Modern Gretsch Guitars

So… I have an opportunity to purchase a Black Phoenix

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...for an exceptional price.

My only qualm is that I really had my sights set on a White Falcon. I like the looks (ok, bling) of the White Falcon. One of my favorite players, Matthew Ashman of BowWowWow, played a mid-late 70s 7593 Falcon. Not a big fan of its appointments (not even sure what kind of pickups it had -- they look like Filtertrons but are black in the center), but the overall iconic-ness of it has stayed in my head since I was a kid.

However, given the extremely good price I can get this for, and the fact that I have a thing for black guitars, will the Setzer Black Phoenix sound like a White Falcon?

I've looked and listened to countless videos and am reasonably certain it will get me into the ballpark.

Is there anybody here who has more insight into this dilemma? Thanks in advance.

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IMO Fitler'Tron Gretsch hollow/semi-hollowbodies sound similar, so a Phoenix will undoubtedly give you what your ears like. Visually? There are arguments either way; on the plus side, there's just nothing like a White Falcon for knock-your-socks-off stage bling,and if that visual is essential to your band's act, then it's good business to hold out for a WF. On the downside, there are some genres where you DON'T want undue attention paid to the visuals..... I learned that country music bandleaders object to sidemen who call attention to themselves, so as great a guitar as my Terada Falcon is, it's just good business for me to take one of the Telecasters to work!

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I ended up with both.

I only went into the shop for a look at some amps,and came out with the Phoenix, and a slightly inflated CC bill the following month..

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For assurance on the tonal question, check the scale length and body size. From memory, I think they're both 17" and 25.5" scale. That's pretty same-same.

Which, tonally, leaves only the bracing question. If they have the same bracing...again same same.

BUT anything with "Setzer" in the model name is going to have a 9.45" fingerboard radius, whereas plainol Falcons default to 12". Won't make any difference to the tone, but you may have a preference.


NOTE: Post has been edited to cite the correct Falcon fingerboard radius of 12"; I originally brain-farted it as 24.6", which is, of course, the scale length.

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IMO Fitler'Tron Gretsch hollow/semi-hollowbodies sound similar, so a Phoenix will undoubtedly give you what your ears like. Visually? There are arguments either way; on the plus side, there's just nothing like a White Falcon for knock-your-socks-off stage bling,and if that visual is essential to your band's act, then it's good business to hold out for a WF. On the downside, there are some genres where you DON'T want undue attention paid to the visuals..... I learned that country music bandleaders object to sidemen who call attention to themselves, so as great a guitar as my Terada Falcon is, it's just good business for me to take one of the Telecasters to work!

– DaveH

Yeah, that's lovely. I hear you on all of that. I am a sideman in my own band sometimes...

I do most of the singing, but it is truly an ensemble effort.

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For assurance on the tonal question, check the scale length and body size. From memory, I think they're both 17" and 25.5" scale. That's pretty same-same.

Which, tonally, leaves only the bracing question. If they have the same bracing...again same same.

BUT anything with "Setzer" in the model name is going to have a 9.45" fingerboard radius, whereas plainol Falcons default to 12". Won't make any difference to the tone, but you may have a preference.


NOTE: Post has been edited to cite the correct Falcon fingerboard radius of 12"; I originally brain-farted it as 24.6", which is, of course, the scale length.

– Proteus

Yip. The scale length is 25.5", so maybe a bit snappier than 24.6"?

It has trestle bracing and a 9.45" radius according to the shop owner. Will I have to be more cognizant of possible feedback with this guitar?

At any rate, I am certain there's a Tru-Arc in the future for that guitar if I buy it. The shop isn't open for customers until tomorrow morning at 11am by appointment. I've already filled out my dance card in that regard.

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I ended up with both.

I only went into the shop for a look at some amps,and came out with the Phoenix, and a slightly inflated CC bill the following month..

– JCHiggy

I understand that dilemma. I bought a 6620 at this shop last month and this used Phoenix was sitting right next to it. I haven't been able to get it out of my mind.

I might be doing something about that tomorrow morning.

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if it bugs you that much, you'd best at least check it out. that happened to me with a Guild Aristocrat, i made it happen, and i couldn't be happier. sometimes you see a guitar or noodle on it for a couple of minutes and you just know. i literally played the Guild unamplified for 3 minutes, and by the time i was 10 miles from the store on my way home i was already figuring out what to trade in.

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if it bugs you that much, you'd best at least check it out. that happened to me with a Guild Aristocrat, i made it happen, and i couldn't be happier. sometimes you see a guitar or noodle on it for a couple of minutes and you just know. i literally played the Guild unamplified for 3 minutes, and by the time i was 10 miles from the store on my way home i was already figuring out what to trade in.

– macphisto

"sometimes you see a guitar or noodle on it for a couple of minutes and you just know"

Hence why I have way too many guitars!

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sometimes you see a guitar or noodle on it for a couple of minutes and you just know

Happens to me online just as readily. I don't even need to noodle - though I generally like to have some basis of judgment, as in having played other of the builder's guitars, or dug deep into conflicting user reviews which might triangulate to a reasonable prediction of my response.


Given trestle bracing, you will not be more likely to wrestle with feedback. The trestles join top and back in a pretty durn firm embrace, assuring that either they resonate together or they resist resonance altogether. In any case, you either have control or there's nothing to control. Tone is a little more focused as well - but not nearly as much as having a whole center block.

