Four Players and Their Fourteen Guitars
How Four players Spent Their Summer Vacation
Michael Barton, Mark Clifton, Howard Parker, Wyn Walke
Thanks to Washington DC area pickers Wyn Walke and Michael Barton for the idea of spending an afternoon of "quality" time with a bunch of resonator guitars, discussing preferences and performing subjective comparisons of representative samples from some of the instruments top builders! It's rare that players have the ability to play before purchase. We hope that our comments help prospective buyers when making those important buying decisions.
Disclaimer:With the exceptions of the Gold Tone® by Paul Beard guitars the instruments are owned by the players. The Gold Tones® were loaned and subsequently returned.
Three of the players are part time professionals, the fourth, Mark Clifton
is a full time player and teacher (and a really nice guy).
The concept of the get together was all pretty simple. We knew it was going to be subjective and we also knew that each of us had some very ingrained preferences when it comes to our guitars. I think in some respects we wanted to validate those preferences, try some recent samples and especially see what the new crop of ""entry level" guitars sounded like.
We apologise in advance if we left out your favorite guitar. We would have loved to have had a DeNeve/Allen/Clinesmith/McKenna/Crafters of TN, etc. The lack of their presence has absolutely nothing to do with the way we feel about them. They are are quality guitars.
Middle L-R:2003 Scheerhorn L-body Maple Honey,2001 Scheerhorn L-body Maple Vintage Burst,1995 Scheerhorn R-body Spruce Mahogany 2001 Beard Vintage R Black
Top L-R:2002 Beard R Mahogany,2004 Dobro® Leadbetter Signature,2004 Beard "Mike Auldridge" 8 String, 1985 Beard Mahogany 8 String
Nothing scientific to the methodology. Heck..we didn't even have a methodology. We just played and played and played and played and swapped guitars and played some more. So take the comments for what they are, random thoughts about fourteen great guitars.
What We Think:
This is a great time to be playing resonator guitar. These are all fine examples of their genre. Here are the generalized comments. If individual players add comments I'll add them with their initials so you can see who said what:
The Scheerhorns are fine examples of "high end" guitars. They are not all the same however with certain guitars definitely having the edge. We thought that Wyn's 2003 L-Body Honey Maple had it all going for it. The stars were aligned when this guitar was built. It had great range and was almost too easy to play! This is guitar making heaven.
Wyn Adds: Due to the different wood, string sets and soundhole configurations, each of these 3 had a distinctive sound. I agree with the group on the Honey maple horn, it is my favorite as well. The other curly maple L-body is the one I take to jams because it cuts well, and the mahogany R-body is nicely suited for a certain older flavor when recording. Removing the screenholes in 2 models recently increased overall volume and bass response in both.
Michael Adds: The Honey maple 'Horn is the best resonator guitar that I've ever heard. The R-Body 'Horn sounds similar to an R-Mahogany Beard. It's much mellower than an R-Maple Horn. Very nice sounding - probably great for recording.
Howard Adds: Scheerhorn's have always been an acquired taste for me, but, this Honey Maple guitar is very special. Very responsive.
Mark Adds: I don't own Scheeerhorn's, but, I cannot disagree. This guitar was the best ever. The other Scheerhorn's are certainly quality, but, not up to this individual.
Paul Beard Guitars offers more variety than any other luthier. Fit andfinish
are beyond top notch and Beard has made a strong move into the mid and lower priced markets:
Of the six string guitars we found the Beard, Mike Auldridge Signature guitar to be superlative in all respects, with beautiful cosmetics. It was also interesting to play the 2 mahoganies side by side, The 96' definitley had a darker edge that comes with aged tonewoods.
The 01 Vintage R was a cannon with an edge and a great high end that went well above the 15th fret.
Wyn Adds: My favorite Beard was the 1996 Mahogany R. It had a wonderful depth to my ears. The 2002 Beard R Mahogany was a close second that I think in time will equal the tone of the 96. The Beard, Mike Auldridge Signature 8-string model also had great tone.
