If you feel like you’re past playing a regular acoustic guitar, want to spice things up, and move on to playing resonator guitars, we’d have to thank John Dopyera first. Dopyera experimented and first developed resonator guitars, responding to a request by guitarist George Beauchamp. Eventually, they decided to create “National” which manufactured resonator guitars with metal-bodied ones as their pioneering models.
Much has been done since the early days of resonator guitars. Musical instrument companies adapted, and voila! A wide range of resonator guitars have been born. This makes buying the best one a little hard, given the numerous options.
But, worry not. Shopping shouldn’t be a hard task. To make things easy, I have gathered below the best resonator guitars that are currently in the market.
Factors To Consider When Buying a Resonator Guitar
When it comes to resonator guitars, it’s important to note what specific sound and type you are looking for. Beginners might not notice the difference, but pro and experienced players will surely notice the specific sound of each type of a resonator guitar. So, if you want to have one of the best resonator guitars in the market, know what you want first, then pick accordingly.
To start your quest in finding the perfect one, below are some of the factors you need to know when buying a resonator guitar.
Square neck vs. Round neck
One of the most important things you need to know before buying a resonator guitar is that it has different types. A resonator may come as a round neck or square neck (flat neck). Both sound differently, and it may affect how you hold and play the guitar.
Now, let’s talk about the square neck first. If you’re planning to play bluegrass, Hawaiian, or country music, a square neck resonator guitar is what you are looking for.
Commonly played on the lap, a square neck resonator guitar has a neck that is wide or chunky. Square necks are usually not that comfortable to hold, that’s why it’s mostly played resting on the lap, with the fretboard facing up.
Square neck resonator guitars have nuts set much higher than the regular setting, this makes fretting hard to execute. Usually, square necks are played with a bar or a slide.
On the other hand, a round neck resonator guitar has a curve neck. This type can be handled just like a normal acoustic guitar, since it only has little difference compared to what players are used to play. Round neck resonator guitars can be played fingerstyle, strummed, flat-picked or with a slide.
If you ever change your mind and suddenly decided to have a square neck resonator guitar, just use a nut extender on a round neck resonator guitar. This way, you don’t have to buy a square neck resonator. You might need extra patience and effort, though.
Metal body vs. wood body
Obviously, a resonator with a metal body contains a steel or brass finish, usually of nickel. Steel gives a rawer sound, while brass produces a rounder and mellower tone.
Resonators with a laminated or solid wooden body produce a warmer sound with less impact compared to the ones with metal body. Laminated wooden bodies give better projection because of its sturdiness, that’s why they are more commonly used compared to a solid wooden body.
Biscuit, Spider, or Tricone?
When everything else is settled, the last thing to think about is the resonator style. If you want one of the best resonator guitars to land on your hands, decide if you want a biscuit, spider, or tricone style resonator guitar.
First on your option is the tricone style. This style is the oldest among the three and contains three small cones connected by a T-shaped bridge. Produces long-lasting sustain and great projection, a tricone resonator might cost more compared to the other two styles.
The other variation is a spider-styled resonator. A spider-bridge resonator has an eight-legged bridge with a saddle at the top. Resonators of this style have more nasal tone that’s more suitable for country and bluegrass music.
Lastly, the simplest out of the three, is the biscuit-styled resonator. Consisting of a single upward-facing cone with a wooden disc at the peak, the biscuit resonator gives off a simpler tone with a gritty sound.
5 Best Resonator Guitars Review
- Nickel-Plated Bell Brass Body
- Honduran Mahogany Neck
- 3 x 6 Hand Spun Continental Cones
- Rosewood Fretboard
- T-Bridge with Ebony & Maple Saddle
The Recording King RM 991-S starts our list with a bang. As the top guitar on our list, the RM 991 S really is the king when it comes to functionality and sound. This resonator guitar falls under the tricone type and contains three 6 continental cones, resulting to loud tones throughout the guitar’s body.
With two cones located on the bass side and the other one on the treble side, it is no doubt that the RM 991-S will give off a sound that’s perfect for Hawaiian jams and blues music. Showing off a nickel-plated bell brass body that is 25.5 inches long, the RM 991-S owns an ebony and maple saddle, mahogany neck, and a rosewood fretboard. The RM 991-S is a square neck resonator guitar featuring a traditional non-cutaway design and mirrored finish.
Now, the Recording King RM 991-S wouldn’t be a king for nothing, would it? With the perfectly-placed continental tones of the RM 991-S, you’ll get a balanced sweet and warm tone, combined with power and volume. Hailed as the best resonator guitar on this list, the RM 991-S offers the perfect acoustic mix and style rolled into one instrument.
