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Road Test - 6120 DC

Discussion in 'Guitar & Gear Reviews' started by Synchro, Oct 7, 2011.

  1. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    Admin Post
    Road Test - 6120 DC

    The Goldilocks Effect in Guitar Form

    I was thinking of just how fortunate I am to live near a music store that is hip to Gretsch guitars and carries a good selection; Rainbow Guitars in Tucson. I know that a lot of forum members don't have the opportunity to play a wide variety of Gretsch guitars so I thought that perhaps I would take some time to try out the 6120 DC that I found there and report back to my forum bro's.

    The Mystery on the Album Cover

    As a "tween" I remember seeing a Chet LP with an orange double-cutaway guitar on the cover. There headstock of the guitar bore a gold-plated plaque that said "Chet Atkins Nashville Model". My imagination ran wild about the attributes of this mysterious guitar that was neither a Country Gent or a Tennesean, the only two Gretsch models I knew about up until that time. Like all Gretsch guitars of the '60s this one had a dizzying array of controls that had to have held the secret to Chet's awesome sound. There were so many switches and knobs that it seemed like an expensive piece of studio hardware, not just a plain old electric guitar like my Harmony Rocket. I knew that I had to find one of these but I never actually saw one in person until the rebirth of Gretsch.

    The Proof is in the Playin'​

    This week's visit to Rainbow wasn't the first time I had actually played a 6120 DC, that had happened at the 2010 NAMM show when I jammed with a GDP member by the handle of Dr. Gretsch. At that time I felt that the DC was a very competent instrument and it felt good in my hands.

    When I spotted another DC at Rainbow I decided to put it through its paces and asked for a patch cord and to be plugged into the nearest DRRI. Setting the DRRI to my default settings, Volume 3, Treble 6, Bass 4, Reverb 3, I put the pickup and tone switches in the center position and commenced to playing some Chet-flavored material. The first thing I noticed is that when played finger-style and without a thumb pick the definition of the bass-string notes was excellent . . . very excellent. The "boom chuck" sound of Chet's RCA days was easy to achieve on this guitar. There was a true sense of balance between low and high strings and the clarity was perfect without sounding harsh.

    Of course such sonic character translates well into any sort of Country music and I felt that this was a major strength of the 6120 DC. It also worked well for middle-of-the-road music played by many cover bands. It would sound at home with most of the Rock and Country songs our band plays. I could easily imagine leaving this axe on the both pickups position all night long with very few, if any, exceptions.

    Another strength that came as a bit of a surprise was the Blues sound I could get simply by digging in a little harder with the pick. When the strings were attacked hard the sound that came out was very funky and a very natural electric Blues sound. The amp and guitar settings had not changed one iota but a sharper attack definitely was perceived differently by the Filtertrons.

    My next step was to try for a twangier sound, suitable for Surf music. The highs were quite good on the bridge pickup alone without the dreaded ice-pick effect. I would definitely be able to use this as a Surf axe right out of the box. The lows were good but not quite into Duane Eddy territory, at least in my humble opinion.

    The neck pickup by itself was pleasant and clear. Neither overly warm or harsh, it was simply a slightly darker version of the sound of both pickups together. While I'm usually a fan of the "mud switch" I found that it sounded a bit pinched to my ear on the DC. Substituting lower value tone caps would probably help greatly in making the mud switch more pleasing to the ear.

    The Unique Timbre of the 6120 DC

    While the DC is 100%, a true-blue Gretsch it is a bit different from the Gretsch guitars I usually find myself playing. The sound is strongly biased towards the mid-range and not all that pronounced at the upper or lower extremes. I suspect that the 2.25"body depth is at play here. It's almost certainly the reason that the lower strings don't overwhelm when playing fingerstyle and probably the reason that getting a Duane Eddy sound isn't this instrument's strong suit. It's not all that pronounced at extreme highs or extreme lows, but it's a perfect compromise for many tasks. You could say that it's "just right".

