c.2012 National Res-O-Tone Electric Resonator Guitar

I've been wanting to pick one of these guitars up for a little bit now and finally picked up this one lightly used courtesy of Guitar Resurrection. It came right out of the (nice, original hard) case setup as most new National ResoPhonic instruments are: half-way between something useful for fretting and something useful for bottleneck slide. I played around with it a bit in that setup (enjoying it, of course!) and then gave it a setup back to something similar to my "slick closed position archtop guitar feel" with a set of 50w-11s. This has a longer scale so the slightly lighter set feels better on it.

The reason I've wanted one of these guitars is that they feel nice, compact, and cozy in the lap while also retaining a pretty strong acoustic resonator tone and volume: I'd say this is at least close to as punchy as many of the wood-bodied archtops I've kept for myself over the years while it has that banjo-y resonator-sounding thwack on the low end and singing bell-sound on the high end. It's a good "writing" or "travel" instrument due to its size and comfort, though I could easily see playing this as either a (G, B & E string) lead instrument or chording buddy in a small acoustic jam situation. It'll also give you access to both a resonator tone when used with a mic on recordings or a 50s sort of electric tone plugged in.

Be warned, though, this is definitely not super-powered like a regular wood or metal-bodied full-size National. It's not meant to be! ...but as something to easily pick up and play acoustic or electric and sing and jam with, this is a great choice.

It's a good-looking instrument in-person, too. The satin finish feels pretty nice and the slightly-brushed coverplate and hardware gives it a less-super-shiny look that's pleasing. The sunburst is also understated rather than really high-contrast.

Bone nut, Fender style. The nut width is actually 1 3/4" and the neck shape is a mild flattened oval which feels sort of vintage-y. This makes it quite cozy for fingerpicking or up-the-neck closed chords as you have plenty of room to move around.

Here's the lightly-radiused rosewood board with its pearl dots. The frets are medium-ish stock and feel good. This has a longer scale, around 25 3/4" or so.

After I knew I'd be keeping the guitar, I opened up the coverplate and removed the felt lining Nat'l puts under their cones (this adds a little bit more sustain). I also intonated the B-string slot in the saddle. The cone rests on a simple routed-out area in the body and I may have to ask Nat'l whether they tried and/or gave up on drilling a few "air holes" out the back (or air channels in the cavity) to make use of the extra (shut-off) airspace under the cone. Update: the cone now has some tiny tiny vent holes drilled in it to access that airspace -- and voila, better acoustic volume and warmth.

The Lollar "Special" Telecaster-style neck pickup actually gives this guitar a somewhat mellow, but clear-toned, vintage sound plugged in. Its mid-position mount means it doesn't get too muddy while it also keeps it from getting picky-sounding. With the wound G set (suggested!) on the guitar the overall sound is swing-y and 50s semi-acoustic in nature. It doesn't sound like a resonator plugged in, really, but you do get away from that full-on solidbody sort of tonality with this guy and you hear a bit of the cone overtones through the pup.

Cool, Kluson-y Grover tuners are nice. I love the feel of that 1-piece maple neck, too. It's nicely executed... it's not big and v-shaped like some of the acoustic Nat'l ResoPhonic models which hearken back to original Nat'l styles, but it does feel more vintage and comfortable than most similar-style electric necks.

So, in the end? A good, practical, go-anywhere guitar. I'm actually looking forward to taking this out to bonfires and picnics.

I was packing instruments for shipping all morning and after I finished that, this guy miraculously arrived off the UPS truck and I didn't get much done the rest of the day (save entertaining our leaf-peeping customers in-shop and getting daughters Oona & Elsa to dance a bit).


Anthony said...

Could we have a sound clip when you get a chance please?

Antebellum Instruments said...

I'll try to get around to it... :)