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Gretsches made in Japan, Korea, and China.

Discussion in 'THE Gretsch Discussion Forum' started by clem1959, Aug 18, 2012.

  1. clem1959

    clem1959 Electromatic

    Aug 15, 2012
    NW Illinois
    I have been curious for some time regarding the quality of Gretsch guitars made overseas, (I am not even sure if one is made in the USA today). Just from what I have read Grestch is now owned by Fender Corp and the pro line is made in Japan. The electromatics started out being made in Korea, (like my 5122), but are now made in China. How does the quality change between being MAJ, MAK, and MAC? Also, how do the Japan made pro liners stack up with the older USA made classics?

    Thanks, Kevin
  2. LATS

    LATS Country Gent

    Jan 3, 2010
    Calgary, Alberta
    I haven't played a USA-made Gretsch since the '72 Roc Jet that I let get away. And that was Bladwin-era anyway. But I want another one!

    I've got a 2008 MIJ G6128TCG, a 2005 MIK G5125, a 2005 MIC G5135 Corvette, and I'm accumulating parts to complete a 1980(?) MIM G7176 Southern Belle.

    They are all very well made. Fit, finish, and quality of the woodworking is excellent on all of them. The Southern Belle was being built in Mexico during the Baldwin era, but was never completed due to shutdown of MIM production. Pity; it's a beautiful piece of the luthier's art.

    The most obvious difference is the quality of the electronics and hardware.

    The G51xx series is notorious for having shoddy switches and control pots. There have been some tuning stability issues reported, but a careful setup, including proper adjustment of the nut slots, allows these guitars to impress.

    There's not a lot of love around here for the stock GretschBuckers. But my G5125 has the now-discontinued DeArmond 2000 single coil pickups, which are really, really nice single coils. The Corvette has the MegaTron pickups, which to my ears, just slay any HB-loaded SG out there. The newer Electromatics are still getting very favourable reviews, with the switch and control issues noted.

    The MIJ Pro Line models are stellar! Consistently high quality - enough that I bought my Caddy Green DynoSonic Duo Jet from a dealer thousands of miles away, and I love it. I would do so again, with confidence.

    Gretsch seems to have done a very good job of selecting their production facilities, and fostering Quality Control with those partners.

    This is probably the best possible time to buy a Gretsch! [​IMG]
  3. Anni_Lover

    Anni_Lover Synchromatic

    Jul 17, 2009
    New Zealand
    Hi Kevin,

    The Electromatic Hollowbody range being the G5120 series and the G542x series are still made by Samick in Korea. The Pro Jets are made in China as are the Roots Collection. The new Rancher Acoustic Series are all made in Indonesia by Samick. As you know, all the Professional Series guitars are made in Japan.

    Quality control by FMIC/Gretsch is vey good, and all of the instruments are very good quality. It depends on how much you want to spend, but the Baldwin era Gretsch guitars are honestly inferior to the current Korean made Electromatics. Being "Made in the USA" has nothing to do with anything - under Baldwin ownership some of the worst Gretsches ever made were put into production, and ultimately the company failed because they couldn't care less.

    The new reality is that we live in a Global economy and marketplace. The banjos being made in China for both Gretsch and Fender are outstanding instruments - in their price range. My flatmate has a Fender FB-59 made in China and it's a really well made banjo.
    I've got an Epiphone Dove made in Indonesia and it's pretty good guitar as well. At the ned of the day, it's the hands that make the instuments, not where they're made that matters.
  4. HKopp

    HKopp Newbie

    Aug 18, 2012
    Henderson, NV
    I played a '67 Tennessean (pre Baldwin) for 20 years, and it was a good guitar. Not a GREAT guitar, but I loved it anyway. Had a professional refret done on it which made a huge difference, but it still wasn't a great guitar.

    So about six years ago, when I still had money, I picked up a 6120DSW that I fell in love with. Man, this guitar kicks sand in the face of the Tennessean. It's made in Japan. So what? It's a GREAT guitar. I think I'll never part with it.

    By the way, I traded the Tennessean for a Jeep CJ5. Now I've got everything.
  5. nicko10_5

    nicko10_5 Synchromatic

    Sep 19, 2009
    The only flaw in my Korean made 5129 is me!
  6. NickGretsch

    NickGretsch Synchromatic

    Aug 30, 2011
    Cornwall, England
    Hi Kevin.

