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Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by ce24, Jan 27, 2021.
Would like some recommendations for $4-500 dollar biscuit or spider resonators....
I looked at a few a while ago and liked the Gretsch better between it and an Epiphone Hound Dog. I had other priorities come up and didn't buy either at the time.
However, I recently saw this GAS inducing Recording King Swamp Dog Resonator.
Uh, oh! They've added a parlor version...
First of all, which one do you really want? How do you plan to play it? How will you string and tune it? What kind of music will you play on it? Do you want square or round neck? Metal or wood body? Which ones have you played?
I currently own three resonators - spider (right), biscuit (left) and tricone - they are very different guitars.
Also, where in Idaho are you?
I agree with Freeman. Deciding type is your first step. Biscuits sound like old blues, more plunky,less sustain, lots of character. This is my favorite style. Spiders are more of a bluegrass style, more sustain, midrangey. Not as much personality in my opinion. I have a Regal biscuit style. I think it was 4-500$. It has great tone, great for delta blues, slide. It isn’t the greatest quality though. I had to very carefully do some delicate chisel work to get access to the truss rod. it’s like somebody pounded it into the neck. I have tightened it as much as I dare. There is a lot of resistance and feel like the head is about to strip out on me. I quit while I was ahead. It also has the typical fretboard hump at the body like so many guitars have. (Why can’t they get it right ?). It’s taken apart now so I can work on these issues. Fret ends are sharp also. But despite these issues, the thing sounds great. Definitely a good guitar for finger style blues. Not really a strum and sing along type of guitar. Hope this helps.
You could likely get a used republican for that amount of cash. With a good set-up and an upgraded cone that guitar should last you for the long haul. I mean... it ain't a mule or national, but they're the next step and a solid 2k+ more.
I used to have a Martin Resonator resonator's have a unique sound got rid of it after about a month
I've got a cheapo Gretsch Boxcar which I like the sound of. It's a wood-bodied spider type, so not the classic metal honk if that's what you want. Also, small body and V-shaped neck, both of which are fine with me.
I tried a couple of the Hound Dog reso's - they weren't horrible. Scratched the itch a bit.
a big +1 for figuring out what you really want.
I decided BEFORE I went shopping and got what I wanted, but it's quite possible something else would have been a better fit out of the gate for me.
Brass vs Steel vs wood, Biscuit Spider tricone...
I'm happy no doubt, but it took a while to grow into the Brass Biscuit - big bold tone! I played slide for 25 years before I got it on any old junky acoustic I could. Scared the crap out of me the first time I played it (in an intimidating shop).
You might could get a California built OMI for just a little more, $600 if you do setups. I love my 1980 model 27. After a cleaning and setup, it locks on pitch, basically plays itself. Throw that on your short list.
+1 Excellent response. First decide which sound and style based upon the music intended to play. @Danny B. post helps define that decision. I also agree with @cnibb for a used Republic. Anything less is difficult to justify IMO.
BTW, it took me two years and 15 different resonators for me to decide, so it is not an easy decision. Good luck.
Yeah I did not give much info..... I'll be playing mostly blues open G....I think a biscuit is what I'm leaning towards...round neck. I live in Hayden, by Coeur d'Alene. BTW..nice resos. also want pickups..
I bought one of these last week kind of on impulse. I had been eyeing it up but when I spontaneously asked how much they could do it for in conjunction with the Marshal SV20 head I was picking up (3+ months delayed delivery) I couldn't resist at the price they came back with.
It's basically an electric guitar with a resonator on it. Sounds great acoustically, electrically I m still figuring it out (lack of time mostly).
I mostly play open G and D slide, Black Crowes but hope to expand this into a bit more traditional blues stuff as well.
From what I can tell it's kind of a, not great at any one thing, but great in itself kind of thing. It is a LOT of fun and I'm stoked to have it.
I believe they come out under multiple brand names (Harley Benton being one other) and are really well priced.
I have a Gretsch Roots Bobtail, bought it years ago and still have it, best playing and best sounding Resonator in the price range for sure. I've owned other entry level brands and they were sold pretty quickly.
I know somebody who gigs with one of those - plays standard, not slide, mostly. The binding and pickup seem to be the main differences from the Boxcar. I assume he's using the stock pickup, which sounds good.
