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Gretsch - Vintage vs Modern

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by mild, May 23, 2006.

  1. mild

    mild Member

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    So, I'm weighing up buying a Duo Jet. My usual line of thinking with instruments has been "Find something vintage", and with Fenders and Ric's that I have bought, getting something old for an ok price has usually not been too much of a problem.

    But now I want a Duo Jet, and as far as I can see, the only real options for getting a good playing, cool looking (ie 50's design) vintage Jet come from... well, the 1950's! Expensive? Very yes!!
    A quick ask to one of my studio/session buddies yeilded this response:

    "As far as gretschs go for good years, it's complicated. Stay away from
    everyting in the 70's when Baldwin owned them. 60's is all good up
    until '69. they were reissued from '89 but they were a lil average and
    the pickups have ceramic magnets. mid 90's they get a lot better and
    then fender bought them in 2000 and since then they've pretty much
    been the best ever. So a new one is def gonna be a killer - they're
    made in japan in the same workshop as the legend ibanez dudes who made
    all those killer archtops in the 70's.
    I'd be looking for post-2000 stuff if i was in the market."

    So that's his take, and it sounds fair. Basically, I'm just looking for some open discussion on this - how do you Vintage Gretsch owners like the new models? How do they compare? And for those that own the new ones, what is the production quality on them like? Have they suffered any from moving to Japan?

    Thanks guys,
    Jono
     
  2. Jon C

    Jon C Silver Supporting Member

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    I never found a vintage Gretsch I'd actually want to own, there was something up with each one. The newer Elliott Easton model I found (used/mint) is the dream DuoJet IMO, it's a fantastic guitar with some great tweaks, find one w/ TV Jones Filtertrons & upgraded pots etc. and you are set... at least that's what worked for me.

    Jon
     
  3. sanhozay

    sanhozay klon free since 2009

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    When I first started playing guitar I was infatuated with Telecasters, Gretschs and Rickenbackers. I still am but pretty much gave up on finding a nice playing Gretsch until a few years ago. I owned an old '67 Country Gentleman {like the one George played} for about three years. It was a bling monster but never had the range of sounds I wanted. At the time I could only afford keeping one guitar so I sold it for a Telecaster. I also almost purchased an old '58 Duo from Matt Umanov but that guitar was also a bling monster with zero soul. These days I wish I kept the Gent but the ugly truth was it couldn't keep up with most of the modern Gretsch's that I've played or owned. I recently scored a screaming deal on a Setzer and it's an amazing instrument. It doesn't have the romantic nostalgia of the New York Gretsch's but it plays better than the few vintage players I've encountered and has a much broader tonal palette. And the bling-bling is too die for.

    Also, the new TSP Duo is awesome! Slim neck and skinny frets but it's a sweetie!
     
  4. Mrjoelv

    Mrjoelv Member

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    I have played Vintage 1960's Gretsch’s and compared to the new ones I have to say I like the new ones better. Maybe the vintage 60's played better in the 60's but I like the playability of the modern one more plus the upgrades that some of the new ones have, like Tune-o-matic bridges are a nice touch. The sound of the older ones was always great. I have a 1994 6120 lacquer finish with Alnico Filtertrons and 2005 Phoenix with TV Jones. Both guitars are great but the newer Phoenix is a notch above the 1994 6120 overall. The switches on the 1994 were a bit scratchy just like the older Gretsch’s but the upgrade switch and wiring harness from TV Jones fixed that. The TV Jones pickups really add a new dimension to the sound that makes it enjoyable to play and listen to. The 1994 pickups are mellower and lack the edge of the TV Jones but still sound good.
     
  5. Kiwi

    Kiwi Silver Supporting Member

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    This is the rare case where the modern guitars are easily the equal of the vintage ones, and often better.

    First, go to the Gretsch Pages and spend some time on the forums there. Very, very knowledgeable and helpful folks who can guide you, as they guided me. http://www.gretschpages.com/ for the overview and the discussion pages are at http://www.gretschpages.com/discus/ .

    Fender's takeover of Gretsch in 2003 is also that rare case where the financial resources of a massive company really improved the selection, features, variety and quality control of the smaller company's products.

    Moden Gretsches (both pre- and post-Fender) are made in the Terada factory in Japan, and they are generally terrific guitars. FMIC tightened up QC and made the Gretsch company far more responsive to customers.

    I'll phrase this carefully: The complaints about vintage Gretsches tend to center around guitars that, well, kind of fall apart. Rotting bindings, playability issues. There were enough discussions of "How do I keep this old guitar going?" to convince me to look for a good modern Gretsch.

    Happily, I can recommend the new ones. I've bought (and kept!) a stunning pre-FMIC Setzer 6120, and a 6114 New Jet as well. They have their own sound, and I cherish them.

