As someone who has always adored bona fide Gretsch guitars, but whose budget was firmly ensconced in the company’s lower-priced Electromatic line, it was great news to discover at this year’s NAMM show that the seminal guitar maker had retooled its offerings, and most every model—whether priced like a Hyundai or a Jaguar—would proudly sport the “Gretsch” name. Of course, the top-drawer Gretsches are things of beauty to behold, but I’m surely not going to complain about bringing the G5422T onstage, and knowing that few fans and players in the audience will be able to tell if I’m wielding a $799 Electromatic or a $3,500 Country Gentleman. Gotta love parity—even if it’s forged by subterfuge.
But the really cool thing about all of this is that the affordable Electromatic G5422T is truly an excellent guitar. It’s doesn’t at all feel like you’re settling for something, um, less, when you dream of more. For example, I tried to bust the G5422T on build quality and cosmetics, but, truth be told, there’s not much to criticize. The gorgeous orange stain finish is immaculate, and it enhances the subtle grain of the maple top. The control knobs, pickups, bridge, Bigsby, and tuners feel solid. I could feel a few sharp fret edges when I ran my fingers down the sides of the neck, but that also happens with some far more expensive guitars. The thumbprint fret markers, white binding, and nut are well crafted with no filler or other defects. So while the G5422T definitely looks like a stunner from the audience’s perspective, it also appears pretty lavish close up and in your hands.
As a retro-esque instrument, you probably wouldn’t buy the G5422T if you’re a shredder—although Brian Setzer certainly manages to blaze up and down his Gretsch fretboards. That said, the neck feels good and it’s comfortable to play pretty much anywhere you want (the cutaway makes it easy to reach even the highest frets). The dedicated Volume knobs for the neck and bridge pickups are a tad out of reach for doing swells with your pinky, but you can easily grab the Master Volume on the lower bout. The Bigsby works as you’d expect, and I was pleased that aggressive wanking on the bar didn’t pull the guitar wildly out of tune. Speaking of which, while some Gretsches can exhibit slightly idiosyncratic intonation, once the strings were stretched out and tuned up, the G5422T sounded relatively sweet in all positions.
I can’t knock the sound of this inexpensive wonder, either. The bridge tones offer nice chime and shimmer, with just enough of a bump in the midrange to sound clear and articulate without being harsh. Go to the neck pickup, and you’ll get some beautifully round and hollow timbres that evoke Duane Eddy. Turning down the Master Tone is a subtle tweak. You can diminish a bit of the snap (bridge pickup) or pop (neck), but I wouldn’t say you’d fool anyone with some beefy and warm jazz tones. Overall, the G5422T is a fantastic machine for rock or roots music, and I absolutely dig its sounds. However, if you want more—perhaps lush lows and more present highs—I’ve had great luck switching out stock Electromatic Filter’Trons for TV Jones Power’Trons or other higher-end pickups. Then, using the G5422T as your “canvas,” you can still keep your investment around $1,000, and get a guitar that looks awesome, plays great, and sounds like a million bucks.
PRICE $799 street
NUT WIDTH 1.68" Graph Tech NuBone
NECK Maple, set
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 24.6" scale
TUNERS Vintage-style open-back
BRIDGE Adjusto-Matic with rosewood base
PICKUPS Two Blacktop Filter’Tron
CONTROLS Neck Volume, Bridge Volume, Master Volume, Master Tone, 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS Fender NPS, .011-.049
WEIGHT 6.9 lbs
BUILT South Korea
KUDOS Looks great. Sounds great. Awesome value.