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PRS SE Starla Vs. Gretsch Jet Electromatic

Shades of Blue

Silver Supporting Member
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2,419
Which would you choose and why? I love PRS, but I want the chime of a Gretsch. I love the Starla aesthetically, but not sure how it would sound vs the "real deal."
 

fishlog

Member
Messages
2,086
Gretsch and PRS both usually display really good craftsmanship in their entry models. At least Gretsch used too been a while since I've owned or tried one out. But I'd have to give the edge to PRS.

Look for a used S2 Starla... Loved the one I owned. And yes it did have some Gretsch like jangle.
 

tonedover

This Is Fine.
Gold Supporting Member
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7,193
own and tried several SE models - can vouch for quality of build, and over time you can decide if you want different pickups.

i have no experience with the import line of gretch.
 

Jutaika

Member
Messages
617
I have owned several PRS SE and a Gretsch Electromatic. They're both great in the sub-$1,000 price range (good build and finish, good playability, good looks, etc.).

If you like the looks or controls of the Starla (don't need 3 volume knobs for 2 pickups) then you might look at humbucker sized filtertron pickups. Between the FT pickups and the Bigsby vibrato you should come close to the brighter, twangier sound of a Gretsch.

Don't forget that an Electromatic Jet (if that's what you're looking at) is actually chambered out in parts of the body, not completely solid like the Starla. For me personally, that has a lot of appeal. I have a G5420T full hollowbody, but I still want a Jet! The Aleutian Blue with woodgrain back is calling my name.
 

Jutaika

Member
Messages
617
Look for a used S2 Starla... Loved the one I owned. And yes it did have some Gretsch like jangle.
Good recommendation, I have an S2 Studio and love it (it has a Starla pickup at the bridge). It's enough of a step up from PRS SE models in refinement that it's worth the price difference, in my opinion.
 

Shades of Blue

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,419
I have owned several PRS SE and a Gretsch Electromatic. They're both great in the sub-$1,000 price range (good build and finish, good playability, good looks, etc.).

If you like the looks or controls of the Starla (don't need 3 volume knobs for 2 pickups) then you might look at humbucker sized filtertron pickups. Between the FT pickups and the Bigsby vibrato you should come close to the brighter, twangier sound of a Gretsch.

Don't forget that an Electromatic Jet (if that's what you're looking at) is actually chambered out in parts of the body, not completely solid like the Starla. For me personally, that has a lot of appeal. I have a G5420T full hollowbody, but I still want a Jet! The Aleutian Blue with woodgrain back is calling my name.

It would be between the Electromatic Jet or the Broadkaster Jr. Love the idea of the smaller semi-hollow body...
 

Jutaika

Member
Messages
617
It would be between the Electromatic Jet or the Broadkaster Jr. Love the idea of the smaller semi-hollow body...
I'm right there with you (smaller semi-hollow bodies). I really like both of those, and I'd just buy one of each if I had unlimited money and storage space.
 

Shades of Blue

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,419
I'm right there with you (smaller semi-hollow bodies). I really like both of those, and I'd just buy one of each if I had unlimited money and storage space.

I'm just afraid that the Broadkaster might sound too airy or trebly, whereas the Jet might have more body. I could see the low end from one of the bigger semi-hollows might me more full.
 

Jutaika

Member
Messages
617
I'm just afraid that the Broadkaster might sound too airy or trebly, whereas the Jet might have more body. I could see the low end from one of the bigger semi-hollows might me more full.
Good point, the Broadkaster Jr is getting farther away from the Starla, not really comparable.

My full hollow G5420T has that airy, trebly thing and I love it, but sometimes I'd like that Gretsch tone with a little more focus and solid feel, which is why I am drawn to Jets.

I don't really notice a more full low end, as you suggested, compared to my solid body or semi-hollow guitars, just a different character that I really enjoy. Filtertrons are what give you the articulation and sparkle, with thick, warm tone in the same package. I changed to TV Jones Classics, but the stock BlackTop Gretsch import pickups weren't far behind.