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i can buy shoes online like that as well. after spending so much time with my feet i can tell when the contours will work for me. i can make most guitars work as long as the pickups talk to me. having played a lot of cheap guitars in my life, i'm adaptable. in fact, nice guitars are kind of foreign to me.

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BUT anything with "Setzer" in the model name is going to have a 9.45" radius, whereas plainol Falcons default to 24.6". Won't make any difference to the tone, but you may have a preference.

Er...‘scuse me, but you meant 12”, right? 24.6” is purty darn’ flat. That’ll be the scale length...

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it could be a shredder model...someone check if Steve Vai is on the Gretsch website.

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Er...‘scuse me, but you meant 12”, right? 24.6” is purty darn’ flat. That’ll be the scale length...

Duh! Thanks for catching that, Deke. I'll go back and change the original post to keep it from confusing anyone in the future.


For the record: I originally braino'ed the radius for most Falcons, citing 24.6", which Deke rightly pointed out is the scale length. Falcons - I think pretty much always - have a nominal 12" radius.

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I have that guitar! As you can see I took off the pick guard. I also have a truarc on there which is always recommended!

You also see that I have a Setzer HotRod 6120 next to it. The Phoenix is basically the same guitar in a Phoenix form factor. They play very similarly and sound pretty much the same as they have the same pickups. As noted already the Phoenix has a longer scale length which I’m not too fond of, but I manage it alright. It’s also about an inch wider which bothers me a just bit but I only notice when switching between the two guitars.

There are a couple other things I don’t like about the guitar. I don’t like the tuners. There’s a bit of play in them when you go from tightening to loosening. Not a dealbreaker but worth noting. Also, the side dots are very difficult to see amongst the silver sparkle binding. Better players may not be affected by this, but I do look down occasionally to make sure I’m landing in the right spot and it’s basically like not having side markers at all. I suppose the positive would be that it will train you to not need them. Again, not a dealbreaker.

As for the tone, while I don’t have a falcon and can’t offer that comparison, I am confident that with the right amp, reverb, etc. you would be able to get very close to the Bow Wow Wow sound you’re looking for with the Phoenix.

Hope this helps.

EDIT: I said that the Phoenix has the same pickups as my HotRod 6120. Upon closer inspection I see that's not true. The HotRod 6120 has the Setzer signatures and the Phoenix has the Classics. They are pretty close though to my ears.

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I love mine and oddly opposite to Craig's impression above, I really like the tuners. It is my 1st Gretsch and love it though I don't play it nearly as often as I'd like but I don't wan to put it down when I do play it......good 4 to 5 hour practice sessions with the BP.

I love the neck and the tone. I also love the White Falcon, wanted both but the Black Phoenix won out over the WF, RHH, SSLVO, and a Jet. I made the right choice. Grab it and go!!!

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Thank you for weighing in on your experiences with the guitar. I ended up buying it, but I still don't have it in my possession. I left it with the dealer to put the original TV Jones Classics into it. The previous owner decided to do a black-out look on it -- not really to my taste.

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Sorry for the follow-on post. He also put a black switch tip on it. There are black pickup rings in the case, too. I'm surprised he didn't have a black pickguard cut for it, as well. There are four black Gretsch Arrow knobs in the case, too. Honestly? Yuck...

He also has the pickup height adjusted so that there is barely a paper's width between a fretted string and the top of the pickup screw. Not sure what he was going for there. Just... strange. The guitar at least, is in very good shape.

Can BP owners tell me something about the bridges on these? They look like TOMs on steroids. Do you like them? Is the Tru-Arc a significantly better upgrade? And if so, which one?

Craig B.: it looks like yours is stainless. 9.5"?

I got a Tru-Arc stainless for my 6620 and it made immense improvements in the tone, not to mention eliminating the annoying rattle it produced on some frequencies.

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Not TOM on steroids, just your regular run of the mill TOM. Can't tell how tone improves on a Tru-Arc, never had one on my Gretsches. One day I will.

BP has the fattest neck compare to my WF, SSLVO, Silver Jet, 5420 and CG. My WF has a snappier feel, tension is looser on the BP, which I prefer. Both are strung with 11s. I tried to fix my WF to feel like a BP, but to no avail.

Funny, whenever I need a jazzy tone, I switch to neck pickup then I simply reduce the MV to 6-7 and reduce the neck volume around 8—the BP won't allow you that.

Overall, it's a hot-rodded, stripped-down White Falcon in a black color. Simple yet elegant. The Classics deliver as always.

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How come no one said that it will definitely sound darker???

Or did I miss that?

Isn't the only difference between a black phoenix and a white falcon with the same hardware the colour?

Good call on ditching the black pickups. Gretsch guitars need shiny bits. The more the merrier.

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I like the Black Falcon a LOT more. The WF is a little too pimped-out for my taste. Good choice!

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What are those allblack pickups?

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They let me pull them -- it says TV Jones Classics on the back.

I am acquainted with the guy who traded it it. He has a lot of money and a lot less talent. He buys/sells/trades constantly -- upwards of 100 trades per year at this mom and pop shop alone.

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Black TV Classics. Are the shells just painted, do you think, or something more serious like powder-coating? Are they shiny or dull?

I'm trying to think where blacked-out TV Classics would be cool. I'm not coming up with anything.

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Sorry -- I didn't mean that to be so snarky. It just astounds me the amount of gear he goes through... and it's all over the map, none of it conforming to our preconceptions of somewhat genre-specific guitars. Which... is a good thing?


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