    Well it's all been said so lucidly there is very little to add to previous posts.

    What comes out of this and hopefully answers your question is that if you buy an FMIC era Gretsch, you'll be getting a very good instrument, wherever it was made.

    Personally I'm really impressed with the new range of 54XX's from what I've tried, what I own and also what I've read.
  7. araT

    araT Gretschified

    Mar 24, 2009
    Berlin, Germany
    First off, the Custom Shop models are still MIA, in a small division of the Fender USA Factory in Cali.

    I personally find MIJ guitars to be as well as, or even better made than most MIA guitars I get my fingers on, Japan has come A LONG way in the last 30 years, and they make MINDBLOWING guitars. The attention to detail is impeccable. The only thing you MAY consider in some MIJ guitars (especially Fenders & Ibanez) is to upgrade the electronics, though with Gretsch this doesn't seem to be necessary.

    As for Korea & China, they've also come a long way, but they still aren't completely up to scratch for my liking, this may be because companies still send their budget models there and so we don't really get to see their full potential.. I'd be interested to hear the outcome if someone ever put a $1000+ guitar through one of their factories, but I think the stigma is still too fresh for anyone to do that.

    Personally I love MIJ guitars, I'd say at least half of my sizeable collection is MIJ by now, I've been selling off my MIAs & replacing them with MIJs for a while now..
  8. The Marlin

    The Marlin Friend of Fred

    Feb 2, 2011
    My chinese built white Corvette feels every bit as Proline as my Phoenix.

    Admittedly, I did swap out the electrics, pots, bridge, nut, and tuners. Also, the replacement pickups (HiLoTrons) were custom wound.

    Almost all electromatics can approach pro line tone (not always 'feel'), you just have to pay for it. And, unless you have solid luthier skills, the cost doesn't justify the expenses - best just proceed directly to pro line.

    Admittedly, the Corvette was fantastic as it was, it didn't need all that work, I just wanted a very different tone, based on the 60's corvettes.

    The Corvette is the best of the Electromatic line, the only thing I bought which was perfect out of the box

    My new style Pro Jet had awful pots and wiring, the nut was cut for 8's, the bridge rattled like hell.
    It sounds great now, but it's had the works done, brass but, Sperzels, new wiring, quality pots, quality caps, Compton etc. the blacktop Filtertrons are great, but I had to rip out the electrics to hear them properly.

    Otherwise, a flawless guitar.

  9. audept

    audept I Bleed Orange

    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    I agree 100% with Tara. My experience exactly from MIJ Fenders starting from "E" series all the way through current Gretsh's and some custom guitars made in Japan to my specs. I also have a great respect for the Historic series made in Korea, superior build quality on all 4 examples I own.
  10. Staggerlee

    Staggerlee Country Gent

    Jul 19, 2012
    Twin Cities
    I have a g5191 MIK and 6120 Chet MIJ. My comments would be the same as the above posters.
    My advise is if you are buying a budget guitar (read under $1500), better know a lot about set up and upgrading certain parts. I think most electros are on par with MIM Strats and Teles. They have the potential to be great guitars, but to cut costs their electronics are poorly made, they are not set up out of the box (another expense) and some parts can stand upgrading like bridges and pick ups.
  11. Seamus

    Seamus Synchromatic

    Feb 25, 2011
    New England
    Well, I own a prototype of the Dell'Arte Robin Nolan signature model Gypsy jazz acoustic. I got mine with a trade so it didn't cost me anywhere near that much, but it retailed for well over $1,000 and was apparently made "in Asia." I'm going to venture a guess that means China. It's an acoustic, so the only electronic bit is a pickup hidden in the bridge. I won't say it's on par with the real thing--I've compared it to a French handcrafted Favino guitar, for instance, and it couldn't hold a candle to that--but most of my Gypsy jazz friends have remarked on what a sweet-sounding instrument it is. I wouldn't trade it for anything short of one of those $6000 guitars at this point because it plays so beautifully. So yes, it can be done very well, given the right template.
    emicad likes this.
  12. wizard1962

    wizard1962 Electromatic

    Feb 22, 2010
    Glendale AZ
    Traded a gretsch for a jeep...right on....
  13. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck Friend of Fred

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    There's an article this month in Guitarist magazine with the head of Walden Guitars, a Chinese made, US guitar company. He said that they did extensive work with their factory to get them up to US standards but now feel they are as close as you can get for a lower price model. That's really the only issue. Guitars made in Korea and China are designed to be a lower priced so you won't have the highest quality components and workmanship, but they are very good and VASTLY better than previous budget models. There's a video of Paul Pigat playing a modded Squier CV Tele and you'd never know it wasn't a pro line. (Of course he's Paul Pigat.)

