender or Gibson. But there was a time when they outshone them both, especially when we talk about Country music. It was founded in 1883, twenty-five years earlier than Leo Fender arrived to join us, they have an important place in musical history. And particularly in American music history.

Gretsch has tried to remain as close as possible to the original and unique designs of these guitars. It has a mahogany back, sides, and top, and an aluminum resonator cone. The body is completed in a beautiful wood stain that enhances the grain and color of the Mahogany. There are also those nice Gretsch ‘f-holes cut into the body.

In addition to its great look, it actually does knock out quite a bit of volume.

The neck is also Mahogany with a Paduak fingerboard. It’s a spherical neck design, not a square neck with nineteen frets. It is a wood not usually seen in guitar manufacturing however resembles rosewood. There are inlay dots of abalone along the fingerboard.

Built into this guitar is a Fishman Nashville pickup should you want to plug it in. There aren’t any volume or tone controls on the guitar, and you will depend on your amp for those options.

Up at the headstock are six open-geared Grover tuners. The front of the headstock is colored white with the Gretsch name on it. This confuses us a bit. The body and neck have this delicious stained mahogany design, so why have a headstock pearly white? Mahogany would have been much better. Their reasoning escapes us.

It is a good-looking and sounding guitar, and Gretsch has tried very hard to give it an authentic feel. Aside from the white pearl-looking headstock, it is a nice purchase at an inexpensive price range. Due to this fact is certain to be included as probably one of the best authentic resonator guitars around.

Features

  • Spider bridge.
  • Fishman Nashville pickup.
  • Bound mahogany body.
  • Bound mahogany neck.
  • Rosewood fingerboard.

Gretsch G9220 Bobtail Acoustic-Electric Best Resonator Guitars

4. Gretsch G9201 Honey Dipper Round-Neck Metal Resonator

Let’s take another journey down to Savannah in Georgia to take on another Gretsch Resonator guitar. This guitar is also a little bit of a trip down memory lane when it comes to its authentic design and sound.

This has been designed to rekindle the memory of guitar players roaming the nation just playing. Some of the earliest blues and country blues players began exactly like that. This has been designed and made with a brass top, back, and sides delivering a powerful sound that isn’t short on volume.

It has a Gretsch Ampli-Sonic’ biscuit cone’ design resonator that creates that 1920s feel. The all-brass body gives this instrument a sound that others just don’t have. A mahogany neck with a Paduak wood fingerboard that has 19 frets and abalone dot inlays completes the look. It is quite exceptional in many ways.

Up at the headstock are six quality open-geared Grover machine heads and the imitation pearl-looking end, which we have already commented on in different reviews.

It is a high-quality instrument and adapts nicely to both chord and slide playing. The sound has that classic ‘metallic’ feel. In case you love the ‘old-time’ sound of the Resonator rather than the newer versions, you are going to love this. However, many will hear and say, “it’s a bit clanky.” Sure, it is – that’s the purpose. That is the way it’s supposed to be. Clanky. But a reasonably loud clanky.

Nice sound and appears brilliant. What you picture and listen to in your head whenever you hear the word Resonator.

Features

  • Resonator Guitar with Brass Body.
  • Biscuit Cone – Shed Roof.
  • Mahogany Neck.

Gretsch G9201 Honey Dipper Round-Neck Metal Resonator

5. Gold Tone PBR Paul Beard Signature

In case you are searching for a sounding resonator guitar that will allow you to play a wide range of different styles and is beautifully crafted, then look no further than the Gold Tone PBR round neck resonator guitar.

This specific resonator belongs to a top-of-the-line most resonator guitars series constructed by Paul Beard, so whatever you have read about this specific PBR model can pretty much be applied to every other resonator within the Paul Beard series. When it comes to construction, this guitar has a mahogany body and an aluminum resonator cone with a spider.

Not only does it look nice, but it additionally offers you that signature twangy sound which is slightly on the warmer side because of the use of a single cone and mahogany wood for the body. The action on this model is high, which makes it perfect for playing with a slide or on your lap using a tone bar, additionally, it is maybe the best resonator guitar that you can buy in 2022.

However, because it is a spherical neck resonator, you’ll be able to fret it just like every other acoustic guitar, which makes it appropriate for almost any style of music, including country, blues, and bluegrass. It’s not a very cheap instrument by any means, especially for a resonator, however, if you are searching for excellent craftsmanship and wonderful sound and playability, and you are prepared to pay for it, the Gold Tone PBR round neck resonator guitar is the best selection.

