Modern Gretsch Guitars

Should I trade in my 5420 for a 6120

1

I currently play a 5420 which I really enjoy, but I've always wanted a 6120. The other day I was in my local shop and the guy pulls out a standard 6120, a 2012 model not pre owned. It had been a floor model and it has a small song in the headstock, but with the trade in of my 5420 he offered it to me for $1500. What a deal. So I played it and I was happy with it, but it didn't blow me away like I thought it would. After I got over the excitement of it being a 6120 it seemed sort of like a much higher priced glorified 5420. The deal's still on the table until the end of the week. Somebody else is interested, but I have bought a lot there so he gave me the first chance. My question is do you think the 6120 is that much better than my 5420.

2

Well ,i haven't played your 5420,but IMO i think a 6120 is a better guitar than most 5420's.

But if you don't feel or hear much of a difference then why change,save your money for something that will blow yer socks off.

3

While trying a couple of amps at a local music store, I used a 6120 they had hanging on the "expensive wall" since it had pickups similar to the ones on my 5120. It's been my good fortune to play a fair number of high end Gretsch guitars, and they have all (including this 6120) been very nice instruments. As I was dialing the amps to find some desired sounds, it occurred to me that there wasn't a huge difference between this guitar--priced well north of $2,000--and my 5120.

Like you, I had to ponder the large price difference between the two guitars. Granted, my 5120 has TV Jones pickups, a Tru-Arc bridge and a bone nut, which represent a fairly hefty dollar amount. Even so, I have less than half the cost of a 6120 invested.

Also noteworthy is the fact that several of the "hot" guitar guys in my area have gone out of their way to tell me how excellent the tones are coming out of my 5120. All this makes me rather smug about having bought the 5120 in the first place.

Gretsch may have shot themselves in the foot when they introduced the high quality Electromatic line. The scarf-jointed neck on the 5120 sort of worries me, and the tuners are a little sketchy, but combined with the right strings, amp, and a pedal or two, the Electromatic guitars are just about the best bang for the buck I've found.

By the way, I have a reasonably nice collection of guitars that cost more than my 5120. While some of those instruments may be "better," USA made guitars, I have to appreciate the modified 5120 for its Gretschy goodness. I doubt that I'll be trading for a 6120 anytime soon.

4

Well, this has all the earmarks of turning into a Electromatic is as good as a Pro line vs value. Those who have their Electro modded will tell you they are as good and those that have Pro line will tell you theres no comparison. It's pretty much up to you. If you feel your 5420 is as good then keep it. If not, trade. If you plan on keeping which ever guitar then go with what you like. If it's a resale in a few years, you'll gain more with the pro line. That being said, I feel your 5420 and $1,500 is a bit high. I've seen standard 6120's go for around $1,500. Sorry, I don't believe in pre owned. If it's in a shop it's been played 100's of times. Though you do have a warranty with pre owned but that's about it. i'd say $1,000 to $1,200 and your 5420.

5

When I owned 5120 (with TV Classics) and 5125 I thought that standard 6120 would blow me away, but it didn't happen. Right now I have 6120DE (2011 built), and I still find stock/standard 6120s to feel somehow less attractive. I visited several music stores and checked several 6120s and I wouldn't trade mine for none of them.

@JCHiggy would you mind to meet and greet and strum a chord or two?

6

The 6120 has trestle bracing and the 5420 uses a sound post bracing. I believe more detail is given to the 6120's in all areas of the build with the hand sanding of the necks and with applying the finish but I'm not sure about that. These are the biggest differences in construction. They are both made out of laminated maple so that is why their foundational tone is similar. The pickups in a 6120 are HS Filtertrons made with alnico magnets, the Blacktop Filtertrons in the 5420 are made with ceramic magnets. The 6120 has higher quality electronics and hardware.

I think the main reasons their prices are so disparate is because the 6120 is made in Japan by a highly respected guitar factory that employees highly skilled luthiers to build them. The initial costs and overhead must be more than what Gretsch pays for the factory in Korea who must also employ skilled luthiers because the quality of their guitars is also outstanding. The cost of doing business and the cost of living in Korea is still much less than Japan as far as I know.

7

I've owned a 6120 and had to sell it when I lost my job. I replaced it with a 5120 with TV Jones Classics and a Tru-Arc. The 6120 was a better guitar but the 5120 is so nice that I hardly miss my old Pro Line now. ...and, there is something satisfyingly calming about having so little money tied up in it. I can take it anywhere without so much worry.

