Vintage Guitar - February 2018 - 114
VG APPROVED GEAR
The Republic 207 Tricone
esonator guitars appear to inspire a
particular kind of affliction among
players. And it's a difficult addiction to
maintain, given the paucity of vintage
National and Dobro instruments, their
much-cursed playability, and their everclimbing prices.
Frank Helsley, Jr. is wise to all that. As a
teen in Texas, he first heard Johnny Winter
play the blues on a resonator guitar and it
sparked what's become a lifelong obsession with the instruments. Frustrated by
the lack of affordable options, in 2007
he founded Republic Guitars, based first
outside Dallas, now near Austin.
Sourcing affordable resonator guitars
means going through China. And while
this has brought a range of fine Republic
instruments to players who may never
have gotten their hands on one, it has
also brought a share of criticism from
the strident among the afflicted. Set that
aside for the moment, though, and consider Republic's Tricones and single-cone
guitars on their own merits.
Republic offers its Tricone with a body
made of several different materials: wood,
steel, and bell brass, the latter of which
First thing you notice about the
bell-brass Tricone is that it's one hefty
instrument. That body feels solid enough
to pound nails or split firewood. The
body size is similar to a vintage National
Tricone, with a 20" length, 10.25" upper
bout, and 14.25" lower bout, all 3" deep.
Still, due to that brass construction versus
an original National's German Silver, the
Republic weighs a good bit more. Brass
also imparts a certain tone (see below).
The trio of aluminum cones includes
two small hand-spun examples on the
bass side, one on the treble side - just like
an old National. They're connected via a
metal T-bridge with a maple saddle. The
mahogany neck attaches to the body at
the 12th fret and is capped by a bound
rosewood fretboard with dot position
markers. The scale is 25.5". The bone nut
runs 1.875". The stylish Republic logo
shield is screwed to the headstock.
An important - make that, essential
- upgrade is the adjustable truss rod.
The lack of a truss rod leaves too many
vintage Nationals requiring a regimen
of expensive heated-neck resets to keep
them anywhere near playable.
Republic offers its metal-bodied
Tricones in a variety of finishes. There's
a painted sunburst, polished nickel,
brushed steel, antiqued copper, various
engraving styles, and red copper rust,
which is pure juke-joint chic. All in all,
the fit, finish, and form are lovely.
Holding the guitar upright in your
lap, that body weight is actually nicely
balanced. It might prove tiring
to your back and neck on a
strap, but sitting down
it's just right.
Strum those strings and you
instantly hear what a Tricone is all
about. This guitar is loud. It's also
clear and articulate - something
that can only be said of the best
vintage National Tricones, which if
not perfectly set up can have a bit of
buzz or static in their voice.
The choice of body material
influences the tone - even with a
resonator. Wooden tricones have a
more... woody sound. Steel can be
thinner, shriller. The bell-brass body,
however, provides a warmer, thicker,
and more resonant sound, ideal for
deep blues playing, whether you're
fretting or playing bottleneck.
Our brass-bodied, red copper rust
Tricone is not only a powerfully
voiced guitar, it also has a full range of
tones well beyond its price point. And
it likes to be played hard: dig in with
your fingers or pick and slide with
purpose and the guitar comes alive.
It's not beyond belief that the
guitar's sound will continue
to improve with age
and use. - Michael