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7 Best Budget Resonator Guitar

Resonator guitars are a unique instrument that is ideal for blues and folk music. This article looks at the best resonator guitars on the market. 

In the hunt for the best resonator guitar, we’ve trawled through a wide selection of instruments. So you can be assured that this list has the cream of the crop. 

Later in this article, we explore the main points of consideration when choosing a new resonator guitar. We also explain the different types of resonator guitars and how they sound different from other guitars. 

What are Resonator Guitars?

A resonator guitar is a modified version of an acoustic guitar that has a cone-shaped resonator at the top of the body. 

The resonator is most often made out of metal, and is either attached to the guitar’s top or mounted on a stand in front of it. The body of the guitar can be made out of wood, metal, or plastic.

The sound produced by the instrument comes from one end where it is amplified by a loudspeaker in a soundbox. These guitars have a great sound, with an extra layer of brightness and resonance. It’s definitely a distinctly unique tone that stands out from regular guitars.

This type of guitar has been around since 1857 when it was patented by John Dopyera and George Beauchamp. The design was a result of experiments with different shapes and materials and proved to be much louder than conventional acoustic guitars.

It was originally called a “resonator” because the design allows for better resonance than other guitars which are not designed with this type of structure.

Gretsch G9220 Bobtail

I tested 7 products and found the Gretsch G9220 Bobtail to be the best resonator guitar.

This is a truly magnificent resonator. This guitar has all the famous Gretsch build and sound quality. If you want to own a guitar that you know has been killing the blues scene for decades, any Gretsch resonator will do. But the G9220 Bobtail is one of their premium models. 

If you can afford it, this feature-rich guitar packs an electric pickup and is one of the nicest aluminum cone resonators we’ve heard. 

This offers a full, warm tone that captures the original sound of early blues music. If you want to create the sound of a classic retro blue guitar, this is a reliable, high-quality choice.

I’ve always loved the sound of a resonator guitar. These are heard across many blues classics. Combined with lap steel and a slide, these guitars are a true blast from the past. I’ve played a few different resonator guitars in my time, so I know what’s good and what’s not. 

There are definitely some things you want to avoid that are common with a cheap resonator guitar. Often the cheaper models have an annoying buzz, so I’ve missed those ones out. 

There are many different types of resonator guitars, each with a unique sound and feel.

Body materials are often one of the most noticeable differences. 

A metal body resonator has a much brighter, ringier sound than a wooden body. The best way to feel this difference is by playing resonator guitars until you recognize the contrast. 

There are many different resonator guitar brands, so I’ve made sure to include a wide selection for your viewing. 

Keep reading for my full lineup of the best resonator guitars.

Alternatively, check out our guide on the best beginner guitars, or the best Japanese guitar brands

Best in our tests

7 Best Resonator Guitars Reviewed in Detail

1. Pyle Resophonic Acoustic-Electric Most affordable

Pyle Resophonic Acoustic-Electric

Description

First up we have a super affordable resonator guitar from Pyle. This Pyle acoustic-electric guitar is a perfect first guitar for the beginner to intermediate player. 

If you’re new to the guitar, then get ready to rock the world with this easy-to-use, affordable electric guitar. With a fun and dynamic feel, you’ll be well on your way to playing like a pro in no time.

The acoustics are crafted with hand-selected woods to offer a rich sound with a deep, glossy finish. These guitars have an ABS fretboard binding which adds a nice touch. These round-necked guitars feel great to play and have a loud acoustic tone. 

As an acoustic-electric guitar, you can plug in and amplify your sound easily at any time. It features a solid cedar top, mahogany back and sides, and a 22-fret fingerboard – everything you need to start learning right away! 

The guitars feature great mahogany wood which is known for its quality and beauty. 

This acoustic resonator produces a decent, albeit nasal tone. 

This resonator guitar kit has everything you need, from the guitar itself to accessories. The set includes spare strings, a digital tuner, and a gig bag so your instrument can stay safe. All for a great price!

Specifications

  • Material: Mahogany and Spruce
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Pickups: Built-in
  • Other Features: Fixed bridge
  • Biscuit Resonator

Pros & Cons

  • Decent sounding resonator at an affordable price
  • Includes all accessories and replacement strings
  • Classic biscuit resonator style
  • Overly nasal/metallic sound

Summary

This affordable instrument makes the perfect addition to any home collection of musical instruments. If you’re looking for a cheap entry into the world of resonator guitars, this Pyle started kit is a strong choice. 

