Electromatics

Want to buy a Gretsch, need help choosing

1

Hello want to buy a Gretsch, need help.

I am choosing between Japanese Gretsches or Electromatics.

The kind of music I will use it for is rock and Rockabilly, Brian Setzer type.

So probably will buy a full hollow and semi with a block.

Are the 5420’s, 5422’s and 5622’s good?

How close are the pickups to Filter Trons and TV Jones?

Would I need to change out the electronics?

What’s the differences between the Japanese Gretsches and the newer Electromatics?

I am interested in the Electromatics.

There is a Japanese 6119HT single cut away used I can get for 1100 dollars. Not sure of the year. Doesn’t have the mute. It has that weird round bridge.

What would be a good buy, that or a thin line 5422?

Buy Electromatics? Or save up for a used or new Japanese Gretsch?

2

Pro-line (Japanese) Gretschs are of 3-ply construction, with the obvious use of different pickups and some hardware.

Electromatics use 5-ply construction, and so are inherently a bit stiffer. Which can be GOOD for your Setzerian rockabilly interest, as slightly heavier construction can yield a more focused tone, resist feedback, and provide more mechanical sustain.

If you got a Setzer model or some other Pro-line models, you'd get trestle bracing - which provides some of the same qualities you get from more body plies.

The most recent Electromatics are of astonishingly good quality, with excellent workmanship, fit, and finish. It's hard to say they're lesser guitars than the pro-lines. When I'm choosing a Gretsch to play, whether it's Japanese or Electromatic has no bearing on my decision.

The pro-lines do generally come with a more sorted-out setup, especially at the nut. Electromatics are more likely to need attention at the nut to play and stay in tune, especially if you change from the 10-gauge stock Electro strings to anything heavier (which many guys prefer on archtops to get more motion into and out of the top). And the nut on any given Electromatic may need judicious dressing even if you don't go up a string gauge..

Some guys think they have to change the tuners in order to get stable tuning, but that should never be done before having the nut (and maybe the bridge) thoroughly sorted by an experienced tech.

So - are the High Sensitive FilterTrons or TV Jones pickups which come on pro-liners better than the Blacktops or Super HiLoTrons on Electros? No. But they're different. The Blacktops have their own sound. You'd have to decide if you prefer it. It's easy to upgrade later.

I think the consensus is that the electronics in the current Electros are fine. An obsessive gear snob who hears with his prejudices rather than his ears might choose to swap out pots and caps, but it's not necessary.

The Bigsbys on most Electros get much smoother and more fluid if you replace the spring with a Reverend Soft Touch spring, which costs 10.00.

The 6119HT you mention has HiLoTron pickups, Gretsch's lowest-output and jangliest pups. (Think intro of "House of the Rising Sun.) They can sound fabulous - but would be few guys' first choice for Setzer-style 'billy.

If by "weird round bridge" you mean the Rocking Bar, lots of players find it more trouble-free, comfortable, and better-sounding than the AdjustaMatic which comes on Electromatics. (It should be mentioned that the Electro Adjusta is not as deluxe as on the pro-line, and is a frequent target for upgrade-by-replacement.)

(Full disclosure: I make and sell the Tru-Arc line of replacement bridges.)

You've mentioned 3 body types in your post: the full-depth hollowbody, thinline with centerblock, and the thinline but fully enclosed hollowbody 6119.

The first style is most associated with rockabilly. Each of the three has its own response and character, and those differences are more important than any inherent quality variance between Electromatic and pro-line. If you really haven't decided on a body type, nothing would beat trying them in person before you decide.

3

Pro-line (Japanese) Gretschs are of 3-ply construction, with the obvious use of different pickups and some hardware.

Electromatics use 5-ply construction, and so are inherently a bit stiffer. Which can be GOOD for your Setzerian rockabilly interest, as slightly heavier construction can yield a more focused tone, resist feedback, and provide more mechanical sustain.

If you got a Setzer model or some other Pro-line models, you'd get trestle bracing - which provides some of the same qualities you get from more body plies.

The most recent Electromatics are of astonishingly good quality, with excellent workmanship, fit, and finish. It's hard to say they're lesser guitars than the pro-lines. When I'm choosing a Gretsch to play, whether it's Japanese or Electromatic has no bearing on my decision.

The pro-lines do generally come with a more sorted-out setup, especially at the nut. Electromatics are more likely to need attention at the nut to play and stay in tune, especially if you change from the 10-gauge stock Electro strings to anything heavier (which many guys prefer on archtops to get more motion into and out of the top). And the nut on any given Electromatic may need judicious dressing even if you don't go up a string gauge..

