Guitarist

Sonic Boom

Just another spin on existing models or a new voice to add to the Gretsch canon? We catch up with product manager Adam Bowden-Smith to chat about the new Streamline­r additions

- Words Dave Burrluck

Typically, a brand’s lowest-cost models are little more than lookalike versions of the real thing. But from Gretsch’s inception, the Streamline­r series broke that mould, not least by introducin­g specific pickup designs, such as the Broad’Tron humbuckers – and now the new FideliSoni­c 90 single coils. “They were developed from the ground up by us for the guitars, not just an off-the-shelf pickup with our name on them,” product manager Adam Bowden-Smith tells us.

“You can clearly see the FideliSoni­c 90s are influenced – or at least inspired by – the ‘staple’ P-90,” Adam continues, “something we thought would be cool to get on what is a low-cost guitar. You don’t usually see them at this price; they’re usually on higher-end guitars. But they are not staple P-90s,” he emphasises, referring to their different design. “They have the staple [rectanglar] polepieces, but are designed slightly differentl­y.

“The way we approached it was to be inspired by that concept, especially the sonic concept. We wanted that fat singlecoil thing as well as that Gretsch signature thing going on. Trying to get both worlds: the P-90 kinda thing and the Gretsch kinda thing, which a staple sort of leans towards anyway. I think we were also looking to that pawn-shop guitar vibe, that garageband rock ’n’ roll dirtiness – the price point suits that as well.”

When the Streamline­r models launched in 2016 they also introduced the Broad’Trons. “[They were] full-sized humbuckers that definitely lean towards a classic PAF-style pickup,” says Adam. “It’s a little more familiar, if you like – sort of halfway between a Filter’Tron and a PAF.

That familiarit­y to an absolute beginner in Gretsch terms is important. The Filter’Tron and indeed the Dynasonic – classic Gretsch pickups – might look and sound a little alien to someone who’s used to a Strat single coil or a PAF-style humbucker. The Broad’Trons have been developed somewhat now, so we have the Electromat­ic and Pro Series versions.

“But as we’ve discovered, people like to mod these Streamline­r guitars. Again, it’s that sort of pawn-shop prize thing, something you can pick up and turn it into a rock ’n’ roll machine, you can tweak this or that. That’s why we added those new control knobs – it’s all part of that pawnshop garage-rock kinda thing.”

How about the long-running Electromat­ic models? “Well, aside from the price point being right there for the working musician, the Electromat­ics are designed so that you’ve arrived at Gretsch: you’ve got proper Filter’Tron pickups,

“We were looking to that pawn-shop guitar vibe, that garage band rock ’n’ roll dirtiness”

you can get them in classic orange or white finishes, all those tweaks to make them a proper Gretsch, if you like. The Pro Series, of course, which are three grand or thereabout­s, are almost custom shop. They are actually pretty exclusive and the waiting list is now quite long. For many players, then, once you have an Electromat­ic you’ve fully entered the Gretsch world.”

One thing anyone entering that Gretsch world will have to get their head around is the model numbers, we offer. “Yes, in the Streamline­r and Electromat­ic ranges we have tried to apply a bit more logic to those numbers,” laughs Adam. “If you talk about the Pro Series, it’s a bit different because most of those are legacy model numbers from the 50s when they did it by price point and colour. So, you had the 6118, the Anniversar­y, that was the cheapest one. The 6119 was your Tennessee Rose, or ‘Tennessean’ as it was called at the time, that was the second cheapest. Then the classic 6120 was your Chet Atkins. But then you had the 6117, which was just the Anniversar­y in a different colour. The 6136, the Falcon, which missed out quite a few numbers, was the flagship. Then you had the solidbodie­s, like the 6128 in between, also available as the 6129, the 6130 and the 6131. Crazy!”

Thankfully, the codes that identify the Streamline­rs and Electromat­ics are a little easier to understand. “The first digit is the series: 2 is Streamline­r, 5 is Electromat­ic,” says Adam. “The second digit is the constructi­on style, if you like: so, 6 would be a centre block, 4 would be a hollowbody, and 2 would be a solidbody. The last two digits – and this is where it starts to get a little complicate­d – are essentiall­y the cutaways. So 20 is a single-cutaway, 22 is a double-cutaway, but we’ve also got 55, which means it’s a 14-inch Junior body.

“So the 5420 is an Electromat­ic singlecuta­way hollowbody. The 2655 you have there is a Streamline­r centre-block Junior, or you’ve got the 5220, an Electromat­ic solidbody single-cutaway. But then there’s the thinline hollowbody, which we’ve recently added to the Streamline­r range, the 2410. So we’re using that third digit to indicate a variation on the general spec. The 2410 is the thinline single-cut hollowbody, and the 2420 is the full-depth single-cut hollowbody.”

As we furiously take notes, Adam continues: “Then we’ve got the [letters] at the end: ‘T’ for tremolo, which we all know was Leo’s mistake – it should have been vibrato. ‘G’ indicates gold hardware. ‘LTD’ means a limited model. But then there’s the ‘G’ at the start of each number. I haven’t had a definitive answer whether that means ‘Gretsch’ or ‘guitar’. I think in the past we have done a B54-something, which was a bass guitar, but usually we put ‘B’ at the end to indicate a bass these days, so I imagine ‘G’ probably does mean Gretsch.”

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