A Gretsch Day Audition

soulman969

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Spent an hour or so at my local GC auditioning Gretsch guitars. I played a couple of good looking Streamliners with a Bigsby and an Electromatic with a very nice black burst finish called Bristol Fog.

Unfortunately, as nice as they may have looked I came to the conclusion that the pickups used just don't work for me tonally. I'd probably have to invest in a set of TV Jones Filter-Trons to make me happy and to me it would make no sense to spend that much on a mid-level guitar.

My other observation is that within that mid-level $500-$600 price range IMHO Epi is building a higher quality guitar. While I have to applaud the Gretsch finish selection overall their guitars don't feel as well made as an Epiphone semi-hollow body. Of course this is just one man's opinion not a major dig.

It was time well spent though since I was thinking on replacing the ES339 P90 Pro I sold recently and hadn't decided what to replace it with. It's now back to a coin flip over another ES339 with Pro Buckers or the new Uptown Cat with the Firebird style pickups and the Gretsch like controls.

Any and all opinions are both welcome and encouraged.
 

soulman969

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One specific question though. Are the Uptown Kat and the ES339 the same body shape and size? They appear to be but Epi doesn't give us any dimensions on the guitars or their cases. Will the Kat fit into an ES339 case?
 

Norton

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Gretsch’s are unique. If you don’t like their stock pickups…chances are, you won’t like tv Jones’s either.

By far, the most significant element of
“that great gretsch sound” is rooted in the fact that their pickup coils are connected in parallel and NOT in series like the vast, vast, vast majority of humbucking pickups. It’s a great option to switch between series/parallel within a pickup: Lower output janglier sound with far less mid range content .

There’s other factors inside the filtertron family of pickups to be sure…but you take a standard filtertron and wire up the coils in series??? That’s where the muscle is.
 

soulman969

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they might be close in size - though very different in construction

to my knowledge the uptown Kat is similar to the wildkat View attachment 18347
Thanks Peter. So the "Kats" are nearly hollow with only a block to support the bridge assembly whereas the ES models have a full solid center block. Interesting construction I had not known before so thanks for this photo.

When auditioning Casinos vs Casino Coupes I also played a WildKat and didn't care for it at all nor did I like the Casino Coupe as well as I liked the full size body version.

So with this info and the understanding that the "Kats" have their own case and won't fit into an ES 339 case which I already have do to a double order I think I'll just stick with an ES 339.

I had one long ago and it was traded to a good friend for his Lucille which was then traded for my Casino. I loved that version of the ES 339 and my P90 version as well which I recently sold prior to my move. Now I'm in the market for a smaller body semi-hollow again to replace it and I believe I'll just stick with what I already know I'll enjoy playing. Thanks!
 
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soulman969

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Gretsch’s are unique. If you don’t like their stock pickups…chances are, you won’t like tv Jones’s either.

By far, the most significant element of
“that great gretsch sound” is rooted in the fact that their pickup coils are connected in parallel and NOT in series like the vast, vast, vast majority of humbucking pickups. It’s a great option to switch between series/parallel within a pickup: Lower output janglier sound with far less mid range content .

There’s other factors inside the filtertron family of pickups to be sure…but you take a standard filtertron and wire up the coils in series??? That’s where the muscle is.
The parallel wiring was very apparent when I was playing the various models none of which had an ability to shift from parallel to series wiring with a simple switch so to accomplish it that would also take some additional modification or I'd need to search out pricier models that may already be wired for both and can be activated by a switch.

Two of my Teles are wired with both parallel and series wiring which I enjoy with those guitars. In the end while somewhat different tonally I felt the Gretsch would cover much of ground my Teles already do and I did not love playing them nearly as much as I love playing a Tele. Their simplicity works well for me yet they're still a very versatile guitar.

While the Gretschs have a snappier funkier kind of tonality when soloed and that legendary "jangle" it seems that between my Teles and my Casino I already have both of those bases covered. So I eventually came to the conclusion that sticking with an ES 339 made more sense for me in what I want a semi-hollow body guitar to sound like tonally.

Thanks for chiming in about the Gretschs and their well respected Filter-Tron pickups. If I was playing more Country Rock or Americana I'd probably find more use for the Gretsch but for now playing more blues and r&b/soul the ES 339 will be more useful and I already have many hours of enjoyment playing one so for me the Epi's value is greater.

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated......:cheers:
 

Norton

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the series/parallel thing would definitely need to be a customized addition. I don’t think any gretsch’s have any wiring schemes that offer that voice to their pickups. Which is so strange…because it sounds sooooooooooooo good.

