Gretsch lim­ited edi­tion stream­liner

Gretsch’s en­try-level Stream­lin­ers pro­vide plenty of ‘Gretsch-ness’ at an af­ford­able price. Here are two new lim­ited ‘mod­ded’ mod­els to tempt us

Guitarist - - Contents - Words Dave Bur­rluck Pho­tog­ra­phy Olly Cur­tis

G2420t-P90 Hol­low body &

G2655tG-P90 Cen­ter block Jr

it’s not al­ways easy to drag a her­itage brand into the mod­ern age, but Gretsch – cer­tainly in re­cent years – has been do­ing it rather well. Its Play­ers Edi­tion adds nu­mer­ous player-cen­tric tweaks and the range is a good foil to the ‘don’t-touch-me-I’m-vin­tage’ Vin­tage Se­lect mod­els. The Elec­tro­mat­ics have re­cently been up­graded and, un­til the launch of the Stream­lin­ers back in 2016, were the en­try-point to those want­ing that look without those prices.

A cou­ple of years on and the Stream­lin­ers are not quite as af­ford­able as they were, but even at their quoted RRPs (and no

Aside from its fin­ish, the G2420T-P90’s rai­son d’être is the neck-placed ‘dog ear’ P-90 sin­gle coil

doubt lower street prices) they of­fer, on pa­per at least, sub­stan­tial bang for yer ol’ buck. Not only are they per­fectly good gui­tars, but they also make for prime mod­ding ma­te­rial, not least be­cause the orig­i­nal mod­els all fea­tured the Broad’Tron hum­buck­ers. These not only pro­vide a more con­tem­po­rary ‘beefed up’ Gretsch-y voice, but with a stan­dard full hum­buck­ing size, there are tril­lions of retro­fit pick­ups to choose if you want to change their flavour. How­ever, with a pair of re­cently re­leased Lim­ited Edi­tion mod­els (lim­ited to 300 pieces each in Europe), it seems Gretsch has been mod­ding them for us. Both new mod­els add a P-90 and come in smart satin colours – only one per model, though – which make a wel­come change from the plethora of over-glossed Asian gui­tars.

Our 16-inch (406mm) wide hol­low­body G2420T-P90 is a close cousin of the stan­dard Stream­liner Hol­low Body, which is of­fered with a Bigsby or a trapeze tail­piece. Our lim­ited model is Bigs­by­only, a li­censed B60, and comes in quite a moody-look­ing Mid­night Wine Satin. Fin­ish aside, how­ever, its rai­son d’être is the neck-placed ‘dog ear’ P-90 sin­gle coil, which nods to­wards the G6120 Ed­die Cochrane that pairs a sim­i­lar-style neck pickup with a Dy­na­sonic sin­gle coil at bridge. Here, how­ever, we get one of those afore­men­tioned Broad’Tron ’buck­ers.

The G2655TG-P90 Stream­liner Cen­ter Block Ju­nior is again based on an ex­ist­ing model, the 13.375-inch (340mm) wide G2655T Cen­ter Block Ju­nior. Gretsch’s prod­uct spe­cial­ist Adam Bow­den-Smith re­minds us that “the ‘ju­nior’ bit refers to its small body – it doesn’t mean it’s for be­gin­ners or any­thing like that”. Again, while the stan­dard model sports ei­ther the V-Stop­tail or a li­censed Bigsby B50, the lim­ited-edi­tion model is Bigsby-only, in one satin colour, and here the ‘soap­bar’ P-90 sits in bridge po­si­tion flanked by a Broad’Tron at neck. In­ci­den­tally, it’s not the first time Gretsch has added a P-90 in bridge po­si­tion (that was an­other lim­ited model but in the Pro­fes­sional Se­ries, the G6115T-LTD15 Cen­ter Block Ju­nior ‘Red Betty’).