It’s very hard to imagine any blues, country, or bluegrass player not wanting to play the Gold Tone resonator, provided that they can afford the guitar. It’s nothing less than stellar in any kind of setting.

The Gold Tone PBR resonator guitar is top-notch, and in our opinion, is one of the best resonator guitars under $1000.

Features

  • Binding: Celluloid.
  • Bridge: Maple with Ebony Insert.
  • Button: Metal.
  • Cone and Spider: The genuine US Made Beard.
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood.

Gold Tone PBR Paul Beard Signature

6. Recording King RPH-R1-TS Dirty 30’s Resonator Guitar

In case you are searching for your first resonator and don’t wish to spend a ton of cash, but would still like a superb instrument, the Recording King RPH-R1-TS Dirty 30’s resonator is the guitar for you.

The RPH-R1-TS body is made out of a mixture of spruce and white wood, which is producing a tone that is softer and less gritty than the one metal resonators make. The RPH-R1-TS is a round-neck guitar, which suggests you won’t have to stick to a single music style particularly. You will be able to play all of them, whether or not you are using a slide or a pick.

The hand-spun 9.5” resonator cone is responsible for the resonance, and it’s paired up with a biscuit bridge, and the two offer plenty of sustain, as well. Additionally, you will discover that this guitar has a couple of f-holes on its body, that are there to help produce optimal bass and treble frequencies.

At this price, there are just a few guitars that can compare with the RPH-R1-TS when it comes to sound and playability. It provides terrific value, and it is guaranteed that you won’t regret buying one.

This instrument will be mostly used by anyone who is trying to step into the world of resonators guitars on a budget, but would still like a very good instrument.

The Recording King RPH-R1-TS Dirty 30’s resonator is without doubt one of the best value guitars available on the market, and one you need to take a look at in case you are a beginner.

Features

  • Single 0 Body.
  • Rosewood Fretboard.
  • 9.5″ Resonator Cone.
  • Biscuit Bridge with Maple/Ebony Saddle.

Recording King RPH-R1-TS Dirty 30’s

7. Recording King RM-997-VG Swamp Dog

If there is a ranking for resonator guitars based on their look, the Recording King RM-997-VG would definitely be the winner. Although we don’t often dig the fake distressed/relic look, we have to say that it appears absolutely incredible on this guitar.

However, do you see a metal guitar that is covered in an oxidized green patina? It’s supposed to appear like it has been left out on the porch, and played for many years. The beauty here isn’t simply skin-deep, because the RM-997-VG is a high-quality instrument that contains a bell brass body with a spherical neck, in addition to the hand-spun cone and a biscuit bridge, that is in control of sound and projection.

This guitar appears to echo the pre-war resonator guitars, and its sound does more of the same so that you get a limitless supply of grit and twang each time you strum the string or use a slide on the fretboard.

We have featured a couple more Recording King resonators and they are great, but this one might just be our favorite, simply because it has a lot of character, even when it’s not being played. In case you are into metal resonators and nothing else will suffice, then you will most probably love the Recording King RM-997-VG and all the things that it has to offer.

The Recording King RM-997-VG round neck resonator guitar is an incredible piece of gear, and once it’s in your hands, you won’t be able to put it down.

Features

  • European Recording King Handspun Resonator Cone.
  • Grover Open-Gear Tuners.

Recording King RM-997-VG Swamp Dog

The Best Resonator Guitars – Buyers Guide!

If you already know something about guitars, you most likely know that categorizing them is a complicated endeavor, since you can view them based on several different criteria, such as the kind of woods used in their building, pickups, form, size, as well as whether they are acoustic or electric.

Nevertheless, there are extra specific categorizations inside each of these categories, and resonator guitars are no exception. The basic construction principle is similar on all resonator guitars since they are all acoustic guitars with a metal speaker integrated inside their body.

However, the way in which these speakers are built and the way they resonate and carry the vibrations might be different. Also, resonator guitars are usually not uniform when it comes to their necks, since there are two different designs, one which is better fitted to slide playing, and one which is suited for common fretting and strumming.

Lastly, resonator guitars could be made out of different materials, which make the guitars sound completely different. With that in mind, let’s check out different resonator guitar types, what you need to look out for when buying one, in addition to their history and the way they came to be, and along the way, all the terminology and primary principles they are built on.

