Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Feedback wanted from those who gig with 50s Gretsches with deArmond…


I gigged with a 58 Duo Jet last night. The pickups were recently rewound.

I thought the neck pick up was very nice sounding--usually the neck is nothing special with filter and supertrons but warm and clear with the deArmonds. Engaging both pick ups was a great sound as well.

But the bridge pick up in the lead position was weak and thin to me. It made the leads a bit difficult.

The bridge pick up is on its 3 original tortoise risers and is closer to the strings than the neck pick up.

Is this something endemic to deArmond Gretsches or is this problem unique to me?


Guess it all has to do w/ the rewinding job?

But getting them up close to strings -- that's important, at least for us Hi Lo Tron people


For me, the "lead" position is in the middle. Roll off the neck p/u so it is barely on, but still just there... Fattens up the tone. Keep the bridge p/u volume rolled of a hair (gives the impression of "fatter" as well), and the tone control rolled off a bit too. Turn the amp up.

That neck p/u volume control is easy to get to in that layout, so just let it become your most used tone knob. Roll it up, full middle, down--full lead, hit the selector for neck only.

I know you've been having this issue. It's just something you got to work with I think...


check volume levels on both PUs standing the same.

if Bridge PU is lower in terms of volume, then you may need a rewinding... you may also notice tone is very thin and not quality.

in my Jets Bridge PU is a WILD Beast! and I mean WILD! I love it :)


This is common with Gretsch guitars with the Dynasonics. I tend to use my pedal to help balance things out. For example, with my Fulltone GT-500 I have the OD side on most of the time and then when I want to solo with the bridge PU I switch from the OD side of the pedal to the Distortion side. It has a great EQ function, including an active mid-range so I can get the bridge PU to sound nice and fat with as much volume as I need. -Roy


Switch the pickups and see what happens. Do they both measure around 10K?


@RoP - Jets were the last Gretsches to get filtertrons (and zero frets). So it's kind of a nice combination of evolutionary features---ebony board, thumbs and deArmonds. See pic.

@Billy - It's hard to find people to rewind deArmonds. The person that did these to my somewhat astonishment was apparently not aware that the Gretsch values were different than deArmonds used elsewhere (like Martin--you have discussed this topic over the years here on GDP). As result the values are like 12 or 13k each--as with the deArmonds used on the other manufacturer's guitars. It really isn't a big deal but it bugs me a little as a matter of principle.

--@Biel. You are lucky!

Well it's good to know I'm not crazy at least. Is this bridge pick up thing something that only happens with jets or with the 50s hollowbodies as well?


Knavel, in my experience it's something that happens with a lot of vintage guitars, not just Jets or even Gretsches.

There's more string energy at the neck, so a pickup with X amount of output is automatically louder there than at the bridge. Pickup makers "calibrating" sets for neck and bridge is a relatively recent thing, most 50's and 60's guitars have pickups with equal outputs. With some pickups, you can get them to balance playing with the pickup heights, but that's not always easy (or that effective in the limited range you have) with DeArmonds.

I had the same thing on a Guild Starfire with DeArmonds : they were both almost 13K, and if I dialed in the amp for the neck pickup to sound right, the bridge pickup would sound too thin, and if I got the bridge pickup to sound right, the neck pickup would be a bassy, woolly, muddy mess.

I ended up putting a current Gretsch Dynasonic in the neck position, and that did the trick. It measures out to 8K, and is thinner sounding and less loud than the original neck pickup in the guitar, and now it's easy to get one amp setting to work for both pickups, and I can switch from neck to lead pickup without the dreaded "icepick in the forehead".

As your pickups don't have the original coils anyway, I say have the neck pickup rewound (or even "unwound") to around 8K, and your pickups will probably balance a lot better.


Maybe re charge magnets on bridge pup. Could be that simple.


Knavel is correct about his Jet being a '58 and retaining Dyna pu's. With all the renecked Jets floating around it's sometimes hard to determine "when" the neoclassic fretboard markers were intoduced, but it seems this happened on the Jets around the same time as it did on other Gretsch models, and signals the begining of the '58 model year. The Dyna's hung on however, and as mentioned were not changed to Filters until very late. This is why you never see a Jet with plain-tabbed Filters. By the time they inherited the Filters, the PAF units were already the standard. There was a similar delay with the zero fret introductroduction of Jets as well. So neo markers (original neck) is '58, Filters is '59, and zero fret is '60. I know... it's counter intuative, but that appears to be the dealio! :)


Hi I had my DeArmonds rewounded by Tom Brantley at

Good work, sounds very good




I had a similar problem on my 56 jet i.e. the bridge pickup seemed weaker than the neck pickup. Since the bridge pickup was already sitting on the double spacer I raised the heights of the pole pieces on the pickup to compensate (there is a diagram showing recommended pole piece heights here on the GDP). This has definitely improved the tone in terms of volume and fullness.

I think Walter is right this problem is not confined to just vintage Gretsch guitars.




I would hope that the magnets were recharged as part of the rewind. But it is worth confirming.

I am happy for the peace of mind I have knowing I'm not crazy--thanks Walter, Drew and everyone. I never understood what the term "icepick" meant. Till now.

