G5434TG Electromatic Pro Jet mods (Off Kiltertron pickups and more)...

Lacking Talent

Country Gent
Aug 5, 2010
1,134
Los Angeles, CA
All done on this bought-used, 2016 Two Tone Surf Green / White, an FSR for Canadian retailer Long & McQuade!

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Here's the "before" pic (which I've posted elsewhere here previously), all stock but for the brass Compton bridge...

Gretsch G5434TG Electromatic - Surf Green & White.jpg

Loved the very limited edition (for single [as opposed to double] cut Jets) Two Tone finish but hated the gold hardware against the Seafoam Green, wasn't crazy about the somewhat harsh-sounding Black Top Filters but liked the unplugged resonance and sustain, had my own approach toward improving tuning stability under Bigsby use (which was not great, despite the compensated Compton), and had other plans entirely for the two pickup volume, master tone, master volume control set.

So, here's what's on / in / around there now:

-- Off Kiltertron pickup set, neck and bridge, designed and constructed by Mel Waldorf of Alameda Guitars
-- TV Jones EM2 Gretsch-style Pickup Rings
-- TV Jones SHM-RRSNG Riser for (bridge pickup) EM2 Ring
-- TV Jones EM2 Ring Screws, Stainless Steel
-- Belden 1883A 2C 24AWG wiring (as used in harnesses by TV Jones)
-- CTS 450S3494 Solid Shaft 500K Audio Taper pots, 24mm
-- Bass cut control & Treble cut control (à la Reverend Guitars "Bass Contour Control" set)
-- Kinman spec treble bleed on Master Volume control
-- PureTone output jack
-- Switchcraft 3-way pickup selector toggle switch, nut, and washer, Chrome, USA spec
-- Gretsh switch tip, chrome, knurled, USA spec
-- Hell Guitars Switch Washer Ring, MIJ
-- Gretsch Arrow Through "G" knobs, chrome, MIC, drilled out to 1/4" pot shaft spec
-- Generic Zinc Alloy Banjo Armrest, Chrome Plated, MIC
-- Generic Football Style Metal Jack Plate, Chrome, MIC
-- Bigsby "Licensed" B50 vibrato tailpiece, Polished Aluminum
-- Brick'sBiggsFix BiggsFix Tuning Stabilizer V3 (Version 3) for Bigsby "Licensed" B50 for Chrome/Nickel Hardware
-- Brick'sBiggsFix Replacement Roller with Sealed Bearings for Bigsby “Licensed” B50 for Chrome/Nickel Hardware
-- Brick'sBiggsFix Super Squishy Spring
-- SGM Locking Bridge, Brass Roller Saddles, Chrome
-- Guyker GK45SP Vintage Deluxe locking tuners, MIK (drop in replacements)
-- Zero Glide Replacement Nut System w/zero fret
-- GHS Big Core Nickel Rockers strings, Custom Light 009-1/2 - 048
-- Gretsch G6238FT Solid Body Flat Top Hardshell Case, Black

Of note, perhaps:

In addition to converting the Bigsby's string pivot bar from pinned to string-through by drilling and chamfering it, and optimizing the bar's rotational smoothness with the newly installed BigsFixx components, the handle's rotational "stop" has been ground off, and thanks to an idea (and the 2nd photo below) I got from the "other" forum, the handle's spring mount has had a flat nylon washer and cylindrical nylon spacer added, after which the nut was screwed back on and tightened to a medium-stiff rotational resistance; this mod is intended to “lock” the Bigsby's handle to the bar, making for ultra-responsive Bigsby action without any creaking or slop from the handle. Also tossed on a roller bridge -- which I know many of you hate -- for good measure, and while it sits at quite an angle given the position of the factory-drilled mounting stud holes, it doesn't bind at all! Will also say I'm happy to have the unplated brass saddles on there, as they happen to make a nice cosmetic / visual match with the color of the logo type on the headstock face (so that little bit of remaining "gold" isn't sitting up there all by itself!).

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Bigsby handle mod.jpg

On other fronts, here's the ZeroGlide zero fret, which I've already had a positive experience with on this Historic Series G3161 Streamliner of mine...

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And the locking keys (on other backs, I guess)...

20220521_172357.jpg

Would like to thank forum member @giffenf for sharing his long-time experience with these fantastic Off Kiltertron pickups, which really helped nudge me in the direction of turning this budget axe into a "do it (practically) all" singlecut.

20220521_163621.jpg

The already super versatile Off Kiltertrons -- which feature three single coil settings and three humbucking settings -- are made even more flexible by gutting the traditional Gretsch wiring and control layout in favor of the following...

Pro Jet modded controls.jpg

So, now we've got: "V" is a Master Volume (with treble bleed), "T" is a Treble Cut (which is yer standard "Tone" knob), "B" is a Bass Cut (which can significantly thin out any tone), and "R" is a Rotary 6=Position Switch that is included with the purchase of Off Kilteron pickups and is key to their operation, which allows for the selection of six distinct voicings / tonalities with which anyone reading this is no doubt familiar, and wonderfully demo'd in this explainer video by the pickups' genius designer / builder, Mel Waldorf...



