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Old 01-11-2019, 11:35 AM
archerscreek archerscreek is offline
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Default New resonator sought. Considerations?

I'm looking for advice from experienced resonator owners in addition to or beyond the information I've already gathered from reading various articles and watching videos. What would you have done differently? What do you wish you would have considered when you bought one that you might not have?

I am leaning towards a National NRP Tricone based on my preferences, expected playing styles on it (mixture of playing slide and fretting notes and chords, hybrid picking and fingerpicking) and listening to others play various models. I intend to play multiple models this afternoon/weekend, including an M1 Tricone and the M1-T Thunderbox (which I've come to learn is slang for a toilet or something along those lines, across the pond, haha). I know 100% that I want a round neck, 95% that I prefer paying for high quality and attention to detail, 70% that I prefer the tricone over single cone, 55% that I prefer a steel body, and 55% that I prefer a 12 fret model.

I think I like the slightly greater metallic sound an all steel resonator seems to give. Am I delusional or does a wood body actually take a bit of that sound away? I won't be able to A/B an NRP Steel Tricone against the M1 Tricone. I can A/B the M1 against other steel body models but not the NRP.

I think I prefer the fuller sound a 12 fret with no cutaway gives. Again, am I delusional in hearing that difference? I would rather have a fuller sound and sacrifice access to upper frets if need be. But if I can more easily access the upper frets and retain the fullness, that's great. I'll be able to play a steel body cutaway, but won't be able to compare it in a store to the NRP Steel Tricone.

How much does weight affect your enjoyment of playing? I have a Les Paul (Studio) that I barely ever played in part because of the weight. However, I played my electrics standing up, whereas I anticipate playing the resonator sitting down. Do you still notice the weight in a negative fashion sitting down? I might start off my testing of the models by playing a steel body one exclusively for 20 minutes or so to get an idea.

Is there any advantage/disadvantage to playing steel vs wood bodies live either plugged in or mic'd up? Any and all advice is appreciated. Thanks. I look forward to reading your responses.
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Old 01-12-2019, 10:01 PM
Mycroft Mycroft is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by archerscreek View Post


I think I like the slightly greater metallic sound an all steel resonator seems to give. Am I delusional or does a wood body actually take a bit of that sound away?
Wood bodied Resos I find generally to be warmer, with more low end. Metal bodies, on the other hand, come across as brasher, brighter. That is often perceived as volume. My Rayco is wood bodied, with a spider. From the sound, there is no doubt that it is a Resonator.

Quote:
Originally Posted by archerscreek View Post
I think I prefer the fuller sound a 12 fret with no cutaway gives. Again, am I delusional in hearing that difference? I would rather have a fuller sound and sacrifice access to upper frets if need be. But if I can more easily access the upper frets and retain the fullness, that's great. I'll be able to play a steel body cutaway, but won't be able to compare it in a store to the NRP Steel Tricone.

How much does weight affect your enjoyment of playing? I have a Les Paul (Studio) that I barely ever played in part because of the weight. However, I played my electrics standing up, whereas I anticipate playing the resonator sitting down. Do you still notice the weight in a negative fashion sitting down? I might start off my testing of the models by playing a steel body one exclusively for 20 minutes or so to get an idea.
I play seated. I generally do find that a metal-bodied Reso does not balance particularly well when sitting on my right leg. Instead it is a bit "butt-heavy" and tends to want to fall off my leg on the lower bout side. I would have to have a strap. However, I also play in classical position, and that is ok.

OMMV

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Old 01-12-2019, 10:17 PM
gfirob gfirob is offline
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The three types of resonators (wood body spider bridge, metal body biscuit bridge single cone, metal body tricone) are very different and cheap vs expensive also adds a major quality consideration.

My personal experience is that I owned a brass bodied Amistar tricone for some years, but it was too heavy and too bright. I sold it and bought a 1932 brass bodied National Style O 12 fret, which is lighter and has more fundamental notes, with less overtones (which I prefer). I play standing up, fingerpicking with metal picks.

But this is just my opinion. The body styles are so different you really need to try to find a way to play each kind. I don't like steel bodies but many do. Wood bodied Dobros can have a wonderful sound, but I find wood bodied biscuit cone dull compared to metal bodied single cone guitars. Brass bodies have always had the best sound to my ears.

Good luck with your search.
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Old 01-13-2019, 02:48 PM
banjomule banjomule is offline
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The new Nationals it sounds like you're looking at are significantly lighter than the first National Resophonic Delphis and polychrome tricones. I don't think weight will be much of a consideration... but then again I play a heavy old banjo when I'm not playing a National.

