Modern Gretsch Guitars

Parsing Pro-Line Duo Jets: three series compared in detail

1

Gretsch does make other guitars, of course, but we all know that the Duo Jet is truly the crown jewel of the line - the one guitar than which, among all the guitars of the world, there are none better.

And Gretsch makes a whole dazzling (and possibly confusing) fleet of Jets.

There's nothing really new in this post, but I was curious about the details of the 2019 pro-line Jets, and spent a few quality hours with the website and the catalog. Such exercises invariably involve a spreadsheet, wherein I try to make parallel tabular data of the info Gretsch spreads out over multiple pages (rarely providing all the same info for all models). I'll happily send that spreadsheet to anyone who wants it, but I'm going to try to summarize it here.

(Note: I'm not including the double-cutaway Double Jet, the Penguin, or Electromatics here. This is not discriminatory: there are just few enough of those that they don't confuse us much. Also, despite what some may think, a Penguin with its forkéd headstock, overbling, and waddling flightless bird bears no resemblance to a Jet.)


So. I count 21 or 22 separate current Duo Jet model numbers. Those are spread across three series with distinctly different builds: Players Edition, Vintage Select, and what we might call The Old Stadards.

But before I break those down, there are certain characteristics all Jets share - those things which make a Jet a Jet. Those include a 14" (more or less) single-cutaway mahogany body with an arched maple cap, 22-fret mahogany neck at 24.6" scale, and a solid-body form factor and depth (the details of which vary).

A word about the body shape. While the great unwashed hordes of the unenlightened may consider the Jet a slightly ungainly attempt to copy the Les Paul, the truth is that the Les Paul is a bloated rendition of the altogether more streamlined Jet-age Jet.


With that, let's meet the Jets. First, the critical build differences between the three series: these are the fundamental conditions of these guitars' existence, the things you couldn't change without truly major surgery which would make the guitars different animals entirely.

Players Edition
These are the "new" Jets (just possibly designed and spec'ed to compete on equal terms with the Les Paul). They have:
• 1.85"-deep bodies with "modern" chambering (presumably less than the Vintage Select series)
• a shallow neck set putting the neck closer to the top of the body (for a Gibsonier play feel)
• "anchored" Adjusto-Matic bridges (ie, threaded receivers in the top into which the bridge studs are screwed)
• back contouring of the cutaway and heel for easier upper-fret access
• double-coil pickups ONLY (Filter'Tron versions)
• modernized wiring harness with vol for each pickup, master vol, and master tone

Vintage Select
Short of the Custom Shop, these Jets are closer to 50s specs than we've seen since...the 50s. They have:
• 2"-deep bodies with the more extensive vintage chambering pioneered in the modern era on the Billy Zoom Jet, and then the Harrison Jet. They actually have less internal woodwork than a larger centerblock Gretsch.
• the traditional higher neck set which accommodates floating bridges and surface-mounted pickups
• a variety of traditional Gretsch bridge types, but always on separate floating bases
• either single-coil Dynasonic OR dual-coil Filter'Tron pickups
• different wiring harness depending on pickup type

Old Standards
These are the remnants of what was the Jet line before it bifurcated into Players Edition and Vintage Select. They have more in common with VS than with PE (neck set and floating bridge options, pickup choice, wiring schemes), but are not quite the same. Primarily because they have...
• 1.75"-deep bodies, a quarter-inch shallower and with less chambering than the VS series. (I don't know if they have more or less chambering than the PE series.)


Now let's break down the options and differences inside the three series.

PLAYERS EDITION
Remember - all of these have 1.85" depth, modern chambering, shallow neck set, anchored Adjusto-Matics, and "easy-access" profiling on the back of the body. All are also described as having a "Standard U" neck profile, rosewood fingerboard, and medium jumbo frets. All have silver (chrome, nickel, and/or aluminum) hardware, unless otherwise noted below. Within that build, there are two groups.

