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Putting a New Cone on a Cheap Reso: How much Improvement Can I Expect?

Jan 30, 2023 - 8:15:48 PM
11 posts since 9/22/2021

Hi Reso folks,

I started playing lap style during the pandemic, and have never looked back. I love it.

The thing is, I have kids to put through college, etc. so I don't have a lot of money to spend on new instruments. I have a few clunkers that I have outfitted with nut risers plus a lap steel.

My only genuine square-neck resonator is the much maligned (on this forum anyways) Morrell brand, probably the MD100S. I got for it for next to nothing, and it sounds okay. I think, though, as I improve, I can hear the cheapness of the instrument a little bit better -- kind of muffled and muddy on the lower strings, and annoyingly tinny on the higher strings.

I am not ready plunk down the money for a new instrument, yet, I have read a few forums here where they talk about putting a Quarterman Cone on a Morrell to improve the sound.

Wondering if it is worth it. If I did try to do this, what kind of cone do you think I should buy? There seems to be quite a few brands. And what do you think I could expect in terms of improvement? Perhaps it's better to bank the money and put it toward a new instrument? Still, it doesn't look very hard to do, even for someone like me who failed shop class.


Jan 31, 2023 - 3:09:50 AM
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64 posts since 11/27/2019

In my limited experience it makes a big difference. In my guitar putting a Beard Legend cone, #14 spider, and new inserts really improved the sound of my guitar. I would spend the extra for the Legend over the regular Beard cone if you go that route.

That model seems to have a 10 1/2" diameter cone, so you might have to trim a Scheerhorn or Beard cone so it would fit. Quarterman cones seem kind of hard to find these days.

It's kind of like putting $100 pickups in a $100 electric guitar. It can make a marked improvement but it won't necessarily change what you can get if you resell it.

This video demonstrates the (to my ear) vast improvement in a Regal RD-40 with a setup:


Jan 31, 2023 - 5:22:37 AM

4723 posts since 7/27/2008

How much improvement? Probably quite a bit. Reso luthiers have said over the years that the cone is responsible for  50% or more of the sound of the guitar. A quality spider contributes as well, but I've never come across any one throwing a percentage value out there as with the cone. And there are the bridge inserts which also make a difference. 

If it does in fact take a 10 1/2 cone as a direct drop-in, Blue Note Woodworks in southern Oregon appears to have that size Quarterman in stock. The cones are become more scarce because John  Quarterman is now in his eighties, and unless something has  changed recently he doesn't anyone trained up to take over the business when it's time to hang it up.

Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 01/31/2023 05:24:33

Jan 31, 2023 - 6:02:07 AM

4723 posts since 7/27/2008

Mike Replogle also produces a 10 1/2" cone. Though his day job is production manager at prestigious Santa Cruz Guitars, he maintains a side business producing resonator parts.

Mike ran OMI Dobro in California after Gibson purchased the company in the '90s. He also supplied parts to other reso builders.

Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 01/31/2023 06:03:04

Jan 31, 2023 - 6:35:56 AM

11 posts since 9/22/2021

Thank you for these responses.
Sorry to ask, but what are inserts?
Thanks again.

Jan 31, 2023 - 6:49:57 AM

195 posts since 11/9/2018

They are two wooden bridge inserts that fit into the spider. The strings set in the insert slots and their vibrations drive the cone.

Important upgrade IMO. Inexpensive but may take some work to get them right.

Edited by - Iceman6937 on 01/31/2023 06:51:04

Jan 31, 2023 - 7:45:54 AM
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1482 posts since 9/28/2010

Another vote for "it improves the sound greatly".

I went with a Quarterman, as that's why a local luthier had at the time; however, any of the big name cones should work nicely.

Jan 31, 2023 - 7:49:16 AM
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405 posts since 1/31/2015

I have had three of my guitars modified.

For roughly $300-$400, none recently, the $500 used Chinese guitars were much improved.

Gretsch honey dipper, Regal Black Lightning and a Recording king tri cone.

I believe part of it is using a good luthier.

I doubt this improves resale value much if at all.

