You are currently viewing 5 Best Resonator Guitars – Choices for Blues Enthusiasts

Last Updated on March 2, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

Best Overall – Gretsch G9201 Honey Dipper Round-Neck Metal Resonator

Reviewer: Teemu Suomala

Sound
Playability
Hardware
Overall Quality
Value For Money

Summary

Pros 
-Impressive volume and projection
-Distinctive and assertive twang
-Real bone nut enhances sustain and overall tone
-High-quality Grover tuners for reliable tuning
-Vintage playability that is smooth and comfortable
-Clear and articulate tone
-Overall excellent build quality

Cons
-Sustain may not be optimal with the biscuit cone
-Playability might not be the easiest
-Occasional rare finish issues

Who Is This For?
For those seeking an authentic resonator experience with exceptional volume and projection, the Gretsch G9201 Honey Dipper stands out as one of the top choices. It delivers a true resonator guitar experience at a price point that remains accessible to many enthusiasts.

4.8

How Gretsch G9201 Honey Dipper sounds:

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Runner-Up – Recording King Swamp Dog RM-997-VG

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros 

  • Boasts a loud and assertively twangy sound
  • The C-neck shape provides easy handling
  • Exhibits overall solid build quality
  • Real bone nut contributes to increased sustain
  • Features unique and distinctive aesthetics

Cons

  • Sustain may not be optimal with the biscuit cone
  • Mixed reviews for the Revebond fretboard
  • Occasional finish issues

Who Is This For?

For those seeking easy and familiar playability with a C-neck shape, desiring a resonator guitar with a loud voice and excellent projection, and who don’t mind trade-offs in fretboard preferences, the Swamp Dog stands as an excellent choice for your next blues jam session.

Best Budget – Gretsch G9200 Boxcar Round-neck

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros 

  • Shares many features with the pricier Gretsch Honey Dipper
  • Impressive sustain and robust volume and projection
  • Exhibits a warm and soft tone
  • Soft V neck profile offers easy handling
  • Exceptional value for the money
  • Equipped with a real bone nut

Cons

  • Less loud and harsh compared to metal body resonators with a biscuit cone
  • Occasional presence of rough fret edges
  • Not constructed with a solid top

Who Is This For?

For those in search of a budget-friendly resonator with a gentle sound and easy playability, the Gretsch G9200 Boxcar emerges as a reliable choice. It mirrors many features found in more expensive guitars, and typical budget guitar issues are largely absent, though occasional rough fret edges may occur.

Best Wood Body – Gretsch G9240 Alligator

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros 

  • Boasts loudness and exceptional projection
  • Laminated mahogany body imparts a soft and gentle tone to the sound
  • Real bone nut enhances sustain and overall tone
  • Features high-quality Grover open tuners
  • Vintage playability that is smooth and comfortable
  • Exhibits overall excellent build quality

Cons

  • Sustain may not be optimal with the biscuit cone
  • Playability might not be the easiest
  • Occasional rare finish issues
  • Constructed without a solid top

Who Is This For?

For those seeking a resonator guitar with a gentle yet punchy sound, outstanding projection, and offering smooth and comfortable vintage playability, the Gretsch G9240 Alligator stands out as one of the top choices.

Best With Pickups – Danelectro ’59 Resonator

displays Danelectro '59 Resonator Guitar

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Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros 

  • Exhibits easy playability reminiscent of an electric guitar
  • Lipstick single-coil produces pleasing vintage tones
  • Features a piezo cone pickup, allowing for amplified performance through an amp
  • Demonstrates good all-around quality
  • Delivers a solid unplugged sound as well

Cons

  • The hardboard top is a relatively inexpensive choice
  • Falls short of providing an authentic resonator experience
  • Not constructed with a solid top

Who Is This For?

For those in search of an effortlessly playable resonator guitar that can be amplified, the Danelectro ’59 Resonator emerges as one of the top choices. Whether played plugged in or unplugged, it produces a pleasing sound with the lipstick single-coil or piezo cone pickup.

Compare Key Specs of The Top 5:

graphic compares 5 Best Resonator Guitars

Runner-Ups That Just Missed The Top 5

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Author: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).


Our Favorite Music Store in The World!

Why?

– Excellent Customer Service (4.7/5 Trustpilot Score)

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– Gear is Inspected, Tested, & Ready to Play When it Arrives to You (We love this)

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Keep These 3 Key Things In Mind When Choosing:

Round neck-styled resonator guitars are meant to be played just like any other guitar.

Square neck-styled resonator guitars are meant to be played lap style (like lap steel guitars).

Single Biscuit cone = Has punchy and loud sound upfront, but doesn’t have great sustain.

Single Spider cone = Has great sustain, but doesn’t have that much volume & projection.

Tri-cone (has 3 smaller cones) = Has a good sustain, volume, and projection. Usually more expensive.

Wood body = Softer, warmer, and more gentle sound. Highlights low-mids.

Metal body = Harsher, damper, and more punchy & twangy sound.