Riz's solution is the easiest and I'll combine it with Drew's suggestion. But Walter you gave me an idea if that doesn't work out: I have a Streamliner conversion to 6120 project going. I can leave the properly wound deArmond in the neck there and drop the neck one from my Jet into the bridge on that guitar. Then drop the vintage deArmond I got for the Streamliner bridge into the Jet's neck position.

It's a risk because those are the original gold deArmonds in that Jet and people forget things over time, but I'm just tired of endless repair projects it seems and this is a relatively easy fix. I don't want to wait another 12 weeks for the pickup unwind to be done. But this way I can keep to my vow of no non vintage pickups entering my household.

On that last point Hepkat, Brantley did these pick ups as well. So unless yours were rewound very recently they will likely be in the 12k range, as I do believe he was genuinely surprised when I informed him that the Gretsch deArmonds should be around 8-9k.


It's a risk because those are the original gold deArmonds in that Jet and people forget things over time...

The covers come off. I suppose that's obvious to you, since you had them rewound. But if that's an otherwise legit '58 green Duo Jet, it seems worth going the extra mile. I'd be hunting for original 50's DeArmonds, whether scavenged from other guitars or on eBay. Find a pair that work in that guitar and swap the covers.

BTW, I've had troubles with DeArmonds in the bridge position as well. This probably doesn't apply to your predicament, since yours are rewound, but I think in many cases some of the blame might go to the glued-together tortoise risers. Obviously they do weird things to metal, and I've had multiple guitars where bad offgassing from the tortoise coincided with muffled and weak sounding bridge pickups. Coincidence? Other culprits? Maybe. But swapping them out for pickups that hadn't been subjected to decomposing celluloid worked for me each time. YMMV.


Holly Gees!

I didn't know this kind of problem existed!

see this vid for what I meant: Link...

jump to song 2 or song 3 and you'll see me switching to bridge PU.

this is my '55 and I considered normal as my '56 is even better!! NielDa was at home and we tried them.

(PS: I am waiting for another '56 Jet to arrive home and now I am NERVOUS!!!!!! argh!)


Is it really the case that Gretsch purchased their DeArmonds to their own winding spec? What about the 50s Epiphones that sometimes have Dynasonics? These pickups, in general, seem to be less consistently wound than some others. A good reminder to always be specific when asking others to do work that we are so detail-oriented about!

I also agree that using a boost pedal for one pickup can really help. I STRONGLY recommend the new Voodoo Labs Giggity pedal for this purpose, as you get really strong tone shaping tools with boost, in a way that is extremely natural and musical. So you can use just your bridge pickup at any volume, and add body without muddiness. It's a fantastic pedal, for a subtle purpose.


@knavel: thanks for the info. I just measured my PUs on my 6121: between 10/11K.


apossibleworld, I don't think Gretsch special-ordered anything, it's very probable DeArmond just went to a different spec somewhere in the early 60's.

Funny thing though, as BZ has observed on here, the later "hotter" DeArmonds sound very similar, or much the same, as the earlier ones. (as in "sound" - "tone", not talking about comparative volume)


I agree that Gretsch probably didn't specify the impedance. It's probably just how Dynasonics evolved. Gretsch had stopped using them for a couple of years before Martin and Guild started using them. I'd bet the Dynasonics in 50's Epiphones also measure in that 9.5k, give or take, range.


Biel, I got caught up in your playing and forgot what I was supposed to be watching for! F A N T A S T I C. And I love the tone! I wonder why I even bother to play at all.....

Hepkat, now you see what I mean....

Afire. The green jet is largely original. I hadn't thought of selling it so it didn't really occur to me to swap non-rewound originals with the rewound ones. But I could do that--I have another set of originals in chrome housing that work well. Is it fair though? (By the way I'm ordering some new tortoise risers for a 56 6120 which I realize is suffering from its risers thanks to information you've put up here. I hope it's not too late--I'll be in Michigan at the end of the month to attend to the guitar.)

apw - Over the years there are discussions here about the resistance of deArmonds on 50s Gretsches vs. other companies. Billy Zoom knows a lot about that. I take your point on specifics and Lord knows I am very precise. It simply never occurred to me that a guy who was Fralin's deArmond man would not know about the difference in Gretsch ones from the others--I did tell him what guitar these came from. So now you know what to specify if you have to go to him, for otherwise I can only say good things.


Yes Knavel. Do that mean a lot of differences?


Yes Knavel. Do that mean a lot of differences?

– Hepkat

In terms of sound---I don't think so....and this is what Billy Zoom has said as Walter points out in post 20.

I think the only "issue" is a psychological one, that is, knowing that it's not wound exactly to the spec at the time of the use of deArmonds on Gretsches in the 50s. I only really brought it up because the hard part is actually being able to rewind these pickups. Mojotone/Tom have gone at pains to get some custom wire made to match the vintage specs--as you saw from your pickups, the work is very good! Yet, I scratch my head to think they can do all this amazing detail work yet not know the resistance of the pickups in the 50s. Surely Gretsch used deArmonds like these more than any other company?

I can live with it.


Wow, the back pickup in my 55 6121 is an absolute beast, but yeah, I've seen this phenomenon before.

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