Prices are likely higher today.

Jan 31, 2023 - 1:02:14 PM
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221 posts since 1/7/2019

My first dobro was a cheap import. I met Paul Beard at IBMA one year and he sold me a cone and spider. I went home and dropped it into the old dobro. When I played it after getting it put back together, my wife (who is no fan of me playing the dobro at this stage of life) said from the other side of the house, "What just happened? Is that a new guitar?"

All that to say, yes, the new cone will work wonders.

Jan 31, 2023 - 2:00:59 PM



1482 posts since 9/28/2010

Hopefully your wife will next say "that hot rodded import was okay for a while but you now need a new quality instrument" like my then-girlfriend said to me. I soon got a new dobro, and she soon got an engagement ring.

Jan 31, 2023 - 8:42 PM
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11 posts since 9/22/2021

Originally posted by wlgiii

Hopefully your wife will next say "that hot rodded import was okay for a while but you now need a new quality instrument" like my then-girlfriend said to me. I soon got a new dobro, and she soon got an engagement ring.

Funny! And maybe a song? "I soon got a new dobro, and she soon got an engagement ring."

Feb 1, 2023 - 12:56:27 AM
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61 posts since 8/31/2009

If you do upgrade the guitar, and it will make a difference, keep the original parts and put them back in if you sell for a better instrument in the future. The selling price of your instrument is unlikely to be significantly enhanced by the upgrade - it still says Morrell on the head - and the parts will be worth keeping for a similar upgrade or to sell.

Feb 1, 2023 - 9:28:47 AM
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221 posts since 1/7/2019

Originally posted by wlgiii

Hopefully your wife will next say "that hot rodded import was okay for a while but you now need a new quality instrument" like my then-girlfriend said to me. I soon got a new dobro, and she soon got an engagement ring.


I did say that it was my "first" dobro. So about the same time as the other story was unfolding, I was in discussion with some guys about upgrade options. My wife was not keen on this yet, but I kept my discussions on the down-low. This was about the time that the Phil Leadbetter RK model came out, and a local store had one in stock.

My mother-in-law happened to be in and the three of us took a trip to Raleigh to see this guitar. (My mother-in-law is not really part of the story, but I like to mention her when I can.) My wife was standing behind me as I went to the wall where the RK was hanging. I reached out and lightly strummed the strings. A voice behind me (I'd swear it was my wife) said, "Wow. You need a new guitar."

I love my wife.

Feb 1, 2023 - 10:13:16 AM
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1482 posts since 9/28/2010

Welcome aboard, and hopefully she keeps it up. After years of tinkering with metal body imports, my wife recently said, "Okay, that's it. Time for the National".

And, a correction after further thought- it was making me upgrade my mandolin that led to the engagement. The forced dobro upgrade came later. But of all the upgrades, I think her favorite when it was her turn for the Taylor guitar.

Feb 4, 2023 - 12:06:22 AM

200 posts since 11/24/2019

The dobro I purchased about 3 years ago, when I got back into playing the dobro, was a Gretsch metal body "Boxcar" reso. It sounded "okay," but didn't have enough bottom end for my taste. So I got a 10 7/16" cone from Replogle, along with a #14 spider, which I asked them to level and arch for me. The improvement in the sound was quite striking. You can get the cone, which is a REP-D15, and the spider which is an REP-S14 from Amazon. The bridge is already leveled and arched.  The tension screw is also available on Amazon REP-TS-SS. The total price is less than $200.00, and is worth every cent.

If you replace the cone, be sure you get the American threaded tension screw that fits the hole in the cone. The metric screw that comes on the Asian reso's will not work.

Don't overtighten the tension screw. You can really mess up a cone by overtightening the screw.

Edited by - Three_Eyed_Willy on 02/04/2023 00:14:32

Feb 10, 2023 - 5:13:42 PM

427 posts since 9/9/2016

Aw man ! The Dobro > Engagement Ring actually would have made a good song .

But then you had to change it to a Mando .

Aug 8, 2023 - 10:23:14 AM



17 posts since 5/25/2017

That does sound much better.

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