Round neck vs Square neck resonators

In case you are familiar with “common” guitars, you most likely know you can choose among totally different neck types, primarily based on the form of the cross-section, which is why you have C or D-shaped necks on acoustic or electric guitars.

However, the variations between neck shapes are somewhat slight, especially when in comparison with resonator guitars, since they only have two neck types which alter the playing experience drastically. The first kind of resonator guitar based on neck type is the square neck resonator, whereas the second is the spherical or round neck resonator.

Squareneck resonator guitars are predominantly used in genres similar to country, bluegrass, as well as Hawaiian music, although they can be used in just about any style if it sounds good.

In contrast to regular acoustic guitar, which is fretted by one’s fingers with the fretboard facing away from the player, square neck resonators, which are also known as flat neck resonators, have an especially wide and thick neck which makes regular fretting not possible.

As an alternative, you play them by putting them on your lap, with the fretboard facing you, and then play using a bar or a slide, very similar to a lap steel guitar. Additionally, the reason why they have gotten their name in the first place is that their necks have square edges.

The action on the square neck guitars is extremely high, which implies that even if you had hands big enough to fret chords on such a chunky neck, you still wouldn’t be capable to play them, since it will take an excessive amount of force to reach the actual fret.

And even if you could somehow do that, the tension would snap the strings beforehand. Basically, the frets on the square neck resonator guitar are simply there to provide orientation for the player, they usually don’t play a role in the production of sound.

Spherical neck resonators have a rounded neck, similar to your regular acoustic guitars, often C or D-shaped, which allows you to play them similar to any other guitar. The action on round neck resonators is lower than that of square neck guitars, which suggests you’ll be able to fret them normally, as well as play them by strumming the chords, fingerpicking, or by using a slide.

This kind of versatility makes round neck resonators much more practical, and because of this, a lot more common than squareneck resonators.

Another benefit of a round neck resonator guitar is that it can be made to perform as a square neck resonator by using a nut extender. This saves you money and means that you can carry only one guitar instead of two.

However, in case you can afford both, we advise you to avoid using the nut extender, because it adds quite a lot of tension to the next. Plus, the process isn’t exactly fast, so you would need to set up your guitar every time before the gig.

Metal and Wood

About acoustic or electric guitars, we tend to speak about what kind of wood was used for the physique of the guitar, and in the case of acoustic guitars, whether it’s a laminate or strong/solid body.

Resonator guitars have bodies that are made out of wood or metal, which appears very unusual. However, because the sound on the resonator guitar is produced by the cones, which we will get to later, body materials don’t play as important a role as it does on acoustic, however, it still influences the guitar’s tonal qualities to an extent.

In the end, your selection of resonator guitars will depend on your stylistic preferences. For instance, resonators that have a wood body have a tendency to produce a warmer, fuller tone. The tradeoff is that these guitars aren’t as loud or resonant as resonators that have a metal body.

Metal resonators are much less versatile though since their primary promoting point is their characteristic metal sound and really loud projection. One thing we have to point out concerning resonators is that the type of wood doesn’t play as huge of a factor as it does acoustic guitars.

On acoustics, it will be preferable to use a strong body guitar, because it sounds better and can get even better with age. However, wood resonator guitars, even some of the top-spec models, are normally made out of laminate wood as opposed to solid tonewoods similar to Sitka spruce or mahogany.

The explanation why: laminate wood is stronger and sturdier, and the stronger the resonator physique, the louder the projection. Sure, you will find wooden resonator guitars which have bodies made out of solid wood, however, that’s primarily because producers want to give their guitar a premium look and a nice wood grain. The impact that the solid wood has on the sound of the resonator guitar will not be vital.

Tricone vs Spider vs Biscuit

Maybe you decided on the material that you want your resonator guitar body to be made of and also the type of his neck? You may think that is all you need to consider?

Well, you are not set up since you must select arguably the most important factor of all of them: resonator style. You most likely noticed that we have used unusual terminology that seemingly doesn’t have anything to do with music.

Spiders? Biscuits? These two, together with the Tricone design, represent the three resonator styles, every with its tonal qualities, and each producing sound in its very own unique way. While there are delicate differences even among the spiders of different resonator producers, for example, they similarly produce the sound. That being said, let’s check out each of these three types and clarify how they work.

Tricone Design

Tricone design is considered the original resonator style that was introduced in 1927. The construction includes three small ones made out of aluminum, which are then connected by a T-shaped bridge, which is also made out of aluminum.

