Modern Gretsch Guitars

Broadkaster Jr — Road Test Report

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Last week I posted a thread covering my initial impressions of my new Broadkaster JR. Since then I’ve logged a lot of hours with this guitar, including a good amount of “A/B” comparisons with my 6122-’59 Country Gent which, for the last 9 years, has been my high “standard” against which all others should be measured.

As reported previously -- Just my opinion, but this guitar is jaw-dropping gorgeous! Photos simply do not do justice to its elegant, rich, almost 3-dimensional color and finish. This photo from the Gretsch website gives a pretty good sense of the Cadillac Green (if you can filter out the distracting hues in the background).

The fit and finish on the guitar are flawless. The build quality is outstanding. I spent a LOT of time looking for flaws and have found NONE. As a cabinet/furniture maker, this is an area where I know what to look for…. The guitar shows a lot of attention to fine details. The playability is excellent, equal to the best Gretsches (or Gibsons, Martins, etc.) in my experiences over nearly 6 decades.

Among the “features” promoted with the Broadkaster lineup is the lower neck set, bringing the right-hand playing closer to the body. For me personally, the “feel” is pretty much the same as my Country Gent (other than body size). The lower neck set required the use of the B7 Bigsby which is not exactly a favorite with Gretschophiles. Initially mine was somewhat less responsive and stiffer than a B6 Bigsby. However, I swapped the standard tension spring for a Reverend “Soft Touch” spring and all is well in vibratoland. The B7 now has the same feel (for me) and function as the B6 on my ’59 Gent.

Sounds/Tones – My initial reactions here were “mixed” – made a note to maybe think about TV Jones….. However – the source of my concern turned out to be the stock strings, which sounded very harsh to my vintage ears (D;’Addario round wounds). After installing Thomastik-Infeld JS-110’s (flat wound) the tones improved drastically. The Full’Tron pickups have a full, bold sound. They are warm with a lot of punch. There is excellent articulation with each string. They are comparable in tone quality and clarity with the TV Jones pickups on my 6122-’59 Gent, with a bit more mid tones. They are slightly louder than the Gent’s TVJ’s – resistances are 5.6k ohms (neck) and 6.4k ohms (bridge). The Gent’s pickups are 4.0k ohms (neck/SuperTron) and 7.8k ohms (bridge/Classic Plus). The Full’Trons likely will perform very well with overdriven amps, either via cranked volume or pedals. So far I have worked primarily on clean sounds.

This marks the first time during the last 17-18 years where I am NOT inclined to upgrade stock Gretsch pickups – so far, at least…..

The Broadkaster JR has remarkable sustain compared with other Gretsch guitars I’ve owned. I assume that is due to the center block design, although it seems to have more sustain than my Gibson ES-335 with a Tru-Arc titanium bridge. With the stock round wound strings, it seemed to be confusing my Peterson Stomp Classic tuner.

The treble bleed feature works as advertised. The guitar maintains its tones as the master volume is rolled back. There is no noticeable darkening of the tone at lower volumes. The no-load tone pot yields a nice range of very good tones, much less “muddy” than others (IMO).

The Broadkaster has screws for raising and lowering the pickups – a nice feature that I don’t recall in other Gretsches.

String-Through Bigsby, Locking Tuners – While I’ve never had major issues with restringing traditional Bigsby-equipped guitars, part of my attraction to the new Players Edition models was the notion of quicker/easier string changes. My experience is very limited – one set of strings. The String-Through feature (IMO) has its own challenge in that I found it fairly difficult to insert the tip of the strings into the holes on the string shaft. It might be easier if the holes in the shaft were parallel to the top of the guitar. So – is it faster? No (IMO) – just different. Time and practice may change that view.

I also had some problems with the Gotoh locking tuners breaking strings. I probably over-tightened the locks (??).

Strap Locks – Appear to be Schallers. My only wish is that Schaller would make the threaded shafts slightly longer to allow use of heavier leather straps (Levy’s, etc.) without having to cut away some leather on the inside surface of the strap.

Bottom Line – The Broadkaster JR is a KEEPER! I’m liking it a good bit more than originally anticipated. The tones and sounds are wonderful and it is a joy to play. In a word – it is a FUN guitar.

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I'd missed your original thread on the Broadkaster Jr, but luckily I caught this one. Thanks for the excellent write-up(s) and congratulations on a great new guitar!

Getting the hang of the Gotoh locking tuners takes a bit of practice, and it's easy to overtighten them because it just seems like it should be tighter. Considering the price of T-I's JS110s, I'm betting you'll get the hang of it soon.

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BTW, I've had good luck using a fairly warm (but not hot) clothes iron to compress the leather on the strap ends when using the Schaller strap locks, rather than thinning the leather. You can compress them pretty well and if you get the strap locks on quickly, it usually works.

I'm with you though on thinking they should have made the threaded portion longer. They should have figured that out by now, I'd think.

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I'd missed your original thread on the Broadkaster Jr, but luckily I caught this one. Thanks for the excellent write-up(s) and congratulations on a great new guitar!

Getting the hang of the Gotoh locking tuners takes a bit of practice, and it's easy to overtighten them because it just seems like it should be tighter. Considering the price of T-I's JS110s, I'm betting you'll get the hang of it soon.

– Timthom62

Yes, I can report that low-E strings by T-I cost $6.77 each..........

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BTW, I've had good luck using a fairly warm (but not hot) clothes iron to compress the leather on the strap ends when using the Schaller strap locks, rather than thinning the leather. You can compress them pretty well and if you get the strap locks on quickly, it usually works.

I'm with you though on thinking they should have made the threaded portion longer. They should have figured that out by now, I'd think.

– Timthom62

Good To Know!!!! Thanks -- I will try that!

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Great to hear you are liking the new era Tone and Volume pots...And everything else, too!

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Very nice and thorough report, Dan. I enjoyed reading it!

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Excellent review. It would be interesting to see your opinion in comparison to your Gent in 5-6 months. I suspect that both are winners; just curious as to your favorite at that point. Congrats!

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That's cool. That's my setup for guitars, treb bleed and meg pots. (Suddenly I feel like the hipster, the industry follows) My hat feels tight, I must go take something for this swollen ego.

Seriously though, that thing is gorgeous. I'm going to play the first one available to me.

The size in intriguing to me too, and I remember that green on my grandparents old caddy.

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I think that is a lovely guitar and a very fine, thorough review!

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That green and Gold combo is hard to beat. Just Lovely! Congrats!


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