8

Other than to say that an Electromatic, which has been hot rodded with TV Jones pickups, may sound to your ears as good as a professional line model, I won't get sucked into the Electromatic vs. Professional line debate. Everyone who has one or the other has their own opinion about that.

But, let me suggest that you are not really getting a deal. The guitar is, in fact, used. And used much more than a guitar you might purchase from a third party. There have been many paws all over that guitar since it was first brought into the shop. And, the guitar already has a blemish on it.

Let me give you an example. Here is a G6120 AM "Prom Queen" on Craigslist for $1695. With most CL sellers, they price it high expecting to come down a little before making a deal. So you could possibly get this guitar for $1500-$1600. It is a professional line guitar in perfect condition. And the "Prom Queen" model was a highly sought-after model of the 6120.

So, you are basically giving up a guitar, in order to get another guitar that you could purchase second-hand in better condition, even if you had to throw in $100 in order to close the deal.

I would consider hanging onto the 5420 that you love and instead buy a pro line 6120 second hand. They are out there and quite often are in excellent condition.

9

Thanks to all of you. Thank you especially to Ric12string for putting it into perspective. I will be keeping my 5420.

10

Um… in a word, yes. - redrocker

You need to read more than just the headline of the thread, mate! It's not a straight trade.

11

Other than to say that an Electromatic, which has been hot rodded with TV Jones pickups, may sound to your ears as good as a professional line model, I won't get sucked into the Electromatic vs. Professional line debate. Everyone who has one or the other has their own opinion about that.

But, let me suggest that you are not really getting a deal. The guitar is, in fact, used. And used much more than a guitar you might purchase from a third party. There have been many paws all over that guitar since it was first brought into the shop. And, the guitar already has a blemish on it.

Let me give you an example. Here is a G6120 AM "Prom Queen" on Craigslist for $1695. With most CL sellers, they price it high expecting to come down a little before making a deal. So you could possibly get this guitar for $1500-$1600. It is a professional line guitar in perfect condition. And the "Prom Queen" model was a highly sought-after model of the 6120.

So, you are basically giving up a guitar, in order to get another guitar that you could purchase second-hand in better condition, even if you had to throw in $100 in order to close the deal.

I would consider hanging onto the 5420 that you love and instead buy a pro line 6120 second hand. They are out there and quite often are in excellent condition.

– Ric12string

My thoughts exactly, R12S. Not a fair trade.

12

Um… in a word, yes. - redrocker

You need to read more than just the headline of the thread, mate! It's not a straight trade.

– Ric12string

Yes, I posted that hastily all right. $1,500 plus your Electromatic doesn't seem worth it. I'd bite at $1,200. It seems like a fair counter offer.

But as others have said, it depends how much more value you place in playing a pro-line. I like the Electromatics a lot, but the upgrades for a true 6120 with trestle bracing are considerable. Everything from bridge to nut — especially the bracing, bound neck, freeboard and pickups — are higher quality.

If you play a lot and gig, it could be nice to have the pro-line. (But not at $1,500)

13

Korean made gretsch bodies are five ply and Japanese models are three ply. Supposedly the three ply gives better tone. It was one of the things fender changed when they came in. Old gretsches were three ply.

14

Korean made gretsch bodies are five ply and Japanese models are three ply. Supposedly the three ply gives better tone. It was one of the things fender changed when they came in. Old gretsches were three ply.

– amv74

Agreed but it really is only better tone if you like it more. The fact that after playing the 6120 and the lure didn't knock his socks would compel me to keep the 5420.

15

For what it's worth: I went through the same quandary and resolved to mod and keep the 5420. What I found is that the high priced 6120 is still an import copy and not some special unique "holy grail" reissue. The action, neck, and frets were actually better on my 5420 than the 3 Proline 6120s I considered. Ok, the sound is not comparable in its stock specs, but add some TVJ Classics and a few cosmetic mods and you have a worthy equal for a lot less money!

Cosmetically, the 6120 has fancier wood and a true 3 piece neck, but how much is that worth to you? I played my 5420w/TVJ classics next to the 6120s in GC's quiet room, and neither me or my daughter could hear a distinguishable difference.

If label recognition, prestige, or to be part of the Gretsch elite Jedi Counsel is important, go for the 6120. But, if sound and playability is first priority, mod your 5420 and smile to yourself knowing that you got all the sound and refinement for way less money.

