G5420T Electromatic Hollow Body review by Gretsch

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  • Features: 7
  • Sound: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.4 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.5 (10 votes)
Gretsch: G5420T Electromatic Hollow Body

Price paid: $ 799

Purchased from: Sam Ash

Features — 7
This is the Korean made version of the single cutaway, 2.75" deep hollow body G6120 Nashville. The body is a 5-ply maple with a maple neck and a rosewood fretboard with 22 frets in a 24.5" scale length. Unlike it's pro-line big brother it uses a sound post bracing rather than a trestle bracing, has open back vintage tuners, and black top Filter'Tron pickups. The retail price of $799 doesn't include a guitar case.

It comes with a Bigsby-licensed B60 vibrato and comes in four colors of Black, classic Gretsch Orange, Sunburst, and a gorgeous Aspen Green. It has an Adjust-o-matic bridge monted on a Rosewood base, humpback fingerboard inlays, and everything is set off by very classy bound sound holes and fingerboard. It is a true archtop hollow-body design with only a sound post to brace the top and back. It has classic G-arrow control knobs and a silver plexi pickguard and all chrome plated hardware.

Sound — 9
Because I play a variety of styles I've been looking at Gretsch's for a long time to help fill the tonal gaps between my Les Paul and my Stratocaster. My primary intent was to use the Gretsch for jazz, rockabilly, late '50s/early '60s rock 'n' roll, and country/Nashville finger picking sounds. Although the 5420 is perfectly capable of more modern rock, pop, and even punk, it's classic full-bodied resonant sound best fits the uses I mentioned above in a way that a solid body or semi-hollow body guitar can't.

The black face Filter'Trons are a design that was revived from the Baldwin days of Gretsch. These still have a sweet full-bodied sound, but I found them a bit muffled in comparison to standard Gretsch Filter'Trons. For someone that intends to use this guitar for more overdriven music styles, this is probably fine. For myself and my uses I replaced these pickups with TV Jones Classic pickups which gave me greater articulation and clarity, a little more volume, and less tendency to break up a higher volumes. I also installed a treble bleed circuit on the master and pickup volume pots to better retain the highs as I turned down the volume.

I use a Fender Mustang IV as my primary gigging amp. The best amp models to match up with my uses for this guitar were the '65 Twin Reverb and the '65 Deluxe Reverb. With the black top Filter'Trons the Twin worked better to reduce break-up. With the TV Jones pickups I prefer the '65 Deluxe as I can add some gain to get a punchier sound without losing the fine articulation and full bodied sweetness of the sound.

Ultimately these additions really give you the classic Gretsch sound you hear from artists like George Harrison or Brian Setzer and even makes it possible to approach the Chet Atkins finger-picked sound.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Like every Gretsch I've ever played, the action is very distinctive and smooth. Gretsch refers to the fret size as "Medium Jumbo" which means there's more room not only for your fretting hand, but also enough space to facilitate finger picking. The fit and finish on my guitar was perfect, but as is always the case one should closely examine each guitar as flaws can creep in with any manufacturing process where human hands are involved.

A couple of things are worth mentioning particular to this guitar. The larger fret size can be a bit challenging to get used to if you move between typical solid body guitars and the Gretsch. It's easy to get adapted, but there will be some differenced. As for myself I found that going to a medium full size pick seemed to work better than my typical Jazz III picks, not only for accuracy, but also for a smoother sound. The guitar does come with a Bigsby-licensed B60 vibrato. I haven't found this to have any bearing on the guitar maintaining tuning, but I have a very light touch on the vibrato because a little bit goes a long way. I'm not sure what the effect would be on tuning if you were to do any dive-bombing with it, but it does appear to be very stable. If you are new to Bigsby's just make sure you turn the Bigsby handle pointing away from the strings when you put the guitar in it's case as most cases (including the one from Gretsch) will place pressure on the handle if it's in it's normal position and can lead to tuning problems.

Reliability & Durability — 8
This guitar appears to be solidly made with decent electronics. The initial offerings of the 5420 came with a floating bridge, but the new models now have a pegged bridge which should be incur less maintenance and be more durable. You can still unpeg the bridge by simply backing out the screw on the bridge posts if you would like to use a solid metal bridge such as a Compton. The guitar itself is pretty large and heavy in comparison to other solid body guitars. It even outweighs my weight reliefed Les Paul. Because the jack is exposed along the bottom and is bolted directly to the wood, I chose to install a jack plate which is re-enforced by some wood on the inside of the guitar rather than risk a catastrophic problem if it were to be bumped or hit on a crowded stage.

