Price paid: $ 400
Sound — 8
I bought the guitar because two of my favorite guitarists use it (Malcolm Young and Jack White, not the Electromatic of course, but the Jet Firebird), and it is perfect for this style. Nice thick rhythm or full, fuzzy tone. I play mostly out of Guitar Rig 3 or a Line 6 Spider III, but it sounds pretty amazing out of a Fender Princeton Chorus as well. Most of the time I just use light distortion, but sometimes I hook up my Big Muff Pi, and this guitar keeps its clarity better than most out of the Pi. Its fuzzy, but doesn't sound too out of wack. The sound is very smooth, almost too quiet for my tastes. First I raised the bridge pickup to get a little more power out of it, but I eventually swapped out the stock Gretsch Mini-Humbucker for a TV Jones Classic Plus to get a louder bark out of it, and the change was well worth it. Now I have a lot of spank in the bride position, and with the stock humbucker in the neck it can get warm and full as well. The pickups do respond well to a lot of distortion because of the clarity of the pickups, but its best when you put just a little volume and growl on it. This guitar has a very unique sustain, its completely different from something like a Les Paul. I think its a combination of the laminated top and chambered body, but its a really beautiful sustain.
Overall Impression — 9
As I stated before, I play mostly old school rock and blues, and this guitar works perfectly for it. This is not a shred machine, but the guitar would fit for country and of course, rock-a-billy. I've been playing for 4 1/2 years, and this is my 3rd guitar. This, even though not very expensive, plays the best of all my guitars. BY FAR. I would buy it again in a heartbeat-- this guitar made me fall in love with Gretsch. I tried out the Tennessee Rose model I think, and a variety of other archtops, and this felt much better. This guitar feels a lot more "dialed-in" than other similar guitars.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I would gig with the guitar, its a Beast of an instrument. Someday down the road I may replace the tuners or the bridge, but for now I really have no complaints. One of the strap buttons popped off once because the motion of my strap unscrewed it, but that doesn't happen if you check to make sure they are tight every once and a while. The finish is solid. It wouldn't scratch if I removed the pickguard.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
The action is very low here, but doesn't cause any buzzing. I have some heavier gauge strings on there, .011-.048, and they work perfectly. The way the neck and the action feel creates a fantastic feel to the frets. The guitar contains no flaws to speak of other than the expected wear of the previous owner. 1-11/16" nut width
Features — 6
I have a Chinese Gretsch, I'm pretty sure it was made in '08. This thing has 22 frets, and they're about as nice as I've ever held. I do have a little separation between the fretboard and the neck wood because of the previous owner, but other than that, I love the neck. This neck certainly isnt built for speed, more like solid, smokey rock-- the neck is about as big as a baseball bat and the joint for the body is GIGANTIC. Not a lot of access to upper frets, but that's not what I was looking for when I bought it. The neck is set mahogany. I have the gold laminated maple top version, and the guitar is sparkly without looking like it should be in a Disney Channel music video. Its classy. The guitar isn't exactly light, but the double cutaway makes for some weight relief, I'm sure. It is chambered, if I remember correctly. The bridge is the regular Electromatic bridge with a licensed Bigsby on it, which, despite what I've heard about most licensed Bigsby's, is pretty good. I don't use my tremolo arm a lot, but it doesn't kill the sustain or pull the strings out of tune. I'm very impressed. The setup is simple, Master Volume, Master Tone, 3 way pickup selector. On occasion I accidentally hit the pickup selector Switch when I'm playing because of its location, but it happens less and less as I play it more. Tuners are non-locking (I don't know if they're anything but stock Gretsch tuners) and the strap pins screw on and off, which I like.