Among the major manufacturers, Gretsch traditionally delivers the funkiest designs. For the new G5021E Limited Edition Rancher Penguin Parlor, the company sets its sights on creating, it says, “one of the most fabulous Gretsch birds ever to take flight.”
One look at the Penguin Parlor will tell you the guitarmaker hit its target. The glitz factor is off the chart, especially for an acoustic instrument. The guitar is bedazzled with gold sparkles on the vertical-wing headstock logo, neck and body binding, and even on the inner lip of the spade-shaped soundhole. Just below that lies a thick, gold Plexi pickguard with the company’s name and iconic penguin etched in black.
Shiny pearloid Neo-Classic thumbnail inlays adorn the upper edge of the fretboard, starting at the first fret and continuing all the way up to the 17th. The finish on this limited-edition guitar is called Midnight Sapphire, which appears to me as deep green with a hint of blue. It looks downright ravishing against the royal-purple plush lining of the guitar’s case.
The Penguin Parlor’s comfortable round-shouldered body is small, but not tiny. It measures 19 inches long and 4.375 inches deep, and has 14 frets to the body, with a scale length of 25 inches, making it comparable to a Martin OM or 000. Where it really differs is in the narrow width at the waist, which is 13.5 inches compared to 15 on the aforementioned models.
This neck is a pleasure to play. The combination of a U shape with a slightly narrow nut width makes it feel full in hand while readily facilitating cowboy chords in open positions and barre chords all over the fretboard. Open strings and fretted notes alike respond with plenty of pop, and it’s easy to find one’s fingers flying all around the neck.
Acoustically, the Rancher Penguin Parlor doesn’t boast a particularly voluptuous tone, but that’s not surprising considering the thick glossy finish on its top and the fact that the back and sides are made of laminated maple, which is a rather bright wood in the first place. The upside comes in the form of snappy articulation.
Everything sounds well defined when moving from string to string and from note to note. That remained true when the guitar was amplified through an AER Compact 60 TE - and it is notable considering how many acoustics with inconsistent onboard electronics have come through for review recently. In fact, the onboard Fishman Presys III pickup/preamp system delivers a potent punch that seems to intensify the instrument’s low end and magnify its overall tone.
Gretsch’s G5021E Limited Edition Rancher Penguin Parlor is an ideal stage instrument for players in search of a fabulous look, strong amplified tone and easy action out of the box. It’s also a fine home, office or travel companion that’s well suited to fingerpicking and vocal accompaniment. Overall craftsmanship is quite nice for the price, making the Penguin Parlor a solid value for the money.
G5021E Limited Edition
Rancher Penguin Parlor
PRICE $549 street
NUT WIDTH 1.69", synthetic bone
NECK Maple, standard U shape, 12" radius
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25" scale
TUNERS Deluxe die-cast with gold finis
BODY Laminated maple back and sides, solid spruce top
ELECTRONICS Fishman Presys III with built-in chromatic tuner, on/off switch, volume, bass, mid, and treble controls
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze Light .012–.053
WEIGHT 4.2 lbs
KUDOS Super snazzy appearance. Fantastic playability and articulation. Strong amplified sound. Great value
CONCERNS Acoustic tone lacks depth