While big hollow bodies like the Gretsch G6120 look good and an essential ingredient in countless classic records, they can be a tricky playing experience for the uninitiated. The navigable space of the neck is limited by solid body standards. Large bodies can look bulky. They are sometimes also prone to feedback in high volume situations. Consequently, I’ve seen plenty of solidbody-oriented buddies who rarely play hollowbodies handle a fat Gretsch with the bewildered gaze of an astronaut deciphering an alien language.
This latest affordable, mid-range evolution of Gretsch’s classic 6120, the redesigned Electromatic G5420T, makes it easy to navigate those inherent challenges. A new approach to bracing bridge blocks and FT-5E Filter’Tron pickups gives the guitar a sparkling, lively, and surprisingly feedback-resistant resonance. And the ultra-smooth playability makes it accessible to the average solidbody gamer. Together, the enhancements make the G5420 a welcoming and intuitive vehicle for the less orthodox modes of guitar expression that the great Gretsch allow.
New shoes in blue
Trestle bracing, as a name and design concept, graced Gretsch from the 1950s onwards. This system used a pair of laterally facing bridge-like braces. The trestle block bracing is different. It locates a thin, lightweight center block that is shaped like a bridge arch at a 90 degree angle between two straight side struts. In a sense, the construction is akin to a semi-hollow body with a central block. But the Gretsch bridge block has far less mass and a smaller footprint than the center block in, say, a Gibson 335, making the design a great compromise between stiffness, stability, and resonance. The effects, at least to my ears, are audible. And one thing that every staff member who touched this guitar agreed on was that it was the liveliest affordable Gretsch any of us could remember playing.
The G5420T also feels like a dream to the touch. The 12″ radius makes stringing easier. Hammering, snatching, and yes, fleet-fingered Chet Atkins picking feels effortless. And in general, the playability is so enjoyable that you often forget the notes well past the 17th or 18th Frets are quite awkward in reach Control layout is a familiar version of Gretsch convention Master volume control on the treble side horn is always a pleasure to use for players volume increases.And while the bridge volume is located quite far back on the body, it’s easy enough to reach for fine adjustments and corrections to the neck/bridge mix.The Bigsby, on the other hand, is both fluid, smooth and, in relative terms, quite stable in tune if you’re not too aggressive.
You don’t get playability and intonation like this on our review model without sweating the details, and the 5420’s neck, nut, fretboard, and frets all feel great in one piece. .
Build quality is generally very good in Gretsch’s more affordable Streamliner and Electromatic, and the G5420T does its part to uphold the family’s reputation. You don’t get playability and intonation like this on our review model without sweating the details, and the 5420’s neck, nut, fretboard, and frets all feel great in one piece. . Small details like the binding around the F-holes are also perfectly executed. One of the only clear signs of the G5420T’s mid-price status is the polyester-azure finish, which, while dazzling, feels a bit wavy and chunky in places. Even so, in sunlight it reveals traces of pearlescent turquoise and placid lake blue, depending on what angle you look at it.
Balance and power
As Gretsch says, the new Filter’Trons are designed for stronger bass output and more articulate highs. I don’t know if I would call the low end exceptionally sturdy. But the 6th strings deliver a concise, elegant punch that resonates with just-right complexity and gracefully adds balance and ballast to the chords. Some players expect the bass notes of a Gretsch hollow body to explode with the weight of a grand piano. But the resounding bass notes of a Fender Rhodes electric piano are a more apt analogy for the 5420’s current harmonically-rich yet understated lower-string output. That same knack for balance translates into overdrive and fuzzy sounds. impressive and articulate (although it goes without saying that it’s important to pay attention to feedback when playing with the latter).
The high-end output, meanwhile, is gorgeous. The notes of the first and second strings sound present and in graceful balance with the rest of the strings, giving a kinetic but not too warm edge to the leads and chords. And anyone with an affinity for vintage rockabilly or late ’60s West Coast psychedelia will love how those high notes hop, quiver, and sing with Bigsby motion. For this author, either way, it’s a visceral, addictive thrill, especially with a big Fender amp and a bunch of spring reverb and slapback echo.
Any player familiar with and comfortable with the idiosyncrasies of a Gretsch hollowbody will love the way the 5420 sounds and feels. And on this last point, certainly, the 5420T is the equal of many much more expensive guitars. It’s very easy to imagine a high-end or vintage Gretsch owner who sweats playing with an expensive ax pulling out this guitar instead and feeling right at home. The pickups are very well balanced, present and detailed. And the Bigsby is smooth and invites all sorts of nervous or surfy vibrato movements. More important is how these factors conspire to deliver an unusual gaming experience with a premium feel. “Riff machine” might be a term you could apply to many guitars, but the combination of 5420T playability and open, detailed, balanced pickups adds up to a deep well of habit-breaking inspiration, all at a very good price, to boot.
Gretsch G5420T Electromatic Hollowbody Demo | First look
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