The quality won’t blow you away, but nor will the price. Great for beginners, professionals might want to look elsewhere. 

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2. Recording King RPH-R1-TS

Recording King RPH-R1-TS

Description

Looking for a fun resonator guitar with a great sound to keep your jams fresh? The Recording King Dirty 39’s could be the best sounding resonator guitar on a budget. 

The Recording King Dirty 30’s Resonator guitar has a sweet spruce top, refined rosewood fretboard, and tasty 9.5″ resonator cone. This instrument is a great choice for recording or live performance. 

The biscuit bridge and jumbo size body make this guitar an ideal choice for the rhythm section, blues, and country playing. It captures the authentic feel of instruments from back in the day. The pattern of the sound holes is very faithful to how early biscuit bridge resonator guitars were made. 

The Dirty 30’s Resonator is a true workhorse of a guitar, featuring a high-gloss cherry sunburst finish and a single nickel-plated resonator. If you’re looking for an affordable yet high-quality resonator guitar, the Dirty ’30s won’t disappoint.

This round neck resonator features a carved-out sound well and cone cavity to give every note a unique tonal character. 

This sounds much clearer and sweeter than a regular acoustic guitar. The high-quality resonator biscuit adds a huge amount of character over the sound of other acoustic guitars. 

This guitar brings a classic, vintage tone to any player, with a small body to take it anywhere. With the help of the vintage-style through-body neck and solid mahogany construction, you’ll experience a sound that’s been honored since the 1930s. And with a range of tonewood options, this resonator guitar will fit into your music and lifestyle perfectly.

Specifications

  • Material: Spruce and white wood body
  • Neck Material: Nato
  • Pickups: None
  • Other Features: Biscuit bridge

Pros & Cons

  • Classic biscuit resonator design
  • Retro F-holes cut into body
  • Vintage style tuning pegs
  • Limited stock

Summary

The Dirty 30’s from Recording King is the perfect instrument for the singer-songwriter or slide guitar player that wants a vintage blues sound. It’s a guitar, a resonator, and blues machine all in one! This competes with any regular guitar. The Recording King RM 991 is a great alternative. 

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3. Montana Resophonic Guitar

Montana Resophonic Guitar

Description

Say howdy to the beautiful Montana Resophonic Guitar! This guitar is a cross between a resonator and a standard acoustic guitar, combining the best of both worlds. It has a unique appearance with 2 extra grilled soundhole resonators, for increased tone projection and harmonics. This is close to a classic tricone resonator design. 

If you love the sound of old-school blues records, these round-neck resonator guitars from Montana capture a classic tone. You can recreate the sound of iconic blues tunes in a matter of no time. This guitar is from one of the lesser-known resonator guitar brands, but it still packs a lot of quality into an affordable price tag. 

With a chrome resonator and tailpiece with a beautiful sunburst finish, this guitar looks super tasty. Not only is it nice to look at, but this resonator guitar also produces a majestic sound.  This definitely has the potential to be your new favorite instrument. It also comes at a very reasonable price. 

Montana Reso is a fantastic resonator guitar with a retro vibe. Its high-quality materials and construction quality are sure to last for the long haul, which means you’ll have that wonderful resonating sound for years to come. 

The sound is best suited for blues, jazz, and folk music, so if you’re looking for an excellent guitar, look no further!

Pros & Cons

  • Unique tricone resonator inspiration
  • Great features for price
  • Sweet, full tone
  • Unrefined neck

Summary

This acoustic resonator offers great value to any player. Beginner to mid-level guitar, which provides a decent feel and sound. 

The guitar is made in a slightly different style to the typical resonator guitar build, using two additional small resonators on the top. 

This gives it a brighter tone with more prediction. The aluminum resonator cone provides a nice-sounding additional layer of resonance to your performance. 

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4. Gretsch Boxcar Round Neck Natural Mahogany

Gretsch Boxcar Round Neck Natural Mahogany

​​Description

From country to blues, to folk and old-time country, this guitar will do it all. And I ain’t just talkin’, you can trust me on that. The Boxcar from renowned brand Gretsch is the latest Square neck resonator guitar with attitude. 

