WHEN IT COMES TO AFTERMARKET GIBSON style
humbuckers or Fender-style single-coils,
players have quite a few manufacturers to
choose from: Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio, Lollar,
Fralin, etc.—in addition to replacements offered
by Gibson and Fender. But for Gretsch-style
replacement pickups, TV Jones pretty much
rules the roost (Thomas Jones even supplies
many of the pickups used on high-end Gretsch
models). Recently he has taken time out from
making pickups to spend more of it pursuing
his other passion—building guitars.
The new Spectra-Sonic Supreme is the result
of that passion (as is a less expensive Model
10). An older version of the Spectra-Sonic was
distributed by Gretsch for a few years, but the
new model is offered by Jones under his own
name, and features some improvements that
earn it the right to be called “Supreme.” For
example, the padauk fretboard on the original
Gretsch Spectra-Sonic has been upgraded to
ebony, and bound and inlaid with distinctive
“shoestring potato” fret markers. The original
chambered alder body remains, but is topped
with figured maple, set off by a translucent (red
for the review model) nitro-cellulose lacquer
finish. Jones also replaced the Gretsch version’s
TV Jones PowerTron pickups with Classic models
for greater clarity in the low end. A Switchcraft
toggle switch, two 500kΩ CTS pots, a
Sprague Orange Drop .022 capacitor, and Belden
wire add to the upscale construction.
Though factory made, each guitar is set up
by Jones, who cuts the nut slots to the proper
height, also matching the fretboard and bridge
radius. A Delrin nut allows the strings to slide
through easily when the vibrato is employed.
This, combined with the minimal motion of a
Bigsby whammy, removes the need for the
added weight of locking tuners—thus the high
quality, but non-locking, Sperzels.
The Spectra-Sonic Supreme’s appearance
offers a satisfying mix of funky cool and upscale
elegance—a combo that is harder to pull off
than you might imagine. The flat top, plastic
pickguard, and eccentric inlays whisper Italian
pawnshop prize, but the neck and headstock
binding, four-ply body binding, and magnificent
finish scream quality.
The guitar played perfectly right out of the
sturdy (included) hardshell case. The medium
height frets were flawlessly finished and tall
enough for easy bending, even with the action
low enough for serious shredding. Some players
might find their squared-off shape less than
ideal for sliding into notes, however the guitar
stayed in tune nicely through some atypically
intense wiggling of the Bigsby.
I plugged the Spectra-Sonic Supreme
into a Reverend Hellhound Combo, as well as
Orange Tiny Terror and Egnater Rebel 30 heads.
The resulting sound was unlike any other guitar
I have played. Though obviously Gretschleaning,
the fullness and sustain exceeded any
Gretsch of my experience. It recalled the way
a great guitar might sound on a fully mixed
and mastered recorded track, not in a compressed
way, but in terms of richness and polished
The neck pickup retains plenty of blues bite,
yet warms up to a jazzy roundness with the
tone rolled off a bit. The bridge pickup has the
distinctive Filter ’Tron edge, but with no trace
My first impression was that this is the perfect
roots or pop guitar—born to play jangly
clean, with reverb and tremolo, or at most,
slightly crunchy. But as I experimented with
the S-SS, it revealed its versatility. With a little
bit of Blue channel from a Jetter Jetdrive pumping
a clean Tiny Terror setting, it rocked out in
an expected Americana fashion, but I later found
that kicking up the Orange’s gain and engaging
both channels on the Jetdrive launched a
surprisingly convincing hard rock tone as well.
Squeals à la Billy Gibbons were no problemo,
and I could even imagine the tight low end
of these pickups appealing to select metalmongers.
Thanks to the chambered body, easily
produced, controllable feedback was just one
more color in the Supremes’ palette.
In its highly individual way, the Spectra-Sonic
Supreme serves up the full sonic spectrum in
widescreen, Blu-ray color. Add a unique, playability
and a sexy appearance, and you have a
shoe-in for an Editors’ Pick Award.
SPECS | TV Jones, (360)-779-4002; tvjones.com
MODEL Spectra-Sonic Supreme
PRICE $2,625 direct w/case
FRETBOARD Bound ebony with shoestring potato inlay
FRETS Medium, 22 frets
BODY Chambered alder, figured maple top
PICKUPS TV Jones TV Classics
CONTROLS Volume, Tone
BRIDGE Gotoh ABR-1, brass saddles with Bigsby B-12 Vibrato
TUNERS Sperzel non-locking
KUDOS Rich, ringing tone. Superior playability. Cool looks
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