Gear Up: What’s New About The Gretsch G5420T Electromatic?
By Ian Freeman
May 18, 2022
Be it their unique and sometimes quirky designs or sound, Gretsch’s are typecast in the guitar world as rockabilly, country, rock & roll, or praise and worship. But their sparkly cleans and unique tone make them an immensely diverse instrument that has had them in the hands of a diverse genre of rhythm and lead players like The Who’s Pete Townsend, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, AC DC’s Malcolm Young, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, Guns and Roses’ Richard Fortes, and Kele Okereke of Bloc Party. Where Fender has seemed to go for the new guitarist, Gibson seems sometimes stuck in a temporal paradox, and PRS is making modern guitars for players that like dad guitars, Gretsch’s ability to stay true to their tradition but also stand out amongst the crowd has carved themselves a piece of the market that invites anyone who wants a different tone and to stand out but has a name on the headstock with a tradition.
Recently Gretsch released updated versions of their Electromatic series, for those unfamiliar I say it’s equivalent to Fender’s Player series in terms of cost and rank in their lineup. Made in Korea, these are cost-efficient models for the musician who wants something to actually play and can gig that delivers reliability, comfort, and versatility. We took a look at what some have considered one of the best hollow body guitars under $1000 and see if it still fits the bill, the Gretsch G5420T.
The G5420T is the Gretsch single cut, hollow body in the Electromatic line. If you’re not familiar with it, it is the cheaper cousin of the White Falcon, one of Gretsch’s flagship designs. And it is a beautiful specimen. Capturing all the classic looks and charm of the 50’s and 60’s it features a laminated maple body and neck and comes in a number of beautiful gloss finishes like Airline Silver, Walnut Stain, and Orange Stain. The one I checked out was Azure Metallic and I now need a blue guitar. Adding to the attention to detail, the G5420T – by the way Gretsch can we do something about these names – has multi-ply body binding and oversized F-holes which are bound as well. The one I have weighs around 7lbs and with a body depth that’s about 2.75” deep. So if you’re used to bigger guitars or acoustics it should be familiar. Inside Gretsch has gone with its new trestle-block system. This U-cut system is designed to reduce feedback without the need for the more traditional slab of wood down the middle.
As mentioned, it has a laminated maple set neck, all bound with a Laurel fingerboard, 22 medium-jumbo frets, a 12” radius, and a 24.6” scale length. In a departure from the previous model’s “U” shaped neck Gretsch has opted for a classic “C” shape, which to me is more like a Fender’s more player-friendly neck carve. It has a Graph Tech nut, and Pearloid thumbnail inlays. The headstock is the 50’s classic with vintage-style open-back tuners.
Rounding out the G5420T is chrome hardware. The typical player setup of a master volume close to the neck. Towards the back, each pickup gets its own volume switch and there’s a master tone knob. The tone knob also has a treble bleed circuit so when you roll the tone back you don’t lose treble. It has an Adjusto-Matic bridge and a B60 Bigsby. I am not a huge fan of a Bigsby, but it stayed in tune so who am I to complain?
One of the reasons anyone gets a Gretsch is to get that Gretsch sound. So with the new pickups and the addition of this new trestle system I was interested in what would be the takeaway. I have to say it still delivers Gretsch goodness and I would even say a bit more so.
The new FT-5E Filtertron pickups are supposed to deliver “huge full-bodied punch, classic chime and enhanced presence, clarity and note definition.” Coupled with the trestle system, I would have to say they have accurately captured the description. I put it through her paces on my Vox TB18, Roland Jazz Chorus and even my Spark and feedback wasn’t an issue. Now not sure if that will ring true in a concert setting but I cranked it, got a few complaints from my neighbors, and no feedback issues. Or at least controllable. As for the pickups, they sound sparkly and have that Gretsch chime and clarity. To give some perspective, compared to the Blacktops used in the previous model they seem a bit brighter, a little more hi-fi and have more ability to bring forward each note while the Blacktops have more low-end. And they are versatile which was where I had my biggest doubts and was pleasantly surprised. I dare to say that there isn’t too much you couldn’t get done and sound good with the 5420T. Even with some drive kicked in, she can handle her own on any stage. Unplugged, the 5420T was everything you would expect from a hollow body, loud and clear. You could feel the body resonate with each strum of a chord.
For a hollow body, the Gretsch 5420T is extremely versatile in its price class. Comparatively, I think the Ibanez Artcore is a great option if you’re looking for something a little less expensive. But, the Ibanez, as well as the Epiphone Casino, aren’t as versatile. The Casino is prone to feedback, has some structural things like it’s difficult playing up in the higher frets, and though it shines strumming it’s not my favorite for lead. The Ibanez has feedback issues too and lives in the low mellow tones. Neither quite hit the mark if you’re going for a driven sound or in a loud band setting. If you’re playing blues, mellow jazz, or fancy yourself a singer-songwriter, I think any of these can do the job. But, if I was going to spend my money on a hollow body guitar and wanted to explore different genres it would be the G5420T.
The Elephant in the room, I am not a fan of big guitars. Hollow bodies, acoustic, basically anything that makes me put my arms so far out that I feel like Jennifer Grey getting taught about dance space in Dirty Dancing, is too big. I started on an electric and that has been my comfort zone. Gretsch’s also had a stigma when they came to my mind. I mean they always had such a unique, clean sound, perfect for Jazz, but never quite my taste. In the right hands they are amazing instruments and in a sea of S type, Les Paul types, and Tele styles they have continued to carve out their own lane and craft their own sound.
The 5420T has made me a Gretsch fan and has me currently looking at what in my collection could be moved to make space for one. It stands out. The glossy finishes remind you of vintage cars. And there’s this whole retro mystique to them. The 5420T has it in spades. But for me, it’s the sound that seals the deal. Whether you’re a chicken picker, ready for the sock hop, leading worship service, jazzing it up or rocking out, it can do it and do it well. If you’re used to bigger body guitars, you’ll be right at home. It might take a little adjusting to get used to if you’re new to the size, but it’s worth it. And at $799 with the looks, the playability, and the sound it is hard to beat.
Check one out over at Gretsch
Body: Arch Laminated Maple
Body Finish: Polyurethane
Bracing: Trestle Block
Neck Shape: Classic C
Scale Length: 24.6”
Fingerboard Radius: 12”
Number of Frets: 22
Fret Size: Medium-Jumbo
Nut Material: Graph Tech® NuBone™
Nut Width: 1.6875″
Inlays: Pearloid Neo-Classic™ Thumbnail
Tuning Machines: Vintage Style Open-back
Bridge: Adjusto-Matic with Laurel base
Pickups: FT-5E Filter’Tron™
Controls: Volume (Neck Pickup), Volume (Bridge Pickup), Master Volume with Treble Bleed, Master Tone
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