Gretsch G5232T Electromatic Double Jet FT with Bigsby review – that great Gretsch sound
Sometimes you look at Gretsch and wonder if one of the world’s most iconic guitar brands is trapped in a gilded cage created by its unimpeachable Golden Era artist roster. From country kinds and rock ‘n’ roll trailblazers, to Beatles and Stones, via windmilling rock royalty and Crazy Horse, there are so many iconic moments in the history of guitar music soundtracked by a 6120, Chet, Falcon or Duo Jet.
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It means those guitars are both blessed and burdened by their remarkable legacy – to walk on stage with one is to run the risk of being pigeonholed before you even play a note, and it’s telling that only the most self-assured rock icons of 2023 seem to be able to wear something like a White Falcon without it weighing a little heavy on the shoulders.
Which brings us to the Double Jet – a guitar that has the looks and the vintage cachet of more celebrated Gretsch designs but, Malcolm Young aside, little of the artist-related baggage. Perhaps this is why the Double Jet has in the last few decades quietly developed a following in the alternative world that few other models in the Gretsch catalogue can match – from the Arctic Monkeys and Modest Mouse, to Placebo, Paramore and er, Neil Finn.
Which is a very roundabout way of saying that if you’ve ever thought that a Gretsch isn’t for you, the Double Jet might be the guitar to change your mind. And in the shape of this new G5232T model from Gretsch’s Chinese-made Electromatic range, we might just have the ideal gateway drug.
Unlike the more affordable Streamliner range, the Electromatic family has always sought to retain as much of that unique Gretsch DNA as possible at a more affordable price point than the Japanese-made Professional Series, and so it is with this Double Jet.
Since the line debuted back in the 1950s, Gretsch has referred to Jets as ‘solidbodies’ but that has always been something of a misnomer. Like its single-cut cousins the Double Jet’s mahogany back is routed out heavily leaving just a centre block (which itself is further slimmed down), while more wood is removed thanks to a pair of deep and large pickup cavities. As it was, so it is with the G5232T, though where original Double Jets would have laminate tops, here we have a solid piece of maple – it all adds up to a guitar that, even with the weight of a Bigsby to contend with, it all comes in at a little over 8.5lbs, which is a shade lighter than a ‘good’ Les Paul.
The Les Paul comparisons don’t stop there of course – the Jet line was created in direct response to the success of Gibson’s revolutionary solidbody design, and the Double Jet itself was a response to the LP’s evolution into the double-cut SG shape in the early 60s. The result here is a guitar that feels somewhere between a Les Paul and a Double-cut Junior, with the large arched bottom half of the body giving away to an almost dainty pair of horns that offer superior upper-fret access than a Lester, even with the G5232T’s substantial neck heel.
The Les Paul theme is continued with the 625mm scale length, and Gretsch has taken a leaf out of Epiphone’s book by opting for a laurel fingerboard instead of the traditional rosewood. While we’d still take a proper rosewood board in a heartbeat, even on close inspection the laurel is a pretty decent facsimile – and is streets ahead of the emaciated pau ferro boards seen on many Fender guitars at this price point.
The ’board is accented by classic Gretsch ‘thumbnail’ inlays, though even by the standards of ‘pearloid’ inlays these look a little more mother-of-toilet-seat than we’d like – thankfully they’re small enough that you don’t really notice unless you really look closely.
The rest of the hardware is fairly generic – a licensed B50 Bigsby with Adjusto-Matic bridge, unbranded die-cast tuners and G-stamped control knobs. All are chromed to the nines, of course, and the ostentatious Gretsch vibe is further enhanced by the metallic tinge of this Firestick Red finish, which contrasts handsomely with the off-white binding throughout.
Sitting pretty in those classic plastic rings are a pair of Gretsch’s Black Top Filter’Tron humbucking pickups, which are different to the Black Top Broad’Tron pickups seen in other Gretsch guitars in both the Streamliner and Electromatic – they’re supposedly more classically Filter’Tron than their hotter counterparts. In terms of switching we have Gretsch’s unique approach with a pair of individual pickup volume knobs tied to a three-way toggle and a master volume and tone control. There’s also a treble bleed circuit on the master volume, which should be fun – let’s hit the Jets.
While Gretsch calls the neck profile on this guitar a ‘thin U’ in truth it’s something far more generic and C-shaped to our hands – it might still be a bit flimsy for the truly baseball-bat obsessed but for the rest of us it’s a fine and comfortable palmful.
The real fear when you pick up any affordable Bigsby-equipped guitar is the tuning stability. But, strings stretched beforehand, we’re relieved to see things return to tune after a fairly liberal waggling session with no need for any lubrication intervention at this stage at least.
We said that the Black Top Filter’Trons were designed to be a more polite version of the balls-out humbucking tones of the Broad’Tron, and it definitely has that Great Gretsch Sound in a way that the Streamliner instruments often don’t. There’s a brightness and clarity here that you don’t get from other humbucking pickups, with a little bit of gruffness from the bridge pickup that helps you cut through.
If anything, there’s a danger these pickups could be too polite for those used to the more muscular tones of a Les Paul with PAF-style buckers or even the moodier and more broody tones of a Jazzmaster, but there’s no doubt that it does a nice job of capturing that Gretsch sparkle. The treble bleed circuit on the master volume does a good job of retaining this bright characteristic even as you wind it down, though you might find yourself reaching for the tone control with it full up – it’s certainly spicy.
While we’re rolling our eyes at Fender’s refusal to supply these guitars with a gigbag, it’s also still seriously good value, even if you have to buy a case on top. It all adds up to an instrument that truly stands out from the crowd both in terms of looks, tone and general vibe. In a world where everyone’s playing offsets or big-bodied semis, the Double Jet has a wonderfully compelling blend of punky directness and 50s chromed excess.
TYPE Double-cut semi-soild electric, made in China
BUILD Chambered mahogany body with maple top, mahogany neck with thin “U” profile, glued-in, bound laurel fingerboard with pearloid Neo-Classic Thumbnail inlays, 305mm (12”) radius and 22 medium frets and synthetic bone nut
HARDWARE Anchored Adjusto-Matic bridge, Bigsby B50 vibrato tailpiece, die-cast tuners – chrome-plated
ELECTRICS 2x Black Top Filter’Tron humbuckers, 3-position pickup selector switch, individual pickup volume controls, master tone and master volume (w/ treble-bleed circuit)
SCALE LENGTH 24.6”/625mm
NECK WIDTH 43.7mm at nut, XXXmm at 12th fret
NECK DEPTH 21.5mm at first fret, 23mm at 12th fret
FINISHES Firestick Red (as reviewed), Broadway Jade, Casino Gold, Dark Cherry Metallic, Fairlane Blue, Midnight Sapphire and Tahiti Red
LEFT-HANDERS Yes (G5232LH with V stoptail)
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