Readers of our guide to the best resonators on the market will find it is topped by this excellent squareneck tricone model from Recording King – one which shows off some high-end appointments, while still displaying good value. Before we start, note that while we’re reviewing the squareneck model, an almost identical roundneck variation (the RM-991) is also available.
While there’s nothing particularly extravagant or unique about the design of the RM-991-S – at least when compared to other tricone guitars – it’s still a striking instrument. It features a 25.5” scale length body made from highly-polished nickel-plated bell brass, with a traditional non-cutaway art-deco design. The body is fantastic with that smooth mirrored finish, and shows good craftsmanship for the price.
The RM-991-S is a squareneck model, with the neck made from Honduran mahogany, which feels smooth and comfortable when playing lap steel style – exactly what this model is designed for. The 1.75” nut width neck features a padauk fretboard, with 19 frets, and simple mother-of-pearl fretboard markers. The action is high – as you’d want when playing lap steel style – and, generally, the guitar required minimal setup out of the box.
The RM-991-S has no electronics, but – as we’ll discuss – there’s little need for amplification, as this baby can really sing! The guitar sports three 6” hand-spun aluminium cones, with two placed on the bass side and one on the treble, connected by a T-shaped bridge (which features a saddle made from ebony and maple). This is all shielded by a classic art-deco screened coverplate. Sitting on the slotted headstock, conveniently facing upwards for easy access, is a set of quality open-geared die-cast tuners, while you’ll also find a plated Recording King logo at the top of the headstock. Sadly, there’s no case included – for the price we’d have expected at least a gig bag.
The cone set-up on this resonator is perfect, with the two bass cones offering a warm, sweet tone, with plenty of power and volume – easily cutting through any acoustic mix. However, the dynamics are wide ranging, and a smoother playing style can result in some very soft sounds. Meanwhile, as you’d expect from a tricone, there’s beautiful sustain that just goes on and on. While the squareneck design limits you to a few certain genres, the guitar’s focused sound is perfect for blues styles and Hawaiian slide.
This really is a great guitar. Aside from the mirrored finish, there are no bells or whistles – just solid sound and easy playability. For the price, you would actually be hard-pushed to find another tricone resonator showing the quality of this RM-991-S, while the RM-991 is a good alternative if roundneck playing is more your cup of tea.