Resonators Guitars are a distinct class of instrument. They were first introduced in the US in the 1920s as a way to give acoustic guitars in blues and country bands more volume and presence on stage. In those days there were no electric guitars or amplifiers, and the brass section tended to overpower and drown-out the guitar sounds.
The invention of the first Tricone resonator changed the musical landscape forever. Resonators replaced the open sound-hole and soundboard of acoustic guitars with metal cones that resembled an upside-down gramophone speaker, set inside the body.
The sound produced by the first resonators was a revelation. It offered far more sustain, carrying power, and distinctive sounds and tones.
You have heard the resonator sound from greats like Chet Atkins to Mark Knopfler. It is truly, a one-of-a-kind sound.
So if you’re looking to expand your musical styles or want to dive deep into pure country and blues, a resonator guitar could be just the ticket.
We’re giving you a rundown of the best resonator guitars out there to help you choose the one that’s right for you.
- Top 10 Best Resonator Guitars In 2020 Reviews
- 1 Epiphone Dobro Hound Dog Round Neck Resonator Guitar
- 2 Regal RC-55 Metal Body Tricone Resophonic Guitar – Nickel-Plated Brass
- 3 Gretsch G9220 Bobtail Round-Neck Acoustic-Electric Resonator Guitar – 2 Color Sunburst
- 4 Dean RESCEHB Steel Guitar, Brass Plated Finish
- 5 Regal Studio RD-30MS Series Squareneck Resophonic Guitar – Natural Mahogany
- 6 Pyle Resophonic Acoustic Electric Guitar
- 7 Recording King Roundneck Resonator Guitar, Mahogany, Vintage Sunburst
- 8 Gold Tone Paul Beard Signature Series PBS-D Squareneck Resonator Deluxe Guitar (Tobacco Sunburst)
- 9 Rogue Classic Spider Resonator Black Round Neck
- 10 Oscar Schmidt OR6CEB-O-U Acoustic Electric Resonator Guitar
- Best Resonator Guitars: Buyers Guide
- And The Best Resonator Guitar Is…
Top 10 Best Resonator Guitars In 2020 Reviews
1 Epiphone Dobro Hound Dog Round Neck Resonator Guitar
The Dobro Hound Dog stays true its historical resonator guitar roots. This guitar has not changed much since the 1920s when it was first introduced. The name “Dobro” is actually a combination of “Dopyera Brothers” who invented the first spider resonator and were leaders in the development of resonators and the earliest electric guitars.
Perhaps in a fitting coincidence, the word “Dobro” means “good” in the brothers’ native language of Slovakian.
This resonator looks, sounds, and plays “Dobro”. This is most likely the best sounding resonator within the mid-range price. Sticking to the original design produces warm, clear and bright tones, and keeps the low-end tight.
This guitar has an open F-shaped sound-well design, which really helps to balance out the tone between the highs and lows.
The resonator is a single-coil spider resonator. The spider resonator is geared towards bluegrass and country music sounds. It is a guitar that has got the chops for finger-picking haunting, drippy delta country or whirling, West Virginia bluegrass.
It comes with a fan-pattern cover-plate with nickel-plating. Fan-pattern cover-plate tends to have a bell-like tone and great projection.
All the hardware is chrome steel with nickel-plating. The components are well-designed and made with quality. The tuners are authentic closed Grover Tuners, and are sturdy and help keep the strings in tune for longer.
This guitar has a round neck and radius rosewood fingerboard that makes it very easy to play. The round neck means it can be played just like a regular acoustic guitar. The action on the strings is set a little higher so you can easily switch between normal
chords/fingering and slide playing.
There aren’t many other resonators available that can capture the same vintage sound and singing tone all the way up the neck, for the same price as this guitar.
2 Regal RC-55 Metal Body Tricone Resophonic Guitar – Nickel-Plated Brass
Regal makes all kinds of resonator guitars that are suitable for all kinds of musical styles and tastes. This guitar’s construction gives it a very distinct tone and sound. It is great for playing Blues, Jazz, Country, Bluegrass, and old Rag-time.
This guitar owes its sound to an authentic, full-brass Tricone-shaped body, which is rich, powerful, and full of luster. The all metal body gives this guitar excellent projection and staying power when compared to wood body resonators.
It has a single 9.5 inch spun aluminum resonator cone with a traditional brass-slotted cover-plate and Biscuit Bridge. This type of resonator combined with a brass body gives you clanky and scratchy, yet warm and pleasant voicing with lots of mellow staying power.
The neck on this guitar is slim and round, made of mahogany with a slotted peghead for open tuners. The peghead has a lovely pearloid overlay featuring the Regal logo. The action and playability of the neck are nice.
The fingerboard is rosewood with high-polished nickel and silver frets. It is great for playing bottleneck slide and more traditional musical genres.
