NGD – Gretsch Broadkaster Jr -- Road Test Report

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by senojnad, Apr 9, 2017.

  1. senojnad

    senojnad Member

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    Got my first Gretsch in 1957 or ‘58 and have owned various models over the 60 years since then. In the last decade or so, several “JR” (14”) hollowbody models have grabbed my interest, but not to the extent of taking any plunges – probably because there was no JR version of a Caddy Green Country Club…. Been a sucker for Caddy Green Gretsches for most of my 6 Gretsch decades…. And then earlier this year Gretsch introduced the new Broadkaster JR…. in Caddy Green! I was smitten – a goner.

    For those unfamiliar, the Broadkaster line shares the features of the Gretsch Players Edition series – thin hollow bodies, string-through Bigsby, locking tuners, treble-bleed circuit, no-load tone pot and strap locks. The Broadkaster features the new Full’Tron pickups, center block and lower neck set.

    I play primarily Chet Atkins-type music… finger style, pop/rock/rockabilly/country stuff mostly from the ‘50’s through the ‘80’s. I play mostly clean tones through a Standel 25L15 and a Carr Skylark.

    I picked up my new Broadkaster JR on April Fools Day (go figure……). Since then I’ve logged a lot of hours with this guitar, including a good amount of “A/B” comparisons with my Gretsch 6122-’59 Country Gent which, for the last 9 years, has been my high “standard” against which all others should be measured.

    Just my opinion, but this guitar is jaw-dropping gorgeous! Photos simply do not do justice to its elegant, rich, almost 3-dimensional color and finish. This photo from the Gretsch website gives a pretty good sense of the Cadillac Green (if you can filter out the distracting hues in the background).

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    The fit and finish on the guitar are flawless. The build quality is outstanding. I spent a LOT of time looking for flaws and have found NONE. As a cabinet/furniture maker, this is an area where I know what to look for…. The guitar shows a lot of attention to fine details. The playability is excellent, equal to the best Gretsches (or Gibsons, Martins, etc.) in my experiences over nearly 6 decades.

    Among the “features” promoted with the Broadkaster lineup is the lower neck set, bringing the right-hand playing closer to the body. For me personally, the “feel” is pretty much the same as my Country Gent (other than body size). The lower neck set required the use of the B7 Bigsby which is not exactly a favorite with Gretschophiles. Initially mine was somewhat less responsive and stiffer than a B6 Bigsby. However, I swapped the standard tension spring for a Reverend “Soft Touch” spring and all is well in vibratoland. The B7 now has the same feel (for me) and function as the B6 on my ’59 Gent.

    Sounds/Tones – My initial reactions here were “mixed” – made a note to maybe think about TV Jones pickups….. However – the source of my concern turned out to be the stock strings, which sounded very harsh to my vintage ears (D;’Addario round wounds). After installing Thomastik-Infeld JS-110’s (flat wound) the tones improved drastically. The Full’Tron pickups have a full, bold sound. They are warm with a lot of punch. There is excellent articulation with each string. They are comparable in tone quality and clarity with the TV Jones pickups on my 6122-’59 Gent, with a bit more mid tones. They are slightly louder than the Gent’s TVJ’s – resistances are 5.6k ohms (neck) and 6.4k ohms (bridge). The Gent’s pickups are 4.0k ohms (neck/SuperTron) and 7.8k ohms (bridge/Classic Plus). The Full’Trons likely will perform very well with overdriven amps, either via cranked volume or pedals. So far I have worked primarily on clean sounds.

    This marks the first time during the last 17-18 years where I am NOT inclined to upgrade stock Gretsch pickups – so far, at least…..

    The Broadkaster JR has remarkable sustain compared with other Gretsch guitars I’ve owned. I assume that is due to the center block design, although it seems to have more sustain than my Gibson ES-335 with a Tru-Arc titanium bridge. With the stock round wound strings, it seemed to be confusing my Peterson Stomp Classic tuner.

    The treble bleed feature works as advertised. The guitar maintains its tones as the master volume is rolled back. There is no noticeable darkening of the tone at lower volumes. The no-load tone pot yields a nice range of very good tones, much less “muddy” than others (IMO).

    The Broadkaster has screws for raising and lowering the pickups – a nice feature that I don’t recall in other Gretsches.

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    String-Through Bigsby, Locking Tuners – While I’ve never had major issues with restringing traditional Bigsby-equipped guitars, part of my attraction to the new Players Edition models was the notion of quicker/easier string changes. My experience is very limited – one set of strings. The String-Through feature (IMO) has its own challenge in that I found it fairly difficult to insert the tip of the strings into the holes on the string shaft. It might be easier if the holes in the shaft were parallel to the top of the guitar. So – is it faster? No (IMO) – just different. Time and practice may change that view.

    I also had some problems with the Gotoh locking tuners breaking strings. I probably over-tightened the locks (??).

    Strap Locks – Appear to be Schallers. My only wish is that Schaller would make the threaded shafts slightly longer to allow use of heavier leather straps (Levy’s, etc.) without having to cut away some leather on the inside surface of the strap.

    Bottom Line – The Broadkaster JR is a KEEPER! I’m liking it a good bit my than originally anticipated. The tones and sounds are wonderful and it is a joy to play. In a word – it is a FUN guitar.
     
    fishleehooker, bgio, Ilduce and 8 others like this.
  2. pedalparty

    pedalparty Member

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    Thats AWESOME!!! I bought a 6112 Jaguar Tan last year and I love it. The craftsmanship is as good as anything Ive seen in an electric guitar.
     
  3. deadbeat son

    deadbeat son Supporting Member

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    That thing is awesome, HNGD!
     
  4. electronpirate

    electronpirate Member

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    Beautiful guitar! And nice comprehensive review.

    Might be nice to get a pic of it next to the Country Gent. Get an indication of scale.
     
  5. Ilduce

    Ilduce And now for something completely different!

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    Now that's what I call awesome! Nice score!
     
  6. pemkt

    pemkt Member

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    First I've seen that model. Seriously, I think it may the most beautiful guitar I've ever seen! Just stunning.
    Congratulations.

    Please tell me it's not 25.5" scale but Gretsch's standard 24.6" -- My bank account can't handle the damage.

    Do you have any sound clips of it?
     
  7. senojnad

    senojnad Member

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    Aug 30, 2006
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    Sorry this took so long....

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    The '59 Gent has a 17" lower bout, 2-1/4" deep; total length is 43-1/2". The Broadkaster has a 14" lower bout, 1-3/4"" deep; total length is 40-1/2".
     
  8. senojnad

    senojnad Member

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    I have no sound clips that I've made, but here is one of Greg Koch playing a different Broadkaster model. I believe the sounds/tones of all Broadkaster models will be virtually the same since they share the same pickups, electronics and body construction (the main difference being 16" vs 14" widths and single vs double cutaways).


     

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