The Gretsch Boxcars are a series of guitars that were first introduced in 1954 as the higher-end model to accompany the Gretsch Broadkaster. They have been used by musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Paul Beard, and John Lennon.

This Gretsch Round Neck Mahogany Boxcar is made of grade-A mahogany wood and uses metal resonators to add a layer of metallic sound. 

The Gretsch G9210 Boxcar uses the finest nickel-plated metal cones to offer a sweet tone. Using a nut extender you can switch up the neck format, but that’s too complex for this article. 

It features a superior construction with a resonator cone, creating a warm tone with a hint of brightness. The guitar also has a smaller dreadnought body, white headstock with the Gretsch logo, and chrome hardware. It has classical F-holes, which match the designs of earl wood resonator guitars.

Gretsch’s Boxcar is the perfect instrument for musicians who demand the most from their instruments. This guitar lives up to the high build quality Gretsch is known for, and has a classic, stage-worthy tone. 

It performs perfectly whether in the studio, at an open mic, or in the practice room. 

Gretsch guitars are known for their bright, punchy tone, and this captures that legacy. 

Specifications

  • Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Pickups:  None
  • Other Features: Die-Cast Tuners, Medium Jumbo Frets

Pros & Cons

  • Comes with electronic pickup
  • Reliable Gretsch Quality
  • Sounds great on stage or in the studio
  • Ideal for fingerpicking, blues, and folk
  • Relatively expensive

Summary

The Gretsch Boxcar is a classic guitar from the Gretsch family. It is a great guitar for beginners and experienced players alike. 

It offers affordable quality with a natural finish and mahogany body. It delivers an authentic resonator sound and provides a huge sound from a single cone.

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5. Gretsch G9240 Alligator

Gretsch G9240 Alligator

Description

Since the early years of Delta Blues, Gretsch resonators have been an instrument of choice for many blues players. The iconic Gretsch G9240 Alligator has been around since the ’50s. This classic model was entered into the guitar hall of fame in the ’90s.

The Gretsch G9240 Alligator is a round neck resonator guitar with a mahogany top, sides, and back. Round neck guitar models like the Gretsch G9240 Alligator are not as common as square necks, but they offer a different sound and feel.

The neck is carved well and feels easy to play with. It features a rosewood fingerboard which offers plenty of room, and can also be played like a lap steel guitar. 

The unique feeling of these round neck resonators is one that you will not forget – this has a feeling that always leaves you coming back for more.  

All the mahogany used is high quality, and the resonator cone is made from spun aluminum. Whilst only using a single cone, this guitar has a loud, full-range tone. Even on new models, the sound of these guitars is faithful to the early recordings. 

These round neck resonators capture the excitement of blues music as it emerged decades ago. 

Gretsch’s G9240 Alligator is a highly adventurous guitar. The high-gloss neck has a smooth feel and uses a vintage neck shape with aged white binding. This guitar has a scale length of 25″ ad 19 frets, so it feels slim-lined and refined. 

Specifications

  • Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Pickups: None
  • Other Features: Biscuit Cone

Pros & Cons

  • Deep, warm tone with resonator harmonics
  • Reliable Gretsch quality and heritage
  • Doubles up as a lap steel guitar
  • Classic retro aesthetic with the unique headstock and dark finish
  • No electronics

Summary

The Gretsch G9240 Alligator is a great guitar. With a semi-gloss finish, F-holes, and a spun aluminum resonator cone, it looks and sounds the part. It uses a classic folk style, the non-cutaway body which produces the unique high-quality sound you want from an acoustic guitar.

Made by industry experts Gresch, you can trust the quality and design of this guitar. They’ve stood the test of time, and served stage performing musicians for years.

6. Gretsch G9201 Honey Dipper

Gretsch G9201 Honey Dipper

Description

Up next is one of my favorite resonator guitars on the market, and perhaps the best resonator guitar on this list. Unlike a regular guitar, this has a metal body, which gives it a unique appearance and sound. 

