Best Resonator Guitar Pickups – 2020 Round-up

A resonator guitar pickup is an ingenious little invention that allows acoustic guitars to keep up and play alongside their younger, electric guitar cousins.

It is essentially an amplifier for an acoustic guitar that amplifies the sounds of the vibrations of the strings.

So, for all of you old-style acoustic lovers, we’ll be reviewing five of the best resonator guitar pickups.

Comparison Chart of the Best Resonator Guitar Pickups

PRODUCTDETAILS
gm2-table__image

Fishman Classic Series

  • Fastens to the center of your guitar resonator
  • Accurate Tone Reproduction
  • Works with single cone and single cone inverter resonators
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

Fishman Nashville Series

  • Specifically for single cone inverter resonators
  • Consistent sound performance
  • Excellent reproduction of acoustic sound elements
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

Schatten RG-03

  • Best for the money
  • Passive model, meaning it doesn’t require batteries or additional power of any sort
  • Years of design perfection
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

Lace Dobro Neck Sensor

  • Versatile sound production
  • Only Dobro styled pickup that is magnetic to exist
  • Used by many prominently named musicians, such as the Dixie Chicks, Bob Dylan and Ronnie Wood
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

Resonator Guitar Pickup by Myers Pickups

  • Smallest active/preamp pickup available
  • Multi-instrument compatible
  • A flexible receiver that receives the natural acoustic sound of your instrument
View Latest Price

What is a Resonator Guitar Pickup?

A resonator guitar pickup is a metallic cone that fits the bridge of your guitar. This cone acts like an amplifier, or more accurately, a loudspeaker. It causes the vibrations of the strings to resonate even louder, amplifying the sound of an acoustic guitar in the same way the vibrations of a speaker are increased with a speaker’s resonator.

Resonator Guitar Pickup by Myers Pickups

There are three general types of resonators you’ll find, each with distinct qualities that produce different tones and frequencies. The tricone is the earliest design, followed by the single cone, and then the single inverted cone. Each has its use, which will be highlighted later on in the article.

How to Choose a Resonator Guitar Pickup?

When choosing a resonator pickup for your guitar, you first have to look at the type of resonator you need. 

Tricones

Tricones provide a more drawn-out, mellow sound, often associated with the blues and soul genres. These have a less sharp tone to them, especially when compared to the following resonators.

Single Cones

Single cones, or “biscuit bridges” as they are also known, are the direct inverse of tricones. These provide a sharper tone with quick delivery and quick decay. A single cone design is often slightly louder than a tricone model, with many describing its sound as “angry” or “harsh”.

Spider Bridge

Lastly, there is the spider bridge or the single inverted cone. These were created after the single cone to be as loud as possible, and as a result, produce the sharpest tones and most noise. You can think of these a step up from single cone designs, taking what existed and amplifying it.

Now that we know what types of resonators exist, we can decide upon which pickup we want. The aim of a pickup is to further amplify the sound that comes from the guitar-resonator combo, and different pickups go about this in different ways.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Here are the best resonator guitar pickups:

  1. Fishman Classic Series
  2. Fishman Nashville Series
  3. Schatten RG-03

Reviews of the Best Resonator Guitar Pickups

Having picked out five of the best pickups, here is an overview and analysis of how well this works, their popularity, and why they stood out among the others.

Fishman Classic Series Passive Resophonic Pickup

PROS

  • Strong feedback resistance
  • Clean and clear sound amplification
  • As small as and the same shape as a small washer
  • Part of the Fishman Classic Series Resophonic Passive Pickup, well-renowned for quality
  • Unobtrusive on sound quality -- merely amplifies and reproduces without altering your sound

CONS

  • Does not fit tricone resonators
  • Recommended that you seek professional help with installation

What Recent Buyers Report

Most customers report exemplary results. There are a few who give negative reviews, claiming they don’t get much volume or gain. However, this can be chalked up to minor incompatibilities with their current resonator. These same customers have contacted Fishman and have all been helped and given workarounds so that they still get something out of their purchase. Overall, buyers are pleased with this pickup.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Coming from the Fishman company, it already has quite a bit going for it in the way of renown. As part of their Classic Series, it aims to reproduce the classic, throaty sound of resonators in guitars without obstructing it. In this aim, it works incredibly well, which is why it stands out to us. It has a goal and accomplishes it 9/10 times, and on the off-chance it misses, Fisher offers alternatives and solutions. 

