Gretsch G6196T Cadillac Green
Where to begin on this stellar piece of equipment?
I've owned quite a number of guitars over the years, custom shop Schecters, Shur, Gibson Art Historics, and the fit and finish of the Gretsch is up there was the best of them. This is by no means a cheap guitar, but in the boutique world, and the world of custom shop Gibsons' it's not quite in the 5-6k range you'll often see attached to guitars of this detail. The nut has a little bit of binding on the D string, but I think this will be resolved just from a bit of normal use, to be expected in my experience on most new guitars, I'd rather tham under file the nut a hair than make it to big. You can find little tiny imperfections in the binding, finish or spray on any guitar, but this one is right up there with the best I've seen in attentiveness to detail and a clean build. Even the bracing on the insides seems to be cut fairly cleanly.
The ebony fretboard and fretwork in general are excellent, extremely smooth, frets appeared to be glued in like they should be, and there are no rough edges or anything that is not level. I have yet to find a high or low spot in the fretwork and I also have not found any dead spots, everything seems fairly lively. I'm not sure how many pieces the neck is, but my guess based upon it's stiffness is that it may be a 2 or 3 piece neck under the paint, but that's only a guess. I haven't been able to find any information as to what frets Gretsch uses, I'm hoping they are Jescar or something of similar quality because I really don't want to refret this thing anytime soon.
The neck, which has to be one of my favorite features of this guitar, it's called a Neo-Classical, and I really love the width, length, and radius, I believe it's a 12, it really feels great and leaves plenty of room for maneuvering and playing fluidly. Bends aren't effortless if you stick to the stock gauge of 11's but they are more smooth than other guitars that I run the same gauge on. 25.5" scale is only available on a handful of guitars, and I've got to say it really brings out the low end and snappyness of the bottom end. You get bigger bell like tones rather than muddy flappy sounds you'll find on a 24.75 or traditional 24.6 Gretsch smaller scales.
The pickups and tonal balance of the instrument are very much, so much so that I actually have to add treble back into the EQ of many of the amps I've tried it through, for an all maple guitar it's not nearly as bright as you might think. That doesn't mean it's dark, it's just very clear, warm and balanced, and has a very punchy sound to it, it does the AC/DC thing in spades and so far I haven't had any feedback issues, admittedly I've only cranked it with very high gain at room volume levels, but other hollow bodies I have start screaming just from that. I think the tressle bracing, laminated top and back, as well as the bigsby really help keep the guitar in check so you don't lose control.
The 2 vol, 1 mas, 3 way tone switch is great, as it simply offers a lot of very usable versatility, the up position on the tone switch goes instantly to either a really raunchy distorted slide blues sound, or to a really dark warm jazz sound on a clean channel.
The bridge and bigsby are something of a conundrum, it's extremely cool, very retro, and the idea that you can switch the string spacing to nearly anything is very unique. The only downside to it is when restringing, you really need to put masking tape behind the space control bridge wheels to prevent them from spinning and altering your setup. They really aren't on there snugly, which makes sense because they should be adjustable, so it's a minor inconvenience. The pinned bridge is a brilliant idea, because honestly having to re-intonate every time you restring is simply annoying, this keeps it consistent, oh and by the way the intonation is impressive! My ear is extremely picky and while it's not perfect (no guitar is aside from those crazy crooked frets) it's very good, even up in the higher registers. Aside from that, there is flex in the bridge itself when you really get into the bigsby, but from my understanding this is the norm for any non-roller style bridge.
The only complaint I have, and I'm not sure it's much of one towards Gretsch as it is towards Grover as these are their Imperial Line, is that the tuners seem to not be the most precise, I supposed I'm more used to the newer gear ratios that move a bit slower, where as these kind of move in bigger spans. I'm sure I'll learn with that over time though, they don't seem to slip at all and have a nice feel to them!
This guitar is great for a wide variety of styles, obviously it will do Chet, Setzer, and all the associated Gretsch sounds in spades, but don't be afraid to put it under some gain, play some Hendrix style lines on it or use it for blues, it really is pretty amazing. Much more versatile than I expected, and the bridge is a lot more usable than I anticipated, very balanced and clear while not getting harsh!
Over all years down the road I think this ones going to be sought after. Gretsch is putting out some stellar guitars right now and I hope they keep at it!