Buyer’s Guide – FAQ

What Makes A Good Resonator Guitar?

Ideally, look for these:

  • Bone nut
  • Real wood body (laminated or solid(better)) if you want a wood body resonator guitar
  • Brass, bell bronze, or steel body if you want a metal body resonator guitar
  • The guitar sounds good to you (check reviews and sound demos)

You can’t always get all of these, and that’s totally fine. But more the better.

How Do I Choose A Resonator Guitar?

First, get clear on what you want. Do you want really harsh, loud, and twangy sound? Or are you after a softer sound that still has some twang in it?

There are 3 key things you have to keep in mind when buying a resonator guitar. I already shortly mentioned these at the start of this article, but let’s dive a bit deeper into each of these now. Let’s start with the…

2 Main Resonator Guitar Neck Types

Round Neck

You play a round neck resonator guitar just like any other acoustic or electric guitar. If this sounds good, go with round-neck resonator guitar.

Square Neck

Square neck resonator guitars are meant to be played lap style. Like in this photo:

reveals how Square neck resonator guitar is meant to be played
Lap-style playing.

If this sounds like something you are after, go with a square-neck resonator guitar.

Resonator Guitar Cone Types

displays 3 main Resonator guitar cone types
How different resonator cone types are different from each other.
Biscuit-bridge Single-cone

Offers a very punchy, harsh, and loud sound upfront but dampens quite quickly. Doesn’t have a great sustain.

Spider-bridge Single-cone

Offers a more balanced sound with better sustain and less volume & projection. Still has some nice twang in it.

Tri-cone

Offers punchy, harsh, and loud sound with good sustain. Usually more expensive.

Cones of these different types look a little bit different. Here’s what I mean:

displays How cone is placed inside resonator guitar with different resonator guitar cone types
A simplistic example of how different cones are inside a resonator guitar.

So with Biscuit and Tri-cone design, the cone is like a speaker cone turned upside down. With the Spider-cone design, the cone is like a speaker cone would normally be.

Metal or Wood Body?

image displays resonator acoustic guitar with metal body
Resonator acoustic guitar with a metal body.

Resonator guitar with metal body provides harsher, damper, and more punchy & twangy tone. The metal body is usually more durable and a bit heavier.

image displays resonator acoustic guitar with wooden body
Resonator acoustic guitar with a wooden body.

Resonator guitar with a wood body offers a softer, warmer, and more gentle sound. It also highlights low-mids. Wood-body resonator guitars are heavier than regular acoustic guitars, but lighter than the ones with metal bodies.

This video gives a nice information bomb about resonator guitars:

What Are Resonator Guitars Good For?

Resonator guitars offer a twangy sound that fits especially well with slide use. Resonator guitars are frequently used in

  • Bluegrass
  • Blues
  • Delta-blues.
  • I would not call resonator guitars hard to play. Usually resonator guitars have a relatively small body, especially when compared to dreadnoughts and jumbo acoustic guitars. So the body size is easy to handle. The neck shapes vary, but the V neck shape can feel a bit alien at first, but it’s nothing impossible. Resonator guitars with C-neck shape are really similar to any other acoustic guitar when it comes to playability. So in general, for electric guitar players, playing resonator guitar feels like jumping to playing acoustic guitar or a little bit harder. If you are an acoustic guitarist, there’s not much learning curve (some still).

If that kind of awesome music interests you, then a resonator guitar might be a great option for you.

Check our favorite acoustic guitar slide picks here.

Do Resonator Guitars Need Special Strings?

Resonator guitars work great with normal guitar strings. For example, most Gretsch Resonators are equipped with normal D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze, Light, .012-.053 strings out of the box.

Are Resonator Guitars Hard to Play?

I would not call resonator guitars hard to play.

Usually resonator guitars have a relatively small body, especially when compared to dreadnoughts and jumbo acoustic guitars. So the body size is easy to handle. The neck shapes vary, but the V neck shape can feel a bit alien at first, but it’s nothing impossible. Resonator guitars with C-neck shape are really similar to any other acoustic guitar when it comes to playability.

So in general, for electric guitar players, playing resonator guitar feels like jumping to playing acoustic guitar or a little bit harder. If you are an acoustic guitarist, there’s not much learning curve (some still).


Conclusion

I’m just in the middle of moving 457km (283 miles) to the south, and right now, I hate to say this, but I had to sell some of my guitars because we don’t want to rent a moving truck. And I just don’t have room for a resonator guitar right now. It sucks. I would love to jam with one right now. But once we are done with the moving, I’ll walk into a music store and play one and hopefully buy one (if my wife lets me).

I hope that this article helped you out, and maybe you even decided to get one of the guitars featured. If you have any questions just leave a comment, I and the GND team are here for you.

I wish you all the best and keep rocking!

Teemu

Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I also noticed that most guitar websites don’t do a really good job, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website. I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar. I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog(I guess that went the right way…). Expertise: guitar learning techniques, electric guitars, and guitar amplifiers. You can connect with me on LinkedIn or just email me.
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