A one-piece cast bell brass body with a biscuit cone, the Gretsch G9201 Honey Dipper is a traditional resonator updated vintage compact size. The Gretsch Honey Dipper is a beautiful rendition of Gretsch’s iconic resonator guitars. With its tasteful styling and excellent tone, this guitar has quickly become a favorite among gigging musicians. 

The mahogany neck gives this guitar a warm, round sound with very low tension, making it perfect for players looking for warmth in their tone.

This guitar evokes the golden era of American music, when scores of great blues, country, bluegrass, and folk artists electrified their acoustic guitars with a metal cone mounted under the strings. Only this guitar has a round-neck resonator body that makes it even more distinctive. 

The Gretsch G9201 Honey Dipper Round-Neck Resonator Guitar is designed for either open or traditional style playing and works even better for slide style. The rosewood fretboard adds a nice contrast to the metal coating and feels great to play. 

The sound of this guitar is an inspiring, ringing tone that will help you get out of any funk and into the mood to play. It’s much brighter and more resonant than other guitars. This is in part thanks to the aluminum cone and bell brass body. It truly has what I would call a gold tone! (Named after the Gold Tone Resonator).

If you’re considering this instrument for yourself or someone else, it’s a great choice and you really can’t go wrong owning this guitar. 

Specifications

  • Material: Bell Brass and Maple
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Width: No
  • Other Features: Unique metallic body

Pros & Cons

  • Unique Metallic Appearance
  • Bright, signature tone
  • Classic design with F-holes
  • Beautiful rosewood fingerboard. 
  • Overly distinct tone for some use

Summary

The Gretsch G9201 Honey Dipper Acoustic Guitar is a true vintage-inspired guitar with a full, natural body. The C-shaped neck delivers the characteristic Gretsch playing feel, while the full metal body adds an extra touch of class to this guitar’s classic look. 

This is truly a one-of-a-kind instrument. The look of it alone is enough for most people to want it before they even hear it! 

The sound of this guitar is very iconic and sounds like all the old blues and folk records that feature a resonator. Made by Gretsch, you know it has been at the core of blues’ musical legacy and is designed with taste, style, and quality.

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7. Gretsch G9220 Bobtail

Gretsch G9220 Bobtail

Description

More expensive than the Gretsch G9120 Boxcar, the G9220 is a professional grade resonator guitar. This is another fantastic instrument from guitar legends Gretsch.

The Gretsch G9220 Bobtail is a dreadnought-shaped, vintage-style archtop resonator that’s perfect for professional musicians. 

This weighs less than other guitars, yet it produces a warmer, richer sound because of crafted mahogany back and sides. With a natural sunburst finish, this guitar has a classic look with traditional appointments.

The mahogany neck has a traditional ‘V’ shape, and the Padauk fretboard gives this guitar a refined and polished feel. The neck is super comfortable and the fretboard is incredibly well made, with no issues like sharp or buzzing frets.

This flashy new model uses a spider bridge and is cut with classic nickel-plated metal cones. Perfect for players looking for a guitar with modern features and an authentic retro style. 

This classic Gretsch is ready to perform no matter where you take it. With built-in Fishman Nashville Resophonic Pickups, you’ll get an amazing amplified sound that’s perfect for any venue.

You can quickly plug this guitar into an amplifier, mixing desk, or recording gear. You can have a lot of fun experimenting with this when you plug it into guitar pedals!

The Bobtail increases string vibration for a more dynamic, amplified acoustic sound. It has an excellent projection and performs well across the frequency spectrum. 

The die-cast spider bridge helps to increase string tuning stability. 

It features a mahogany body with traditional-style F-holes, paired with the heart of this guitar – a Gretsch Ampli-Sonic resonator cone hand-spun in Eastern Europe. 

A classic design with a twist. The Gretsch G9220 Bobtail is a short-scale acoustic guitar that sounds great. With its onboard Fishman Nashville pickup, you’ll never need to worry about missing out on the sound of your performance again.

Specifications

  • Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Pickups: Includes Piezo Pickup
  • Other Features: Fishman Resophonic Pickup
  • Die-cast spider bridge

Pros & Cons

  • High quality Gretsch build
  • Classic warm resonator tone
  • High-quality metal cones, nice harmonics
  • Excellent tuning stability and all-round quality
  • Relatively expensive

Summary

This could easily be the best resonator guitar on this list, the only issue is the slightly higher price. Although it’s still not too expensive for a professional guitar. This acoustic-electric resonator has been wonderfully crafted to be both an instrument for making music and a work of art in its own right.

