Guitarist Magazne's review of the "Resodan"
As if the U2 isn't cool enough, along comes some bright spark and fits it with a resonator...
Just how long is this retro revival going to last? It began sometime in the early 90s with both Fender Japan and Epiphone producing decent quality, cost-effective versions of their classic models. Then came the Chandler 555, Starfield, Jerry Jones and the seminal Charvel Surfcaster, each flying the flag for all things old while still keeping a keen eye on improvements in technology and design.
And there's seemingly no let-up as we career towards the end of the nineties, with the likes of Burns, DeArmond, Framus, Squier, Yamaha and of course Danelectro easing our impending descent into Y2K techno-doom with their respective rays of nostalgic light. So just as we future-phobes brace for the final impact, along comes this particular sunbeam: the Danelectro/Holiday Music Resodan.
Based on Dano's phenomenally successful U2, the Resodan isn't an official model as such, in that it's the brainchild of Mr Steve Jolly, manager of Holiday Music. in London. Not surprisingly, he's rather enthusiastic about his new baby: "Well it's my kind of thing, really. We had a number of people who were buying U2s purely for slide, and what with the lipstick pickup and the fact that it's semi-hollow, I thought the resonator would be just the perfect thing."
Something to rout about
The U2's semi-solid construction is crucial in making the Resodan a viable project. Julian Mullen, who carries out the conversion explained a little about the process. "What we're doing is routing down through the top, and then taking away a little bit of the centre block and end block. Then the cone just drops in once we've done a little bit of woodworking inside". The extra wordworking he refers to is to build a light, softwood frame for the cone to sit in. It's not the tidiest internal finishing you'll ever see, but no matter as everything is totally spot on from the outside and it won't affect the guitar's performance at all.
To accommodate the resonator, the pots and pickup selector are moved to the upper bout, while the bridge-position lipstick is replaced by an Ashworth transducer system. This is fitted directly to the cone to offer access to more authentic acoustic tones when amplified. Julian remarks: "It's wired into the existing controls, and then we just change the capacitor on the tone control to suit the transducer". The neck position lipstick remains exactly as you'd find it on a U2.
The choice of bridge is the type
favoured by National; a 'biscuit' arrangement which has a tendency to move about
a bit, so take care when changing strings and tunings to make sure it's in the
right place. The maple saddle simply sits in a groove in the centre of the
biscuit, transferring string vibration directly to the centre of the back of the
cone. The final Holiday modification is to add the generic chrome tailpiece
that's common to the majority of resonator guitars. And hey presto - a Resodan!
Everything else is standard U2; a maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, 'D' brand enclosed machineheads and that controversial aluminium nut - a subject we'll come back to later. All in all, then, a tidy and credible conversion very much in keeping with Dano's functional design ethic.
The chaps at Holiday forewarned me that this guitar would come with a reasonably high action because over 90 per cent of orders have come from people who want their Reso set up primarily for slide. But in all honesty they needn't have bothered as this Resodan strikes a good balance between regular playing and slide applications. In fact, if I was going purely for slide, I'd probably have them jack it up a little higher still.
The comfortable C-profile neck is worthy of a mention simply because you wouldn't otherwise notice it. With its 42mm nut and string spacing of 36mm, it feels completely natural to hold - by the time you've even started to think about how well it plays, you're already thrashing out riffs and chords, such is the thoroughly inviting appeal of this guitar. A big tick for the frets, too; medium gauge and reassuringly well finished right up to the 21st.
One slight moan concerns the combination of the wooden bridge saddle and aluminium top nut. Neither of these materials are particularly hard and therefore there's a fair amount of friction which leads to tuning stability problems, especially when string bending. For my money, the problem lies with that aluminium nut. When I asked Steve Jolly about this, he told me that Holiday will gladly fit a Graphtech or bone nut for a small upcharge. In its defence, though, I would point out that the Dano's tuning stability improved during the time I had the guitar, and it's also worth bearing in mind that it's not set up for two-and-a-half tone bends. It's set up for slide, and used that way, there's really very little to worry about once it's tuned to pitch.
The cutaway means you can push your slide right up to the last fret, aided by the somewhat peculiar neck joint, where only three-quarters of the neck heel is covered by the body - see inset for details.
One fat, one thin
Just as the Resodan feels natural and intuitive to play, it also has a thoroughly inviting and engaging unplugged tone. You'll be surprised by the sheer amount of volume on offer, made perceptibly louder by the strong, clonky mid-range bias. Strummed or picked politely, it has a tendency to sound tinny, perhaps awkward at times, but dig in and you'll have trouble putting it down. The maple bridge and aluminium cone definitely robs some of the natural body sustain you'd get with a solid guitar, replacing it with the forthright resonator's, er, resonance.
Plugged in, the Resodan is capable of two very distinct characters. Firstly, its neck pickup side with all the single-coil lipstick tones you'd find in a U2, albeit with a discernably stronger acoustic character afforded by the resonator. In this position, it booms and honks with little natural sparkle to speak of, even with the tone pot all the way up. It's not as creamy or muddy as the neck humbucker in a Les Paul, though, and so retains a fair degree of clarity and focus at higher gain settings.
Flick the switch to the down position, and the Resodan takes on a tonal transformation. This selects the Ashworth transducer system, attached directly to the cone and results in an altogether more authentic amplified resonator tone. The thick, warm character of the neck pickup is replaced by a cutting, nasal voice that issues forth a credible amplified impression of a steel-bodied blues barker. And by God does this cut - the upper mids are extremely heavy, so watch how you set your amp.
The real beauty is that you can mix
these two sounds with the pickup selector in the middle and then balance their
tone and volume to taste using the dual-concentric pots. So if the neck pickup
is too thick, or the transducer too thin, simply dial in enough of the other to
remedy things. This really is useful at higher volumes, where even the subtlest
of tweaks from the guitar makes all the difference. Do take care as as you pump
up the dBs, though; the transducer is succeptible to a fair amount of feedback
at volume, especially under heavy distortion.
Standard U2s come in a very reasonable £222, after which the Holiday luthiers chop it about, adding the resonator system and transducer pickup which in turn bumps the price up to an equally reasonable £399. And for that money, there's absolutely nothing on the market which will rival the Resodan. This is a unique guitar than fits its design brief perfectly, and so it's a bona fide bargain.
Retro revival, eh? Sure, the Resodan's unashamed kitsch appeal may well tempt one or two bequiffed individuals, but there's no doubt that this pseudo-throwback is as relevant to guitar music today as it would have been 40+ years ago - hence the prevalence of so many classic guitar designs.
I've moaned a bit about poor tuning stability, and yes, you could add a super slippery nut and saddle - maybe even some better quality tuners - but in all honesty the more you add to this guitar, the more you take away. One of the best things about guitars is making their indiosyncrasies work to your advantage, which inevitably leads to you sounding like you, rather than a mere model of someone else. In that respect the Resodan is the perfect springboard for a more creative approach to your playing. What's more, no other guitar comes close in terms of price, and you can't really argue with that."