The Gretsch Electromatics are heralded not only here but in many other
places as being the best bang for the buck. They are solid guitars
with quality appointments at prices that allow just about anyone to
pick them up.
Some things keep coming up though, like why did Gretsch put full-sized
humbuckers in the 5120 and how easily can they be swapped out to more
traditional Filtertrons (of whatever variety)? What tuners would be a
direct drop in replacement? What bridge would make for a good swap?
Well, Joe Carducci and the guys at Gretsch have answered the requests
of many Gretsch enthusiasts in a BIG way. For years now I've been
sending Joe emails asking how come there isn't a 17" Electromatic? It
used to be that the smaller the guitar got, the cheaper it was for
whatever reasons. Maybe just the fact that less wood is used. In any
case, if you wanted budget, you ended up with a smaller guitar. But
in this day and age, surely you can make a budget BIG guitar and sell
it for a fair price, right?
The answer is yes.
And build one they did.
Gretsch unveiled the Tim Armstrong Electromatic, a 17" clone of a
Baldwin-era Country Club that Tim is most commonly associated with.
He spray painted his and flipped it around to accommodate his
left-handed playing and over the years has managed to give his quite
the beating. Now he doesn't have to worry about it though, as he had
first pick of the new Electromatics and reports say he's very happy
with it (though honestly, if a guitar company made a guitar for you,
you'd probably be happy too). It DOES retail a bit high, but only in
comparison to smaller guitars with lesser appointments. It's a few
hundred more than a 5120 for instance. At the same price as this
though you can probably find a used 6118T (the sleeper of the 16"
Gretsch models and every bit as good as any 6120 you could shake a
stick at) but 16 inches is 16 inches and that one inch difference
between a 6118 and a Country Club makes for HUGE sonic difference so
it's still a bargain.
This really blurs the line between pro line Gretsch guitars and their
But enough of my take on the news that this guitar is out, how does it play?
Amazingly is the answer. It has a thicker top than a pro line Gretsch
but this is just as much to help with the rock that is was intended
for or at least the rock that it's used for by Armstrong and as a
result you can REALLY lean in on it and it takes your attack with
ease. The one I played had virtually ZERO fret buzz no matter how
hard I hit it and the action was at a reasonable level and it was
still easy to play. As Gretsch guitars get more expensive in some
cases and more out of my personal reach, I'm looking more and more at
the Electromatic line and realizing just how top thickness is a
REAL issue (or IS it?) or pickup spacing and size etc. etc. and
honestly, I wasn't tempted too much by the 5120. The only Electro I
was ever interested in with any level of seriousness was the
Stump-O-Matic Corvette but now... This is looking more and more like
the only 17" Gretsch I'll be able to afford so it's the one that I
have my eye on. I don't feel too bad about settling on this one since
it's such a cool guitar anyway.
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