Who Will Use This Most

This is a pickup that would be used by people who want to stay true to the throaty, raw sound of an acoustic guitar. If you have a biscuit or spider cone, this is the pickup to use as it will amplify and resonate perfectly with the resonator already installed, without changing anything.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, the Fishman Classic Series Passive Resophonic Pickup is a great pickup to use should you want to reproduce the classic sound of your guitar resonator. It is unobtrusive and will likely serve you faithfully, and on the off-chance, it doesn’t, Fishman has your back and is willing to help.

Fishman Nashville Series Spider-Style Resophonic Pickup

PROS

  • Comes with 6.35 mm jack socket for ease of use
  • Reliable for performances -- delivers great sound each time
  • Uses piezo-ceramic technology to produce high-quality sound
  • Accurate acoustic sound reproduction, with no electronic undertones
  • Packs a punch with its loudness -- provides great amplification without losing quality

CONS

  • Requires professional installation
  • Only works with spider resonators
  • A preamplifier, while not necessary, does work well alongside this pickup

What Recent Buyers Report

Many buyers are happy with this product. However, many find this pickup to be finicky and delicate, requiring much care when it comes to installation and use. A number report dead strings or lopsided sound, but Fishman offers excellent customer support to help you find out precisely what has caused these issues. The majority of users find that when it is properly installed, this pickup provides excellent performance and sound quality.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pickup is an excellent runner up to the Fishman Classic Series Passive Resophonic Pickup. It provides a unique sound and is known to be reliable during performances. Its lack of electronic undertones in its reproduction of acoustic tones is what sets this apart from other pickups, which often suffer from this. This can be attributed to its use of piezo-ceramic and piezo-electronic technology, which it uses to the fullest extent in delivering high-quality music.

Who Will Use This Most

This is the pickup for single cone inverter users who want reliability and traditional sound. Using newer technology, it amplifies the old sound to allow it to compete with the loud guitars of today. This makes it the perfect pickup for users who want to be loud and bombastic when they play.

Bottom Line

The Fishman Nashville Series Spider-Style Resophonic Pickup is a high-quality sound amplifier that will serve you well if you treat it well. It requires a level of delicacy when being installed and used. Still, if you treat it gently, it will give you a fantastic sound that perfectly emulated the classic sound of a spider resonated guitar.

Schatten RG-03 Passive Resonator/Dobro Guitar Pickup

PROS

  • Two-year warranty
  • Excellent resistance to feedback
  • Does not require a professional to install
  • Traditional center mount that is simple to install
  • Specifically designed to work well with Dobro spider resonators

CONS

  • Made only for single cone inverted resonators, not tricone or a single cone

What Recent Buyers Report

The reviews range from excellent to merely stating that this is a decent pickup to use. It has very few drawbacks, but other than that, people are incredibly happy with the Schatten RG-03. They claim that it does exactly as advertised and that whatever problems they have with it, they quickly overcome.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pickup is the best value for money you will get. While it may not be as fancy as those above, it still delivers all it advertises. What it advertises is a high-quality pickup with very few drawbacks. It is also the only pickup on this list, which comes with a two-year warranty. This is very good, run-of-the-mill pickup which gives you your money’s worth and will serve you well on your Dobro spider resonator guitar.

Who Will Use This Most

One might call this the budget option. This pickup is the best value for money and comes with easy installation. It requires almost no setup to begin giving you those loud, sharp twangs of a spider cone.

Bottom Line

Overall, this is an excellent product for your spider resonator guitar. Years have gone into producing a pickup that both delivers quality sound, is faithful to the traditional design, and is still easy to install. The end product is one that will serve you well, providing all the features advertised without the need of professional help. It doesn’t even require much fiddling to produce the quality sound we all know and love from acoustic guitars.

Lace Dobro Neck Sensor - Round Neck - 3/8 tall

PROS

  • Easy to install
  • Excellent sound production and reproduction
  • Can produce a variety of tones from electric, sharp notes to mellow blues notes.
  • Made in collaboration with Dobro to be specifically compatible with their resonators

CONS

  • Many report shoddy workmanship
  • Requires your guitar have a 0.5” space between the body and strings at the end of the fretboard, which can limit who can use this pickup

What Recent Buyers Report

There is a bit of an inconsistency with buyer reviews. While many claim this to be one of their favorite pickups, some claim that the shoddy workmanship hampers the quality of the sound. Upon opening the packaging, some people have found that letters were missing, foam tape wasn’t in the right place. This makes it look ugly and sloppy. Its performance was, however, always noted to be excellent and, as advertised, able to deliver a variety of different tones.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pickup offers the most versatility out of any pickup on this list. Able to provide a quality of sound and tone that would typically be based on your resonator, this pickup can alter your sound to tailor to your needs. Despite its known physical quality problems, its sound and performance quality is one that has been recommended by many famous musicians.