To me it’s the only time a filtertron really shines. Stock I find them underwhelming. With their Coils in series? That’s when their unique qualities: tall narrow coils, etc really become pronounced.

l
 

soulman969

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the series/parallel thing would definitely need to be a customized addition. I don’t think any gretsch’s have any wiring schemes that offer that voice to their pickups. Which is so strange…because it sounds sooooooooooooo good.

To me it’s the only time a filtertron really shines. Stock I find them underwhelming. With their Coils in series? That’s when their unique qualities: tall narrow coils, etc really become pronounced.

l

Interesting that your mention this. The set of pickups I have in my Nashville Tele were wound by Kerry Learned of Onamac Windery in Washington.

He calls the set Tall Blues for their construction using a taller coil than other Tele pickups he winds. They have a lot of mid range "bite" but still retain their awesome clarity.

Those are one of the sets I have wired in series too. The other set is my Wilde Keystones which sound gorgeous played in series. Very full yet with their same outstanding clarity.
 

Norton

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Pickups are weird. Small changes in coil sizes and distances make for such huge shifts in sound and feel. I love the necromancy of it!
 

soulman969

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Pickups are weird. Small changes in coil sizes and distances make for such huge shifts in sound and feel. I love the necromancy of it!
Amen....it's half art and half science.

If you haven't read some of Bill Lawrence's stuff on the art and science of designing pickups it's well worth some time doing it. A lot of the guys we talk about now as top pickup designers and winders learned from Bill and the pathways he created.

He has a whole lot of "firsts" to his credit but being the person he was never insisted on taking sole credit for it. I always thought of Bill being as much a player as he was a pickup developer and being a great player was what led him to start tinkering with and building his own pickups to begin with.

I've been playing his pickups in my Teles and my basses for about 10 years now and have never been disappointed for a single day. Bill passed away in 2014 as I recall but his wife Becky and their daughter Shannon keep his name, his reputation, and his products alive at Wilde Pickups. They are all incredible people and very friendly as well.
 
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I don't know if someone already mentioned it but the "broadtron" pickups in the Streamliner series are actually humbuckers that are made to look like filtertrons. The electromatics have actual filtertrons.

I have 2 Streamliners made in Indonesia, a 2420 and a 2622 (neither with bigsbys)and they were both flawless.. Nether are particularly "Gretschy" sounding but are cool in their own way. They are a little more Rock than rockabilly, especially the 2622. The 2420 hollow body has a different bracing system from the electromatics and is louder acoustically. It is equally useful plugged in or unplugged...but is a little more prone to feedback than the hollow electromatics...

The semi hollow 2622 is 335ish but has a center bock that is much more hollow than a 335. It is basically 2 rails that run through the center. It really is acoustically kindda like a Casino with humbuckers, but without the feedback.

I also have an older Korean 5420T with filtertrons that is especially good. Better tonewise IMHO than the current Chinese models...
 
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You probably already know this but just in case,, There is also a smaller 2622 but I don't remember the model number that is the size of your 339 or smaller..
 

soulman969

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Maybe I should have summed this up awhile ago by saying I went ahead and bought another ES339 back in August. It's the one in my avatar pic. This is the third one I've owned and IMHO it even surpasses the other two. In this case it was just a matter or sticking with a tried and true model I've already enjoyed and fits my need for a semi-hollow body for blues and r&b style playing. Thanks for all of your input.
 

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See above - I guess I was wrong on the Uptown
Yeah, I looked into it as well and saw they are layered. I wonder how hard it would be to swap the tremelo from a WildKat to a trapeze.
 

phonepi

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Gretsch... Yes, I have some. :naughty::cool:

A 1991 G400 and a 2008 G100, both "LH-ized" :
19092609505325019416426802.jpg


Two G5220TLH, one Dark Cherry Metallic, one Jade Grey :
q6pTOb-P1160784.jpg


A pair of G5420TLH, one Aspen Green, one Fairlane Blue :
GIbJOb-P1150746.jpg

ZIbAIb-P1080796.jpg


A G5622TLH Center Block in Surf-Turquoise Green (10 made for a French LH guitar shop in Paris) :
19092609471525019416426800.jpg


A G6119LH Tennessee rose from 2008 :
19102106251025019416472507.jpg


Sorry, no Streamliners for the moment, but it would possibly be a G2620LH Torino Green...

s-l1600.jpg


You have Gibson and Epiphone...
You have Fender and Squier...
You have Gretsch and Gretsch !

P
 


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