It used to be so simple. If your guitar said “Gretsch,” it was a coveted uberprofessional model from a seminal and revered guitar company. The word “Electromatic” announced you were rocking a very fine, yet affordable, player’s model from the same maker. At Winter NAMM 2016, however, Gretsch introduced three brand-new lines (Vintage Select, Player’s Edition, and Streamliner), and easy identification of your Gretsch tribe went somewhat wiggy—especially as the new Streamliners are less expensive than the Electromatics, and, as of June 2016, the Electomatic hollowbodies no longer say “Electromatic” on the headstock.
Well, although the model differentiations may be confusing, there’s nothing baffling about the fact the Streamliner G2420 is one hell of a guitar for under $500. And, yes, it absolutely channels the Gretsch vibe.
There are only two elements of the G2420 that might telegraph it as a budget model—its slightly garish Aged Brooklyn Burst, and its jellocasserole-like transparent-gold control knobs. Everything else looks and feels like big bucks. The frets are beautifully rounded, the finish is near perfect, the internal bracing and wiring are tidy, and the hardware is sturdy and cosmetically appealing. On the G2420, the harp tailpiece further promotes the retro-vintage air of the electric Streamliner line, which first appeared in Gretsch catalogs in the early 1950s.
The G2420 feels as comfy as a well-worn Pendleton shirt as it hugs up against your body, which makes playing it seem almost effortless. All controls are positioned for easy adjustments on the fly, and while the knobs look slick and slippery, they aren’t. I could grip them securely with my pinky for volume swells and tone tweaks.
That the G2420 delivers awesome value for a relatively meek expenditure isn’t the only surprise this guitar offers. The tone is shocking in a very good way, because there is nothing retro about it at all. This thing screams like a rock machine. Use it to re-imagine supercharged rockabilly, stratospheric funk, aggro jazz, or any kind of music that snarls and roars but it can also downshift dynamically to caress and soothe. Every note you play—whether you choose the bridge pickup, the neck pickup, or the combined setting—produces an articulate snap that almost seems to pop off the fretboard. It’s as if the pickups are voiced to boost a low-midrange frequency that delivers articulation without sounding sharp or shrill, and still allows the lows and highs to be upfront. Click to the neck setting, and the taut bass seems powerful enough to move chairs across a hardwood floor if you were chunking muted chords. Wow. This muscular hollowbody is one sweet deal.
S P E C I F I C AT I O N S
PRICE $449 street
NUT WIDTH 1.68"
NECK Nato, set
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 24.75" scale, 12" radius
FRETS 22 medium jumbo
TUNERS Die-cast nickel
BODY Laminated maple
BRIDGE Adjusto-Matic with rosewood base, Chromatic II tailpiece
PICKUPS Two Broad’Tron humbuckers
CONTROLS Two Volume (neck and bridge), Master Volume, Master Tone, 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS Fender NPS, .010-.046
WEIGHT 6.42 lbs
KUDOS Powerful tones. Amazing value. Plays great.
CONCERNS A couple of smudges on the binding.