Modern Gretsch Guitars

T-Armond fans look away! ‘53 Vintage Select Jet

1

Actually I am a bit of a T-Armond fan myself. But this guitar is now a keeper, and it's the TV Jones Filter'tron Classic Plus in a Dearmond mount in the bridge position which has made it so.

This is one guitar which belies the theory that Proline Gretsch guitars are generally well set up from the factory. I bought this guitar online, and I can honestly say that if I had played it in a shop first I would not have bought it. It played ok at first but sounded absolutely terrible. And even after installing new strings, properly wound onto tuners and stretched it would not stay in tune. Fortunately I have a set of nut files which i have taught myself how to use over the years and after a few days of tweaking the truss rod, deepening nut slots, gently opening them up for the strings to slide through, raising the bridge significantly (although nobody except me would notice that) etc it now pays even better and stays in tune. Plus it sounds a helluva lot better, even before the pickup swap.

It's a very interesting guitar because I'm comparing it to my amazing '59 VS Jet, which has become my favourite. They are surprisingly different sounding guitars. Both have good necks, with the '59 being more V'd and a lot slimmer. I love the shape of the '53's neck - similar to my '59 RI Les Paul neck. I'm getting used to the tiny frets too.

The '53 is a lot lighter in weight. This lends an almost boomy girth to the sound which is a bit of a surprise - the neck pickup is less defined than the Dearmond in a Round Up I had was. Even boomier than a T-Armond in my SSLVO neck position. But I like it so for now it stays.

The bridge pickup was just too thin for me. I tried all sorts of things but really wanted the sound of a Filter'tron there, so in the Classic Plus went. It sounds great! And it sounds markedly different from the '59 VS which has Filter'tron Classics as stock. Being a Plus it has a bit more output but it still sounds brighter than the '59, and I would guess that's because it's a lot closer to the bridge than on the '59.

So the bridge pickup on the '59 has that fat, snarly nasal tone that I love while the bridge pickup on the '53 has a bit more aggression but is brighter and bitier. The aluminium bridge probably contributes to that too. It has more twang. And the in-between sound is gorgeous - so sweet and a killer rockabilly tone.

As I always seem to use a tiny bit of dirt in my sound I guess the Filter'tron is more my thing. I haven't duplicated my '59 Jet by doing this. They really do sound very different and I like both. Whom knows? I may end up with a Power'tron in the neck position one day. We are so lucky to have TV Jones to help us try these things.

2

sounds like you made a great guitar fit you like a glove!

3

You gotta do what you gotta do to make it right for you. I put a TruArc on my ‘53 VS and couldn’t recommend it enough.

4

That’s not a horrifying substitution, but you might have got the extra bridgepup girth you wanted by turning the bridge DeArmond around so that the poles faced the neck. That makes a surprising difference.

Your middle position must be interesting. Not bad at all - but one of the things I like best about a pair of Dynas is the middle position. Nothing else in all of guitardom has that particular tone. And you won’t have that.

But yeah - a Dyna Jet is a completely different instrument than a Filter’Tron Jet. While you can compare and contrast between the two, it’s nearly apples and oranges. It must be hard to believe when others say it, though, because it’s always some kind of who-knew epiphany when someone discovers it for themselves.

Also...you have to let a DynaSonic Jet teach you both how it wants to be played, and what it does uniquely. It responds differently than other guitars that look something like it, and it can take time to adjust to that, to learn and understand how to use it - not just how to play it, but how to voice it with your gear, even how to arrange with it, what kind of role it can play. It took me months to come to terms with it, and it only gradually became my most personal instrumental voice.

You’ll do you, of course, but I wonder if you gave yourself enough time to really go where only the Dyna Jet can go before re-voicing it to be more familiar to you.

Also can’t help mentioning that a brass bridge - my favorite with Dynas - could make all the difference as well. The skinny little Bigsby aluminum with a bridge Dyna...yep, that can be thin and spiky.