One observation: because I grew up playing acoustics exclusively, the full hollow is familiar to hold. Not sure I'd get along with it so well if I started on solid bodies. That said, the Broadkaster Jr is thinner, and the Jet thinner still.

That center block in the Broadkaster will make a big difference. It should be a lot tighter in feel and response. In between the full hollow and the Jet.
 

Waxhead

Member
Messages
6,338
Gretsch and PRS both usually display really good craftsmanship in their entry models. At least Gretsch used too been a while since I've owned or tried one out. But I'd have to give the edge to PRS.

Look for a used S2 Starla... Loved the one I owned. And yes it did have some Gretsch like jangle.
Which would you choose and why? I love PRS, but I want the chime of a Gretsch. I love the Starla aesthetically, but not sure how it would sound vs the "real deal."

Weird comparison imo - there's not many similarities between these 2 guitars.
Solid v Semi Hollow, Standard humbuckers v filtertrons, stop-tail v bigsby trem etc etc.
One common feature is they're both excellent guitars :)

An Electromatic Pro Jet is not an entry level Gretsch - Streamliners are :)
 

Steadfastly

Member
Messages
3,703
Gretsch and PRS hold something for me in their styles. Alas, they don't make a guitar that will fit my hands.
 

Tritone

Member
Messages
1,117
I'd pick up a used S2 Starla for $800-900, then maybe replace the pickups if you want to with humbucker-sized Filter'trons from a pickup maker of your choice. I have an S2 Starla and three guitars with Filter'trons, and I don't really think they sound the same, although the Starla pickups are bright and twangy. Another thing to note is that I really think a lot of "that great Gretsch sound" comes from the semi or full hollow construction, which is something to consider. I think because of the 25" scale length and the solid body construction, a Starla won't completely sound like a Gretsch, but it would probably sound indistinguishable in a band situation or with more than mild overdrive.
 

Shades of Blue

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,419
I'd pick up a used S2 Starla for $800-900, then maybe replace the pickups if you want to with humbucker-sized Filter'trons from a pickup maker of your choice. I have an S2 Starla and three guitars with Filter'trons, and I don't really think they sound the same, although the Starla pickups are bright and twangy. Another thing to note is that I really think a lot of "that great Gretsch sound" comes from the semi or full hollow construction, which is something to consider. I think because of the 25" scale length and the solid body construction, a Starla won't completely sound like a Gretsch, but it would probably sound indistinguishable in a band situation or with more than mild overdrive.

Great points.

I'm honestly leaning towards an Electromatic Jet in black right now....or gold lol. I think I have a habit of searching for a specific sound and going for the PRS equivalent, when I often should just go for the guitar that makes the sound I want. I am a PRS fan boy no doubt for their aesthetics and feel, but sometimes I am left flat with sound.
 

Waxhead

Member
Messages
6,338
Great points.

I'm honestly leaning towards an Electromatic Jet in black right now....or gold lol. I think I have a habit of searching for a specific sound and going for the PRS equivalent, when I often should just go for the guitar that makes the sound I want. I am a PRS fan boy no doubt for their aesthetics and feel, but sometimes I am left flat with sound.

There is no PRS equivalent to a Gretsch.
No one else makes an equivalent either.
And there's much more to Gretsch than just the pups.

I like PRS guitars but Gretsch prolines and Electromatic range are much better imo.
 

Shades of Blue

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,419
There is no PRS equivalent to a Gretsch.
No one else makes an equivalent either.
And there's much more to Gretsch than just the pups.

I like PRS guitars but Gretsch prolines and Electromatic range are much better imo.

I just did something rather fun. I found an old MIM Strat in the closet that my wife bought me several years ago. It’s gutted, so I bought a 920D loaded TV Jones pickguard. This is gonna be fun!!!
 

fishlog

Member
Messages
2,086
An Electromatic Pro Jet is not an entry level Gretsch - Streamliners are :)

See shows how long it's been since I've looked at Gretsch guitars. When I was into the there were Electromatics and their upper lineup. Can't remember what they even called it! If streamliners were around I guess I never noticed.

At one time I had a tennessee rose and then an Anniversary before I got a firebird jet.