    Japanese made guitars are fully the equal of US made guitars (and you'll pay for that quality!)
  14. clem1959

    clem1959 Electromatic

    Aug 15, 2012
    NW Illinois
    Thanks to all who replied. I must say that I have learned alot in the short time I have been a member here and I do appreciate it. The reason for my question was I used to own a MIK Epiphone casino and read alot about the HUGE quality differance between the MIK and MIC versions. I am now convinced that this does not exist at that level with the Gretsch products that are produced today. I am, though, in the process of replacing the stock bridge on my 5122 with a Tru-Arc and will comment on on it when it's complete. Thanks again to all! Kevin
  15. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck Friend of Fred

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    There was bigger quality difference in the past between China and Korea. In the early 2000s Gretsch shifted the production of Electro solid bodies to China from Korea (eg Eliot Easton model 1570 became 5570) and the quality was definitely lower, but I don't think that's an issue now.
  16. Nerrad

    Nerrad Gretschie

    Jun 29, 2010
    Spring Hill, FL
    MY take on the Korea made ones is, if you own a 5120, you shouldnt feel like "oh its a Gretsch, but its just a Korean one". Ive played a ton of Gretsches (but only owned my 5120), and at least in my opinion, they hold up in a lot of aspects once you upgrade the pickups, bridge, all that good stuff. I never once have felt like I own a non american made guitar. My dad who plays a Fender Custom shop strat for the past 13 years, said "Holy crap, this is a Korean made guitar?!"

    If the headstock wasnt black and had the binding around it, I would never think twice about getting a 6120 eventually. But, as seen on this forum, you can make it look just like a 6120 if you so desire
  17. Chancey77

    Chancey77 Synchromatic

    Apr 16, 2010
    Helsinki,Tampa, NYC
    Well thanks to all our governments and hand crafts going to J,K,and C for the last 30 years, I would say they have been doing it as long, and getting better every day!
    Ok I will stop now before my brain explodes and my Granddad, POW in Korea rises from the grave to march to Washington to kick some ass!
    WTF happened to hand made pride and Buy American! It wasn't that long ago!
    I am so glad my granddad died before he saw I bought a Chinese made Gretsch! He would have dis-owned me! In fact I can feel him starring down at me right NOW!!!!!!! OH LORD FORGIVE ME!!!!!!!! I do love my Gretschs'!
  18. GuitarAddict

    GuitarAddict Electromatic

    Aug 10, 2012
    This may become my motto for life! :D

    Regarding the wider issue of MIJ/MIK/MIC vs MIA, I can offer what was for me a polarising experience. I owned a US-made Epiphone from a limited run in the early 90s; no amount of set-ups made it playable unless you were some kind of masochist. About ten years ago, I swapped it for a brand new MIJ Tokai; you didn't have to be psychic to sense the stifled sense of "Quick! Do the deal before this sucker wakes up!" from the shop which supplied the Tokai.

    So what was the outcome? Well, I ended up with a great guitar that plays very well and sounds as I'd want it to, whilst they got what on paper is a superior instrument that is fine hanging on the wall. Which I believe is exactly what it did, as the price they initially asked for it dropped and dropped according to their advertisements over the following months/years...

    Of course, there are millions of great MIA instruments out there but just having that label on a guitar doesn't make it one of them.

    Here endeth my lecture! :D
  19. BarryMClark

    BarryMClark Country Gent

    Apr 4, 2011
    Las Vegas
    That's just weird. That is the problem with ALL of my guitars. I must just have bad luck with guitars or something. They all just don't work when I play them. haha.
  20. araT

    araT Gretschified

    Mar 24, 2009
    Berlin, Germany
    Very VERY interesting, I suspected so! thanks for that :D