    Main things to look at: Be CERTAIN that you are getting alnico pickups. Post-FMIC is nearly guaranteed to be alnico, designed by TV Jones. Pre-FMIC, it depends on the models: Setzer 6120 and the 6114 New Jet had them; most of the rest had ceramic pickups that could be kind of bright.

    The modern Gretsches are great guitars once again. Happy hunting!
     
  6. mild

    mild Member

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    Hey thanks guys, that was super informative! Kiwi, great stuff, I had been hunting around the Gretsch pages a little also, and definitely found some good stuff there.

    Jon, Joel, San - thanks also. I will probably end up going with one of the new TSP's - the importer of Gretsch here in New Zealand is a friend of mine, and is going to help me out. The TSP looks to be about as good as it gets from the factory line... :)

    I am figuring I will also throw an email TV Jones's way - and upgrade to proper Filtertrons once I have the gat. Any reccomended models? I like the look of both the Classics, and the Powertrons... Would any other Jet/Gretsch/TV users care to comment?

    I would invariably dive into the electronics also. From what I've read, there are often problems with the switching on these newer Gretsch's (although its reportedly getting a lot better...) Would it be prudent to get a wiring harness off of TV whilst I'm at it? I would probably also do some copper shielding... I'm big on noiseless guitars...

    Thanks for all your help so far, and no doubt for your ensuing advice... it really helps us young guys out.
    Jono
     
  7. Junebug

    Junebug Member

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    I recently picked up anew Gretsch Spectra Sonic. I have no experience with vintage Gretschs and this is probably not a "typical" Gretsch model, but the workmanship was absolutely flawless. It has TVJones Powertron pickups which sound great to me.
     
  8. blueprint

    blueprint Member

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    I have a 73' Roc Jet. Very close to the Duo Jet, but far less expensive... Yet a killer guitar at an affordable price (more or less $1500-2000).
    It could be an alternative to your new Duo Jet in this price range.
    By the way, I've tried many vintage and new Gretsh. Some vintages were awfull, some were incredible but nearly all the new ones were very good instruments.
    Hope this helped!
     
  9. seafoamer

    seafoamer Member

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    One key to vintage (50's & 60's) Gretsches is to find a good one that either doesn't need a neck re-set or already had one. Also watch out as the bindings materials don't seem to stand the test of time as well as say Gibsons. Most 70's models I've played don't sound good and weigh as much as ur average boat achor.
     
  10. datguytim

    datguytim Supporting Member

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    It all depends on which Gretsch - they were pretty inconsistent back in the day. My friend has a reissue Duo-Jet (about 9 years old) that is pretty killer, however I played a '63 Tennesean last week in NYC and it kicked the crap out of ALL the current reissues - that guitar was just plain magic. For $300 more than the reissues - the choice was simple. You really just have to PLAY as many as you can & then make a decision. Good luck - Gretschs are awesome guitars!
     
  11. KennyM

    KennyM Supporting Member

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    I've been pondering the old-v-new Gretsch issue lately during a semi active search for some alternate guitars to pick up. I had a great early 60's Nashville when I was in high school (never, ever under any circumstances sell a good guitar) and thought a Gretsch might be fun to have again. My normal inclination is to start checking the vintage dealers around LA, but I wasn't coming up with anything that knocked me out. Even if they were in good cosmetic shape, almost all didn't play very well and were not very consistant, even between similar models. Didn't really find the tone monster either as the sound was very inconsistant also. Maybe George was right when he said the Beatles could have sounded really good if they had had Strats and Gibson's back in the early days :jo

    Anyways, started checking out some newer ones and have been really impressed. They all sound and play great and have been so consistant from one to the other that I wouldn't even hesitate to order one without even playing it. I haven't really felt or heard much difference between any of the couple dozen I've played now.

    I think the Setzer model is killer and the one to get, but gotta do something about those dice. Having someone elses little personal cosmetic tweeks for me is akin to wearing someone elses underwear. You could certainly make it work, but do you really want to?

    Kenny M.
     
  12. sanhozay

    sanhozay klon free since 2009

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    I'd gladly wear Setzer's second hand johnnies. With a smile on my face.
     
  13. WordMan

    WordMan Member

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    I had a minty fresh 1955 Gretsch 6196 Cadillac Green Country Club - basically a Chet 6120 with no Bigsby and a different finish. Long story - paid $350 from someone who didn't know. Sounded okay but tough to play - bottom line is that I had been told on several occasions by experts that the finish was so delicate - and this one had been in a case in the basement for 40 years - that every time I played it I was risking its value. After trying to get a decent tone out of it for a while, I wasn't sure if it was the guitar or my tentativeness. I finally traded it for a couple of very pricey guitars and ended up happy - I use both to this day. But after doing a bunch of research and trying a bunch of vintage Gretsches since then, I am basically of the mind that, while lots of folks claim that modern Gibsons can vary in quality, those folks have never played old Gretsches - I assume good ones were truly amazing, but most - eh, not so much...
     