The Regal RC-55 is a beautiful looking guitar that has a pre-war appearance to it. Its design and manufacturing give it a good amount of volume and carrying power.
3 Gretsch G9220 Bobtail Round-Neck Acoustic-Electric Resonator Guitar – 2 Color Sunburst
Here is a resonator guitar that can be played as an acoustic or an electric. The option of being able to plug in a resonator guitar opens up a whole new realm of sound and tone possibilities that are not found with standard acoustic resonators.
The top, body, and neck are all made of mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. The round neck makes it easy to play and works well with many different kinds of music.
This guitar features Gretsch’s very own hand-spun Ampli-Sonic spider cone and bridge. This specially designed resonator gives you a truly authentic resonator tone and feel. The sound is dynamic and crisp. It has got a lot of vibe and sustain that conjures images life on the delta whether unplugged or amped up.
This guitar is a players’ guitar. Bottleneck slide, blues fingerpicking, or jazz strumming, this guitar is capable of handling it all. You can use it for nearly every style of music, and it sounds great doing any of them.
It comes with a passive pickup made by Fishman that is specifically designed for spider resonators. This pickup allows you to sound more like a normal acoustic guitar when plugged into an amp but keeps the sustain and carrying power of a resonator.
This guitar sounds like a classic resonator but plays like a traditional acoustic guitar. With the 2-color sunburst, mahogany body and F-shaped sound-holes, this guitar looks stunning and sounds warm.
4 Dean RESCEHB Steel Guitar, Brass Plated Finish
Next up, we have another resonator in the full metal body category. The Dean Thin Body is an acoustic/electric resonator with a cutaway body that allows you greater range on the fretboard than most metal body resonators.
Part of this guitars unique sound comes from its iron body with brass plating. Iron is not a common choice for the metal body and the resonance from the iron can fill a large room quite easily.
Brass plated Iron body…
The brass-plated iron body gives it an almost distorted vibe, but with a light crunchiness that could also be confused with a reverb effect.
It has a slim mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard with block inlays. It plays smooth with low and light action. The Dean Thin body plays more like an electric guitar than an acoustic guitar. This, combined with the ability to plug in makes for a wide array of sound possibilities.
The pickups have a blend control. This lets you play with the mix between the magnetic and piezo pickups. You may need to play around with this for a while to find your sounds. But overall, the tone is lovely played either as an acoustic or an electric.
5 Regal Studio RD-30MS Series Squareneck Resophonic Guitar – Natural Mahogany
This resonator guitar is one of the best-selling on the market. It is a solid mahogany body with a natural finish that has fantastic tone and volume.
The Regal RD-30MS has an original resonator-style square neck made of mahogany. This kind of neck is perfect for playing lap-slide style. Rather than holding the guitar like a normal acoustic, square neck resonators are meant to lay on your lap and be played with a slide.
The fingerboard is made of rosewood. The tuners are nickel-plated, open-back butterbean buttons that are sturdy and stay in tune.
It comes with an American-made aluminum spider cone and bridge. This model has replaced the traditional soundhole with four sound posts. This design has amazing clarity in tone and sound, along with sustain.
The Regal Studio Series is known for being a high-quality and affordable resonator guitar.
6 Pyle Resophonic Acoustic Electric Guitar
Another entry for the acoustic/electric model of resonator guitars. This guitar had been designed for all skill levels, whether just starting out or someone who has been playing for years.
This resonator gives you warm and vibrant tones. The handcrafted body is made of spruce and mahogany with a high-gloss Cherry Stain with two round soundholes. The fingerboard is rosewood with an ebonized rosewood bridge and has chrome-plated tuners.
The built-in preamplifier is battery-powered and has controls for volume, bass, mid, and treble settings. It is a great guitar for playing in front of an audience. It sounds very well balanced and clear when plugged in. There is almost no difference in the
sound when played acoustically or when plugged in.
What about the electronics…
The electronics are well-made and are ready to go right out of the box. It is easy to quickly adjust the levels and dial in the exact sound and tone you want.
It is a great looking and great sounding resonator. At a very reasonable price and quality construction, the Pyle Resophonic Guitar is an excellent choice for all kinds of guitar players.
7 Recording King Roundneck Resonator Guitar, Mahogany, Vintage Sunburst
Crafted entirely out of mahogany with a vintage Sunburst finish, this is a classic-looking resonator guitar. Complete with a hand-spun Continental Cone that has amazing sustain and tone. It provides you with the most genuine-sounding resonator tone of days gone by.
It is loud and sweet, without much quack or tininess so it has a pleasant and distinct voice. The fingerboard is bound ebony that looks great with the Sunburst body. The frets are smooth and rounded making this guitar easy to play up and down the neck.
As a Dobro-style resonator, this guitar is well-made and sounds lush and bright.
It features rounded soundhole screens and Grover open-gear turners with brass fittings that stay in tune very well.