One of the many benefits of this specific design is that it provides unbelievable projection and sustain, as well as one which is very rich and complicated. In different words, it’s what resonator guitars are all about, and you get that with this design.

The drawback is that, because they feature such a complicated design, these resonator guitars take longer to produce, which is reflected in their price.

Spider Design

The rogue classic spider resonator design includes a single cone that is mounted inside the guitar and it is faced downwards, very similar to a speaker cone inside a speaker cabinet.

The explanation why it’s known as the spider is that the cone has an eight-legged aluminum bridge fixed to it, in addition to a saddle that is mounted at the top. Because of the downward-facing cone, this kind of resonator guitar projects the sound directly into the outside world through the cone, instead of the sound resonating inside the guitar body first.

Rogue classic spider resonator guitars are nice when it comes to sustaining. Additionally, they have a somewhat nasal and very unique tone, which makes them perfect for genres similar to country and bluegrass, where they are played with a slide guitar style.

Biscuit Design

Biscuit-bridge resonator style is very simple and it is probably the simplest of the three when it comes to construction. Similar to the spider design, this one additionally includes a single cone, however right here, the cone is facing upwards, and it also has a wooden disc, also known as the biscuit, hence the name.

The important part here is the biscuit because it provides the resonator for that signature twangy sound. The sound of the biscuit-bridge resonator guitars is just about as recognizable as it gets.

Acoustic-Electric Resonators

As we already mentioned, the reason why resonator guitars had been created in the first place is the necessity for louder guitars that we’re capable of competing with percussion and brass instruments when it comes to loudness and project.

Mind you, these were the late 1920s, so none of these instruments have been hooked up to an amp, so the resonators did their job just fine. However, nowadays, even though they are louder than conventional acoustic guitars, they still won’t be capable of cutting through the mics where you have electrical guitars and loud vocals.

In case you are considering playing your resonator on a stage or in a band, then you definitely might need to think about getting an acoustic-electric resonator. These resonators normally have a built-in preamp system consisting of a piezo pickup or have a single-coil pickup. They might also have a combination of the two.

In case you are only playing your resonator in front of your friends or where you don’t need to compete with other instruments in order to be heard, then you are better off with an acoustic resonator since you can get a better guitar for the money you would pay for an acoustic-electric resonator. So, if you are in a band you should definitely try an acoustic-electric resonator.

Resonator Guitars History

The history of resonator guitars starts with John Dopyera who invented the first-ever resonator in the early 1920s, which includes the new normal design with three cones and an aluminum bridge.

Resonator guitars were constructed out of necessity since guitar players wanted their instruments to be louder. Dopyera was very happy to oblige, in collaboration with guitarist George Beauchamp, he went on to develop different designs which had been less complicated and cheaper because the tricone resonator is difficult to produce.

Beauchamp and Dopyera established the National String Instrument Corporation in 1927 and went on to construct biscuit resonators under the name Triolian. Only one year later, Dopyera left the company and began a new one with four of his brothers. They named it Dobro Manufacturing Company, with Dobro being a contraction of the Dopyera Brothers. Being of Slovakian heritage, they selected the word “dobro”, which means “goodness” in Slovakian.

After several years of legal struggles, the brothers managed to gain control over both firms, and in 1932, they merged them into one under the name of National Dobro Corporation. The company produced guitars until 1941. After many years, Gibson lastly purchased the rights to the Dobro trademark in 1993 and has gone on to provide many resonator guitars both under the Gibson and Epiphone brands.

Among the notable resonator, players include Mike Auldridge, Rob Ickes, Bob Brozman, and Jerry Douglas together with many others. Players such as Chris Whitley and Mark Knopfler also played key roles in making resonator guitars more widespread. Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge is also often seen playing the resonator both live and in their music videos.

And that is all you need to know to be able to get you started. There are many different resonator guitar models and producers on the market, and it could get pretty complicated in case you aren’t aware of what you need to take a look at when selecting a resonator guitar for yourself.

Luckily, now that you know what all the different resonator designs are and the way they work, in addition to how they need to sound, you’ll have no trouble choosing the proper guitar based on your preferences, playing style, and finances.

Conclusion

We hope that this buying guide and our list of resonator guitars will make your choice just a little bit easier.

In case you are looking for additional reviews, feel free to check our articles for “The Best Banjo Tuning Pegs”, “Open Back vs Resonator Banjo”, or “Best Banjo For Beginners”.

Happy strumming!

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