For acoustic and electric guitar players who want to expand their styles in an Americana direction
Super sharp aesthetics
Broad tonal palate
Great amplified sound
Occasional resonator rattle with aggressive attack
Some blemishes along fretboard binding
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Fender introduced its Paramount Series for discriminating acoustic players at Winter NAMM 2016, and the company has been busy updating and augmenting it in 2022.
Fender started off the year with three new steel-strings, and then – just in time for warm-weather back-porch pickin’ – offered up the three instruments that make up the Paramount Bluegrass Collection: the PB-180E banjo and PM-180E Mandolin, along with the PR-180E Resonator on review here.
The whole Paramount concept is about modern takes on vintage designs, and the Bluegrass Series takes it a step further, applying elements such as onboard electronics and modern neck profiles to old-time Americana instruments.
The PR-180E is an all-mahogany acoustic-electric round-neck resonator that comes in a nice hardshell case.
It has a pair of small f-holes located in the upper bouts on either side of a neck that joins the body at the 12th fret.
Aged-white binding is a nice complement to the dark-stained mahogany. Close examination of the border line along the fretboard revealed slight imperfections on this unit, but overall craftsmanship was super solid.
The wood has an open-pore satin finish that sets it in soft contrast to the large spider resonator cone that dominates the front. Nickel hardware includes Grover open-back tuners that add a time-honored touch.
It would be nice if the script Fender logo and Paramount staff on the headstock were inlays instead of decals, but they still have a cool appearance. Overall, it’s a fantastic-looking instrument.
The PR-180E has a small, soft V-shaped neck that gives you plenty to hold onto without being too much, and the width at the nut is a very common 1.75 inches, so it feels pretty much in line with a typical steel-string neck, especially given that the string gauges are also common to a typical light steel-string set.
Playability out of the box is somewhat easy. This review unit arrived on a gig day for me, so I brought it along and had no trouble working it right into the set alongside the grand auditorium and concert steel-strings that were in the mix that night.
It’s clear that Fender designed this instrument with an eye to accommodating acoustic guitar players of all stripes, not just resonator heads.
The factory action is slightly on the high side compared to a standard steel-string, and that’s certainly advantageous for an instrument that so easily lends itself to lap-style slide and bottleneck Delta blues guitar playing. It’s easily adjustable via the dual-action truss rod as well.
The PR-180E’s tone is an interesting blend of wood and metal, warmth and clarity, attack and sustain, all with plenty of punchy volume.
How it sounds depends a whole lot on your plucking approach. Since there are only 12 frets to the body, the feel is more compact than on a 14-fret instrument, and your plucking hand naturally comes further across.
I often found myself plucking over the neck right in-between the two F-holes, leading to a wooly, wooden sound. On the other hand, plucking with the heel placed right on the steel bridge cover brightens the tone considerably, and you can’t help but want to play a few banjo-inspired rolls.
The articulation and sustain one achieves with this instrument is inspiring. Plucking aggressively in particular tunings occasionally yielded some extraneous rattle from the resonator cone, but that’s not altogether unwelcome or surprising for an instrument of this affordability.
The real surprise is how good it sounds amplified. The PR-180E comes equipped with a Fishman Nashville Series Pickup, which delivered a balmy, robust tone through a Fender Acoustic Junior GO amp.
I actually preferred it to the pure acoustic tone. It’s a passive pickup with no controls that simply sounds full and organic.
Fender’s Paramount Series offers options for players seeking authentic acoustic sounds on modest budgets.
This addition to the Paramount Bluegrass Collection will appeal to acoustic and electric guitar players who have come to love the Fender feel, trust the brand name and want to expand their styles in an Americana direction.
- NUT WIDTH: 1.75”, bone
- NECK: Mahogany, 15.75” radius
- FRETBOARD: Walnut, 25” scale
- FRETS: 19
- TUNERS: Nickel, open-back
- BODY: Laminated mahogany back, sides and top
- BRIDGE: Spider
- ELECTRONICS: Fishman Nashville
- CONTROLS: None
- FACTORY STRINGS: Fender 60L Phosphor Bronze (gauges .012–.052)
- WEIGHT: 5.4 lbs as tested
- BUILT: China
Visit Fender for more information.
Jimmy Leslie has been Frets editor since 2016. See many Guitar Player- and Frets-related videos on his YouTube channel, and learn about his acoustic/electric rock group at spirithustler.com.