En­try-level they may be but Gretsch’s clas­sic lam­i­nated con­struc­tion, with proper kerfed lin­ings, is repli­cated here with nice touches, not least the ‘se­cured’ tune-o-matic bridge, which sits on a wooden foot on the Hol­low Body and goes di­rectly into the

spruce cen­tre block of the Ju­nior. There’s a vin­tage style to the sim­ple black knobs and, al­though both rose­wood fin­ger­boards are bound and fea­ture big pearloid block in­lays, nei­ther looks over-blinged like some clas­sic Gretsch mod­els. That said, our Ju­nior goes for gold-plated hard­ware – a first for the oth­er­wise nickel-only Stream­liner range – which ac­counts for the up­charge in price.

Feel & sounds

With an ob­vi­ous ‘lit­tle and large’ vibe thanks to the dif­fer­ent body sizes and depths (the Hol­low Body is 73mm deep at the rim, and the Ju­nior is just over 46mm), there’s still plenty of shared style. The necks, for ex­am­ple, are pretty sim­i­lar, de­spite be­ing quoted as ‘Slim U’ on the Hol­low Body and ‘Thin U’ on the Ju­nior. Nut widths av­er­age 43mm with depths of a shade over 22mm at the first frets, and while the Ju­nior mea­sures 24.4mm at the 12th, the Hol­low Body is that deep by the 9th fret be­fore the neck curves into the rel­a­tively shal­low heel. Those pro­file de­scrip­tions are a lit­tle off, though; nei­ther feels slim nor thin and both have a more sub­stan­tial, full-shoul­dered D shape that mea­sures and feels slightly big­ger than an orig­i­nal-re­lease Stream­liner Hol­low Body that we have for com­par­i­son. As noted in our orig­i­nal re­view, ‘medium jumbo’ is also a mis­nomer for the fret size. Here it is vin­tage Fen­der-like ‘nar­row’ (2mm wide) and not par­tic­u­larly high ei­ther, av­er­ag­ing out at 1mm. Both gui­tars have nicely di­alled in set­ups, though, ap­prox­i­mately 1.6mm on both tre­ble and bass sides, and with this style of small fret you cer­tainly get to feel the ’board.

The weight is also light, the larger gui­tar only a lit­tle weight­ier, al­though they ob­vi­ously feel dif­fer­ent seated or strapped on. The Hol­low Body’s depth means it sticks out some way – the smaller thin­line Ju­nior is more con­ven­tional, al­though it’s slightly neck-heavy but easy to play sim­ply be­cause of its light weight. And ob­vi­ously there’s con­sid­er­able acous­tic vol­ume from the Hol­low Body – plenty enough for prac­tice even with an­other acous­tic gui­tar player – while the Ju­nior at­ten­u­ates all the low-end and depth, and sounds rather bright and a lit­tle harsh in com­par­i­son.

Both use Gretsch’s Tone-Pot con­trol cir­cuit and from what we hear we’d guess that the mas­ter vol­ume has a tre­ble bleed cap – the sounds re­main pretty clear as you pull that down, while the in­di­vid­ual vol­umes re­move a lit­tle high-end when pulled back, as well as some thick­ness.

It would be easy to plug in this Hol­low Body and ask, ‘Where’s the Gretsch?’ Ini­tially, it ap­pears quite a dark, moody voice that hints at those late 50s/early 60s jazz/blues sounds on the neck P-90, but needs a lit­tle more pres­ence, and with only the pole pieces to ad­just in terms of height (un­less you add an­other shim) you’ll lose some of the P-90’s girth. That said, it’s worth spend­ing some time here. Not only did the nut grooves need at­ten­tion but slight tweaks can reap re­wards, al­though the rather-toodark bridge pickup holds us back from the snap and siz­zle we were ex­pect­ing. But as we lis­ten and com­pare with other semis, we be­gin to find much more.

The pickup vol­umes, es­pe­cially on the bridge, thin the sound enough to get us into the right ball­park, es­pe­cially if we pull back the mas­ter vol­ume, too (and kick in a level boost from our ped­al­board). Re­verb and a hint of slap­back and/or tremolo just about gets us there. The softer voice of the neck P-90 is helped by rais­ing those poles a lit­tle. The tone con­trol could cer­tainly help a lit­tle more, though; with the pickup vol­ume up it has quite a slow, sub­tle roll off that then sud­denly dives to a muted woof. Pull the vol­ume back, though, and it’s a lot less ef­fec­tive. Still, true to Gretsch, there’s al­ways an idio­syn­crasy or two, isn’t there?