The Starla is in no way like them but it did get you some of the top end jangle. I'd compare to people saying a jazz master can get some tele sounds and in both cases it's a stretch imo.
 

greatmutah

Member
Messages
810
Bumping an old thread but this may help some. I’ve played a few of the Gretsch Electromatic Jets and own an SE Starla. I also own a Gretsch 5422TG. This guitar has the same pickups as the 5230T. None of these guitars are made in the same country, not sure if that matters to anyone or not. To me it doesn’t, not after having played all 3.

The Gretsch Jet comes in two flavors. 5220 and 5230T. The 5220 has a stop tail and adjustomatic bridge. The 5230T has a Bigsby B50. Pickups are different. The 5220 has the Broadtrons, which are voiced closer to PAFs. The 5230T has Blacktop Filter’trons which are still a bit warmer than say a HS Filter’tron or TV Jones. I think they’re solid pickups and do their job well. Is there better out there? Sure. But these aren’t something you’re going to want to rip out right away. They sound great clean and respond well to gain. Playability is nice, the neck is a good comfortable shape and the sounds are a variation on “That Great Gretsch Sound.” Body of course is Mahogany/Maple, mahogany neck and walnut board. The walnut board is really nice. Not necessarily as dark as some rosewood but it works well. Scale length is shorter than the PRS too. Good guitars, great variety of sounds.

The Starla SE is a little different construction wise. It’s a mahogany body and neck. Rosewood fingerboard. Inlays are the trademark birds. The body is a flat top and has that super cool beveling in the cutaway to make upper fret access a little easier. The current DS-02 pickups are supposedly more based on a Teisco style pickup, but they still pack plenty of jangle and attitude (and some Filtertronish character), so sound wise they can get in similar ballparks. The body is also fairly thin compared to the Gretsch and has a tummy cut for a little extra comfort. Honestly, it reminds me a bit of my SG and I mean that in a good way. Scale is 25”. In between a Gibson and Fender. I personally dig it. Wide fat neck may not be for everyone but I find it super comfortable. Aside from having the standard 3 pickup positions you can easily split coils by pulling the tone knob. This allows it to do some comparable humbucking sounds to what the 5230T does and has some single coil sounds to boot. No Bigsby, but if you want, I’m sure you could add a B5 and a Vibramate. I might do that myself.

So how do they compare? Sound wise you can get them in a similar ballpark but I find the BT Filter’trons a little more polite than the DS-02s. I find those to be a bit more raw and I mean that in a good way. Playability is solid on both but I prefer the wide fat neck to the Gretsch U shape. It just fits better in my hands. Fretwork on both have been solid from my experiences (and it’s great on my 5422 but that guitar is also MIK so I would hope it is). If you’re playing up higher on the neck, I feel the Starla has an edge here due to its heel depth and the contour within the cutaway. It’s just effortless to reach with that setup. Also, the Starla has the coil split but the Gretsch has individual pickup volumes plus a master volume. That’s some nice versatility. If all you want is the chime, both guitars will provide that e. If you need to have the classic Gretsch looks to go with it or just prefer the guitar for all the features then yeah go with the Electromatic Jet. If you want something maybe a little more rude and brash out of the box, grab the Starla. If the PRS neck shape and playability appeal to you, definitely go for the PRS. I’d have no issue owning both a Jet of sorts and the Starla but for me, aside from the cool vibe of the pickups, the neck keeps me coming back to the Starla.
 
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1,873
If you go with the Starla, there are some startlingly cheap Ibanezes that do the Gretsch thing very well, though the pickups are more Broadtron/PAFish than standard Filtertron.

I had (and still have) a $300-something Ibanez Artcore AF75 that I've gigged in about half the states of the Union and used on dozens of recordings – it was my #1 for well over a decade, and my #2 was so busted that I really did whatever I could not to need it – and it's sitting in its case right now, ready to go. Nice easy neck, great top-end chime when you want it, handles high gain beautifully for a hollowbody, and I think I've probably broken about 5-8 strings on it ever. It's versatile enough that it was the only guitar I used on several complete albums. And you can get a player-grade used AF75 for something in the low $200s.
 




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