Gretsch Pickup Options - Bewildering, But Not Really Value Added?

Discussion in 'THE Gretsch Discussion Forum' started by drmilktruck, Nov 7, 2018.

  1. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck Gretschified

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    Once upon a time, it was easy to be a Gretsch collector/player, at least when it came to pickups. Until 1958, there was just the DynaSonic*. Then just the FilterTron. Then the HiLo Tron and SuperTron 1 & 2. Lastly the Blacktop FilterTron*. (I refuse to count the late 70s-early 80s anonymous pickups.)

    The revival of the company brought the High Sensitivity FilterTrons*, MegaTrons *, Mini-Humbuckers*, Gretschbuckers, DeArmond (2000s and 2K - added) and other Electro/Synchro types. Plus TV Jones designed the pickups for the 6114 New Jet.

    Speaking of Thomas Vincent Jones, he brought to market the TV Classics*, Classic Plus* PowerTron*, PowerTron Plus*, SuperTron*, HiLo Tron*, Setzer Signature*, T-Armond*. And all the TVJ models not found on a regular Gretsch Guitar: MagnaTron, DuoTron, Ray Butts, T-90, and Starwood.

    Now with the Fenderization of the company, a bewildering variety of new pickups are available, including the Gretsch FullTron*, BroadTron*, BroadTron BT65*, Blacktop BroadTron*, P-90 Soapbar/Dogear*.

    Then there's all the other makers who've jumped on the Gretsch bandwagon (generally FilterTron style) including the Fender Fidelitron; Kent Armstrong Kent-tron; Lollar Pickups LollarTron Traditional; Mojo Pickups MojoTron Vintage; The Creamery Classic Black Cat; Seymour Duncan FilterTron for Gretsch and Duncan Dyno and Dynobucker; Rio Grande Pickups BBQ Tron (best name ever! Although like others, it's really just one of their standard pups in a FilterTron mount.)

    GFS has a bunch of Gretsch-style options: Surf 90, Minitron, Nashville (Regular and Hot), Liverpool, and Retrotron. Probably the same company that supplies those to GFS sells them other people like Artec and more. (There was even a fake DeArmond company, supposedly owned by Harry's non-existent grandson Carl.)

    And I probably forgot many more.

    Whew! I once tried to organize my collection so that there was at least one of each of the four original designs. Very difficult now.

    What's a Gretsch fan to do?

    (All pickups marked * are currently available on production Gretsch guitars.)
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
  2. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Synchromatic

    562
    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    I just went crosseyed.
     
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  3. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Age:
    71
    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    I just try to have at least one set of all the ones that appeal to me. Still haven't got a pair of Ray Butts though. This involves having a lot of Gretsch guitars and I now have a large collection of HS Filtertrons in the drawer!
     
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  4. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Synchromatic

    562
    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    Has anyone here ever experimented with a filtertron in the bridge and a singlecoil in the neck?
     
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  5. Stencil

    Stencil Gretschie

    Age:
    56
    259
    Oct 19, 2009
    Gif-sur-Yvette, or the AF lounge
    Nice compilation, Dr M.

    Not on a Gretsch I haven't, but my go-to Strat has Bill Lawrence Keystones in the neck and middle positions, and an extra-hot Creamery Black Cat (Filtertron) in the bridge.

    The middle+bridge sound is very tasty.

    Cheers,

     
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  6. Jockabilly

    Jockabilly Gretschie

    214
    Sep 15, 2018
    Argyll
    I must admit that I am a little sceptical about pickups apart from where there is a big difference between them like say a Filtertron sounds clearly different from a Strat single coil and that sounds different from a PAF humbucker.

    Over the years I have done a few experiments and, in all honesty I found surprising results.

    For example I had two Ibanez S470's, identical guitars. I had one re-fitted with DiMarzio pick-ups which, I was told, would blow away the original Ibanez pickups. Turned out that the Ibanez originals were actually a lot nicer to my ear than the DiMarzio's that cost about half as much as the whole guitar when I played the two, otherwise identical guitars side by side. In another instance I had an SG fitted with some 'hot' pickups that I got from John Birch who created the pickup's for Tony Iommi. I was surprised to discover that the sound was muddier and the output lower than the originals. After refitting the originals to the SG which I sold on I had the pickups around for a while and then I picked up a little Cort guitar and, thinking that these pickups might make the guitar better I swapped them for the stock. Again it turned out that the stock ones were a fair bit 'hotter'.

    To me the Filtertron(and it's very close relations) is the Gretsch sound and the other options are to keep you interested in acquiring more guitars in that eternal hunt for more tonal options.
     
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  7. LA Miles

    LA Miles Country Gent

    Dec 6, 2012
    PA
    Less Filling - Tastes Great.

    It's about selling guitars.
     
  8. dak55

    dak55 Gretschie

    Age:
    64
    197
    May 31, 2018
    Mills River NC
  9. wildeman

    wildeman Gretschified

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    The only logical answer is to have a guitar with each kind of pickup;)
     
  10. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Age:
    71
    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    That was my solution! :D:cool:
     
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  11. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Synchromatic

    562
    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    The great Gretsch sounds coming outta my 5129 with single coil Dearmond 2000’s has to disagree. As does Eddie Cochran, Bo Diddley, and Duane Eddy’s Dynas.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
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  12. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck Gretschified

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    Forgot the DeArmond 2000s. (I lost track of all the pre-FMIC variations.)
     