The Ju­nior cer­tainly has more of the high-end than you’d ex­pect. It’s a tighter, more solid­body voice, but – and this is im­por­tant – when you’re swap­ping gui­tars dur­ing a set, as many of us do, things need to sound right without mak­ing too many ad­just­ments. And this gets us much more into that camp on bridge and in mix po­si­tion (es­pe­cially with a lit­tle neck pickup vol­ume roll-off ). The neck hum­bucker alone, how­ever, cer­tainly has a jazz­ier thick­ness, but again it lacks a lit­tle clar­ity full up. We find our­selves pulling the pickup vol­ume back and we’re al­ready imag­in­ing a pickup swap – per­haps to a hum­buck­ing-sized P-90? But this Ju­nior wants to take us on a dif­fer­ent jour­ney with on-the-edge-of-gritty amp tones giv­ing hugely 60s-in­formed Amer­i­cana or with some fuzzier gain we drop right into Jack White Street via a garage or two. There’s cer­tainly some trashier, edgier voices here and a lot more feed­back re­sis­tance, al­though it’s still easy to coax some mu­si­cal feed­back (which you can ma­nip­u­late eas­ily with the Bigsby). It’s cer­tainly the gui­tar that got more play time,

These Stream­liner mod­els of­fer any of us on a bud­get a taste of Gretsch with a bit more oomph

yet rather like the Hol­low Body, if you’re just go­ing to run it with the vol­umes full up, then you’re miss­ing a lot.

Ver­dict

Aside from need­ing a lit­tle more at­ten­tion to the Hol­low Body’s nut and the gen­eral bed­ding in of both the Bigs­bys (like the orig­i­nal 2016 Stream­lin­ers), these are per­fectly well-built gui­tars for the money. They also of­fer any of us on a bud­get a taste of Gretsch with a bit more oomph. These Broad’Tron pick­ups don’t im­me­di­ately cap­ture that sound, but work at it a lit­tle and you can get close. That said, the P-90s give each gui­tar ar­guably more va­lid­ity turn­ing the Ju­nior into a punkier propo­si­tion, and the Hol­low Body into a slightly more char­ac­ter­ful and jazz­ier or Texas swing kinda piece. Yes, the Hol­low Body re­mains a big-bod­ied ship, and al­though the Ju­nior ac­tu­ally feels so much more com­fort­able, there’s still that odd­ity of the shrunken size that might not ap­peal to ev­ery­body.

This ‘dog ear’ P-90 sin­gle coil, with a DCR of 11.48kohms, is made by G&B in Korea, like the Broad’Tron hum­buck­ers. There’s no height ad­just­ment, al­though slightly rais­ing the pole pieces helps with its clar­ity

1

2

3 These Broad’Trons (with a DCR of 9.3kohms) were con­ceived for the Stream­lin­ers: “Ba­si­cally Fil­ter’Tron-style full-size hum­buck­ers – punchy with a higher hot­terthan-vin­tage out­put” Any Bigsby-equipped gui­tar needs a lit­tle love. Here, some of the nut grooves are a lit­tle tight, but with min­i­mal fet­tling, a lit­tle lube and, of course, string stretch­ing, we’re good to go

This ‘soap­bar’style P-90 is height ad­justable, which can be help­ful to bal­ance the dif­fer­ent out­puts here. This one has a lower DCR of 8.74kohms, while the neck-placed Broad’Tron mea­sures 7.84kohms

4

This Ju­nior is the only Stream­liner that comes with gold-plated hard­ware. Both Bigs­bys are li­censed ver­sions, but sadly don’t have the ex­cel­lent ‘string-through’ string at­tach­ment of the Gretsch Play­ers Edi­tion Bigsby-equipped gui­tars

5 Along with the three-way tog­gle pickup se­lec­tor and the mas­ter vol­ume on the two horns, this trio of con­trols pro­vides in­di­vid­ual pickup vol­ume con­trol and mas­ter tone – the key to un­lock­ing more Gretsch-like tones

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