5

Well I played it a lot in the past month or two, and I have had Dearmond Gretsches before. I quite liked the Roundup - the one with the leather belt around the edge. The neck pickup on that one was pure Duane Eddy! I love that sound. The '53 isn't quite as Duane Eddy as the Roundup was but I can get close.

I sold my Strat to be able to afford the '53. I had similar issues with Strats as I had with the T-Armond - those sounds just don't work for me.

I'll probably be in touch soon about some kind of Serpentune for this guitar. Just have to work out which. With a tele I always liked "cold-rolled steel", whatever that is. I still have a set of Rutters steel compensated saddles for a Tele - best Tele saddles ever - but no Tele. Never liked stainless steel on the Tele, but SS seems to be fine on my SSLVO and '59 Jet. I quite like the raspiness of the aluminium - it adds an edge that the SS doesn't have.

I take the points about how a Dyna Gretsch needs to be played differently. It's more that I don't pay that way! I do play my Les Paul very differently from how I play a Gretsch, and even differently from the 335. They all tell you how they want to be played.

6

Is it simple to swap the bridge pickup around, Tim? Could a cack handed klutz manage it?

7

Check your email Tim, I have the same guitar as we discussed and am looking at ordering a True-Arc for it as well but have questions.

I understand that turning the pickups only creates a subtle difference, not a profound difference. Is that right?

8

Is it simple to swap the bridge pickup around, Tim? Could a cack handed klutz manage it?

– Tsar Nicholas

It's just removing the four mounting screws, lift away the riser if it has one and retain it in its current orientation, rotate the pickup 180 degrees and reinstall the screws. Done. The polepieces will now be appreciably further away from the bridge and offer a slightly richer treble pickup sound. You'll probably have to finesse the polepiece heights to accomodate the reversal.


Jimmy, this '53 is a fantastic guitar and there's nothing wrong, and everything right, in making it play and sound more like you want it to. Enjoy!

9

It's just the removing the four mounting screws, lift away the riser if it has one and retain it in its current orientation, rotate the pickup 180 degrees and reinstall the screws. Done. The polepieces will now be appreciably further away from the bridge and offer a slightly richer treble pickup sound. You'll probably have to finesse the polepiece heights to accomodate the reversal.

Thanks Ade, sounds just about within my capabilities.

10

Jimmy, if you've had it a couple of months and done your darnedest, I'll concede that may be long enough to know. I thought maybe your run with it was shorter.

I continue to like brass with Dynas, especially on a Jet - so well that both my Cad green Jets have brass bridges. I don't even want another material on them for contrast between the guitars, thought maybe I should.

Also, I didn't play like the DynaJet wanted me to play before I had one. And I guess because I'm a slow learner, it took it awhile to get through to me. It lso, I didn't play like the DynaJet wanted me to play before I had one. And I guess because I'm a slow learner, it took it awhile to get through to me.

It it did bring out tendencies which, I guess, were nascent or at least implicit in my "style," and helped me identify and develop them. These were matters both of tone - where along their length to strike the strings, with what pick angle and energy - and of musical application.

The more percussive, less sustaining note envelope helped articulate the individual components (note density and choice) of my instinctively busy playing and then to refine those elements so they made more musical and sonic sense. At the same time, the distinctive, complex, and texturally interesting tone of the two Dynas together - because I wanted to hear it more clearly - encouraged me to sometimes thin out note linear note density and to pay more attention to vertical note stacks. Both harmonically sparse and harmonically dense chords could sound great, both in the percussive attack characteristic of the Dynas, and in their subsequent resonant bloom and decay.

Taken together, hearing what the tone/response of the guitar made of my inputs caused me to be more intentional about all of the above - and it took me awhile to understand and develop new habits and (to a lesser degree) techniques to bring it all together. It was that period that was sometimes frustrating, and made me feel I was getting worse as a player - but those are natural parts of learning and consolidating something new and re-making one's approach.

Now everything about it feels completely natural to me, and many subtleties I learned in the process have carried over to other guitars - or at least are available to me when applicable. At least for me, coming to terms with the Dyna Jet made me a different and, I think, better player.