The 6228 PE Stoptail group Jets all have:
• BroadTron 65 pickups
• V-stop tailpiece
• Gotoh keystone-shaped locking tuners
• Block fret markers
• Scripty headstock logo

Model numbers include:
• 6228 PE: Silver Sparkle
• 6228 PE BT: Candy Apple Red, Black, Cadillac Green, or Dark Cherry Metallic; gold pickup bezels and pickguard
• 6228LH PE: left-handed; Cadillac Green; gold pickup bezels and pickguard
• 6228FM PE: figured and stained flame maple tops in Crimson, Bourbon, or Dark Cherry

The 61xx PE Bigsby group all have:
• High Sensitive Filter'Tron pickups
• Bigsby B7CP with tension bar and string-through axle
• Gotoh "squared oval" locking tuners
• Neoclassic fret markers
• Standard T-roof headstock logo

Models in the Bigsby group:
• 6131 PE FT: Firebird Red (6131 seems reserved for red guitars)
• 6129 PE: Silver Sparkle
• 6128T PE FT: Black
• 6128LH PE FT: left-handed; Black
• 6129 PE LE: Light Blue Pearl (limited edition)

VINTAGE SELECT
All with 2" body depth, vintage chambering, traditional neck set, floating bridges, Bigbsy B3CB Bigsby-logoed tailpiece, and open-back Grover Sta-Tite tuners. All but one are listed with medium jumbo frets (size isn't specified for the Harrison Jet). Again, hardware is assumed silver in color unless noted.

DynaSonics
• 6128T-57 VS CG (based on the 1957 Jet): Cadillac Green; TV Jones T-Armonds; U neck profile; rosewood fretboard with humpblock markers; SynchroSonic bridge on plastic base; Bigsby B3CBDE with cast Duane Eddy handle; arm rest; gold hardware; wiring: 2 vol, master vol, master tone, 3-way switch
• 6128T-53 VS (based on the 1953 Jet): Black; TVJ T-Armonds; U neck profile, rosewood board with block markers; Bigsby compensated aluminum bridge; Bigsby B3C "Patent Pending" tailpiece (without black paint in body); scripty logo; wiring: 2 vol, master vol, master tone, 3-way switch
• 6128T-GH Harrison Sig (not officially a VS model, but its specs fit here): Black; Gretsch Dynasonics; rosewood board with humpblocks; Rocking Bar Bridge; Bigsby B3C; Sta-Tite V98 tuners; wiring: 2 vol, master vol, master tone, 3-way switch

FilterTrons
• 6129T-59 VS (based on the 1959 Jet): Silver Sparkle or Black; TV Jones Classic Filter'Trons; vintage V neck profile; ebony fretboard with neoclassics; Space Control bridge; Bigsby B3CB; wiring: 2 vol, master vol, 3-way tone switch, 3-way pickup switch

OLD STANDARDS
All with 1.75" body depth and the more limited chambering which typified all modern Jets (with the exception of the Billy Zoom sig model) through the 2013 season when the Harrison Jet was introduced. The more extensive chambering of the BZ and the GH may have crept into other models in the line between 2013 and 2017 (or was it 18?) when the Vintage Select officially debuted.

All the Old Standards have floating bridges, the Bigsby B3C V-Gretsch wiggler and open-back Sta-Tites (unless noted). Neck profile and fret size (with 3 exceptions) are not specified for these guitars.

DynaSonics
• 6128TCG: Cadillac Green; Gretsch Dynasonics; "Vintage" frets; rosewood board with humpblocks; SynchroSonic bridge; gold hardware
• 6129T-1957: Silver Sparkle; Gretsch Dynasonics; rosewood board with humpblocks; Space Control bridge

FilterTrons
• 6129T: Silver Sparkle, High Sensitive FilterTrons; ebony board with neoclassics; Space Control bridge
• 6128T: Black; High Sensitive FilterTrons; ebony board with neoclassics; Space Control bridge
• G6121-1959 Chet Jet: Western Maple (Gretsch orange); High Sensitive FilterTrons; ebony board with neoclassics; Rocking Bar Bridge; zero fret

• 6128T-TVP PowerJet: Black; TV Jones PowerTrons; medium jumbo frets; ebony board with neoclassics; pinned floating Adjusto-Matic; Gotoh locking tuners
• 6131T-TVP PowerJet: Firebird Red; TV Jones PowerTrons; medium jumbo frets; ebony board with neoclassics; pinned floating Adjusto-Matic; Gotoh locking tuners; Schaller strap locks

One last Jet may fit either into the Vintage Select or the Old Standards series, depending on its body depth (and thus extent of chambering), a spec the website doesn't provide. If it's 2" deep and VS-chambered, it might be the top wantable of the whole Jet line for me. If it's 1.75"...well, I'd still like it.

