Jay Turser Resonator Guitars Jt-res-ans Electric Guitar, Antique Natural Sunburst
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- Electric solid
- Popular body with resonator
- 1 piezo and 1 covered pickup
- 1-V and 1-T and blend
- Maple neck
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Electric resophonic, solid poplar body with resonator, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, 1 piezo and 1 covered pick up, 1-v and 1-t and blend. chrome die cast machines. antique natural sunburst
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This is, I believe, Turser's take on an old and rather rare Gibson design, if I'm not mistaken (pretty sure it's one of the Three Gee's that made the original). I've seen ultra-cheap versions of these from a company in the southern US, but when this one popped up locally at-a-price, I pounced, having had pretty good luck with Turser product. (Their manufacture is spotty; I've had one AWFUL strat copy, a pretty nice ES195 clone, and a pretty nice JJ45 dreadnought.) Apparently there's quite a few reports of manufacturing issues with this model, so take that for what it's worth.
It's not easy to find an under-$500 resonator electric, and at the upper end of that range, this one's pricey. But these are sufficiently rare that you may not have much choice in this price range, and they don't come up secondhand very often.
First, let's look at what it isn't. If you're looking for an electric that captures the vibe of a resonator wood-body acoustic, then baby, this ain't it. Electrify an acoustic resonator instead...it's not that difficult or costly. You don't necessarily need an actual resonator-bridge pickup to capture most of an acoustic resonator's character, and nearly all common wood-body resonators can accommodate a neck pickup without compromising the physical structure of the guitar, and the results of a minibucker or tele-neck plus a strategically-placed piezo dot or two, properly mixed with something like a Boss LS-2 loop-selector/mini-mixer, might really surprise you...I've certainly been surprised by one on-the-cheap electrification of a low-end Fender resonator guitar.
Second, it's not a purpose-built slide monster. It'll come from the factory set up more like a regular electric, comfortable for chording well up the neck, than with the high action you expect from a guitar normally played with a slide. That's not to say that a five-dollar neck lifter (an L-shaped chunk of steel with six string slots that should be available at any music shop and fits over the nut to raise the string height) won't give you proper slide/steel height.
So it's not a great electric resonator guitar. So what? How much are you expecting for this kind of money? What it is, is a resonator electric. The distinction is important. An "electric resonator" means it's a "resonator guitar" first, and "electric" as a secondary consideration. The "resonator electric" tells you this is an electric guitar first, and a *resonator* second. And if you can come to terms with this subtle-but-oh-so-important distinction, you may just find a gem here. I know I did.
My first electric resonator was an Epiphone MD-100, a great hulking steel-bodied monstrosity that looked deadly cool, needed 4 inches of tooled leather and sheepskin to keep from forming permanent depressions in my shoulder (the weight was monstrous!), and sounded like crap played with anything short of a heavy brass slide or a proper steel tonebar. Oddly enough, this Turser came to me less than TWO WEEKS after I got the Epiphone. And it was no contest...the Epiphone was instantly out the door.
Raise the nut and reach for a tonebar or heavy brass pipe, and this thing will give you some reasonable resonator tone...but ONLY reasonable. It won't cut through a mix like the Epiphone Hound Dog, and doesn't have a good tone for bluegrass or folk. Drop the nut and play it like an electric, and this thing will give you swamp-thing tone like you have NEVER had in an electric. The neck pickup captures the mid-heavy flavor of a big-body electric through something like a Marshall, and it'll do it on just about any decent amp...that's from the resonator flavoring the tone.
Cut to the under-saddle piezo pickup, and you've got the full force of the resonator making this thing sound like a '56 Mack cab-over with a really bad transmission. I'm trying to think of a recorded tone that will be familiar, and the only think I can think of is the Led Zeppelin song "Houses of the Holy" on the Physical Graffiti album. That's the tone you'll get from the resonator pickup. And unlike electrified metal-body resonators, you get a pretty good dose of this even without the slide. Throw the slide on top of this, and if this ain't cutting through the mix, then everyone else in the band must be playing resonator-electrics as well. There are a lot of live albums from the 1970s in which Strats and LPs through walls of Marshalls come off sounding almost like they were played with electric resonator guitars rather than solidbodies...even Kiss Alive! has a lot of that vibe. This is the only guitar I've ever heard that can get you close to that tone through a cheap modeling pedal and a budget solid-state amp. Which isn't exactly something that you'd normally expect from this sort of instrument.
If you've got an amp with a fairly strong top and bottom and not a lot of midrange emphasis in the default tone, like the clean channel on a scoopy-voiced 6L6 Fender or a Line 6 Spider with a clean model, then this guitar will give you a very pleasing light-crunch lead tone with a lot of that wall-of-Marshalls vibe. Amps with a stronger mid voicing will likely make the mid-heavy tone produced by the saddle pickup overbearing, perhaps annoyingly so. The neck pickup won't tame that tone so much as dilute it, I'm afraid...there's only so much this set of electronics and acoustics can do.
And to repeat, unlike actual resonator guitars, which don't really show their full character without a slide or tonebar, you get a good deal of the resonator flavor with the JTRes playing it like any other electric guitar. A heavy slide or tone bar really will conjure the spirit of a real metal-body resonator guitar, and where fretted notes sound weak and puny in comparison to slide-intoned notes on a metal-body resonator, the difference between fretted and barred notes on the JTRes is less pronounced, making this an easier instrument to play and more versatile besides.
That's not to say that this guitar can serve as a one-stop tone arsenal, because it can't. It'll never sound like an LP or a Strat...that neck pickup will always carry a lot of resonator tone to the output jack. But as a resonant alternative to your go-to arsenal solidbodies and hollowbodies, this will give you tones that nothing else in your arsenal can touch, and let you GET those tones with all the neck and body comfort of your favorite thinline tele or ES335-type guitar.
I seriously doubt that Jay Turser intended their JTRes to be the kind of guitar that I'm describing here; I'm sure that it was pitched to the executives as a way to capture the resonator market without the manufacturing costs of a real resonator. But if you can accept it for what it is, and for what it isn't, then you'll likely find a lot to like in this guitar.
Quality-wise, mine was an Indonesian build, which always bodes well, and I have absolutely no complaints about any part of this guitar. (In fact, I hold "Indonesian-made" in the same esteem as "Korean-made", meaning that I expect to get better build quality than I'm paying for.) I have to seriously wonder whether the poor build quality issues reported by so many buyers of this model involved JTRes' built in another country. 'Nuff said...a word to the wise etc.