    Acoustic Performance

    One usually doesn't think of this when looking at a thin-body without sound-holes but I have to say that when I heard someone else play it acoustically from 10 - 15 feet away I was pleasantly surprised by the volume and warmth of the sound. It's definitely loud enough to practice alone acoustically.

    For Whom Is this Guitar "Just Right"?

    This guitar would probably not be my first choice as a one and only Gretsch but that is not to say that I would be dissatisfied if it was my only Gretsch. It's a very good all around guitar, very middle of the road IMHO. That having been said I would suggest this guitar as a strong possibility for four kinds of players.

    Chet Fanatics:
    If you want a great Chet axe and don't want a Gent this might be the ticket.

    All-Around Rockers:
    If your gigs are filled with Classic Rock this is a great one size fits all axe.

    Country Players:
    Likewise, this is a very nice Country axe for both older and newer styles.

    Blooze Players:
    Sort of a sleeper in this category; lots of mids and great funk.

    For Whom Is this Guitar "Too Hot or Too Cold"?

    If you want the strong twangy low note sounds of Duane Eddy or ice-pick-from-Hell highs this guitar is not for you. It'll suffice in these areas but they are not its strengths.
    Last edited: May 9, 2014
  2. Michiel

    Michiel Friend of Fred

    Jul 29, 2009
    The Netherlands
    I can agree with everything you said (for both the vintage and the current production model). I assume you played the current production model, right?

    BTW, do you know what kind of bracing this one has? The Gretsch-site doesn't mention anything about that.

    Spec-wise, I'd say that the 6120DC is a somewhat smaller version of the '62 Country Gentleman (16" body on the DC vs 17" of the Gent, both have 24.6" scale). For people who think the Gent is too large or too heavy, the DC may be a very good alternative.

    Thanks for the very informative write-up Synchro! :)
  3. meistro56

    meistro56 Electromatic

    Apr 5, 2011
    What a great review Synchro - and timely too! I just bought (on impulse mind you) an '04 model that I will pick up later today. One of the main reasons for choosing the DC was exactly the same as you stated. I have a Gent that is a little too big to handle sometimes. I really like the size of my Tenny (in my avatar), but still wanted a double cut body. After reading your review, this one may be just what I was looking for. Pictures to come soon.
  4. NickGretsch

    NickGretsch Synchromatic

    Aug 30, 2011
    Cornwall, England
    Synchro, thank you for an excellent, well written and informative review.

    Now, can you go back to Rainbow and do a review on all the other Gretschs ;)
  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mark. I want two of them!
  6. Sarah93003

    Sarah93003 Friend of Fred

  7. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    Admin Post
    Congrats. I'm certain that you will find it an interesting addition to your collection.

    I hope to do more as time and circumstance permit.

    Thanks Sarah.

    A Few More Thoughts on the 6120 DC​

    I forgot to mention that the mechanical mute actually works on these guitars. I don't know how often I'd use it but it definitely is useful right out of the box.

    Also; I spent over an hour with my 6120n today and have to admit that the DC seems a better choice for Chet-style playing. It was harder to control the lower strings in the 6120n than on the DC. There may be one in my not quite foreseeable future.
  8. Bengal65

    Bengal65 Country Gent

    Sep 11, 2009
    Houston, TX
    Great write up. This is why I have 2 of them!:) A '63 and a '67.
  9. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    Admin Post
    Do they make these in LH?

    I'm thinking that it may be time to bid farewell to the 6120n in favor of a DC.
  10. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    Admin Post
    Well, I must have been pretty convincing because I ended up buying a 6120 DC of my own, even though I had no plans in that direction when I did this test. For those of you that didn't see my NGD thread for that purchase I'll fill you in on it. I walked into Rainbow guitars a couple of weeks ago and spotted a 6120 DC in black! The salesman said that it was custom made for a FMIC employee and was the only modern-era 6120 DC ever made in black. I don't know if that's true or not but it does have a data tag inside that says Custom Edition. According to the S/N it's a 2005 model and appeared to have had very little, if any, use. This guitar differs from the guitar used in the initial test in three salient ways. It has TV Jones Classics, a stainless steel Compton bridge and 10 - 48 D'Addario "Chromes" flat-wound strings.