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How do Resonator Guitars Sound?

Resonator guitars have a distinctive sound. They are often used in bluegrass music and country music.

The resonator guitar is a type of guitar with a metal cone that is attached to the body of the guitar, which acts as a speaker. The cone produces an amplified version of the sound from the strings.

They sound like a cross between a steel string and a banjo. It adds an extra shimmering buzz to the sound. It also increases the high-frequency resonance, giving it a brighter sound than standard acoustics. It adds a kind of metallic, nasal resonance that lends itself to blues guitar tones. 

What are the Different Types of Resonator?

There are a few different styles of resonator guitar out there, each with slightly unique traits. 

There are four main types of resonator guitars: Dobro, National, Hohner, and DeArmond.

The most common form of a resonator guitar is the single cone, or “dobro,” which uses a metal dish-shaped resonator plate at its center, and usually a spider bridge. Most of the guitars on this list are in the Dobro style. The single-cone design is typically used for blues and rock music.

The National is a brand of resonator guitar that was introduced in the 1930s. 

The Hohner and DeArmond models were introduced in the 1950s.

What is a Square Neck Resonator?

A resonator with a square neck is typically played horizontally, resting on your lap. 

A Squareneck resonator guitar is also often called lap steel. Squareneck resonators are usually played with a slide, originally a glass bottle, but any smooth surface can be used. 

A square neck resonator guitar is played very differently from a standard guitar, bringing a new sound to a band or performance. 

Interested in square neck resonator guitars? View them online.

How do I Choose a Resonator Guitar? The Buyers Guide

What to look for when buying a resonator guitar

Choosing a resonator guitar can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.

The first thing to do is determine the style of music you want to play and then find a resonator guitar that suits your needs. 

For example, if you’re playing bluegrass or country then you’ll need a round-hole guitar with a maple body and mahogany neck.

If you’re playing blues or rock then an oval-hole guitar with either a mahogany body and maple neck or all-mahogany construction will suit your needs.

There are many different types of resonator guitars available for purchase, so it’s important to do your research before making any decisions.

The Main Factors in Choosing a Resonator Guitar Are:

What type of resonator do you want?

As mentioned earlier, there are a few different types of resonator guitars. Each one sounds slightly different. I recommend listening to a few styles to find which suits your tastes. 

Do You Need a Built-In Pickup?

Not all of them do. So if you want to amplify your guitar, choose a resonator that has a built-in pickup. This makes it much easier than using a microphone to record or amplify. With a built-in pickup, you can just plug it straight into an amp, PA, or recording gear. Guitars with pickups often cost a little more, but for many musicians, the extra expense is entirely worth it, if not required. 

What is Your Budget?

You can find resonator guitars at all ends of the market. From the most basic cheap versions to expensive pro models. Decide how much money you want to spend on your guitar and limit your search. For beginners, anywhere under $300 is a good price, for professionals you’d be looking at anywhere from $300 and above.

What Size?

You can find these types of guitars in many different sizes, the most common being full-sized and ¾. Smaller guitars are great for traveling, busking, and saving space, although often sacrifice volume and depth.

Conclusion

Gretsch G9220 Bobtail

Overall, the best resonator guitar is the Gretsch G9220 Bobtail

This is a super high-quality instrument from one of the best resonator guitar manufacturers in the world. Gretsch instruments are always known to be well made, and the Bobtail certainly is. 

With a hand-spun aluminum cone and expertly constructed mahogany body, this is a seriously nice guitar. It has a fantastic, clear sound that rings out with a bright, full resonance. The general feel and quality are very high, with no issues in construction. 

What sets the Bobtail apart is the inclusion of an electric pickup. This guitar is really ready to rock no matter where you take it. It sounds phenomenally unplugged or amplified!

There are so many great guitars on this list though, the Gretsch Honey Dipper comes in as a close second place. There’s something so cool and unique about the full metal body that makes me want to play this guitar all day. 

Order the Gretsch G9220 Bobtail today! Want to see some more fantastic guitars? Check out our guide on the best budget 8-string guitars.