Gretsch play­ers edi­tion Jets G6228Fm & G6131t Ft

Typecast by his­tory, the 65-year-old classic that in­spired George Har­ri­son, Steve Mar­riott and Jeff Beck gets a mod­ern makeover, and a pow­er­ful new voice...

Guitarist - - Contents - Words Ed Mitchell Pho­tog­ra­phy Joby Ses­sions

the term ‘player grade’ can con­fuse novice gui­tar geeks. “Surely, all gui­tars are de­signed to be played?” they cry. How­ever, ‘player grade’ is a mar­ket­ing term vin­tage deal­ers use to de­scribe a gui­tar that’s been dragged kick­ing and scream­ing through the past few decades yet still shows signs of life.

It might be an old Gib­son SG Ju­nior with a re­paired neck break or a set of nono­rig­i­nal Grover tuners. Maybe you’ve seen a 70s Fen­der Strat some cal­lous ne’er do well chis­elled out for hum­buck­ers back in the day thanks to Eddie Van Halen. It’s a gui­tar that’s fallen foul of shifts in fash­ion and re­ally shouldn’t fetch the same money as an un­mo­lested ex­am­ple.

These new Gretsch Play­ers Edi­tion G6228FM BT and G6131T FT Jets prom­ise all the fate­ful mods we hope to see in player grade vin­tage gui­tars (big­ger frets, great tuners, up­graded hard­ware) with­out the sense­less bru­tal­ity. Nose through the spec sheets and among the lock­ing tuners and mod­ern-style strap locks, you’ll see that these gui­tars are classic sin­gle-cut­away, cham­bered ma­hogany and lam­i­nate maple­topped Duo Jets.

That should be all we need to say, yet al­ready there’s an in­ter­est­ing tweak to bring to your at­ten­tion. Any true Gretsch nut will tell you that orig­i­nal 50s and 60s Jets have highly res­o­nant 51mm (2 inch) deep bod­ies; as a re­sult, the re­cent spec-cor­rect Vin­tage Se­lect reis­sue Jets also plumb those depths. The re­main­ing Pro­fes­sional Se­ries Jets ship with a depth of 44.45mm (1.75 inches) and that’s been the case for al­most 30 years.

How­ever, our G6228FM BT and G6131T FT, and the rest of the Play­ers Edi­tion range, are 47mm (1.85 inches) deep. You’d think that, con­sid­er­ing that the idea is to cut these Jets for bet­ter han­dling, build­ing them thin­ner would make more sense. Adding depth to the body can com­pro­mise ac­cess to the up­per frets.

It’s not im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous but Gretsch has made the ad­di­tional, al­beit slight, body depth work by set­ting each gui­tar’s ma­hogany neck deeper into its body. Up­per fret ac­cess is ac­tu­ally eas­ier on these Play­ers Edi­tion Jets than any of the other Pro­fes­sional Se­ries ex­am­ples. The neck mod isn’t the only Play­ers Edi­tion fam­ily trait set to leave the purists in dis­tress.

Look closer and you’ll no­tice that both gui­tars fea­ture an an­chored Ad­justo-Matic bridge. Now, the whole ‘which Gretsch bridge de­sign sucks the least’ thing isn’t just a bone of con­tention, it’s the whole bloody skele­ton. Just about ev­ery Gretsch shipped from the US and Ja­panese fac­to­ries over the past 60 odd years has had a float­ing bridge held in place by the ten­sion of the strings. Some gui­tars had the ridicu­lously ov­erengi­neered ’51 to ’58 Melita (aka Syn­chroSonic) bridge, oth­ers bran­dished the equally-ma­ligned 60s Space Con­trol ef­fort.

The con­sen­sus among the Jet cognoscenti is that the in­fin­itely more prim­i­tive ’58 bar bridge, favoured by George Har­ri­son, was the pick of the lit­ter. The thing is, no mat­ter which bridge you end up with, they can all be dis­lodged by a bar­rage of overex­u­ber­ant rhythm chops. To counter this some play­ers, in­clud­ing Gretsch pa­tron saint and Stray Cat Brian Set­zer, have their float­ing bridges pinned down to pre­vent slip­page. The Ad­justo-Matic bridge fit­ted to these Jets dis­penses with the float­ing for­mat al­to­gether. In­stead, the bridge spans two height-ad­justable posts set di­rectly into each gui­tar’s top, just like an­other fa­mous sin­gle cut­away 50s sur­vivor.

Look­ing at each new gui­tar as an in­di­vid­ual, the red-topped G6131T FT is clearly a hot-rod­ded 50s-style Jet Fire­bird. It has the same model num­ber af­ter all, not to men­tion the Fil­ter’Tron hum­buck­ers and neo-clas­si­cal ‘thumb­nail’ in­laid Rose­wood fin­ger­board that marked the ar­rival of the ’58 ‘Bird. The T in any Gretsch cat­a­logue des­ig­na­tion means you get a tremolo. Closer in­spec­tion re­veals that the Bigsby True Vi­brato you get here is the mod­i­fied B7CP String-Thru ver­sion, which is a damn sight quicker to re­string than the old school stuff.

Shift­ing our fo­cus to the G6228FM BT, this Jet isn’t based on any par­tic­u­lar an­ces­tor. Yes, the script head­stock logo and big block fin­ger­board in­lays are lifted from the Vin­tage Se­lect ’53 Duo Jet but the stylish ‘V’ stop tail­piece is a fea­ture found within the more af­ford­able Stream­liner and Elec­tro­matic ranges. It echoes the classic Cadil­lac tail­piece found on some White Fal­cons and Pen­guins and we have to say, it looks great on the G6228FM BT. The ‘FM’ in the model des­ig­na­tion ref­er­ences the ‘Tiger Flame Maple’ top. Gretsch has em­ployed flame maple on spe­cial run G6120s and Set­zer Sig­na­ture mod­els re­cent past but it’s still an un­usual sight on a Jet.