• 6129T-RDSP-LTD15: Red Sparkle (limited edition); body depth, neck profile, and fret size unspecified; ebony fretboard with block markers; floating Rocking Bar; Bigsby B3C; Sta-Tite V98 tuners; scripty logo

I don't think Gretsch has remaining stock of these.


Gretsch's specs don't tell us which guitars have the traditional plastic Nitron tops, but in standard practice that would include black 50s-era Jets, Silver (and red) Sparkle, Firebird Red, and of course Light Blue Pearl. It would be nice to have that verified.


And there you go, guys. Scramble your Jets!

2

Thanks for the effort. I remember doing the speadsheet analysis thing a few years ago to understand the basic differences between all the "similar" gretsch models.

What I would be interested in if we could gather some real measurements of the body depths for the different models. My "Old Standards" 2015 Duo Jet TDS has a body depth of 1.81'' (1 52/64'') compared the spec'ed 1.75''.

What are your measurements?

3

My 2015 Red Sparkle LTD has a 2" body. It's essentially the 53VS with an ebony board and sparkle drum wrap.

4

And you’re tired of it, so it’s looking for a new home?

5

Tim Baxter... this thread needs to be made into a sticky note!! Fantastically useful content to this community... thank you for the contribution Mr. Proteus!

6

Thanks Tim, great explanation

7

The only additional info I might need would be data on the other signature jets..CG,EE, in addition to BZ and GH, I wonder what distinguishes one from another..doesn't the EE have a different scale length? I also know nothing about Bigsbys and the various handles(arms), springs and stringing options. I am truly new to all of this, having only played a Stern Jet and a Stern White Penguin..both were beautifully aged and had thick-ish soft "v" necks.

Thanks for your willingness to organize all of this, Proteus.

8

Does the Cliff Gallup model fit in this discussion or no?

9

Dan, I've only done the current Jets - ie, the ones at Gretsch's site and in the catalog now.

I was surprised the Cliff Gallup isn't in the line-up - or isn't mentioned if it is. But Joe C is meticulous and diligent in seeing that all signature artists are properly represented. So maybe the Gallup was a limited-time deal from the gitgo. The EE is long out of the lineup, and if I was ever completely familiar with its specs, I've forgotten. It does have a different scale length, though, for sure. 25", I think.


As for Bigsbys, functionally - in feel and range - the only significant differences are between tension-bar units (as used in the Players Edition) and everything-else-in-the-line.

Some Bigses now have the "string-through" option, in which strings are pushed through holes in the rear axle and bent around to fit in divots machined in for the purpose. That's purported to make them easier to string than employing the usual method of wrapping them around the axle, then fitting their little "balls" over pins provided for the purpose. I can't think this makes a difference in tone or behavior, and I don't care either way (I'm fine with the customary pins), so I ignore it.

Otherwise, through "everything-else" - that is, other than the tension-bar models - there are cosmetic differences, and different geometries to fit guitars of different builds. But, repeating, those all work the same. And, generally, the performance and feel of any of them can be tuned to need with the spring and handles.

Gretsch makes (or has made) two spring lengths: 7/8" and 1". Those affect how high the arm sits under any given string tension (as mediated by different gauges), and - to an extent - determine how much input it takes to wiggle the arm. There's a not-so-subtle (but often overlooked) relationship between string gauge, effective spring stiffness, and handle behavior. I'm sure the actual physics are more involved than I'm making them (they usually are), but thankfully just being aware of those relationships and applying a little homespun physical analysis usually provides fairly intuitive insights into how to adjust all parameters based on current behavior to get more desirable performance.