You're doing the best thing you can though by going and playing them. No substitute for that! Let your ears tell you what you're after.

The only thing I might have done differently on the purchase of my first National would be to order it as a baritone. It's the old heavy gauge steel tricone and over the years I found I really preferred the sound tuned down a few steps. Last year I had National make a new baritone neck for it and it was a good move.
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Old 01-13-2019, 04:17 PM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Hi,
I used to wn and love a Style "O" Deluxe and it was, indeed, a magnificent instrument -sooo loud! but oh sooo heavy.



I traded it for a wood (laminate) bodied Estralita



I have a friend who is a pro blues/ragtime who played a steel body for a long time , I found it very shrill.



Haven't seen him fora while but seems he's playing a style "O" Deluxe like I used to have - maybe it's mine - who knows?



I also play Dobro which of course is a spider version (with a Beard cone) and the sound is great for square neck but not what I'd call a blues sound.

I have never owned a National tri-cone.
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Old 01-13-2019, 07:54 PM
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Teleplucker Teleplucker is offline
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I have owned several Nationals and eventually settled on a wooden Resorocket, it is a very versatile instrument. I owned a polychrome tricone at one point, it was another great instrument but it was quite heavy. Try as many as you can. And see what speaks to you.
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Old 01-13-2019, 08:53 PM
tdq tdq is offline
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I have a NRP 12 fret black rust, single cone steel reso. I love it to bits, I do prefer playing it sitting down (but I like to play all my guitar sitting, even electric, if I can). Having said that I have played it standing up, and although definitely heavier than a regular acoustic or electric, I didn't have that much problem with it.
As for single-vs-tricone, and wood-vs-steel, I find that the steel/wood makes a bigger difference than single/tric, although of course that is there too.
(I have never owned any of these, this is just from trying in stores)
I did try a wooden M14-T Thunderbox and it was fantastic - loud and such a beautiful rich tone to my ears.
What would I have done differently? I still would have gone for a single cone, probably still 12 fret, but I could have wavered on the steel/wood. Steel is brasher and livelier but the wood tone is so dang nice.
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Old 01-14-2019, 08:22 PM
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Hi -- National M2 (wood single-cone) owner here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by archerscreek View Post
I think I like the slightly greater metallic sound an all steel resonator seems to give. Am I delusional or does a wood body actually take a bit of that sound away?
Yes, the wood does take a bit of the brashness away, but there's no mistaking it for a traditional acoustic guitar. Play it hard with metal fingerpicks, and the metal/wood differences diminish even further.

Quote:
Originally Posted by archerscreek View Post
I think I prefer the fuller sound a 12 fret with no cutaway gives. Again, am I delusional in hearing that difference?
I don't think you're delusional. To my ears, the 12-fretters simply have more bass. I would personally never buy a resonator that wasn't a 12-fretter, but to be honest, that has a little bit to do with the visual aesthetics and left arm comfort as much as it does the sound. I wouldn't even consider a cutaway, but then, I don't even have a cutaway on my electric guitar! I admit it's a prejudice.

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Originally Posted by archerscreek View Post
How much does weight affect your enjoyment of playing? Do you still notice the weight in a negative fashion sitting down?
I've owned a brass tri-cone, a brass single-cone, and a brass parlor. Lovely tones, but all three were absolute boat anchors, and I'll never have another. By comparison, almost any wood or steel reso offers enough weight relief over brass that you won't really think about it. I do play sitting down the majority of the time.

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Originally Posted by archerscreek View Post
Is there any advantage/disadvantage to playing steel vs wood bodies live either plugged in or mic'd up?
A wood-bodied guitar sounds woodier than a metal-bodied guitar whether plugged-in or not, but playing amplified just creates way too many variables to generalize beyond that. Stage volume, pre-amps, EQ, monitors, pickup type, microphone placement, etc. can all greatly affect ANY guitar's amplified tone and propensity for feedback. Having tried some kind of stick-on transducer on one of my brass guitars, I wouldn't go that route again. The Hot Plate or the Charlie Christian pickups that National makes and installs would be my first and second choices, in that order. I'm not sure there is a third choice!

Finally, if you decide to go with a tri-cone over a single-cone, I can't imagine that you would regret it. Tri-cones take some of the "edge" off the trash-can rawness of a metal singlecone, and they sustain beautifully. I would probably say that a metal tri-cone and a wooden singlecone are similar in that respect. You can certainly get smooth and melodious tones from a metal-bodied single-cone, but it takes a little more coaxing. For the ultimate in mellow fullness, try a wooden tri-cone. Want some gut-bucket moan and howl? The NRP-B is your ticket.