- Balanced tone
- Tuning stability
- Looks appealing
- Might be heavy
- Authentic bell brass Tricone style body in gleaming nickel plate for a powerful tone and rich lustre
- 12th fret neck joint and elegant pearloid peghead overlay add ease of playing to that pre-war look and appeal
- Slim, comfortable mahogany neck is ideal for bottleneck and traditional playing styles
- Rock maple saddle and bone nut provide the best in sound transmission and sustain
- Traditional 15:1 open-back tuners for fast and precise tuning
Blues, ragtime, and jazz is this resonator guitar’s forte. The Regal RC-51 has a tricone style and powerful sound that’s worthy to be one of the best resonator guitars on this list. You might see that the RC51’s got the looks, but later on, you’ll realize that this guitar has so much to offer.
Boasting its nickel-plated bell brass body, the RC-51 features a mahogany neck and pearloid peghead overlay making it perfect for bottleneck and traditional playing styles. Owning a rock maple saddle and bone nut, the RC-51 guarantees you one of the best sound transmission and sustain you’ll ever get out of a resonator guitar.
The Regal RC-51 has a style and appeal that may remind you of the early musical era. With its elegant design and rich tone, the RC-51 will make you realize why this is one of the best resonator guitars up until now.
- Great tonewood
- Sturdy construction
- For beginners, it’s quite pricey
- Square neckMahogany bodyMahogany neck25" scale lengthRosewood fingerboardAmpli-Sonic coneSpider bridgeCase sold separately
- It has the square neck that's preferable for bluegrass
- A round-neck version, which is better for blues-based music, is also available (please see model G9200, our sku# H80534)
- 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, hand-spun in Eastern Europe from nearly 99-percent pure aluminum for fantastic volume and sonic projection
If you’re totally into playing blues music, then I present you one of the best resonator guitars for this genre. The Gretsch G9210 will make you feel like BB King or Muddy Waters while you’re strumming its strings. This square neck resonator guitar is pleasing both to the eyes and ears.
Sporting a mahogany top, body, and neck, the G9210 doesn’t fall sort on style and looks either. With a rosewood fingerboard and Gretsch’s Eastern European hand-spun Ampli-Sonic spider cone and bridge, the G9210 gives you a balanced warm tone. It’s designed skilfully so users will have no hard time using it.
To top the G9210’s already striking features, a pair of F sound holes were put to add richness to its sound and volume.
- Easy to use
- Design might be too plain
- Regal's best selling resonator guitar line features a solidly built mahogany body with incredible tone and volume
- Original style squareneck with a smooth, rich finish provides solid resonance and sustain
- US made aluminum cone and spider bridge resonate with amazing clarity
- Nickel-plated brass parts create a lasting look and produce a bright, ringing sound
- Nickel 14:1 tuners with vintage style butterbean buttons work smoothly and stay in tune
Hailed as one of Regal’s best-selling resonator guitar, the RD 30-MS does not disappoint. With its solid construction and pleasing sound, the RD 30-MS should be your choices on best resonator guitars available in the market. Made with high quality materials and functional design, the RD 30-MS makes sure to give you the optimum musical experience.
The RD 30-MS is a square neck resonator guitar with nickel-plated parts and mahogany body, giving it a bright and ringing sound. Its cone and spider bridge is made with US aluminium, allowing it to resonate perfectly and clearly. The RD 30-MS also features a rosewood fingerboard with MOP dot position markers, rock maple saddle and bone nut, and four internal sound posts.
With its fine features and fantastic sound quality, you’d be surprised that you won’t need to splurge much in order for you to own this resonator guitar.
Isn’t it a win-win?
- Great tone
- Simple look
- Open Soundwell Design for tone balance
- Spider Resonator
- Nickel plated hardware and Fan pattern coverplate
- Radiused Fingerboard for ease of play
- Tusq Nut
Lastly, but definitely not the least is the Epiphone Dobro Hound Resonator Guitar. It may be last on our list, but it surely does not fall short on qualities that make it one of the best resonator guitars. Tone balance, great design, historic excellence- the Dobro Hound Dog has it all.
Already a phenomenon back in the early 1920’s, the Dobro Hound Dog is an iconic instrument when it comes to playing bluegrass and traditional American music. Featuring an ebony saddle, maple bass, nickel-plated cone, an classic F holes. The Dobro Hound Dog barks its way to fame with its Fishman™ resonator pickup, giving it a smooth amplification which helps majorly in terms of preserving its acoustic tone.
Also featuring a Soundwell Design and Grover machine heads, this resonator guitar produces a warm and powerful tone. The Dobro Hound Dog might just be your best friend.
- Good tone stability
- Great sound
- Relatively expensive
If you’re looking for the complete package, the Recording King RM 991-S is definitely the one for you. Named as the best resonator guitar on this list, the RM 991-S is the ultimate companion when it comes to blues music or sweet Hawaiian tunes.
Pleasing to both the eyes and ears, the RM 991-S has a tricone style and square neck type. Boasting its nickel-plated mirror finish, mahogany neck, and rosewood fretboard, the RM 991-S produces a powerful sound and warm tone. However, you might want to have down times when using this resonator as it might be a little heavy, your shoulders might complain eventually.