You keep these three things in mind:
• all other things being equal (or close enough to suit you), a spring that sits taller (pushing the end of the arm higher) will provide easier pushin' and more pitch range
• heavier strings put more tension on the system, and, at rest and tuned to pitch, will depress any given spring further than lighter strings (and a shorter spring obviously means less remaining travel for pitch-bending)
• the more rigid the handle - and the tighter the tolerance of attachment joints - the less energy is lost in handle deflection or movement, and the more goes into pitch wiggling.

Not everyone wants their Bigsby to feel the same, so there's no one right answer. My own preference is for a rigid handle, a relatively softer spring, and enough range of motion for an easy half-step or so down (I almost never pull the handle up).

So my rule of thumb in the past has been that if a Bigsby feels too stiff - and/or the arm sits too low - make sure it has the 1" spring and it gets better. BUT that was before the durn-near revolutionary advent of the Reverend "soft spring." Like others, I'm a huuuuge fan of this 10.00 spring. It's made every Bigsby I've installed it on waaaay more responsive and feather-touch buttery. In real bang for the buck, it might be the best money you can spend on a guitar with Bigsby.

As for handles, the most common and default is the ubiquitous "butterknife", a slab of fat aluminum. While it is usually serviceable (assuming a soft enough spring and sufficient travel), it's the least mechanically efficient of the bunch, as it bends a good bit itself without imparting any energy to the axle. (The stiffer the spring and the less travel available, the bendier the butter knife gets, and the more energy you have to invest for any pitch wiggle.)

There are several other handles:
• the fixed-position vintage (which can't be pivoted, and may not be available on any current Gretsch), which is also very rigid and efficient
• a long, slender "spoon" handle occasionally made by a guy in Europe (I'm sure someone else will chime in with that information), which is also rigid and efficient
• a "Merle Travis" handle, of bent round bar stock with a distinctive curvature and a cute little ring affixed to the end; I have no experience with this one, as it's too goofy for me to care about
• the "bent Chet arm," which is similar to the Travis in being made of round bar stock and bent to a particular shape which presumably both stayed out of Chet's way and put the end of the handle where he needed it. It has a handsome screwed-on tip. It's probably not as rigid end-to-end as the fixed handle or the spoon, as it's more convoluted in shape - but it's more responsive than the ol' butterknife and I find it elegant and handsome, so I like it.
• the Duane Eddy (or DE) handle, which in overall top view looks similar to the butterknife - but is cast into a more robust 3-dimensional cross-section which is probably nearly as rigid as the fixed handle. It feels better under hand (offering more depth than the flat handle), and its sculptural profile is inherently beautiful as well as functionally dandy. It's usually attached with a flat-head screw rather than the round-head bolt used with the butterknife. Functionally it's my preference, and I think it looks as good as the Chet arm.

In practical terms, you can probably ignore all but the butterknife, the bent Chet arm, and the DE handle - as those are the only ones commonly available.

To change either spring or handle, you have to remove the strings. Then the spring is easily (and obviously) dropped into place. The handles can be pretty easily be removed from the axle (usually via allen setscrews) and changed out.

10

Thanks for being so thorough! Now, this is exactly the kind of information I can use, ( aside from hands-on ) and it's all in one place so I can refer back to it!

Does the DE arm move fore and aft? ( so it can be "pulled back" out of the way? )...or is that true of all but the fixed position one?

I almost hesitate to ask, but my first guitar was a "bigsby" equipped Electra SG. I don't flail as much as I did at seventeen ( insert joke here ) but making contact with the metal arm and a finger knuckle really hurt, as it was loosely bolted on and swayed around freely.

11

All but the fixed-position Bigsby handle pivot normally so they can be positioned as needed, or clean out of the way.

12

Tim, you have the Chester Jetster listed as "621". Might want to slip another "1" in there.

Is there any talk of the 6121 joining the Vintage Select spec?

13

Thanks Tim! This makes it easier to wade through all of the glorious pictures on the Gretsch website to see what is really what.

14

My RDSP has been updated with Melita self pinned bridge to eliminate tuning issues w the Bigsby as per BZ. And a BZ seal of approval!

