Price paid: $ 599
Purchased from: Jim's Music
Sound — 8
When I had purchased this guitar I was strictly using solid body guitars such as my Gibson Les Paul and my Fender Stratocaster and was looking for a different sound. After always being a fan, visually, of the White Falcon I was looking to get a Gretsch.on a budget. Having a friend with an Epiphone Dot with upgraded pickups I was able to try out in extensive format his guitar with my amps. I found the Dot was lacking in playability and in a sonic form. He had installed Seth Lover pickups which greatly enhanced the sound of his Dot however there was still something lacking. Thus, I began my journey to find a good hollowbody guitar. After playing through nearly everything in the Epiphone line (Casino, Sheraton, Dot) I stumbled upon this Gretsch. I was instantly a fan of the sound and more importantly a fan of the stock pickups. My biggest complaint with Standard Epiphone guitars is, to me (in my humble opinion, which most definitely differs from yours), the pickups are completely muddy and the tone and volume controls do nothing. Structurally I think Epiphone's are crafted fine but as a guitar player who is always in search of the perfect tone, the Epiphone does not suffice.
While playing the Gretsch I was instantly able to hear the breathability of this guitar. It had a very warm tone. To me I instantly felt like I could be playing in any R&B band (sound wise not ability) from the 50's and 60's. The air passing through the body gives it a very warm yet clear sound. Sharp but not punchy, clear but not too crisp. It has a soft side to it, an old rustic blues side. Reason being is this body type speaks very well to Jazz. As I am not a Jazz player I wanted to make sure this guitar could handle the music I play. Before we get started I will list the amps that I normally play this through.
- Marshall 1962' Bluesbreaker
- Fender 65' Deluxe Reverb Re-Issue
- Epiphone Valve Jr. & Cab with 25watt Greenback
As you can probably imagine these three amps produce an immensely different sound. To get right at it, let's say this, initially these would be the three amps I was playing this guitar through but it really transitioned to one which it shares a beautiful tone. The Marshall, well it's a Marshall (loud, aggressive, bluesy rock), the Epiphone is a great practice amp with some phenomenal tones, but the winner and the best pairing with the Gretsch is hands down the 22watt Fender Deluxe Reverb. Sparkly cleans and extremely warm overdrive. I would like to compare this to something you might have experienced. Most guitarists are always tweaking their amps, their tone knobs, their pedals, etc. Have you ever just plugged a guitar in to an amp and it sounded perfect without touching a thing every single time? Well if so, that is exactly what the Gretsch and Fender do together, every time. No matter what or where I am, I plug the Gretsch into the Fender and there is my tone. Under water, on a hillside, free falling from a plane, plug in and I will get the exact tone I am looking for. My amp settings are extremely basic, turn everything halfway up and plug in. From that, there is miniscule tweaking but for the most part it is always on 5/10. At that volume level the humbuckers (dual-coil) on the Gretsch clean up extremely well with a volume roll and warm up just as easily.
Although this guitar has humbuckers these are extremely low-output in comparison to most Standard humbuckers. I believe these are ever slightly hotter than P-90's. I must say Gretsch did a fantastic job with keeping this guitar affordable and providing a quality sound. I think you get a little more than what you pay for on this guitar. Keep in mind I paid $599 USD for mine brand new. For $699 as listed on most websites I think this guitar is about $50 overpriced, just to be nit-picky. Furthermore, in terms of sounds this guitar is not that versatile. That is why, sadly, this guitar never makes it to my cover band shows. It does not have the range that my Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro or Gibson 61' SG have. This does however work extremely well with my side project which is a female on vocals and my guitar playing folk rock.
