G5120 review by Gretsch

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  • Features: 8
  • Sound: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 7
  • Reliability & Durability: 7
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.6 Good
  • Users' score: 8.8 (72 votes)
Gretsch: G5120

Price paid: $ 480

Purchased from: Craigslist

Features — 8
Hello Ultimate Guitar audience! Like you, I am a guitar enthusiast. If I am not playing guitar, chances are I am looking at guitars online. Perhaps unlike you, I like writing. So here I am back at the helm behind the keyboard to submit another review. This time I am reviewing another guitar from my small and humble collection; an Orange Gretsch G5120 Elecrtomatic hollow body made at the Samick Plant in South Korea back in August 2011.

Let's begin with a list of this models specifications from top to bottom. Vintage style, open-back, non-locking, chrome-plated, die-cast tuners adorn the headstock atop a laminated, slim-tapered profile, maple neck featuring a 24-¾" scale rosewood fingerboard outfitted with a 1-11/16" wide nut followed by 21 medium jumbo frets.

Continuing down we find the 2. 75" deep, single-cut, maple hollow body which is 16" wide at its lower bout. The guitar is covered with a transparent urethane gloss finish highlighted by its fully bound neck and body.

Electronics for the G5120 include 2 redesigned, chrome covered, Gretsch Dual-Coil pickups, and 3-position toggle. G-Arrow Control knobs for master tone, master volume, neck pickup volume, and bridge pickup volume. Other hardware on the guitar's body include Gretsch knurled strap knobs, an Adjusto-Matic bridge atop a floating rosewood base, and Bigsby B60 vibrato tailpiece.

I also received a generic, non-padded gig bag containing the guitar's Gretsch quality control department O.K. Card, and Gretsch instrument limited lifetime warranty card from the original owner. Later, I upgraded to the Gretsch G6241FT hard case for better protection when transporting or not in use.

Sound — 8
"That great Gretsch sound." What is that great Gretsch sound?" The more I think about it the more I think it's simply a clever marketing slogan. Moving on, the Gretsch G5120 Electromatic hollow body suits my punk and rockabilly music styles perfectly. This is perhaps best evident by the number of artist in the punk/alternative rock genres that use Gretsch hollow body guitars as their primary choice.

I enjoy playing along while listening to my favorite bands Rancid and The Cramps; who both feature guitarist playing Gretsch hollow body guitars. The Gretsch G5191 Electromatic hollow body honors punk rock legend Tim Armstrong (Rancid) as his signature model. Likewise, rockabilly guitarist Reverend Horton Heat and Brian Setzer have Gretsch G6120 signature models available on the market. Although psychobilly guitarist Poison Ivy Rorschach (The Cramps) has yet to be immortalized through her own Gretsch signature model, she is known for playing an iconic Gretsch Chet Atkins 6120 hollow body most of her career.

Gretsch hollow body guitars are not just for punk and rockabilly genres. Like the Les Paul, these guitars can be used across a wide variety of genres. Bono of U2 has a signature model, of course Bill Duffy from The Cult, Bo Didley, the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" was recorded with a Gretsch and The Beatles' George Harrison used a Gretsch when recording "Your Gonna Loss That Girl." I think I even saw Katy Perry playing a Gretsch!

I have used my G5120 with a Roland Cube 20X and found the JC clean channel fit this guitar best. The distortion and overdrive replicated through the amp's modeling features were kinda corny, cheesy, and stereotypical sounding in my opinion. Among the onboard effects available on board I enjoyed messing around with the tremolo, and the delay. Achieving a slap-back echo was not too hard but the effect itself needed more volume or presence to be rockabilly worthy.

Playing the Gretsch through a Peavey 5150 4x10 straight cabinet and Crate Excalibur head was fun! Turning the low, high, and both gain knobs all the way up, and the mods all the way down is what dreams are made of. Playing through four ten inch speakers puts a different feel on the overall sound produced. The Gain was adequate on the Excalibur series head but the reverb onboard was rather unimpressive and better saved for the clean channel or someone who knows what they're doing. You are not going to get any surf guitar reverb on this thing that's for sure.

Mostly, I play my guitars through my humble sized Fender Mustang I, which I am almost certain can make any guitar sound awesome. I think Fender did a great job when they dialed in all the presets. All three Twin Reverb presets are superb with Twin Surf as my favorite clean option. But ultimately, I am a high gain kind of guy and I rarely use the clean settings. Once again, I'm my humble opinion I think Fender nailed it with the numerous high gain, overdrive, and distortion presets onboard reproducing Marshall, Mesa Boogie, and Crate models. I believe you are primarily hearing the amplifier and its nuances rather than the guitar, thus I have not described much of "That Great Gretsch Sound" in this section.

