A member of the well-respected retro-tastic Gretsch Roots Series, the G9421 Alligator Biscuit Round Neck resonator offers a classic delta blues and bluegrass tone with a side order of cool retro looks and an onboard pickup.
Picking that model designation apart, beneath the weathered (aka satin-finish) Poinsettia-decorated metal cover is the Ampli-Sonic diaphragm, a resonating metal cone 'hand-spun in Eastern Europe from nearly 99 per cent pure aluminium', according to Gretsch.
You'll also encounter the 'Biscuit', a hard maple disc topped with a maple/ebony bridge saddle that transfers the vibrations from the strings to the cone.
The model name also makes clear that this is a 'round neck', as opposed to the 'square neck' style, which is played laid flat on your lap with a slide.
The Alligator's lightweight hollow body is all-laminate mahogany. While it's preferable to have freely vibrating solid woods in a regular acoustic, for decent volume and tone, laminate woods provide a stronger foundation for the cone in a resonator. After all, it's the cone that does all the work here, not the guitar's top.
Our resonator's mahogany neck has a vintage-style V profile, which was popular on acoustics of the 1930s, and Fender electrics in
The rosewood fingerboard harbours 19 medium jumbo frets, a dozen of which are free of the body and therefore easy to reach.
The spec list is completed by a well-cut bone top nut, half-a-dozen classic open-back Grover Sta-Tite tuners and a pearloid-decorated headstock for some vintage eye candy.
Playability is great, with a low action, and that V-profile neck shape, which fits snugly in the palm. The 0.012 to 0.053 gauge strings are easier to handle than you might fear. Besides, you need a chunky set of strings to get the best from the resonator's cone.
Acoustically, the Alligator is your classic resonator. Aided by the stiff body shell, the aluminium cone acts like a mechanical speaker, providing bags of volume while each note is launched like a projectile.
The tone is like a banjo with a bit more sustain, and a little more depth and warmth. In other words, it's your classic bluegrass sound.
Plugging in, the Fishman Nashville pickup is faithful to the acoustic tone with a scratchy top-end that works great for delta blues slide licks. The pickup has no active preamp so you have to crank your amp a bit, but that just adds to the agreeable lo-fi output.
You can't move for affordable resonators these days, but the Gretsch Alligator is up there with the best we've tried. It scores big on tone, playability and good looks.