ConeTone might not be a household name, but the biscuit-bridge pickup that first adopted it has been a minor sensation in the resonator world for more than ten years. The piezo-loaded creation was the brainchild of Steve Olson, a long-time repairman and resoguru at Elderly Instruments in Lansing, Michigan. (I reviewed a ConeTone pickup on its own for sister publication Frets way back in 2006.) In recent years, however, Olson has fully grabbed the resonator-amplification challenge by the horns, designing and manufacturing the Reso- Volt acoustic-electric resonator guitar, which promises an easy, versatile, and comfortable means of taking the spun cone’s compelling tone onto the big stage.
Following the lead of hip synthetic-guitar models of old, such as many Valco-made Supro, Airline, and National electrics of the ’60s (from which this model’s shape is clearly inspired), the Reso-Volt is made with a molded plastic top, or polycarbonate to be precise. It’s a stylish and convenient means of giving some aesthetic form to the flame-maple back and bolt-on neck that really give this instrument its structure. But this top also works as an acoustic channel for the genuine 8.25" spun-aluminum cone within the guitar, with upper-side vents so the player can hear the Reso-Volt’s surprisingly virile unplugged tone. Amped up, the Cone-Tone “Electric Biscuit” pickup takes the cone’s vibration to a built-in Fishman Power-chip preamp, where you can blend it at will with an Alnico 2 electromagnetic blade pickup made by fellow Elderly repairman Scott “Stretch” Reinsmith. A 3-way selector, individual Volume controls, and a mono/stereo jack offer a variety of routing and amplification possibilities.
The Reso-Volt’s neck is a hip creation in and of itself. Crafted from an impressively flamed piece of maple with an ebony fretboard, it has a closed-back slotted headstock with Golden Age Restoration three-per-strip tuners and a bone nut. The comfortably rounded C profile sits well in the hand, and a 1.75" width at the nut allows plenty of room to roam. This example came set up with Olson’s own preferred flat-wound strings and a medium-high action, as you’d expect to encounter on a largely slide-intended guitar, but fretted playing is effortless nevertheless.
I tested the Reso-Volt through a 50-watt Reeves Space Cowboy head and 2x12 cab, a custom AC15-style amp, and a small PA rig, with a selection of pedals thrown into the brew. I really enjoyed the guitar’s flexibility and found no end of fun ways to blend creative sonics (piezo clean with a little reverb, electromagnetic pickup with overdrive and tremolo, anyone?). Even when summed in mono, though, there was plenty to love. The Reso-Volt doesn’t necessarily nail a miked acoustic-reso tone at any turn, but really offers so much more, and its decent acoustic volume means you could also mic the Reso-Volt if desired. The Alnico 2 pickup is louder in the blend than the piezo biscuit pickup, but they are easily balanced out, and in truth I most enjoyed a mix of the two tones, for a throaty, haunting slide tone with electro-magnetic growl and airy acoustic-like breath and dimension.
If you’re not a resonator player already, this thing is likely to hook you; if you are, it is definitely worth checking out for the ease with which it takes that addictively atmospheric sound into the electric realm. The Reso-Volt will exhibit feedback if you get too close to a loud amp, but it’s impressively resistant to howl otherwise. All in all, it’s an extremely cool road to one of the most compelling sounds in the guitar world.
PRICE $3,500 street
NUT WIDTH 1.75", Bone
NECK Flamed maple
FRETBOARD Ebony, 25" scale
FRETS 22 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Golden Age Restoration open-back three-per-strip tuners
BODY Molded polycarbonate top, flame maple back, with internal spun-aluminum resonator cone
BRIDGE Biscuit bridge with aluminum saddle
PICKUPS ConeTone “Electric Biscuit” piezo, Stretch Winders Alnico 2 blade, built-in Fishman Power-chip preamp
CONTROLS Independent volume controls for each pickup, three-way selector switch, mono/stereo output jack
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXL110, .010-.048 (flat-wound strings optional)
WEIGHT 6.6 lbs
KUDOS Nifty styling and great build quality. Excellent amplified resonator tones. Outstanding versatility.