Gretsch G5120 Review
Time for a Gretsch G5120 review using the new format for doing a brief reviews of the various bits of great that I use – I call it the “I” Test: 7 categories that are a bit different from the standard review that reads like it’s lifted from a guitar magazine. My “I Test” takes into account not just the performance characteristics (as normal reviews do) but also addresses the real reason we buy stuff: the 7 “I”s – what’s the Item, Inspiration (why did I get it), Image (what’s it look like), Investment (bargain or just lust), Intrinsic qualities (what does it do), Intangibles (sometimes the reason you got it doesn’t fall into any other category!), and If not this then… (did I look at alternatives).
And so we begin…
Item: Gretsch 5120 Electromatic guitar
Inspiration: You can’t really start talking Gretsch without a nod to the legends who use them, in particular (in my case) Brian Setzer. There’s something intrinsically cool about the Gretsch semi-acoustic shape with that big ol’ Bigsby hanging off the back. I also need to give a nod to Aaron in The Hellbenders who has a black G5120. I used it for a version of The Offcuts “Break It Down” in one of the first ever gigs we played – captured in all its glory below! – and it felt fantastic. Pretty much from that day on I knew one would eventually find its way into the quiver.
Image: You can’t get a Gretsch in any other colour than orange! At least that’s my call (sorry Aaron, your black one is okay too). It’s also a guitar that just feels good strung around your neck, sits nicely and, dare I say, looks pretty cool.
Investment: I bought mine new at a big music shop for about $1200 (they’re down around a grand now thanks to the exchange rate). It still felt like a decent price and the finish on mine is pretty damn good. I’ve seen reviews suggested flipping out a few of the standard items you’d do on a cheaper guitar (tuners, pickups etc) but I was always pretty happy out of the box. The only thing I did do was get some slightly longer springs for the Bigsby that I do feel improve its performance.
Intrinsic Qualities: The cheaper pickups in the Electromatic line do a decent job of getting the true Gretsch sound and it seems pretty adept at everything from a smooth jazz-style approach right through to a more over-driven rock sound. Nothing too special here – this is a guitar that you probably get more for its look and specific sound rather than its versatility.
It’s important to note that like all “second tier” guitars (cheaper versions of big name classic models) you really should try a few different ones. As someone on the inside at Fender once told me, their Squier models can be just as good as a USA Fender – but it might only be 2 out of 10 of them. The rest will be okay but you do need to try a few to find a magic one.
Intangibles: As I said, this is all about the classic look more than anything – not too many intangibles beyond that!
If not this then: I’d long wanted a semi-acoustic but knew I’d be looking at cheaper ones. Epiphone’s various semis were always up there but for some reason I never pulled the pin until I saw this one. The semi I want more than anything is a Rickenbacker 330 but funds have never allowed for such indulgence!