Who Will Use This Most

This is mostly used by people who want versatility in their sound production. This is perfect for people who want to change the sound they want to produce on the fly, switching from traditional, throaty tones to the more electrifying.

Bottom Line

While there is no denying the shoddy workmanship and unpleasant aesthetics, you also cannot deny its performance. It delivers high quality, versatile sound that you can adapt to whatever tone you want to play at. And while it may be incompatible with many guitars because it requires that additional space to be attached, it performs wonderfully when it is compatible. So while it may not be the best thing to look at, it has a beautiful personality.

Resonator Guitar Pickup with Flexible Micro-Gooseneck by Myers Pickups

PROS

  • Incredibly small and lightweight
  • Does not require permanent installation
  • Works on a variety of instruments, not just guitars
  • Quality guarantee, based on testing done before each delivery
  • Allows you to freely change between electric and acoustic tones, granting you increased versatility

CONS

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

Getting overwhelmingly positive reviews, the Resonator Guitar Pickup with Flexible Micro-Gooseneck by Myers Pickups is one of the best on the market, able to freely switch not only between electric and acoustic tones but also between instruments. This pickup works on any instrument thanks to its micro-gooseneck, which is so small and flexible, making it unobtrusive yet powerful. Everyone who purchased this pickup had virtually no problems whatsoever, with only one review claiming it to be too quiet.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The fact that this pickup, nicknamed the “feather” for its lightweight nature, offers a high level of versatility without losing any strength in sound. It can pick up the softest of notes and alter them from acoustic to electric, no matter what instrument you are using. This makes it stand out as one of the most versatile, based on their applications.

Who Will Use This Most

This is for users who want the versatility of a different kind. The temporary nature of this pickup, and its ability to be attached to other instruments, make it incredible for many various applications. Users who use this often do so because they have other instruments they want to use too.

Bottom Line

This is one of the most popular and highly rated pickups on the market, simply because it applies to any instrument available. It gives you great sound, and you can use it in any way you want. Its temporary nature of installation makes it incredibly popular as well, as you can freely move it among instruments as needed.

What Do I Need to Know Before Buying?

There are a few things that you should consider before purchasing a resonator guitar pickup. Check them out below.

How Does it Affect my End Sound?

This is obviously important as you’ll need to know what your music will sound like and how it will be affected by the pickup. Some have a permanent “hum” to them, while others give you reverb or an electric undertone. It is essential to select based on how you want your final tone to sound.

Does it Amplify or Alter my Tone? 

This is important mainly because some people want the added versatility, while some want a definitive tone. As you read above in the reviews, you would have seen that some pickups allow you to alter your acoustic guitar to have a more metallic, electric twang. Others do not change, but rather amplify the sound and tone you already have.

Do I Want to Change the Sound of my Guitar to be More “Electric”, or Traditional?

Tying in with the previous point, only a few pickups possess the ability to change the tone of your guitar effectively. Having the ability to play an acoustic guitar and have the added bonus of making it sound electric could just be what you want, and there exist pickups to do this.

How Difficult is it to Install and Can Installing it Potentially Damage my Guitar?

Some pickups require you to hire a professional to install. In contrast, others are easy and can be installed straight out of the packaging. It can take some time taking apart your guitar and installing a pickup and can be a very delicate procedure. Some might even require you to make modifications beforehand, which can be more detrimental than what it's worth.

How Much Feedback or Clipping Does it Produce?

When you play, you want the sound to come through clearly and cleanly. Having reverb and feedback may sound cool on some guitars, but not all the time, and when it is uncontrollable, it just hampers the experience. You will often find that electronic pickups that require a battery pack produce a low humming noise, which can also be distracting.

Conclusion

A resonator guitar pickup allows you to amplify further and alter the sound and tone that your instrument makes. Some are better than others, providing versatility, volume, adjusting of tone, while others are just a plain nuisance. 

You’ll find in the reviews above that some pickups have glaring weaknesses that may put you off despite their apparent glamour. In contrast, others that may seem simple at first, are actually among the best on the market. 

It is crucial to choose the right pickup for you, as everyone has a different desired sound, and we hope that this review will have helped you in that endeavor.