Lol, I now raise my shield as the arrows are sure to rain down on me for saying this.

16

This always degenerates into being an Electromatic vs Proline debate. The folks who buy Prolines are all a bunch of elitist snob posers. Folks who have Electromatics don't have real Gretsch guitars and it goes on and on.

17

Here's a little story that may or may not apply here.

When I was in high school (1969 or '70) a Japanese businessman came to make a presentation to the students at my school. We all dutifully assembled in the gym to hear what he had to say. It was hard for us to imagine why we'd want to hear representative of Japanese manufacturing say anything. After all, Japan was the source of cheap plastic junk that we all made fun of. A few of us were aware of the incredibly well made cameras used by serious photographers, but that was an exception.

As we listened to our speaker, the words he said seemed like total fantasy. This little Asian man was telling us that Japan was prepared to send consumer products of unprecedented quality to the American market. As he listed the companies we would soon count among familiar names, and the fine products they would sell to us, we all started to laugh. It was hard to imagine that Japan could make anything that might be considered "good."

As the inconsiderate American students had a good chuckle, our visitor assured us that soon we would be driving Japanese cars, watching Japanese televisions, and even playing Japanese guitars. That was just too much to take in. Play a Japanese guitar? Never!

Not much time went by and gas became sort of costly. There was a new brand of car called "Toyota" that promised good mileage and durability at bargain prices. We weren't laughing when gas hit a buck-a-gallon and Americans lined up to buy Japanese cars as predicted by out Japanese visitor.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Americans passionately argue the merits of Japanese made guitars. Japan has nearly become an "honorary state" of the union. If an item is "made in Japan" it is assumed to be of high quality. Cheap plastic junk comes from elsewhere these days.

How does this tale apply here? I'm not sure. Make what you will of this story. I just find it sort of ironic that an iconic American artifact is now produced in Japan, a recent enemy and butt of a thousand jokes. Even odder, maybe, is that red-blooded American boys practically salute Japanese guitars, and defend the honor of the Terada name.

By the way, I love my Terada made G400JV.

18

One thing Gretsch (post Fender) has done better than most other guitar makers are making their reissues sound and feel like the 50's & 60's originals, but that can also turn some people off when they are used to tune-o-matics, set bridges and sharper neck angles etc.

I say if you like your Electromatic and don't feel a Proline justifies the price then stick with it, however, if you are looking for a very specific sound of a Gretsch classic then save up and go for it. NEVER make the mistake of getting an Electromatic in substitute of the guitar you really want and think you can upgrade it to feel and sound the same, it will be costly and you will never get there.

In the end it's not about the objectively "better" guitar, it's about what suits you the best.

19

I have been to Japan a few times and have witnessed the Japanese work ethic first hand. As a culture they put their heart, soul and mind into their jobs, just like most people used to do here in the USA. My 2 brother in-laws barely make it home before their kids go to sleep. Many people in Japan work 12-14 hour days, 6 days a week. While overall US and European productivity has slid downward, Japanese productivity has not. It is what is expected of them in their culture. Individualism isn't their focus there like it is in the west. They are still a community based culture where the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one (Spock in Star Trek 2!). Their focus on the smallest details is what separates their high quality from the rest of the world's high quality. There are still passionate, hard working people all over the world but in Japan it is ingrained in their DNA.

While I feel their balance of work vs. family is unbalanced and unhealthy in the long run it does contribute to the Japanese producing outstanding products.

20

There's a bit of a 'trap' if you will, for someone who mods the functional bits of a mid line guitar (I know as I've done this quite a few times). It doesn't just apply to Gretsches.

You put boutique pickups that sound exactly the way you like, the best bridge, the best tuners, a bone nut, get it professionally setup, PLEK'd etc and now you have an amazing playing and sounding guitar that you've poured your love into and it's awesome.

Then you check out a pro-line guitar of the same brand, and although the guitar itself may be somewhat nicer in fit and finish, the pickups likely aren't as perfect sounding as your boutique ones, the other bits and bobs are maybe not quite as nice (or not exactly what you like), and the setup is likely not quite as good as your love object. If you swap one for the other, those differences may bug you, and you may end up doing some similar mods the top line guitar that you did to the mid line one.

I've done this a lot.

I think it's smart when companies don't offer mid-line and pro-line guitars that are essentially the same model beyond just their parts (pickups, etc) and. They are less likely to cannibalize their own sales, and the owners are saved a lot of hand wringing.

