Hey guys it’s Brian here with World Music Supply, and today I’m here to talk to you all about some cool guitars from our friends over at Gretsch. Gretsch has been making quality guitars for well over one hundred years, and in that time has graced the stage along side everyone from Eddie Cochran, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and even ZZ Top. What sets Gretsch apart, is their distinct twangy sound, and their classic, Americana vibe. The guitars I’m going to be looking at today, are the G5120 the G5438T and the G5135CVT.
First up is the G5120 which is a more modern and vastly less expensive take on their G6120. The Guitar is outfitted with a floating Bigsby B60 tailpiece, a adjust-o-matic on rosewood bridge, and a lot of classic Gretsch vibe. The body is made of maple, as is the neck, this results in a guitar that is very stable at high volumes, and is fairly resistant to feedback, considering that feedback is something that will always plague hollow body guitars this size if you play them at higher volumes. The neck has a comfortable feel, with a equally comfortable rosewood fretboard, which is finished off with “thumbnail” inlays. The guitar has a very country, or rock-a-billy vibe, but you could get away with a guitar like this playing a Jazz or even a classic rock gig if you tried.
The set up, and electronics of the G5120 is far more simplified than your typical Gretsch, just a three way toggle, a volume for each pickup, a master tone, and an over all master volume. This of course is by and large what most modern guitars are outfitted with, but a look back at vintage Gretschs, and you realize that many of them are just covered in switches and knobs, many of which, have purposes that arent always obvious. Plugged in this guitar certainly does have that classic sound, even with this guitar being outfitted with Gretsch Humbuckers as opposed to some of their more retro pickups like the FilterTrons or HiloTrons, the classic spanky sound of a Gretsch is still there. Played clean, this guitar can do almost anything, from snappy chicken pickin’ runs, to cool blues, or even some “take 5” style Jazz swagger. The tone of the pickups is surprisingly retro, with a much rounder sound than you would typically expect from a set of covered humbuckers.
Letting the guitar overdrive the amp a little bit results in what I consider kind of the 50s rock sound, which although I don’t listen to much, I can respect it as part of the lineage of what I play today. The sound is sweet and singing, and the highs are always crisp, without being so bright that it stings the ear. However, that isn’t to say that this guitar is a one trick pony, and it can only do clean country twang, and 50’s style rock licks. Because once I turned up the gain, this guitar came alive, now you won’t get away with playing heavy down tuned metal on it, or using the Bigsby like a Floyd Rose, but what you can do is some great classic rock. Guitarists like Malcolm Young of AC/DC, and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top are famous for using guitars like this to get their tone. That’s really what I liked about this guitar, the sheer vibe you get from playing these guitars is worth the price tag alone, that’s not even factoring in how great they sound. At the end of the day, the G5120 might seem like a one trick pony, but think of it as more of a stripped down muscle car, sure it might not do everything, or come equipped with the latest gadgets, but it does everything you really want to it to, oh and it looks really good too, easily 10 out of 10.
Next up is the G5438T pro jet which is a modernized version of the classic Gretsch Jet. The G5438T is equipped with the same simplified switching system as the G5120, with its master tone, two pickup volume controls, and a master volume control. However unlike the G5120, this guitar comes armed with a set of Black Top FilterTrons, as well as a Bigsby B50 trem system. The sound of classic Gretsch pickups are something all their own, with a twangy voice that would seem more suited to a single coil pickup, but without any of the hum.
The guitar is constructed from a chambered basswood body, with a carved maple top. The sound of this is warm and airy, with an almost hollow body tone, join this to the snappy tones that come from it being bonded to a maple neck, and you get one heck of a guitar. Plugged in, the warm, yet twangy tones of the G5438T have a plethora of flavors on the neck pickup, which can float from breathy acoustic like tones, to full bodied jazz. While the bridge pickup can go from Duane Eddy or Chet Atkins style country licks to snappy Brian Setzer style rock riffs all without ever touching the controls on your amplifier.
Turning the gain on the amp up, this G5438T has a great rock voice, which covers a lot of ground thanks to the versatile FilterTron pickups, with their almost single coil voice, they have an easy time comping strat or tele style licks, but at the same time covers plenty of area that a typical humbucker would cover, and it quickly becomes apparent why a guitarist like Malcolm Young uses them in his guitar. The sound of these pickups might not be as hot as some of the fire breathing modern over wound humbuckers on the market, but the sound you get from a FilterTron can be just as ferocious as any I’ve ever played. The last thing that bares mentioning is just how light this guitar is, thanks to the chambered basswood body, the guitar feels feather light but perfectly balanced on a strap. It’s because of this mix of awesome features and stunning versatility that the G5438T earns itself an easy 9 out of 10, only because the shape and sound of the pickups are a little out there for some guitarists.
Last up in today’s round up, is the G5135CVT which is a reissue of the classic Gretsch Corvette design. The G5135CVT is one beast of a guitar, with its more powerful MegaTron pickups, which are like hotter versions of the FilterTron, and Its easily identifiable body, with those two very distinct asymmetrical cutaways, and you can’t forget its large black pickgaurd covering the majority of the body. This guitar certainly doesn’t look like any other, and it certainly doesn’t sound like any other either.
Plugged in, it becomes clear, very quickly that this is an all mahogany guitar, with that very distinct warmth that only mahogany can provide. The cleans are clear and glassy, with just enough of that Gretsch chime and bite to really get you going. The guitar is super clean at low volumes, which was great for everything from simple strummed chords, to snappy funk riffs. The addition of a Bigsby also gives this guitar the power to do fluttery style bends, great for everything from shimmering chords inside of a ballad, or really bending that note at the end of a solo.
Turning up the gain a tad, this guitar has a very modern sound, with all of the chunk and bite you could ever want. The pickups are easily hot enough to do what you need them to, and the look is retro cool enough that this guitar just makes you feel like your playing something important. While a guitar like this, with its unusual shape, and sound might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly is to me. The tones were full and shimmering, and the sustain was long and effortless, just like a good guitar should be. So counting it all down, this guitar looks unique and sounds unique, with a retro cool vibe as easy on the eyes as its name sake, and that’s what the Gretsch G5135CVT Corvette scores an easy 10 out of 10.