Gretsch has made the ad­di­tional body depth work by set­ting the necks deeper, mak­ing up­per fret ac­cess eas­ier

sounds & Feel

The ‘FT’ at­tached to the G6131T’s model des­ig­na­tion refers to its classic Fil­ter’Tron pups. The G6228FM’s ‘BT’ tag re­veals that it’s har­bour­ing some­thing a bit more mys­te­ri­ous, a pair of new Broad’Tron BT65 hum­buck­ers de­signed by ex-Gib­son and now-Fen­der pickup swami Tim Shaw.

This Shaw char­ac­ter is well-known among Gib­son pickup fetishists thanks to the hum­buck­ers he pro­duced for a fair old chunk of the 1980s. It shouldn’t be too much of a sur­prise then when we re­veal the Broad’Tron BT65s loaded into the G6228FM BT owe more son­i­cally to an over­wound PAF than some­thing you’d ex­pect from TV Jones. As we’ve al­ready es­tab­lished, this Jet isn’t look­ing for a po­si­tion in a Bea­tles trib­ute band. Thanks to the late Mal­colm Young of AC/DC we know just how well a Fil­ter’Tron takes care of busi­ness when the gain is cranked. The G6228FM BT has way more thump in the bot­tom end than twang and a more pro­nounced midrange that re­ally comes in handy when you get into the real heavy stuff. This one is even more for brother An­gus’ speed. Oh, and this is the first Jet you can play metal on. A real wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing if ever there was one.

By way of con­trast, the G6131T be­haved ex­actly as ex­pected. It nails Beatle­ma­nia, Small Faces and High­way To Hell, and has enough air in its cham­bers to pull off a re­spectable Stray Cat Strut. We like that the wiring loom and its flame maple com­padre has been kept sim­ple: two vol­ume, a No-Load tone, mas­ter vol­ume and three-way pickup se­lec­tor. As much as we love the retro vibe of the classic Gretsch three-way tone switch we don’t miss it here.

In all the best ways, this gui­tar is eas­ier to han­dle than our own reg­u­lar Pro­fes­sional Se­ries Jet Fire­bird. In fact, the up­per frets are closer to hand, and there’s a dis­cernible in­crease in sus­tain both acous­ti­cally and amped, likely thanks to the an­chored bridge. Drop­ping the neck height has def­i­nitely made these gui­tars feel more ap­proach­able. Fig­ure in the classic Jet ‘U’ pro­file neck – a pleas­antly plump C – along with the 305mm (12-inch) fin­ger­board ra­dius and the ex­cep­tion­ally well-dressed frets and these are the best play­ing Jets yet.

the G6228fM Bt has more thump than twang and a more pro­nounced midrange is handy for the real heavy stuff

ver­dict

The Play­ers Edi­tion Jets might be mem­bers of the same fam­ily but like the Cor­leone broth­ers, the G6131T FT and G6228FM BT have very dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties. Yes, it’s been tweaked to stream­line its per­for­mance but tonally at least, the G6131T FT is a good old-fash­ioned Duo Jet. The G6228FM BT is more like a 2018 Ford Mus­tang. You get the curb ap­peal of the vin­tage orig­i­nal but the power and per­for­mance are as con­tem­po­rary as it gets. This is the Jet you buy in­stead of a Les Paul or ESP Eclipse.

As ever with the Pro­fes­sional Se­ries, playa­bil­ity, tone, build qual­ity, even value for money are so con­sis­tently ex­cel­lent that we could have cut and pasted this sen­tence from any of our pre­vi­ous re­views. We also love that Gretsch has lifted some fea­tures from its more af­ford­able ranges. The V stop tail­piece from the Stream­liner and Elec­tro­matic stuff looks right at home on the G6228FM BT, and both Play­ers Edi­tion gui­tars reap the ben­e­fits of the an­chored tune-o-matic-style bridge that has been present on those mid-price Gretsches for a good few years now.

Un­less you’re one of those peo­ple that think mu­sic died when Elvis was drafted into the US Army, these primped, mod­ded and player-cen­tric Jets should suit you right down to the ground.

1

The G6228FM BT de­fies Jet con­ven­tion with a stop tail­piece and an­chored Ad­justo-Matic bridge. The V-shaped tail­piece has been pre­vi­ously seen on the af­ford­able Gretsch Stream­liner and Elec­tro­matic gui­tars. Part­nered with its bridge, it gives this Jet more sus­tain than ex­pe­ri­enced in pre­vi­ous mod­els Don’t let that old school ’53-era script logo fool you, the G6228FM BT is more mod­ern rock beast than retro rocker. It takes care of busi­ness when it comes to tun­ing sta­bil­ity too thanks to a set of Go­toh lock­ing ma­chine­heads... 2

The G6161T Jet also fea­tures a di­rect mounted tune-o-matic style bridge. This time it’s part­nered with a Bigsby B7CP String-Thru True Vi­brato. It might look like vin­tage but this ver­sion is mod­i­fied to make it eas­ier to string 3

4 De­spite the mod­ern tweaks, both Jets still fea­ture some vin­tage eye candy. For ex­am­ple, the G6228FM’s ebony fin­ger­board has ’53-style big block in­lays while the G6131T’s rose­wood ’board is home to the Neo-clas­si­cal ‘thumb­nail’ in­lays that made their de­but in 1958

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