Some guys think they have to change the tuners in order to get stable tuning, but that should never be done before having the nut (and maybe the bridge) thoroughly sorted by an experienced tech.

So - are the High Sensitive FilterTrons or TV Jones pickups which come on pro-liners better than the Blacktops or Super HiLoTrons on Electros? No. But they're different. The Blacktops have their own sound. You'd have to decide if you prefer it. It's easy to upgrade later.

I think the consensus is that the electronics in the current Electros are fine. An obsessive gear snob who hears with his prejudices rather than his ears might choose to swap out pots and caps, but it's not necessary.

The Bigsbys on most Electros get much smoother and more fluid if you replace the spring with a Reverend Soft Touch spring, which costs 10.00.

The 6119HT you mention has HiLoTron pickups, Gretsch's lowest-output and jangliest pups. (Think intro of "House of the Rising Sun.) They can sound fabulous - but would be few guys' first choice for Setzer-style 'billy.

If by "weird round bridge" you mean the Rocking Bar, lots of players find it more trouble-free, comfortable, and better-sounding than the AdjustaMatic which comes on Electromatics. (It should be mentioned that the Electro Adjusta is not as deluxe as on the pro-line, and is a frequent target for upgrade-by-replacement.)

(Full disclosure: I make and sell the Tru-Arc line of replacement bridges.)

You've mentioned 3 body types in your post: the full-depth hollowbody, thinline with centerblock, and the thinline but fully enclosed hollowbody 6119.

The first style is most associated with rockabilly. Each of the three has its own response and character, and those differences are more important than any inherent quality variance between Electromatic and pro-line. If you really haven't decided on a body type, nothing would beat trying them in person before you decide.

– Proteus

Thanks for explaining.

I like all body styles but guess the fully hollow and the thin line fully hollow would be my first choices What do you mean the Japanese line tops the electromatic with regards to the body types?

How is the older Japanese Tennesee Rose that was sold when Gibson had the Gretsch name use rights, Chet Atkins, until the latter 2000’s?

I see lots of those for sell.

Thinking fully hollow for first Gretsch because of rockabilly.

I’ve tried the 5420 and 5422 and it was cool but needed to learn more about the.

The neck felt smallish and the intonation definitely needed adjusting, they had 9’s on them I think.

Buy Electromatic or save for Japanese Gretsch?

4

Buy Electromatic or save for Japanese Gretsch?

That’s for you to decide. We can only inform your decision.

5

Buy Electromatic or save for Japanese Gretsch?

That’s for you to decide. We can only inform your decision.

– Adsy81

Thing is none of the stores around me have Japanese Gretsches for me to try out and compare to except for the 6119HT I mentioned before so hard to make that decision.

6

As I said in your other post, your starting point has to be guitars made in the post FMIC era - 2003 on.

Some of your inquiries sound like you're trying to avoid buying a "lemon" model and the short answer is there isn't one. Quality, except for the rare instance of a single guitar with build issues, is very good these days. You'll have to play a variety of guitars and not be concerned where they're built. Compare the features of them and decide for yourself what works for you. Things like scale length, neck width at the nut, mud switch or tone control. and of course the tone you're getting out of the pups. They're different for a different sound , but none are 'bad'.

And the best advice we can give you is that whatever guitar you end up choosing, live with it AS IS for a couple of months before you choose to replace ANYTHING!! Play around with the controls on the guitar as well as on the amp as you'll probably find most everything suits your needs and doesn't need replacing.

7

Agree with everyone’s advise here.

The Black Tops are a league of its own, not better, different in a good way. The biggest difference between the Electros and the 6119 are the neck size, your hands will decide which suits you best. The pickups follows.

8

What do you mean the Japanese line tops the electromatic with regards to the body types?

I don't know what I would have meant by that if I'd said it - but I didn't intend to say anything like that. I meant that the difference in performance among the three body types is more significant than the difference between, say, an Electromatic and a Pro-line of the same body type.

How is the older Japanese Tennesee Rose that was sold when Gibson had the Gretsch name use rights, Chet Atkins, until the latter 2000’s?

It's a great guitar in terms of quality. There are basically two versions - the HT version with HiloTrons and a fully enclosed hollow body, and FT versions with FilterTrons and a hollow f-hole body. Most guys wouldn't choose the HT for rockabilly of the 80s-present revivalist type. The FilterTron version, sure. Great guitar. Note, though, it usually comes at the 25.5" scale length, and Setzer himself prefers the 24.6" scale (such as 6120s and 5420s).