When playing a hollow body guitar through an amplifier you have to be mindful of your proximity to the amplifier and its volume setting or you will encounter feedback. If you are not playing the guitar, but the volume is turned on for both the amp and guitar, when you face the amplifier you are likely to get some feedback. This can be avoided by simply turning the volume on the guitar down when not in use.

Aside from that, the Gretsch G5120 has a buzz to it when played as an acoustic. I have not investigated too deeply since tools, guitar, and myself are not a good combination. However, I suspect the buzzing is due to the pickguard and electronic components attached to the guitar. Other than ensuring the screws on the pickguard are tight I am leaving the buzz phenomenon alone.

Action, Fit & Finish — 7
I cannot speak on how well the guitar was set-up at the factory since I bought this guitar used from the original owner. But, whoever set it up did a fine job as I have not found it necessary to make any adjustments. The action is comfortable to my my liking, not too high and not too low. Overall, it feels like playing an acoustic guitar. I have not found it necessary to make any adjustments to the pickups either. Once again, I have the pickups set the same way the factory or previous owner set them. The only flaw I encountered was a loose nut on the vibrato arm for the Bigsby which I remedied with a couple drops of loctite.

Reliability & Durability — 7
I am sure this guitar can withstand live playing considering it is categorized as a professional level guitar but it will have to be tuned frequently if the Bigsby is used. I have recently added graphite to the nut to see if that helps keep the strings stay in tune after the Bigsby stretches and slacks them. I do not foresee and problems concerning the hardware, and the strap buttons are pretty neat. To add a strap to the guitar you unscrew the knurled knobs and tighten them back down once the strap is in place. The guitar's knurled knobs are too big for the hole on the strap to pass through without considerable force. As I wrote in my last review, as a general rule of thumb I would never perform live without a backup guitar, unless I wanted to demonstrate how I change a broken guitar string. With regards to the finish, I believe it will withstand the test of time. I don't foresee it wearing off although it is susceptible to nicks, dings, and cracks like any other.

Overall Impression — 8
I have been playing guitar for some twenty years now with my other two guitars being an Epiphone Les Paul Standard, and a 3 pickup Black Beauty. The only thing I wish I had asked about prior to buying the Gretsch would be about the floating bridge. However, prior to owning this guitar I was completely ignorant to what a floating bridge was. If this guitar was stolen I would likely buy the Tim Armstrong signature model Gretsch G5191, there are just too many guitars out there I have yet to own or try (says the guy who owns two Epiphone Les Pauls). I love how the G5120 looks and most anyone else seems to like it too because this guitar draws a lot of attention. The fact that Poison Ivy Rorschach and the Reverend Horton Heat both play a Gretsch G6120 is what persuaded me to buy the more affordable G5120 alternative. Although I intend on keeping this guitar stock, I think a pinned bridge with rolling saddles would be an improvement in addition to block mother of pearl fingerboard inlays and a pair of TV Jones pickups.

1 comment sorted by best / new / date

    Sorry I am not much help with finding that Beatles tone your looking for, but I have heard time and time again that the guitar is just one factor in the tone equation. Other factors to consider include amplifiers and their settings, string gauge, the type of microphone(s) used and their placement, effects, etc. For example, I have read on a Gretsch forum where owners claim they get more 'twang' out of their Gretsch when they use string gauges lighter than the stock gauge they were originally strung with at the factory. Personally, I do not hear anything close to what I would consider twang. I associate twang with the classic sounds of vintage single coil pickups on Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster models. My Gretsch does growl though. At first I simply thought the pickguard and/or hardware was a little loose and causing the rattle or growl. However, removing the pickguard had no affect on the growl. It's cool though in my opinion and apparently a deireable characteristic to which Gretsch hollowbodies are known for: apart of 'That Great Gretsch Sound. Since you mentioned an Epiphone Casino, I recently traded my Epiphone Les Paul Standard with a guy off craigslist in exchange for his Epiphone Sheraton II, a fine specimen in its own right. I love Epiphone! It is fun to play and has tone characteristics that sound nothing like the Gretsch's growl. I like the stock pickups on each model but have to say the Gretsch pickups provide better high gain / overdriven tone according to my taste. For a brief moment in time I owned a Gibson SG Standard, and with all honestly, I actually preferred the feel, sound, and function my Epiphone Les Paul Standard over the Gibson SG. I tried to like the SG but it just didn't feel right compared a Les Paul desig; the SG was too light.