15

I know you try to be comprehensive, if not exhaustive, when you delve into a subject, but I think you've fallen short in your descriptions of Bigsby handles. Here's some additional information:

There was a time when some handles had only colloquial or "folk" names, and some types were not in production. It was during those dark days that a gentleman named Pete Hart in the UK started making sand-cast aluminum handles, calling them a "movable version of Bigsby fixed-arm handle." Lots of Gretsch fans called them "spoon" handles. I think he made both wide and narrow versions. I bought one for £38.50 in 2007.

Bigsby makes those handles now and calls them "Handle, Flat Vintage Assembly" and "Handle, Narrow Vintage Assembly." The handles come with the mounting collars, which the Pete Hart handles didn't; that's why they are "assemblies." Of course, they aren't flat at all in comparison to the regular "Handle, Flat."

I don't know exactly when Bigsby added those handles, but I know that it was at least partly in response to activity on the GDP. I think it was about a year, maybe more, after my purchase of the Pete Hart handle.

16

Pete Hart, spoon handle, yes. That's what I was referring to with

• a long, slender "spoon" handle occasionally made by a guy in Europe (I'm sure someone else will chime in with that information), which is also rigid and efficient

Now you've chimed in with the additional information. I wasn't aware that they were available through Bigsby. Good info. Thanks!

17

Proteus you are a champ! Great summary... thank you!

18

Who is it that has the gold low tension springs?

19

Thank you, Proteus. The bifurcation (trifurcation) of the Pro line came as a surprise to me, and this extensive comparison answers all of the questions I had, and many I hadn't even come up with yet.

20

Soft spring: from the right Reverend Reverend.

http://store.reverendguitar...


TT62, trifurcation, yes. Or as I see it, a single stream splitting into two branches, with the original stream seen in the rearview mirror. I wonder if there will be any new Jets that aren't either PE or VS.

21

TT62, trifurcation, yes. Or as I see it, a single stream splitting into two branches, with the original stream seen in the rearview mirror. I wonder if there will be any new Jets that aren't either PE or VS. - Proteus

That's a good point. Would there be any reason for Gretsch to keep the standard Pro line Jets, considering the range of options available in the PE and VS series? Twenty-one or twenty-two models is a lot for one branch of the Gretsch tree, as it were.

22

I didn't see the plain ol' 612x with FilterTrons mentioned in the old standard series. The 612xT came with a Bigsby, but the non-T (e.g. - 6128, 6129) had the G-tail. I have one from 2008. It's simply labeled 6128.

23

Here's a plain 6129 (no "T") from old standard series made in 2006.

24

GG, my post covers only the Jets currently on the website and in the catalog for 2019. The plainol' 612x, un-T, is no longer represented. I don't know when it slipped away.

As far as I can tell, there are no Jets now with a non-tremolo trapeze tailpiece. There are numerous stop-tail models among the Players Editions and Electromatics, but not among the Vintage Selects or Old Standards.

25

Dan, I've only done the current Jets - ie, the ones at Gretsch's site and in the catalog now.

I was surprised the Cliff Gallup isn't in the line-up - or isn't mentioned if it is. But Joe C is meticulous and diligent in seeing that all signature artists are properly represented. So maybe the Gallup was a limited-time deal from the gitgo. The EE is long out of the lineup, and if I was ever completely familiar with its specs, I've forgotten. It does have a different scale length, though, for sure. 25", I think.


As for Bigsbys, functionally - in feel and range - the only significant differences are between tension-bar units (as used in the Players Edition) and everything-else-in-the-line.

Some Bigses now have the "string-through" option, in which strings are pushed through holes in the rear axle and bent around to fit in divots machined in for the purpose. That's purported to make them easier to string than employing the usual method of wrapping them around the axle, then fitting their little "balls" over pins provided for the purpose. I can't think this makes a difference in tone or behavior, and I don't care either way (I'm fine with the customary pins), so I ignore it.