I hope this is helpful. For what it's worth, I think you're asking all the right questions!

Last edited by Guest 728; 01-14-2019 at 08:33 PM.
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Old 01-14-2019, 10:18 PM
archerscreek archerscreek is offline
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Thanks everyone for the input. I keep checking back. I ended up playing a handful of Nationals, mixing up single cone and tricone with steel body and wood body, 12 fret and 14 fret. I thought the build quality on every one was superb. I wasn't loving the tuners, though, but I think that was partly due to the fact that the tuning app on my phone was getting confused by the sound from each resonator. The app works fine when I play regular acoustic guitars in a store, but it couldn't handle the resonator sound.

I was pleasantly surprised by the weight of the steel bodies. I had zero issue with the weight. Of those I played, I preferred the NRP steel single cone 12 fret and made an offer, but that got shot down. I have to travel to another city on Wednesday and will play some others there.

Does anyone know what build times are on custom orders? I could easily see an NRP single cone steel deluxe in weathered steel (rather than the stock black rust).

Oh, and I saw Silly Moustache picking Hank's "Rambling Man" and thought it was about time to add that song to the repertoire. I find that simple songs like that give a player a lot of room to improvise. So this search has already brought some benefits and I haven't bought anything yet. Haha.
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Old 01-15-2019, 06:59 AM
banjomule banjomule is offline
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Glad you've been able to play some! Build time is typically 2-4 months for metal bodied guitars, 4-6 for wood. Catfish Keith keeps several on order at any given time, but not sure he'd have exactly what you specified.
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Old 01-15-2019, 10:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by archerscreek View Post
I could easily see an NRP single cone steel deluxe in weathered steel (rather than the stock black rust).
I second the above suggestion to look at Catfish Keith's selection. National makes a steel single-cone with a slightly distressed "natural" finish, and a couple of relic versions -- one in chipped ivory and another in barnyard blue. I believe Keith carries all three -- and others!
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Old 01-16-2019, 08:56 PM
archerscreek archerscreek is offline
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I played some more resonators today at a neat little mom n pop music store in Madison, WI, called The Spruce Tree. Much to my delight, they had more guitars and resonators than what I saw on their website. They had about 15 resonators total, both new and used, including some vintage models. I loved the V/Modified V neck that comes on the M-14T Thunderbox. And once again, I loved the sound of a 12 fret metal bodied National over all others I played. Now I just need to match that V neck shape to the metal body and I’m set. I did walk out with $40 + in some slides.

Great shop. Looking back, I wish I would have tried the Sheerhorn that was up on the shelf. But I’ll look for that NRP and maybe head back to The Spruce Tree if nothing else works out.
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Old 01-17-2019, 01:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by archerscreek View Post
I played some more resonators today at a neat little mom n pop music store in Madison, WI, called The Spruce Tree. Much to my delight, they had more guitars and resonators than what I saw on their website. They had about 15 resonators total, both new and used, including some vintage models.
Dang! 15 resonators on the floor? I gotta see this place!

Quote:
Originally Posted by archerscreek View Post
I loved the V/Modified V neck that comes on the M-14T Thunderbox. And once again, I loved the sound of a 12 fret metal bodied National over all others I played. Now I just need to match that V neck shape to the metal body and I’m set..
I was under the impression that the NRP steel body necks were V-shaped at the nut and gradually flattened out to a C at about the 9th. That's what my M2 does, as well.
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Old 01-17-2019, 02:30 PM
archerscreek archerscreek is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Willie Voltaire View Post
Dang! 15 resonators on the floor? I gotta see this place!



I was under the impression that the NRP steel body necks were V-shaped at the nut and gradually flattened out to a C at about the 9th. That's what my M2 does, as well.
I think you're right about the V shape.

The Spruce Tree had a 12 Fret Style O with the Lightning bolt design that was haunting me. No V neck but I loved the tone. I called them up and made an offer. Now 0 for 3. I'm going to need some therapy after this. Haha
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Old 01-17-2019, 05:16 PM
Villamarzia Villamarzia is offline
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After few Nationals, including a 12 strings style O (a powerhouse) and a Mule, Imho nothing come close to a ‘30s National in good shape (neck&cone, the rest can be beaten). Sound, feel, looks and history altogether. All the rest is reproduction. Again, imo.
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