11

That modification is appealing. DeArmonds have always been amazing at the neck and hard to get right at the bridge for me, and my experience has been the reverse for Filtertron Gretsches.

I'm the sort that doesn't even see anything but "TV Classics" when I look at the TV Jones website. Are you still happy with the "Plus" choice or if you did it all over again would you just go with the classic?

12

Jimmy,

The same model arrived on my doorstep the day before Christmas. Made in Japan in late October, shipped to FMIC in November and reached the dealer in mid-December. I had none of the problems that you encountered apart from the boominess on the neck pickup. This is my first experience with T-Armonds and I quickly figured out, and have seen from other user's comments, that they are incredibly sensitive to height adjustment.

Fortunately, the pickups are mounted on plastic foam, which allows for a great deal of adjustment. I found that lowering the neck pickup, especially on the bass side, got me close to the sound that I wanted and after some fine tuning and pole piece adjustment to balance the string volumes it was perfect. I started with the low E string pole flush to the pickup surface and worked from there.

A change to Thomastik flat wounds, which required a properly intonated replacement Bigsby bridge that I ordered along with the easier to manipulate wide/flat Bigsby handle, and the guitar was playing and sounding just how I wanted.

Yes, the neck is quite similar to an R9 Les Paul, which I like, and the extra resonance of the chambered body gives the guitar a more open, airy tone than the fully solid LP.

Definitely one of my better buys.

13

When you say "look away" it makes me want to look even more. I understand what and why you've done this and I bet it's amazing. I've thought about putting a TV Jones Power'Tron in the bridge of my Duo Jet for years. This last year I had my Gretsch Dynasonics rewound and I'm really happy with the new power coming from the bridge pickup and the new clarity coming from the neck pickup. The glorious middle tone even seems to have improved if that's even possible.

14

I was very tempted to try a regular Filter'tron Classic in the bridge because it works so well in the '59. But then i thought that the '53 might be a touch brighter with the aluminium bridge and the fact that the bridge pickup is closer to the bridge - and then I also thought why have two guitars with the same pickup?

Fortunately the Classic and Classic+ are pretty similar. I was actually surprised that the Classic+ drove the pedal as hard as it does.

The other thing which surprised me is how much I like the in-between sound. Overall I guess the big takeaway with all of this is that Gretsch is making such fantastic guitars. Both my Jets are (now) flawless and apart from some setting up - which you will always need to do I guess - the guitars are sound and capable of being exceptional. I had to change the ridiculous Space Control bridge on the '59 but I knew that before I bought it. I'm ok with that. I think that for the money they are incredible.

15

The Classic and Classic+ are pretty similar.

Thanks. You've given me something to think about. I have a 2018 57 VS Jet and I haven't played it for ten minutes. It's very hard for me to bond to a poly finished guitar. But I keep it in the event I gig again someday so I can see how good it is. But to have the deArmoned/Filter combination, and in the right positions (sorry Eddie Cochran) is something I have mused about.

I thought maybe the Plus would be the better choice and balancing the output between the pickups, but you didn't say anything about that.

16

its a perfect response, and I like the sound of the filter in the deArmond cases. Tom makes the rooster'tron for my nocturne roosters w the dearmond mount and I think this adds a slightly different response than the standard brass filter cover. I like what opening the top does, that little bit of brass pulled off the top of the bobbins just puts air around the notes, might be a bit more presence. anyway, looks fantastic.

17

Well thanks! I do like the looks of the Dearmond cased Filters and who knows? Maybe they do sound better?

FWIW I did try rotating the bridge T-Armond and was pleased at how much difference that made - but it didn't turn a T-Armond into a Filter'tron.

Knavel the balance is actually pretty good. The T-Armond is a fair bit further from the strings than the Filter'tron because of the construction - you don't want the magnet pole pieces of the T-Armonds as close to the strings as you can get the screw poles of the Filter'trons. But they balance ok. And I agree with Tim that the in-between sound with Dearmond/T-Armonds is a highlight of those kinda pickups but the Filter'tron/T-Armond combo is better than expected. And Tom with his genius has managed to make it quieter than a straight T-Armond.