    Today was the first time I played it with a band and I was thrilled with the results. When I first plugged in and turned up it sounded pretty crunchy but eventually I realized that it came down to touch sensitivity. If I backed off just slightly on the pick the sound was clean but when I dug in those TV Jones Classics overdrove the front end of my DRRI. It was a great combination, clean and sweet but a bit of grit when I dug in hard. This is perfect in a trio because when I switch to single line playing for my leads the extra crunch helps top keep the sound full, but it's not overpowering. I've used this same guitar and the same amp for uber-clean Jazz sounds and it comes across well in that context.

    We have an outdoor gig in about two weeks and I look forward to playing it through my 1x15" Twin Reverb. I'm counting on awesome. :)
  11. 68GuitarPlayer

    68GuitarPlayer Country Gent

    Mar 20, 2010
    Clinton, Tn
    Well Syncro it sounds like you have got a great guitar that is a pleasure to play.
  12. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    Admin Post
    It really is. It caught my attention because of being off-spec, ie, the black finish, but what sold me was the fact that it's so playable.
  13. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    Admin Post
    Five Months Later . . .
    This guitar has gotten quite a workout since it came into my life last October. I have used it at every public performance since I bought it and for most rehearsals.

    It's the best playing guitar I own bar none. It's light and easy on the old bum shoulder. The fretwork, being superb, allows low action and a light touch. The custom set I use based upon the lowest three strings of a Thomastik JS-111 set really works on this guitar. Likewise , the Chet Atkins Wire Arm I added makes for an ergonomic improvement.

    Light as a feather.
    Plays like a dream.
    A real looker.

    Lowest notes not as crisply defined as on my other Gretch guitars.
  14. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    Admin Post
    Just an update to this story. I was experimenting with this guitar yesterday and came to realize that the tone switch was not working properly. All settings seemed to have some degree of roll off which definitely hurt the low end definition. I simply disconnected the tone switch and the guitar has a much different character. It sounds more like a 6120 single cut but with a slightly richer midrange.
    j.s.c and linclink like this.
  15. dobro

    dobro Synchromatic

    Jun 12, 2010
    Los Angeles
    I just played a show in Dallas on a real '67 Nashville. LOVED it. It was bought from Guitar Center for about $1,500, zero issues.
  16. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    Admin Post
    Now yer making me jealous. :)
  17. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    Admin Post
    Well, you might say that I like this axe because I bought a second one today. It's become my #1 axe and I love the sound, playability and the fact that it's so light. image-1278950792.jpg I found a used 6120 DC at StreetSounds on eBay and nabbed it for a decent price. It's a 2012 and they said it was flawless. I got a decent tax refund this year and nabbed it before it could escape. Sent from my iPad using G-T Forum
    linclink likes this.
  18. MichaelHargis

    MichaelHargis Electromatic

    Apr 2, 2017
    Tombstone, Az
    Hey Synchro, great review!
    I just picked up a black 05 like yours
    I am looking to see how many were made
    So far I think 34,you’re sn# ? Is it a JD? And what is the last four?
    The earliest I’ve found is JD05061899 and mine is the latest JD05061932
  19. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    Admin Post
    It's a JD. As a matter of policy, I don't ever publicize S/Ns or any significant part of an S/N. I know that there were very few made. I'm very glad that it's a JD. I had a JT made one and it was heavier and quite different.
  20. MichaelHargis

    MichaelHargis Electromatic

    Apr 2, 2017
    Tombstone, Az
    Thanks for the response, as far as a count can you say how many more there could be via your sn# or is yours already counted in the #’s I’ve found? Thanks