  14. pfflam

    pfflam Silver Supporting Member

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    I'd get a new Cadillac Green Duo Jet in a minute if I could afford it

    or a Double Cut 6120.

    The Eliot Easton models after '98 (when Gretsch's start to get consistently great) are probably a very good investment bet. They are no longer being made and everybody seems to covet them.
    (if I got one I'd never be able to sell it . . . so much for the 'investment' idea)
     
  15. smiert spionam

    smiert spionam Member

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    Sounds like your tastes run similar to mine. I've cobbled together a nice hodgepodge of vintage guitars (some really sweet ones, actually), since I prefer their feel, I like the sense of history, and there's often no good substitute for a well broken-in old guitar. I owned an early '60s Annie for a while, and have a couple of '50s archtops that are long-term keepers.


    Part of the issue for me is that I can be confident that a vintage guitar will never depreciate. I don't have a real collector's sensibility, but I like to stretch my guitar budget as far as possible. Buying vintage can be the smartest way to spend the money.

    I have to say, though, that the newest version of the Duo-Jet with Dynas really looks good. I played one in a store the other day that was great -- nice and light, finish didn't seem too thick, etc. Given that a decent player-grade '50s Duo is pretty much $4k at a minimum, it's tempting. The one I looked at was the basic 6128t-1957. The TSP and the lacquer-finished model (DSV?) also look good -- but prices on them push closer to vintage territory.

    Hmmmmmmmmmm...
     
  16. oscar100

    oscar100 Member

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    buy a jim english guitar

    handmade - stunning to look at and play - teh best pups as electrics

    hands down teh best grestch i ever played and now own

    i went thru the same process as you and ended up with teh english - he made gtrs for chet atkins amongst others

    check out jim english guitars website

    :AOK
     
  17. clothwiring

    clothwiring Supporting Member

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    A luthier I was talking to this last winter stated that the new Gretchs that are being made were constructed the best.
     
  18. smiert spionam

    smiert spionam Member

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    I only wish the new Duo-Jets had chunkier necks -- that would make them even more tempting. They're not tiny, but not as thick as in the '50s.
     
  19. sniffin

    sniffin Member

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    Hi to all, firstly I really don't see any similarities or comparison between the modern gretsches and the vintage ones. I once owned a late 60's double anniversary model and it was a time bomb, I owned it for around 10 years and then traded it in for a 67 SG CUSTOM but I must say that I do miss my first Gretsch. Infact a few months after I sold it (January 2001) I started looking for nice Gretsch guitar to buy, but since I like the hollow-body ones I was hit by the price increasement that vintage gretschs had in 10 years. I bought my Anny for 2200 australian dollars in 1990 and sold it for 2700 euros in 2001(which is around 4500 australian dollars). I had looked around for about 2 years while living in Milan and had only found the modern Japan made Gretsch's, and I convinced myself to buy one. I bought a 59 6120 re-issue (2004) which looked fantastic and I was really happy when I pulled it out of the case and looked at how it was built (even though there wasn't any vintage odour coming out of it) I liked the looks of it. BUTTTT when I plugged it into my '78 Fender Twin I was really really set back and sad... there wasn't anything that could be compared to my old Gretsch, it sounded horrible and really empty and flat. I kept that guitar for 4 days and then took it back to the dealer who very nicely asked me that he was just wondering why it had taken me so long to bring it back?? Since he couldn't give me a refund I asked him if he had any USA made guitars and it was my lucky day, I traded it straight for a new Les Paul standard which I still have. Then last year I bought myself a 1963 6120 Chet Atkins and when I tried it out at the shop on an old tweed fender amp, I just fell in love straight away and bought it without thinking twice.
    So I think that the modern Japanese Gretsch's have absolutely nothing in common with the vintage ones except for their looks, and if you speak to any luthier about modern Gretches they'll just laugh at you and tell you to buy a kellogs cornflakes cardboard box which costs less and sounds better!!!!
    No offence to Fender or Japanese Gretsch workers or Kellogs Cornflakes workers!!! I think that if you can't afford a vintage Gretsch but you're in love with that Great Gretsch Sound, save up and buy a vintage one.
    thanx
    Saverio
     
  20. scottlr

    scottlr Member

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    My Setzer Sig came with the dice installed, but it has a set of regular knobs in the case. I put them on it the first day and haven't even looked at the dice since.

    [​IMG]

    This is a 90s (I think) 57 RI Silverjet that I was told used to be Billy Zoom's backup guitar. I don't know or care about that, but it seems to be aging well. I have the pickguard in the case. I don't usually take a guard off a guitar, but on this guitar, it just was too close to the string height, and really got in the way.

    [​IMG]
     

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