Gretsch make quality guitars, so what’s a Gretsch guitar doing hanging around at the $500 mark? Gretsch guitars usually start at the $800 mark, climbing all the way into the thousands of dollars. In this Gretsch G5220 review we’ll see how it compares to other guitars at this price point.
The first Gretsch I played was a White Penguin, which cost nearly $3000. I always wanted to play a White Falcon, having seen John Fruciante use it to play Californication. I was always met with a firm “no” when I asked to try it (it cost nearly $4000 at the time).
Playing that White Penguin was heavenly. The tone, the feel, the style. It had it all. When I found out Gretsch were making a $500 guitar, I was excited! Let’s take a closer look.
Overview of Gretsch G5220
The G5220 is a full scale (24.6″) guitar with a solid mahogany body. It’s fairly slimline, but there’s still some weight to it. The top is laminated maple, which saves on some cost, with white and black binding around the edge.
A gloss finish completes the look. You’ll have noticed it’s shaped like a Les Paul, but the design is really the only thing that the G5220 has in common with the Les Paul. Gretsch call this design Jet. The neck is glued in to the body, which is much better for resonance.
The neck is made from Mahogany with a gloss urethane finish. Gloss finishes aren’t as comfortable to play as Satin finishes, but Gretsch had to keep costs down in order to be able to price this at $500. The finish on the neck is one such compromise.
In terms of the neck profile it’s “U shaped”, which in reality is the same as the C shaped neck commonly found on other guitars but a little slimmer. There’s still plenty of neck to work with, it’s just not really thick like the old 50’s guitars. White binding runs up the neck too for extra style points.
The fingerboard is made from black walnut. This is definitely an area where Gretsch is making a cost saving. Tonally there’s nothing wrong with walnut, but it’s softer than most woods used in fingerboards. Consequently there may be more wear than you’d expect with other woods over time.
I get that Rosewood isn’t sustainable, but I’m not sure why they couldn’t have used something like Jatoba or Pau Ferro wood for the fingerboard material. In any case walnut is just fine for the tone.
There are 22 medium jumbo frets, so pretty standard there. The higher frets are easily accessible for lead work thanks to the single cut-away. The key frets are marked out by block Pearloid inlays, so it’s pretty easy to know where you are on the fretboard!
The nut is made from synthetic bone. Whilst not as bad a plastic, it’s still not as good as bone. It would have been easy for Gretsch to fit a plastic nut on the G5220. So many other guitars in this price range use plastic and for everyone of them I’ve advised getting it swapped out. You can swap out the synthetic bone nut if you’d prefer, but it gives better performance than plastic. It’s down to personal preference.
The white binding continues onto the headstock, where you’ll find die-cast tuning machines. They do a good job a keeping the guitar in tune and look very stylish. You shouldn’t find that you need to tune the guitar every time you strum a chord.
Back to the other end of the guitar. A stylish V-Stoptail anchors everything into place. An anchored Adjusto-Matic bridge allows for some adjustment if you need to alter the intonation.
The pickups are Black top Broad Tron humbuckers. You get two of these pickups, one located at the bridge and one located at the neck. A 3-way pickup switch lets you select just the bridge, a mix of bridge and neck or just the neck pickup.
The bridge pickup gives a bright and punchy tone. The neck pickup is ok but can sound a little bit muddy with a little gain. Each pickup has it’s own volume knob for finer control. There’s also master volume and tone control knobs. The pickups and the control knobs have a lovely chrome finish.
In terms of tone, the G5220 doesn’t share many characteristics with any other brand. Even though it takes the shape of a Les Paul, it sounds nothing like either a Gibson or an Epiphone. If it doesn’t sound like a Gibson then it must take some tonal inspiration from Fender right? Wrong!
The G5220 produces a unique sound. Perhaps the best way to describe it is bright, but with a bit of added mid and low punch. Although it’s great for clean and crisp tones, it’ll sound throaty if played enthusiastically.
In terms of overdrive, it’s great for classic crunch and warmer tones. Unlike the Les Paul’s it can deal with higher gain styles, but you probably wouldn’t buy the G5220 to play heavy rock and metal styles. It’s perfect for blues and jazz, but also great for modern rock.
Pair the G5220 with a delay pedal and the tone is exquisite. The natural sustain produced by the G5220 is another very appealing feature. It’s a crazy amount of sustain and people won’t believe you when you tell them you’re not using a pedal!
The strap locks are quite novel too. They unscrew, allowing you to fit the strap before screwing tight to ensure the strap is secured. I like that little feature, but if you prefer the standard anchor points you can always swap them out.
The guitar comes with a set of nickel plated steel .010’s. They’re not bad stock strings, but as always you might want to swap them out for your favored brand and gauge. The price has been kept lower because the guitar is made in China. It seems that the quality assurance procedures are better for the G5220’s.
It’s easy for blemishes to slip through or marks on the binding, but it appears that the G5220 receives extra scrutiny. Even though produced at a much lower cost, the attention to detail is still to a very high standard.
The G5220 not only produces it’s own unique sound but is versatile, stylish and practical. Here are some of the highlights:
- Versatile Range of Tones
- Fantastic Natural Sustain
- Decent Pickups
There are a few drawbacks. Perhaps these are the result of needing to keep costs down to ensure a decent price-point. Here are the top offenders:
- Black Walnut Fingerboard Material
- Gloss Neck Finish
- Strap Locks Might Not Suit Everyone
The G5220 is a great step up for guitarists who aren’t quite sure what style they want to play. There’s enough flexibility in the G5220 to play crisp and clean right up to higher gain styles. Whilst shaped like a Les Paul, the G5220 has it’s own unique Gretsch sound.
The natural sustain is an absolute joy and it’s impressive that it can be found on a guitar at this price-point. The hardware is excellent and the pickups provide a myriad of tonal possibilities. The gloss finish to the neck is a little disappointing, but it’s still nice to play. Not all mid-priced guitars benefit from a satin finish.
The fingerboard material isn’t the toughest and may wear a little over time. They may have used walnut due to cost again, but they could have perhaps used something like Pau Ferro instead of black walnut. I’d highly recommend going to your local store and giving the G5220 a go to experience that Gretsch feel. if they’ll let you, try a White Falcon too!
Looking for a beginner’s electric guitar? Have a read of my post looking at electric guitars for beginners. I hope you’ve found this post useful. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Alternatively you can get in touch using my contact page.
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