I love me some resonators -- I've owned a bunch of them over the years and still have the two that I'll likely be buried with, a 1937 Duolian and a National Resophonic tricone, chrome over brass. But if it was me, I'd take a look at the recording king dirty 30s reso. it's a mahogany body with a biscuit, never heard one but I like the sound of the National versions of this idea that I've played. And it's cheap! Plenty of money leftover for a pickup.
that Gretsch looks cool, too.
OK, here are some thoughts, remember that there are exceptions to all of them. They are also my opinion, others have very different ones. Lets break resonators down into some subgroups and talk about characteristics
Cone configuration - there are three basic cone configurations. Biscuit bridge is a simple cone with a maple biscuit looking thing in the center that holds the saddle
Biscuit bridge guitars are usually metal bodies but there are some woodies. They tend to have rapid attack and short sustain, they are often brash and nasty sounding - the quintessential blues machine
Spiders have a cast aluminum thingie that sits on the rim of the cone and is connected to it in the center with a little bolt.
Spiders are almost always woodies, they have a long sweet sustaining note that we usually associate with bluegrass dobro. They come in both square and round neck, square is always play lap style with steel bar. Roundies can be played either lap or Spanish style.
Tricones are kind of a combination - three small cones with a tee bridge spanning between them
Traditionally they have been metal bodies, but NRP is making a few woodies now days (as did I). I put their response and tone somewhere between a metal biscuit and a wooden spider.
Bodies can be either wood or metal, usually "bell brass" but sometimes steel. Metal bodied guitars are just plain brash and nasty - dogs will howl, the neighbors might complain. But if you want to play like Son House or Bukka, you want a metal body.
Wood seems to temper that sound a lot - my wood bodied tricone has a bark when I really dig in but is almost "pretty" sounding when played with flesh and nails. I find myself fingerpicking a lot of non blues on it, its a pretty versatile guitar.
Setup, strings, playing style... A lap style guitar is set up with pretty heavy strings 3/8" off the board. The strings will never touch the frets. Ideally the string plane is dead flat and fairly wide spacing - you do both single note and barring with your steel. If you are playing Spanish style you can fret notes or play with the slide or both. Most blues playing will be in open G or D, always tune down. Depending on your slide playing style you may like a flatter fretboard (I do), unfortunately modern and cheap resonators often have a lot of radius.
My action is just a hair higher than my other accoustics - maybe 70 to 100 thou at the 12th fret and a few thousands higher at the first. Resonators have neck sticks like a banjo and you adjust action by shimming the stick (if you get one and want to do this I can talk you thru it). I run medium gauge strings with a larger 1st and 2nd and tune to G or D.
Resonators intonate terribly. If you set the cone for slide the break point is at the scale, fretted notes will be very sharp. I do minor compensation on mine and just live with it, you've got a pretty good compensator on your pinky. But just be aware as you try them out.
Amplifying and recording are a can of worms - in my opinion none of the pickup choices sound "natural". Bob Brozman suggested a SM57 pointed at the upper bout, thats what I use. If I was going to gig with mine I would look into one of the internal mics.
Price points. I haven't been reso shopping in a few years but there seem to be three real price breaks. First are the domestically made guitars with quality spun cones - National Resophonic, Beard, Mule. I put vintage Nationals and Dobros in that group - these are the good guitars but they are expensive.
On the other end of the spectrum are the whole bunch of PacRim imports - Regal/Rogue/..... yadda yadda. The big problem with these is cones and setup - a good cone is hand spun on a lathe, these have pressed cones that just don't ring. You can change to a replacement cone (my metal body above has a NRP "hot rod" in it which is worth while upgrade. In addition you may want to tweak the setup for your playing style.
In between is a couple of companies like Republic who take PacRim bodies, put spun cones and do the setup for you. Last time I looked these were slightly above your price range but would be my suggestion. However even more that ordinary guitars I highly suggest playing any guitar you are thinking of buying - there is just a huge range of options out there.
Whew, sorry for the long winded post, I'm kind of passionate about these critters. The reason I asked about your location is that I'm in Central Washington about 2 hours from Spokane, if you would want to invest a tank of gas you couple play mine. I've been considering selling the biscuit this spring when things settle down, but its not really on the market at this point.
Hope this helps
I have a a Gretch Boxcar. It was about $350 and I enjoy it very much.
I bought the Taylor bag just to have a bag.
I always heard multi cone are best?
Are there any that you can play like a regular guitar
that are not setup with mile high saddles.