My gut instinct is to advise you to start with a new (or very recent used) 5420. It gets you into the Gretsch world for half the money of a used pro-line, and lets you get experience with the scale length, hollowbody response, and Blacktop FilterTrons. They're just great guitars all the way around - and economical platforms for modding to more pro-line features if yours should be almost perfect, and just needs some tweaking.

Again, to really judge the guitar fairly out of the box, it might need a pro setup to address any possible nut issues - and while you're at it spend the 10 bucks for the Reverend spring, which makes a huge difference in Bigsby feel. After that, play it till you get happy, don't get happy, or decide you're happy enough to upgrade pickups or bridge.

And if you don't bond, at least you now have a baseline of Gretsch experience to judge other guitars when you have a chance to try them out. Or, if you're like most of us, you may find it's one tasty Gretsch flavor, but you'd like some others - and venture into the pro-line then. Electromatics hold their value reasonably well for the Ebay/Reverb market too, so it's easy to trade up if and when it's time.


But. Most everything I've just said about the Electromatics also applies to the less-expensive Streamliner series at a considerably lower price point. To me the Full'Tron pickups don't have quite the unique Gretschy character of either the Blacktops or any variety of FilterTron - they're like a cross between a Filter'Tron and a fatter-sounding Gibsonny humbucker. AND the nut and bridge on a Streamliner are even more likely to need attention than on an Electromatic.

But the essential build quality is spectacular for the money - and, if anything, the body of my 2420 feels more lively and resonant than my 5420. The guitar has "great bones." Which makes the Streamliner an even sweeter platform for mods than the Electromatic, because you pay so much less for the guitar in the first place, giving you more to spend on mods.

That makes the Streamliner also a great place to start Gretsching - with the understanding that the pickups don't have quite the distinctive Gretsch character as either the Electros or anything in the pro-line.

9

Have to agree that a 5420T could be a great starting point for you. They are great single cut Gretsches.

If you wanted a double cut with a thinner body, then the 5422T would be a winner.

Best of luck on your quest.

10

Thanks for explaining.

I like all body styles but guess the fully hollow and the thin line fully hollow would be my first choices What do you mean the Japanese line tops the electromatic with regards to the body types?

How is the older Japanese Tennesee Rose that was sold when Gibson had the Gretsch name use rights, Chet Atkins, until the latter 2000’s?

I see lots of those for sell.

Thinking fully hollow for first Gretsch because of rockabilly.

I’ve tried the 5420 and 5422 and it was cool but needed to learn more about the.

The neck felt smallish and the intonation definitely needed adjusting, they had 9’s on them I think.

Buy Electromatic or save for Japanese Gretsch?

– yoshiii1

Your statement contains a slight bit of misinformation. Gibson never had the rights to the Gretsch name. When Gretsch stopped making guitars (and maybe a bit before that) Chet Atkins did not renew his endorsement contract with Gretsch and went with Gibson. He held the trademarks for the Tennessean and Country Gentleman trade names and he assigned them to Gibson who made guitar under those names. After Chet's passing and after Fender had provided their marketing abilities to the new Gretsch, Chet's estate came to a licensing agreement with Gretsch that allowed Gretsch to use Chet's name and the Country Gentleman model name. Before that, Gretsch had renamed the former Tennessean and Country Gentleman as Tennessee Rose and Country Classic. For some reason, Gibson retained the Tennessean model name although, IIRC, they were allowed to make a limited number of Tennesseans after they regained the Chet Atkins name.

As for which you should get, that is something only you, your fingers and ears and your budget can decide. There is nothing wrong with the Electromatic line. Nothing, They are definitely the most popular Gretsch. (Although the Synchromatics may be outselling them currently). They are close to the guitar that the Pro line is. Some say 90% but I don't know how you can put a percentage on that. And they keep getting better and better.

But the Pro-line guitars such as the 6119HT you mention are better, at least they feel that way to my inadequate talents. I happen to have a 6119HT as well as a 6120DC, both Japanese Pro-lines and they are great guitars. I also have a 5422-12 Electromatic, and it is a great guitar. I was in the right place to purchase each of them and have no regrets. If I couldn't afford a Pro-line, I would look for an Electromatic and not think twice about it.

One thing to consider, you can frequently find a used Pro-Line for not much more than a new Electromatic. While that may not necessarily govern your decision, it is a factor to consider.

11

G5420T gets another vote, from me. All advice above should be considered and certainly get your hands on one, if you can. I’m partial to the fairlane blue.