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  13. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Synchromatic

    562
    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    i wasn't gonna say anything ;)
     
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  14. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck Gretschified

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    Generally I am a nihilist when it comes to guitar tone. I am firmly in the camp that, when one realizes all the elements that go into a particular guitar sound - especially the hands of the player - the idea that any one element is very important is highly questionable. I think people who go on about certain tone woods or body shapes or scale length are bullshitting us. However I do think electric guitar pickups are the second most important thing after the person him or herself. Having said that, I am pretty certain that no one here could tell the difference blindfolded between any of the newer Gretsch pickups and the classic ones. The FullTron and and the all the different Broad'Trons were created solely by Fender for probably all of these reasons: 1) sell more guitars 2) ensure employment of engineers and marketers 3) save money 4) make money.

    Here's the official description of the pickups (Guess which one is which.)

    Two new U.S.-made XXX-Tron™ pickups deliver full-spectrum sonic range with a growl unlike any other pickup, in addition to classic Gretsch chime, balance and brilliance with a dash of extra-mid concentration for powering through overdriven and distorted passages at full volume.

    The secret to the ----------'s sound is a new offering from Gretsch—the XXX ’Tron™ humbucking pickup. Specifically designed by the expert engineers at Gretsch, this high-output pickup spawns robust lows, pristine highs and a throaty midrange for a unique tone that blends well with other instruments in a band context

    This powerful platform is fueled by all-new Gretsch XXX 'Tron™ pickups. Designed by the famed Tim Shaw, the (pickup) meticulously captures the guitar's sonic palette and reproduces powerful mids, extended lows and an exceptionally clear, yet smooth high end. The result is the perfect mixture of wall-shaking power and full-spectrum fidelity that delivers unparalleled overdrive and shimmering cleans — all at the stomp of a switch.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
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  15. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck Gretschified

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    You are a fine gentleman and a scholar.
     
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  16. Jockabilly

    Jockabilly Gretschie

    214
    Sep 15, 2018
    Argyll
    Well I would put the DeArmond in the category of 'having a clearly different sound to other types of pickup'.

    The question is - When you start making modifications but retain a shape and size similar to an already existing pickup do you really make that much of a difference to what you get out of the pickup.

    The beauty of marketing pickups is that it isn't often that the end user will have two of the same guitar to compare 'before and after' and, because pickups don't just plug in without changing anything else in a matter of seconds, you have to rely on rapidly fading memory of what the previous sound was which, if you weren't that happy with it will be marked down in your memory of the sound, and it will be hard to avoid hearing what you expect to hear from the new pickups because everyone says the new pickup is the bees knees and that's what your favourite player uses.

    It may sound odd but I find that one of the biggest factors that has an effect on how your guitar sounds is the very air at the time you are playing it. The first time I became aware of this was playing my banjo's. I found this odd effect that, one day the thing would be twanging away with a delicious crispness and the next day would be dull as ditchwater then back to brilliance the next day. After tinkering with just about every adjustment you can make on a banjo I finally realised that the sound was being greatly affected by the air it had to travel through. Air pressure, moisture content, temperature I have found all have much more effect on the sound than a few extra windings or Alnico versus Ceramic magnets. I do suspect that the major difference in tone amongst pickups is the size and shape of the magnetic field rather than how many windings there are, what shapes the pole pieces are and what type of magnets are used.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
  17. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Sorry Vista
    Admin Post
    Speaking only for myself; I found sonic redemption in the Supertron family. I have two Gretsch with Supertron/Supertron pickups and two with Duo-Tron/Duo-Tron pickups. Both have the same basic sound, but I’d say that the Duo-Trons are a bit more compressed sounding to my ear.

    Now, mine is far from the last word in taste; there are any number of ways one can go, but the options above work well for me. My point is that everyone makes their own deal with the forces of physics which govern what comes out of the speaker. There are almost infinite shades of variety, but we all find our place. The power of suggestion plays a role as well.
     
  18. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Age:
    71
    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    I find that Pinot Noir exerts its own influence on tone as well. :D
     
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  19. Sid Nitzerglobin

    Sid Nitzerglobin Country Gent

    Jun 8, 2015
    fROMOHIO
    To each their own but I perceive differences in tone based on scale length, wood, pickups, strings, picks, bridge and saddle material, where I'm picking/how hard and at what angle, muting/partial muting... etc... They're all part of the sounds that come out of the hole in the wood (or more often than not, the speaker) for me. At the end of the day, I play for me and I like experimenting w/ tone and sounds so if I think I'd like the Nigel Tufnel signature DynaSuperMegaTron better than stock HS Filters I'll probably wind up trying a set at some point. So far I don't feel like the recent batch of new wide spaced pickups are anything that I need to have in a guitar. I've tended to be pretty darn happy w/ TVJ Classic/Classic + and SuperTron combos have been great as well. I could deal w/ there just being Blacktops, HS Filters, and about half of the TVJ models. Then again, short of FideliTrons and RevTrons I've never tried any of the other options so maybe I don't know what I'm missing.

    I do need to get a true Dynasonic Gretsch one of these days though.

    I definitely agree that the overabundance of choice can be pretty bewildering and potentially costly when you let it though.
     
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  20. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Country Gent

    Mar 6, 2014
    Phoenix, AZ
    If you think Gretsch pickup diversity is bad, you should see all the Fender and Gibson varieties out there :)



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