21

The 6120 has trestle bracing and the 5420 uses a sound post bracing. I believe more detail is given to the 6120's in all areas of the build with the hand sanding of the necks and with applying the finish but I'm not sure about that. These are the biggest differences in construction. They are both made out of laminated maple so that is why their foundational tone is similar. The pickups in a 6120 are HS Filtertrons made with alnico magnets, the Blacktop Filtertrons in the 5420 are made with ceramic magnets. The 6120 has higher quality electronics and hardware.

I think the main reasons their prices are so disparate is because the 6120 is made in Japan by a highly respected guitar factory that employees highly skilled luthiers to build them. The initial costs and overhead must be more than what Gretsch pays for the factory in Korea who must also employ skilled luthiers because the quality of their guitars is also outstanding. The cost of doing business and the cost of living in Korea is still much less than Japan as far as I know.

– BuddyHollywood

The "standard" 6120 does NOT have trestle bracing.

22

I have a couple of prolines and a couple of electromatics. After considerable upgrades in pups and bridges, the electromatics become much more than a $500 guitar, and I notice that it closes the gap between the electros and prolines considerably. As good as the necks are on my electros, I find the prolines play a little smoother and faster.

I use to fly fish, and was teaching myself. I didn't know the difference between bamboo and grafite rods, weights, or which flies to use. I asked a friend of my dad's once, "Do you think I need to buy this $1000 Orvis rod?" He responded to me that if I couldn't tell the difference, or the difference wasn't that noticable than my $50 doller rod, then keep the rod I have till I can notice the difference. I have applied that idea to guitar purchasing, and any equipement purchases I have made since.

So Long and short, I agree that if you don't see a big difference in the two guitars. Keep the one you've got till you find the one that does justify it.

23

I have a couple of prolines and a couple of electromatics. After considerable upgrades in pups and bridges, the electromatics become much more than a $500 guitar, and I notice that it closes the gap between the electros and prolines considerably. As good as the necks are on my electros, I find the prolines play a little smoother and faster.

I use to fly fish, and was teaching myself. I didn't know the difference between bamboo and grafite rods, weights, or which flies to use. I asked a friend of my dad's once, "Do you think I need to buy this $1000 Orvis rod?" He responded to me that if I couldn't tell the difference, or the difference wasn't that noticable than my $50 doller rod, then keep the rod I have till I can notice the difference. I have applied that idea to guitar purchasing, and any equipement purchases I have made since.

So Long and short, I agree that if you don't see a big difference in the two guitars. Keep the one you've got till you find the one that does justify it.

– Matt Vogt

Good analogy and advice. The same thing applies to cigars, wine, and whisky!

24

There's a bit of a 'trap' if you will, for someone who mods the functional bits of a mid line guitar (I know as I've done this quite a few times). It doesn't just apply to Gretsches.

You put boutique pickups that sound exactly the way you like, the best bridge, the best tuners, a bone nut, get it professionally setup, PLEK'd etc and now you have an amazing playing and sounding guitar that you've poured your love into and it's awesome.

Then you check out a pro-line guitar of the same brand, and although the guitar itself may be somewhat nicer in fit and finish, the pickups likely aren't as perfect sounding as your boutique ones, the other bits and bobs are maybe not quite as nice (or not exactly what you like), and the setup is likely not quite as good as your love object. If you swap one for the other, those differences may bug you, and you may end up doing some similar mods the top line guitar that you did to the mid line one.

I've done this a lot.

I think it's smart when companies don't offer mid-line and pro-line guitars that are essentially the same model beyond just their parts (pickups, etc) and. They are less likely to cannibalize their own sales, and the owners are saved a lot of hand wringing.

– Rhythmisking

The last paragraph say it all: with the 54XX series, Gretsch has created a mid-line that can easily be made to compete with their Proline---compete with their own product! My best guess is that this is all part of FMI transition, and that eventually when contracts expire et cet, they will all be made in Korea or some new location.

Irony #1: a hand sanded neck means inconsistency between instruments and some being better than others. A CNC produced neck means pure consistency. Every luthier strives for consistency as the trademark of their ability , but when it is actually attained, the market places a higher value on inconsistency? Yeah....alrighty then.

25

Slightly off-topic: I always find it bemusing when I hear about "highly skilled luthiers" in the Japanese and even Korean guitar production factories. I haven't been there but usually those guys (I respect very much) are well trained employees. No more, no less. My picture of a "highly skilled luthier" looks very different.


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