Otherwise, through "everything-else" - that is, other than the tension-bar models - there are cosmetic differences, and different geometries to fit guitars of different builds. But, repeating, those all work the same. And, generally, the performance and feel of any of them can be tuned to need with the spring and handles.

Gretsch makes (or has made) two spring lengths: 7/8" and 1". Those affect how high the arm sits under any given string tension (as mediated by different gauges), and - to an extent - determine how much input it takes to wiggle the arm. There's a not-so-subtle (but often overlooked) relationship between string gauge, effective spring stiffness, and handle behavior. I'm sure the actual physics are more involved than I'm making them (they usually are), but thankfully just being aware of those relationships and applying a little homespun physical analysis usually provides fairly intuitive insights into how to adjust all parameters based on current behavior to get more desirable performance.

You keep these three things in mind:
• all other things being equal (or close enough to suit you), a spring that sits taller (pushing the end of the arm higher) will provide easier pushin' and more pitch range
• heavier strings put more tension on the system, and, at rest and tuned to pitch, will depress any given spring further than lighter strings (and a shorter spring obviously means less remaining travel for pitch-bending)
• the more rigid the handle - and the tighter the tolerance of attachment joints - the less energy is lost in handle deflection or movement, and the more goes into pitch wiggling.

Not everyone wants their Bigsby to feel the same, so there's no one right answer. My own preference is for a rigid handle, a relatively softer spring, and enough range of motion for an easy half-step or so down (I almost never pull the handle up).

So my rule of thumb in the past has been that if a Bigsby feels too stiff - and/or the arm sits too low - make sure it has the 1" spring and it gets better. BUT that was before the durn-near revolutionary advent of the Reverend "soft spring." Like others, I'm a huuuuge fan of this 10.00 spring. It's made every Bigsby I've installed it on waaaay more responsive and feather-touch buttery. In real bang for the buck, it might be the best money you can spend on a guitar with Bigsby.

As for handles, the most common and default is the ubiquitous "butterknife", a slab of fat aluminum. While it is usually serviceable (assuming a soft enough spring and sufficient travel), it's the least mechanically efficient of the bunch, as it bends a good bit itself without imparting any energy to the axle. (The stiffer the spring and the less travel available, the bendier the butter knife gets, and the more energy you have to invest for any pitch wiggle.)

There are several other handles:
• the fixed-position vintage (which can't be pivoted, and may not be available on any current Gretsch), which is also very rigid and efficient
• a long, slender "spoon" handle occasionally made by a guy in Europe (I'm sure someone else will chime in with that information), which is also rigid and efficient
• a "Merle Travis" handle, of bent round bar stock with a distinctive curvature and a cute little ring affixed to the end; I have no experience with this one, as it's too goofy for me to care about
• the "bent Chet arm," which is similar to the Travis in being made of round bar stock and bent to a particular shape which presumably both stayed out of Chet's way and put the end of the handle where he needed it. It has a handsome screwed-on tip. It's probably not as rigid end-to-end as the fixed handle or the spoon, as it's more convoluted in shape - but it's more responsive than the ol' butterknife and I find it elegant and handsome, so I like it.
• the Duane Eddy (or DE) handle, which in overall top view looks similar to the butterknife - but is cast into a more robust 3-dimensional cross-section which is probably nearly as rigid as the fixed handle. It feels better under hand (offering more depth than the flat handle), and its sculptural profile is inherently beautiful as well as functionally dandy. It's usually attached with a flat-head screw rather than the round-head bolt used with the butterknife. Functionally it's my preference, and I think it looks as good as the Chet arm.

In practical terms, you can probably ignore all but the butterknife, the bent Chet arm, and the DE handle - as those are the only ones commonly available.

To change either spring or handle, you have to remove the strings. Then the spring is easily (and obviously) dropped into place. The handles can be pretty easily be removed from the axle (usually via allen setscrews) and changed out.

– Proteus

I find the reverend soft springs to not work well at all in returning the bigsby to proper pitch with 11gauge strings, and in my opinion a gretsch w a 24.6 scale isnt worth the strum if its not equipped w 11g strings. That scrawny rev soft spring is a thinner gauge spring and under sproings w good 11g strings.


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