Review of the Regal RC-51 Tricone Resonator Guitar

Being an Acoustic Blues fan, I was considering getting a resonator for a long time. I own two other acoustic guitars and I would have loved to get a National, but unfortunately that is a luxury that the missus would never let me have. After doing some research and finding out that Regal has pretty much been the major association with resonators since the 1920s, I figured that I couldn´t go wrong.

First impressions: I picked up this Tricone on a special offer online for £600 and was initially very impressed when I received it, more specifically by the beauty and design of it, especially the nickel plated brass-bell body and the mahogany neck. However after closer inspection I became a little bit disappointed and thinking “you get what you pay for”. I knew that it was a Chinese-made semi-replica of the National Style 1 Tricone from 1927, but was expecting better build quality. The first thing that I noticed was that the neck was warped so I tried a truss rod adjustment – it wouldn´t turn at all! The next thing I noticed was that the brass body where the heal of the neck meets the body was cracked through. I returned the guitar and was sent a new one which looked much better. I have to admit that I really like the way that the guitar felt in my hands, it holds really well.

First sounds: At first the sound was slightly muted and also sort of thin and bright. I tweaked it a little bit after reading some tips from other RC51 users, and ended up with a kind of “buzz”. I tweaked a little bit more and the sound was better, but still not quite what I was looking for.

I took it in to a shop in the next town where they happened to be selling the exact same guitar for £740, on sale! Anyway I mentioned the issues I had been experiencing and was told that I should be using the heaviest strings that I am comfortable playing with, since this would improve everything from dynamics, tone, sustain and even intonation. They also suggested that I get National cones to replace the stock ones, but I had a feeling the guy was trying to make a sale so I stuck with the stock ones.

A word of caution: its not a good idea to remove all six strings at once on a resonator, since the cones and bridge are basically held in place by the tension of the strings. Removing them all at once can cause the resonating parts to shift, resulting in buzzing sounds.

It took me a while, but I removed, replaced and then tuned each string individually. The end result was really worth all the hassle and I was really happy with the sound. The guy at the store also suggested that if I wasn´t happy with the sound, I could always try certain upgrades besides changing the cones, such as a bone nut or an ebony saddle. For now however I´m quite happy with the sound I get, and even the missus is impressed!

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