12

Then again, if you’re a true Setzer fan looking for his sound, get a hot rod and see Tavo about a pedal.

13

All of the advice above is a great summary of experiences. And in my opinion, the Electromatics are great examples of both quality and affordability. And you may even nail a great sale over the Christmas holidays!

I purchased my first Gretsch (G5120) brand new in 2005 and not only did it satisfy my needs, I still have it and love it like I did the first day I bought it!

14

I think the electromatics are a good deal I've owned one and enjoyed it. It played well and was as solid instrument

It was a 5120 . I didn't care for the original pickups though.

Both types (electro and pro) will depreciate considerably as soon as you buy them new, So buy a used one and save a lot of money. Used electromatics can be had for quite cheap Both eras of electromatics are good though the 5420s will get you closer to your desired sound pickup-wise than the conventional humbuckers found in the older 5120s (They call them "Gretsch buckers' but they are just standard humbuckers..not a bad pickup but more of a Gibson archtop sound)

I feel the 5420s are more like a middle ground between the old electros and the prolines, more trim, more gretsch-like pickups etc You can always buy a pro-like one later if you feel you need to. One good thing about a used electromatic is that you can customize guilt-free as you didn't drop thousands on it.

Keep in mind anything with a post or block inside it isn't really a full hollowbody but it might be the sound you're looking for.

15

Thanks for explaining.

I like all body styles but guess the fully hollow and the thin line fully hollow would be my first choices What do you mean the Japanese line tops the electromatic with regards to the body types?

How is the older Japanese Tennesee Rose that was sold when Gibson had the Gretsch name use rights, Chet Atkins, until the latter 2000’s?

I see lots of those for sell.

Thinking fully hollow for first Gretsch because of rockabilly.

I’ve tried the 5420 and 5422 and it was cool but needed to learn more about the.

The neck felt smallish and the intonation definitely needed adjusting, they had 9’s on them I think.

Buy Electromatic or save for Japanese Gretsch?

– yoshiii1

FWIW/ I have a 2005 Japanese Tennessee Rose and a new Korean 5420T Pro Jet. You won't go wrong either way. To me the biggest difference between the guitars, to me, is the neck feel. The Tennessee Rose has a slightly thicker neck with a 25-1/2" scale, and the 5420 has a thinner neck with a 24-3/4" noticeably shorter scale. The 5420T has better access beyond the 12th fret, and it has a pinned bridge. The pickups are a tiny bit different, but both obviously Filtertrons. For rockabilly I'd favor the 5420T, it's just easier to get around on. I'd pick the Tenny for lush reverby finger picking. But it's close - and either will do both nicely.

16

Marz, you may be confusing him because your Tennessee Rose is different than the one he is considering. The Tennessee Rose he is looking at is the shorter scale as well. Not sure on the neck but it is probably closer to the 5420 as well.

17

Marz, you may be confusing him because your Tennessee Rose is different than the one he is considering. The Tennessee Rose he is looking at is the shorter scale as well. Not sure on the neck but it is probably closer to the 5420 as well.

– Don Birchett

Sorry, yeah, mine is one of the early 2000s models (2005 6119) he references that does not have Chet Atkins' name on the pickguard that has HS Filtertrons and open F holes. They were "blown out" by Guitar Center and sell for less than the other Tennessee Rose models. I found mine for $1100. I hope that's enough to correct any confusion I may have caused.

18

Electromatics are great. If you choose a 5420 or a 5422 you will probably love it. One difference you may notice on the Electromatics that hasn't been mentioned yet is the 2 pickups are closer to each other than on the Pro-lines. For whatever reason Gretsch decided to move the bridge pickup closer to the neck pickup on Electromatics. My only logical explanation is it makes it harder for counterfeiters to create a 6120 from a 5420.

19

The 5420T is an excellent choice.

"How is the older Japanese Tennesee Rose that was sold when Gibson had the Gretsch name use rights, Chet Atkins, until the latter 2000’s?"

The long scale (25.5") 6119 like marz owns is a really good choice. IMHO one best guitars that Gretsch ever built.

Stay away from the 6119HT and 6119FT that have closed tops. These guitars have their merit, but not what you want.

There's a 6119T players edition in the current Gretsch line is a good choice, but probably expensive.

Lee

20

Since nobody else has brought this up here, I'll suggest that if you can manage to attend a RoundUp, it can be a great opportunity to try out a plethora of Gretsches --- possibly even more than you'd find at a well-stocked store --- as well as meeting and playing with some of the unique characters who frequent these pages. They are hella fun!


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