An inexpensive Dobro-style resonator that looks and sounds like a classic, this guitar will have you picking and stomping the moment you pick it up.
8 Gold Tone Paul Beard Signature Series PBS-D Squareneck Resonator Deluxe Guitar (Tobacco Sunburst)
A signature resonator guitar designed by Paul Beard. This is a square neck resonator that is hand-made and has excellent tone.
It features made in the USA Beard cones and a spider bridge with an open sound-well body, along with two round-screen soundholes.
This kind of design makes a real difference in sound quality. It allows for greater projection and sustains. All the while producing warm, clean and clanky tones you would expect from a squareneck resonator.
It has a beautiful high gloss Tobacco Sunburst finish. The fingerboard is made of ebony. The back and sides are made of maple.
As a signature guitar, it is made for a specific kind of musical style. In this case, it is meant for lap-slide playing. This means that the action is higher than on round neck resonators.
This guitar produces a lot of volume and clean tones and has a wonderful appearance to match its sound.
9 Rogue Classic Spider Resonator Black Round Neck
A sleek looking round neck resonator. The Rogue Classic features a die-cast spider bridge with a 10.5 inch spun aluminum resonator cone. A resonator cone like this one offers you really good sustain and volume while keeping the tones sharp and sweet.
The cover-plate and tailpiece are brass and the bell is chrome-plated, gives this guitar a very classic resonator look. The back and sides are made of mahogany, and the top is spruce in a Black Satin finish.
The neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard, complete with Mother-of-pearl diamond- shaped inlays. It is also slightly longer than most resonator necks, giving you just a little more room around the twelfth fret.
Priced very reasonably, this is a sweet sounding resonator that just does what a classic resonator should do. It projects and sustains with quality tone and ease of playability.
10 Oscar Schmidt OR6CEB-O-U Acoustic Electric Resonator Guitar
Here we have another acoustic/electric resonator guitar and features a Biscuit Bridge single-cone resonator.
A Biscuit Bridge simply means that there is a piece of solid wood set in the center of the resonator cone.
But, what difference does that make to the sound?
Well, it means that you are going to get a more straight-forward fundamental tone. It won’t be the warmest sound, but it still has plenty of volume when played as an acoustic. There also won’t be lots of complexity in the sound, but it will have the vintage clang and tinny sound of early resonators.
It features a rosewood neck with a cutaway mahogany body in a Black Satin finish. The cutaway allows you to reach higher up the fingerboard than the traditional resonator body shape.
With a built-in pickup, this guitar is designed for live performances. It is a good guitar for beginners and has a smooth and easy neck with a good action.
At such an affordable price, this resonator guitar works well around the campfire, up on stage, or anywhere in between.
Best Resonator Guitars: Buyers Guide
Now that we have gone over the best resonator guitars currently on the market, there are a few more details we would like to cover. We want you to end up the right guitar for you. So let’s just give you a few “rules” on resonators.
Round Neck Or Square Neck?
The general rule here is that round neck resonators play more like your typical acoustic guitar. While the square neck resonator is meant to be placed on your lap horizontally and played with a slide.
Cones And Bridges?
There are some general guidelines when it comes to the resonator cones and bridges. Each cone and bridge are geared towards certain playing styles.
- Original Tricone – perfect for the blues and playing slide with complex overtones.
- Single-cone Spider Bridge – best for Bluegrass and Country and has a nasal-like sound.
- Single-cone Biscuit Bridge – best for Delta Blues style, the sound is loud and clanky.
As we said before resonators have distinct sounds for different musical styles. You are unlikely to be shredding along to Metallica or tripping out with Phish on any resonator.
You can try, but the reality is resonator guitars were and always will be machines for Blues, Country, Bluegrass, and Ragtime styles.
Hopefully knowing what the distinctions between the different resonator types will make your decision that much easier.
And The Best Resonator Guitar Is…
While all the guitars we listed here are all well and good, there is one that stands out from the rest. And that resonator is the…
We really thought based on the price, playability, and the fact it is good for novices and experts alike, this the best resonator in this round-up. Also, it has a spider bridge and large cone that make for a true vintage resonator sound and tone.
Black Satin and Mother-of-Pearl inlays make it a stunning musical instrument to look at, as well as play.
This is our choice for the best resonator guitar, but coming in at a close second was the…
We liked this guitar a lot. It sounds great and looks good too. It is more expensive than the Rogue Classic and just a bit more difficult to play for someone starting out on a resonator. Otherwise, it would have been a tie.
In the end, it will up to you. You know what kind of sound you’re going for, and you know how skilled you are at playing on a resonator guitar. We certainly hope this article makes your decision easier about which resonator guitar is the right one for you.
So have fun soaking up the classic sound of your resonator, and being transported back in time when music was raw and emotional.
Oh, and if your dog starts to howl along with you when you are playing, take that as a good sign.