Howard Adds:FWIW, I own the 1996 Mahogany R and I thought that the new Mahogany R had the edge because of the slightly brighter high end. Can't deny that the 96' is wonderfully mellow though.
Mark Adds:The Vintage R was my favorite of the regular production Beards. The '96 R Mahogany sounded a little dated to me. I preferred the new Mahogany R design. I'm predisposed to my own Mike Auldridge Signature model though.
Bottom: L-R, 2004 Beard, Mike Auldridge Signature 6 String,1996 Beard R Mahogany,Beard Gold Tone® Mahogany Standard, Beard Gold Tone® Maple Deluxe
The best surprise came when playing the new Gold Tone ® by Beard Guitars. All of us felt that both guitars were real winners. We were convinced that the guitars were superior to the upgraded Regal in all respects. We also agreed that the guitars were a direct competitor to Gibson/Dobro ® main markets. These are wonderful guitars with the mahogany sounding a bit more traditional to the maple's more modern sound. Buyers of these guitars should note they are available through Beard Guitars, Beard Dealers and Gold Tone dealers. The guitars we played were all set up by the Beard shop. It's our recommendation that you go with the Beard setup. At least in the short term.
Wyn Adds: I wanted to compare each of the Gold Tones ® to 2 mid-priced
instruments of comparable sound.
The maple Gold Tone was compared to the Dobro® Leadbetter Signature model,
and the mahogany was compared against the 2001 Beard Vintage R Black Top model.
Even though both Gold Tones® came in 2nd in this comparison(a little less bass response in both
instances), I found them to be sufficiently close to the Dobro® and Beard Vintage R in terms
of tonal characteristics.
It will be a fun and interesting subject in the reso community to follow during the next few months, as more and more Gold Tone® owners write about how well their instruments have fared after some extended playing time and normal wear. Overall I was very impressed on the Gold Tones®, and hope(like a few others, I suspect) to see a different finish color scheme on the next batch of maple models.
Howard Adds: I didn't hear much similarity between the Gold Tone® and Vintage R. To me The Vintage R sounds much more agressive on the top end with a deeper bottom end. Black guitars always sound better anyways!!
Mark Adds: The Gold Tone ® Maple Deluxe sounded great. Just change that color please. The Mahogany Standard just sounded a bit dull to me, but, was an improvement over the Regal RD-45.
Michael Adds:The Dobro® Leadbetter and the Gold Tone® Maple Deluxe to me were probably the most similar (except maybe the 2 R-Mahoganies). I thought the Leadbetter was a little louder and better sounding down low. Once you got up to the 10th fret and above, the Gold Tone® seemed to ring out a little better to me. The Gold Tone® was stock, the Leadbetter stock plus Scheerhorn upgrade for $150. Great deal on the Gold Tone®.The Gold Tone Mahogany was much better looking, playing and sounding than the Regal. And the Regal was fully upgraded by Paul. Plus a #14 spider and national tuners later. The Gold Tone® is a great deal.
In the eight string category the new Beard, Mike Auldridge 8 overcame all the weaknesses usually incumbant in 8 string guitars, having more of a range than many of the 6's currently on the market. The guitar looks as rich as it sounds and is all too easy to play. Beard has definitely improved on his orginal 85', 8 string design.
Howard Adds:Two guitars built by the same builder eighteen years apart. The improvement demonstrates the research and development over the years and the resulting gains.
Gibson/Dobro® continues to be a force in the market.
The Phil Leadbetter inspired guitar has a fine low end and great cosmetics. A real improvement
over the standard product. It plays very nicely.
Mark Clifton's 1937 (or 32 ?) 7 to 6 string conversion left a warm spot in our hearts. It was upgraded with a Quarterman cone, nut and saddle. It didn't quite have the lows of the Scheerhorn or the high's of the Vintage R. It was in wonderful shape and featured a gently radiused neck.
Mark Adds:The '37 sounded, well...old! The Dobro® Leadbetter model could have
had a bit brighter high end. It would have been just perfect then.
The Dobros® reminded us of a time when there was NO choice in guitars.
They also reminded us why we started playing these guitars in the first place.