If you like to play hard rock or rock n' roll BUY SOMETHING ELSE unless you love getting enormous uncontrollable feedback. Being a hollowbody this guitar has an inherent desire to squeal. Keep in mind it is your own fault if it does squeal because you probably shouldn't be facing the amp directly or be that loud or have that much overdrive/distortion going on. If you do decide to go against your better judgment get ready to get booed on stage! This guitar is meant to play much softer blues, jazz, and very light rock, a la Buddy Holly. For what it sets out to achieve, it does it incredibly well. Good job Gretsch.
Overall Impression — 8
My overall impression is very good. I really believe that this is the best hollowbody money can buy for under $600. At least I have not played anything else to date that I believe comes close to the quality of craftsmanship, sound, and playability of the Gretsch Electromatic Hollowbody 5120. Although being a large guitar it is easy to play as it is incredibly light. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to send me a private message and/or request sound samples. Thank you.
Reliability & Durability — 7
Over the last two years of moderate playing this guitar has not buckled under the pressure. I see no issues with the finish whatsoever. I rarely wipe down the body of my guitars (you should see my Stratocaster, it's a relic project, it never gets a wash) because I like the grime, the filth, although I take care of my guitars very well I am vintaging this up as much as possible. I live in Southern California in a beach community and we have the salt water air here. With that you have something that occurs quicker than most other climates, oxidation. Nickel parts turn dull extremely quick, things corrode very easy. To my surprise though the hardware pieces on the Gretsch have somehow withstood the salt in the air. I have other guitars which are newer that have encountered more corrosion, so I am happy to say that I believe the hardware pieces will have a very long lifespan.
A recent issue I ran into involved the input jack. When I am not playing live and just practicing at home I use fairly cheap cables because they get tossed around and I don't really care if I have tone loss at home, unless I am recording. None the less, I thought it was an issue with the cable at first but it turned out to be an issue with the jack. While playing it would get extremely scratchy and cut out for a very short time. I know that as this is my side project guitar I could not have that going on during a live performance. I took it down to my local guitar shop the tech took sandpaper to the inside of the jack and scrubbed it out saying corrosion was to blame. Well I came home and all was well for about two weeks until it happened again. I have a nice Planet Waves instrument cable that almost has little gripper feet on the base of the jack that I decided to use and that alleviated the problem. The issue was not with a clean jack, it was with the jack being tight enough to hold an instrument cable. Luckily this issue has been resolved for live performances.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
When I purchased this guitar I made sure to thoroughly check for any flaws in craftsmanship including wood workmanship, electronic defects, pickup height, action, and intonation. To my surprise this guitar passed all of my tests and everything sounded fantastic the day I took delivery. To this day, 2+ years later, the guitar still plays great but I have had one electronic issue. I ordered the Orange finish on this guitar because to me it really stood out. I was just drawn to it, I am not sure how to explain this but I saw it and I knew that is what I wanted. I have the same feeling with a Gibson Les Paul Custom in Alpine White with Gold hardware. Something about that just pops.' I take very good care of my instruments as it was my hard earned money that I decided to pay someone for a toy. If I ever decide to sell it, the importance of having an immaculate guitar is quite high when you hit the used market.
Features — 9
This guitar has the Gretsch Dual-Coil humbucking pickups, an adjustable bridge, chrome-plated die-cast tuners, and a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. These Gretsch's are manufactured in Korea mine is the 125th anniversary model which was manufactured in 2008 celebrating the company's long history. I purchased from a local, yet big, music store which special ordered it for me. I purchased the Orange color as it was not too loud' for my personal tastes but loud enough visually.
Detailed features are as follows:
It is crafted with a laminated maple body
24-3/4" rosewood fretboard on maple neck
Bigsby B60 vibrato tailpiece
16" x 2.75" laminated maple hollowbody
Laminated maple neck (24.6" scale)
21 medium jumbo frets
1-11/16" nut width
Vintage style machine heads
2 Gretsch chrome covered Dual-Coil pickups
Master tone, master volume, neck pickup volume, bridge pickup volume
3-position pickup toggle
Adjusto-Matic bridge on rosewood base
Gloss urethane finish