Overall Impression — 9
I would say with the modifications I've made to the guitar it's a perfect fit for my needs. It certainly is much more fun to play than either my Les Paul Standard or my Stratocaster due to it's unique sound and action. The one thing I couldn't live with from the very beginning were the open vintage tuners. It's not a problem for many people, but I'm a big fan of locking tuners and have them on all my other electric guitars so I quickly replaced the stock tuners with a set of Sperzel's.

All in all with all the modifications I made my 5420 is a pretty good approximation of a Brian Setzer model 6120, but at about 1/3 the price. How can you not be happy with that?

9 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I think this is a solid review as a G5420T owner myself. I went through a similar journey. I have a Strat, SG, and LP copy and was seeking something with that chimey hollowbody sound. I also gig with a Mustang (III, gets plenty loud). I ended up with the 5420T after trying god knows how many others. On my search for the hollowbody, I had gone through 4 Epiphone Casinos (nice sound, awful quality), all of which had inferior finishes and a litany of other problems. The main one being an unavoidable rattling that developed because the pickups were mounted poorly. The Ibanez Artcores are excellent and were close runners up for me, but I fell for the Gretsch sound more. The one thing people need to consider is these are fairly large guitars, both in thickness and general size. Gretsch are definitely a try before you buy machine, but obviously that should be the case for any guitar you buy. Back to the G5420T. I found the fit and finish to be flawless on mine, these guitars are seriously beautiful to look at. Personally I would go with a 10 on that area, because the attention to detail is remarkable; even the binding on the F-holes is flawless, I simply cannot find a fault visually. My only gripe is that the electronics are less than stellar, that would be where I knock points off. Mainly the selector switch, which is a tad noisy and can be pissy when switching to the neck pickup at times. The blacktops themselves are quite nice and very versatile. You get a nice twang and a surprising amount of clarity for ceramic pickups (not a ceramic fan in general). Part of me figured I would be dumping money into TV Jones pickups and Compton bridges, but after a few months I do not feel either are necessary. Bottom line, this guitar hits well above the $700 I paid for mine, you simply get that Gretsch sound and look for a fraction of the Proline cost. On a side note/rant. I find it kind of funny that people will see 8.4 and think this is an inferior guitar, while total shitpiles such as Epi Custom II's will get 9 and 10 reviews from people. Meh.
    I recently purchased the Gretsch G5420t in black. I only have positive feelings about this guitar. I did change one thing, I removed the pins and drilled the string bar out on the Bigsby so it is now a string-thru. Makes changing the strings so much easier. As far as the fit/trim/finish goes, I have yet to find a single flaw. Concerning the sound, I plug my G5420 directly into my Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 interface and only add some reverb and get an absolutely gorgeous sound. In fact, the sound that I get out of this guitar is the sound that I've always heard in my head. While I do have many virtual amp models to choose from, I find that they are not needed. I will include a link to a short demo of the sound I am getting this way. When I want to play through an amp, I use the Fishman Loudbox Artist. Here again, I get a gorgeous sound. This guitar seems to be made for me. I only play fingerstyle guitar/chord melody. I am extremely happy with my purchase. I see no need to change anything on it. Of course your mileage may vary depending upon your style of music and perceived internal sound. Link to demo of my Gretsch (and that is a picture of my Gretsch in the video.)
    ;feature=youtu.be Kenny
    Why only a 7 for features?
    There's not a lot of high end features on this. It's got a plastic nut and electronics are relatively standard fare. Even the tuning pegs weren't anything remarkable. None of these things detract from the sound or handling on the guitar, just nothing here to write home about.
    When now ordering are there any problems with then by chance getting the floating bridge or are all new orders delivering with the updated pegged bridge?
    Biy an 800$ guitar that needs upgraded pickups. What a joke. I did like this guitar when i spent 2hours playing it. But it feels like a posh epiphone. This guitar is massively overpriced. You're paying for the name.
    It doesn't REQUIRE upgraded pickups. In fact a lot of people prefer the baldwin style sound. For myself I prefer the tone of the TV Jones for the styles I play with it. Epiphones are decent guitars and I in fact own a Sheraton which I use solely for recording demos and setting up patches on a POD HD500X. But you won't get the same sound on them as this style of Gretsch unless you change the pickups. And the action and handling certainly won't compare when finger picking.
    It does not need a pickup change at all. Blacktops have a definite Gretsch sound and are pretty versatile. Some people prefer TV Jones though, but it is definitely not necessary. Also Epiphone quality is FAR FAR FAR inferior in my experience.