Guitar Review: Gretsch G5445T Electromatic Double Jet
If you can believe it, I never played a guitar with a Bigsby vibrato system on it until today. Also, before today I never played a Gretsch guitar before either.
Why haven't I played a Gretsch until now? Two reasons. First, I never really think about Gretsch when in the guitar store, and second, I'm not really into semi-hollow or hollow bodied guitars, but... this Jet is in fact a solid-body.
While I was in the guitar store (Sam Ash Tampa), in addition to trying out a Fender Jazzmaster, I also tried out the Gretsch you see above since they had one hanging on the wall.
So okay, here we go, my review on the Gretsch G5455T Electromatic Double Jet.
Nope. It's the same price as a Mexico-made Fender Standard Stratocaster or Fender Standard Telecaster...
...but it sure looks expensive, no doubt about that. In person, it looks even better, even in black. If you're wondering if there is another color, there is. Gold. And if you think the black one looks good, it would not surprise me if you instantly bought the gold version upon seeing it.
Check this out:
"Ooh-Aah!", indeed. That's a guitar that turns heads easily. I guarantee you that very few (if any) other guitar players you know own an axe that looks that cool.
I'll put it another way. If you want a guitar that says, "I want a guitar that gets noticed anywhere I go with it", you can't do any better than a gold Gretsch Double Jet, because it could pass for a $2,500 guitar easily even though it's priced far less than that.
Fit and Finish
Good. Feels solid. I couldn't find any obvious flaws. In fact, I couldn't find any flaws at all.
Pretty close to "boat anchor" heavy. It's a solid-body with weight reduction (meaning it is chambered), but it has a heavy Bigsby vibrato on it.
Still a comfortable player even though heavy? Yes.
Spanky and twangy. It has set of what Gretsch calls "Blacktop Filter'Tron humbucking pickups".
Given the pickups are humbuckers however, it's not single-coil style "spank". More like a rockabilly sound rather than a surf sound is the best way I can describe it.
Neck and Fretboard
Even though the scale is slightly short (24.6-inch short, which is slightly shorter than typical Gibson 24.75-inch), it doesn't feel like a short-scale.
I felt very comfortable whizzing up and down the neck. In addition, this guitar responds great to finger-plucking. You can do snap-back style plucks and this Double Jet just loves that.
I had no issues holding chords or soloing, nor did I have any issues accessing higher frets. This particular Gretsch design is a "just right" for what it is.
Using the Bigsby
Okay, now to the meat and potatoes of why I tried this guitar in the first place.
The Bigsby vibrato that is on this particular Gretsch is the B50 model. There are, if you can believe it, 13 different models of vibrato that Bigsby makes. And some guys like to know which Bigsby is outfitted. Well, on this guitar, it's the B50.
I am used to a vibrato arm that swings out of the way when not in use. The Bigsby vibrato arm does not do that. Wherever you place it, that's where it stays unless you swing it out of the way yourself.
For some players, that's perfect because they like a vibrato arm (a.k.a. "whammy bar") that does not move and always stays in the same spot. For me, I actually prefer an arm that swings. As such, I had to get used to the fact the arm doesn't swing.
One thing the Bigsby does better than any other vibrato is that you can pat instead of grab to use it. What that means is that with a minor tension adjustment, you can simply use one or two fingers to lightly pat down the arm whenever you want vibrato. The reason you can do this is because the arm is wide, like the end of a small butter knife; this allows plenty of room to rest your finger on so you can pat instead of grab like you would with Fender vibrato arms.
Yes, you can adjust how much or how little tension you want, and that adjustment is stupidly easy to do.
But is the Bigsby on this Gretsch usable?
Yes, absolutely. Ridiculously easy to use and the strings stay in tune as long as they've been stretched out properly. Because the strings have a rolling point before the bridge, you can use the vibrato all you want without any nasty string "kinking" at the nut.
The B50 on the Double Jet is very usable and genuinely a joy to play once you adjust the tension to what you feel most comfortable with. All you have to do is decide whether you prefer a firm or soft feel for Bigsby tension and that's pretty much it.
There really is no learning curve to using a Bigsby system since it's just a tailpiece. All your intonation and string height stuff is handled separately at the bridge.
This is the only part that may confuse some players, but once you understand how it works, it's easy.
On the top horn is a simple 3-way pickup toggle switch. Bridge, Bridge+Neck or Neck. Easy enough to understand.
It's on the bottom where things get interesting.
Near the back of the guitar are TWO volume controls (one for bridge, one for neck) and ONE master tone control.
Then, on the bottom horn (under the neck pickup) is a master volume.
Now if you're totally confused by this, here's how to make real simple sense of it for beginners new to how Gretsch does electronics.
Method 1: Use the master volume all the time.
- Turn "Volume 1" and "Volume 2" all the way up.
- Turn the master tone control all the way up.
- Adjust volume with the master volume knob and never touch the other three.
Method 2: Never use the master volume control.
- Turn the master volume control all the way up and then never touch it after that.
- Turn the master tone control all the way up.
- Adjust "Volume 1" and "Volume 2" as desired.
There is no right or wrong way to use a Gretsch. You will either use the master volume control all the time or just turn it up all the way and never touch it.
Where players get confused is that they think the three knobs at the rear of the body are Stratocaster "Master Volume/Tone/Tone" knobs. They're not. It's "Volume 1/Volume 2/Master Tone", with the master volume knob set far away under the neck pickup.
"I'm confused! Which should I use?"
If you're just totally confused, just use method 1 above as it's the easiest.
As for why the master volume is separated so far from the other knobs, that's just a Gretsch thing. They probably designed it that way originally so it was really obvious where the master volume control was.
Anything bad about the G5445T?
The tuners are a bit crappy. Not bad, but just.. well.. they could be a little bit better.
Yes, they are easy enough to use and felt okay when using them, but were a little stiff. Then again, this was a guitar I just picked up off the wall at a Sam Ash, so... maybe with change of strings to my preferred string set (which is Dunlop DEN0942 by the way), the tuners would have worked better with those.
Also, the tuner buttons felt a little small. I could grab and turn them easily, but still, they felt somewhat toy-like. But maybe the smaller size is a Gretsch thing. I'm not sure.
The only other thing I could complain about would be the weight of the guitar. It's heavy. While the guitar isn't big by any means, she has some weight to her.
Above-average. Great look, great tones, easy to play. A small learning curve with the electronics layout, but easy enough to figure out.
For the nit-pickers wondering whether the guitar is more "Gibsony" or "Fendery", it's neither. Gretsch is Gretsch. There is no one part of the guitar where I think "this is Fender-like" or "this is Gibson-like". As I said, Gretsch is Gretsch. It may be a brand owned by Fender Musical, but believe me when I say there isn't anything about the Double Jet that's been ruined by who owns the brand.
I'll say it another way. The G5445T is absolutely not a "Gretsch-looking Telecaster". Not at all. And that's a very good thing. It's cool, different, a total head-turner, and totally a bargain for what it's selling for.
For those of you that want something really different but really cool at the same time that's not a Fender nor a Gibson that will impress the hell out of anyone who sees you with one, get a Gretsch G5445T Electromatic Double Jet. Black or gold, your choice. I played the black one, but if I were buying, I'd order a gold; it's the same price as the black one.
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