18

+1 on the excellent "in between" sound with one or two T-Armonds installed.

19

Knavel the balance is actually pretty good.

I may grab the gold Classic (maybe plus) (in keeping with the gold them of the 57 VS) and see what happens. Thanks for the motivation!

20

It's just removing the four mounting screws, lift away the riser if it has one and retain it in its current orientation, rotate the pickup 180 degrees and reinstall the screws. Done. The polepieces will now be appreciably further away from the bridge and offer a slightly richer treble pickup sound. You'll probably have to finesse the polepiece heights to accomodate the reversal.


Jimmy, this '53 is a fantastic guitar and there's nothing wrong, and everything right, in making it play and sound more like you want it to. Enjoy!

– ade

Just reporting back that I did the flip on the bridge pickup over the weekend and am extremely pleased with the results, that extra bit of girth in the tone is really working for me.

21

Actually I am a bit of a T-Armond fan myself. But this guitar is now a keeper, and it's the TV Jones Filter'tron Classic Plus in a Dearmond mount in the bridge position which has made it so.

This is one guitar which belies the theory that Proline Gretsch guitars are generally well set up from the factory. I bought this guitar online, and I can honestly say that if I had played it in a shop first I would not have bought it. It played ok at first but sounded absolutely terrible. And even after installing new strings, properly wound onto tuners and stretched it would not stay in tune. Fortunately I have a set of nut files which i have taught myself how to use over the years and after a few days of tweaking the truss rod, deepening nut slots, gently opening them up for the strings to slide through, raising the bridge significantly (although nobody except me would notice that) etc it now pays even better and stays in tune. Plus it sounds a helluva lot better, even before the pickup swap.

It's a very interesting guitar because I'm comparing it to my amazing '59 VS Jet, which has become my favourite. They are surprisingly different sounding guitars. Both have good necks, with the '59 being more V'd and a lot slimmer. I love the shape of the '53's neck - similar to my '59 RI Les Paul neck. I'm getting used to the tiny frets too.

The '53 is a lot lighter in weight. This lends an almost boomy girth to the sound which is a bit of a surprise - the neck pickup is less defined than the Dearmond in a Round Up I had was. Even boomier than a T-Armond in my SSLVO neck position. But I like it so for now it stays.

The bridge pickup was just too thin for me. I tried all sorts of things but really wanted the sound of a Filter'tron there, so in the Classic Plus went. It sounds great! And it sounds markedly different from the '59 VS which has Filter'tron Classics as stock. Being a Plus it has a bit more output but it still sounds brighter than the '59, and I would guess that's because it's a lot closer to the bridge than on the '59.

So the bridge pickup on the '59 has that fat, snarly nasal tone that I love while the bridge pickup on the '53 has a bit more aggression but is brighter and bitier. The aluminium bridge probably contributes to that too. It has more twang. And the in-between sound is gorgeous - so sweet and a killer rockabilly tone.

As I always seem to use a tiny bit of dirt in my sound I guess the Filter'tron is more my thing. I haven't duplicated my '59 Jet by doing this. They really do sound very different and I like both. Whom knows? I may end up with a Power'tron in the neck position one day. We are so lucky to have TV Jones to help us try these things.

– JimmyR

I have a Classic + and a Supertron on order for my '57 VS Jet. For live gigs, (which I hope to return to soon) I don't like the buzz from the TArmonds.

22

I’d rather have Dynas than gigs.

23

I’d rather have Dynas than gigs.

– Proteus

Haha! I have gotten lost in my own head space universe with my Dyna Duo Jet too.

24

Haha! I have gotten lost in my own head space universe with my Dyna Duo Jet too.

– BuddyHollywood

...as have I.

25

In fact, I do have Dynas, and not gigs. But I don't think the two conditions are actually related.


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