I'd add that the tones available from the Off-Kiltertron pickups aren't confined to the multiplicity of tones heard in the above video, but as I told Mel, this inexpensive import guitar -- in combination with the Kinman treble bleed and the Reverend Guitars-style “Bass Contour Control” circuit -- can now go from plunky plonk to scritchy skronk, bluesy sting to vibey ring, middy “braaang” to crunchy “kerrang,” dirty deeds to liquid leads -- and more variations I don’t even have rhymes for yet because it will take more moons to explore all the options available -- there’s now so much more “there” there that it’s hard to imagine any player (even this extremely hacky one) with access to the most basic amp, reverb pedal, and a drive pedal ever finding themselves without a workable sound in any imaginable hobbyist to professional woodshedding, rehearsal room, studio or stage situation; not to mention, lest we forget, simply playing for pleasure -- one’s own, or perhaps that of family and/or friends -- all of which the "best" gear allows one to do by virtue of being simple and effective enough in operation to not require us to focus on that gear, rather than just enjoying making music.

Here's another angle, just for fun!

20220521_182813.jpg
 
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FiveAces

Gretschie
Mar 1, 2009
254
San Diego, CA
Beautiful Guitar! I can relate to many of those mods that really add to its performance & playability. My Black 5435T isn't as dramatically outstanding as yours, but I love it.
I was interested why you kept the bridge angle as is. Reason I ask... I also opted to use a Wilkinson Roller Bridge on my 5435T, and with extremely excellent results. It's a solid design and a solid performer for its price. What also made it a great option was the locking slotted post holes, which allowed me to decrease the otherwise odd extreme bridge angle of those particular models. (compared to the newer years of the same model).
Been debating about grinding the stop off my Bigsby and similar to what you did.... now, after seeing yours, I'm sure that's next!
Electromatic 5435T with Bigsby.jpg Thanks!
 

Henry

I Bleed Orange
Apr 9, 2014
18,693
Petaluma
Fabulous! Please tell me more about the off kiltertrons. How do they compare to Gretsch, TVJ and other more commonly known pickups. Any favorite or disfavored sounds? I'm thinking of putting one (at the bridge) or 2 in by 6128 DCM. @drmilktruck I'd love to hear your thoughts too.
 

zippofan

Electromatic
Nov 15, 2016
5
Pennsylvania
Really nice Jet! I’ve done similar to my 5445 Double Jet, same Bricks Biggs Fix parts, Grover Sta-Tite’s, Vibramate string spoiler, Tru-arc bridge and TV Jones Hilo’trons. I’ve been thinking about the zero fret nut but it stays in tune ok for now, if I was gigging I’d probably do it.
 

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Berington

Gretschie
Jan 6, 2014
108
Los Angeles
Fabulous! Please tell me more about the off kiltertrons. How do they compare to Gretsch, TVJ and other more commonly known pickups. Any favorite or disfavored sounds? I'm thinking of putting one (at the bridge) or 2 in by 6128 DCM. @drmilktruck I'd love to hear your thoughts too.
They LOOK like Gretsch Super-trons, found in some older Gents & others, but how they'd sound is another thing. I have no experience with 'em. Lotsa nice work on this puppy! I'm sure you love the results, eh?
 

drmilktruck

I Bleed Orange
May 17, 2009
19,214
Plymouth, MN
Fabulous! Please tell me more about the off kiltertrons. How do they compare to Gretsch, TVJ and other more commonly known pickups. Any favorite or disfavored sounds? I'm thinking of putting one (at the bridge) or 2 in by 6128 DCM. @drmilktruck I'd love to hear your thoughts too.

I did buy a neck pickup from Mel based on the videos, but haven't installed it yet, but love the sound from Mel's demo. Sorry.
 

Lacking Talent

Country Gent
Aug 5, 2010
1,134
Los Angeles, CA
Beautiful Guitar! I can relate to many of those mods that really add to its performance & playability. My Black 5435T isn't as dramatically outstanding as yours, but I love it.
I was interested why you kept the bridge angle as is. Reason I ask... I also opted to use a Wilkinson Roller Bridge on my 5435T, and with extremely excellent results. It's a solid design and a solid performer for its price. What also made it a great option was the locking slotted post holes, which allowed me to decrease the otherwise odd extreme bridge angle of those particular models. (compared to the newer years of the same model).
Been debating about grinding the stop off my Bigsby and similar to what you did.... now, after seeing yours, I'm sure that's next!
View attachment 181369 Thanks!

I'm likely soon going to grind out the bridge's treble-side post hole a teeny bit so as to be able to reduce the bridge's angle across the guitar's top; this particular bridge, as purchased, showed up with its post holes a little too tight, tolerance-wise, to sit the way yours does.

Probably going to work on the pickguard a bit, as well, as I'm finding its string-side edge rests too high and thus too close for (my unimpeded playing) comfort to the high E string.
 

Lacking Talent

Country Gent
Aug 5, 2010
1,134
Los Angeles, CA
Fabulous! Please tell me more about the off kiltertrons. How do they compare to Gretsch, TVJ and other more commonly known pickups. Any favorite or disfavored sounds? I'm thinking of putting one (at the bridge) or 2 in by 6128 DCM. @drmilktruck I'd love to hear your thoughts too.

Right now, I'm most enjoying the HiLo'Tron-like sounds of the "Jangle" position on the rotary switch, which is the Off Kiltertron pickups' lowest output single coil configuration, a great, fun starting place for trying to cop George's '63 to '65 Tennessean studio tones.

I have not had TV Jones Filters or traditional (i.e., not Black Top) Gretsch Alnico Filters in this chambered solid body Jet, nor have I had Off Kiltertrons in the Gretsch hollow bodies I've had or have equipped with TV Jones Classics and recent Gretsch Alnico Filters, so it wouldn't be fair, I think, for me to try to make direct comparisons, but I can say that I do like the Off Kiltertrons' Filter'Tron- style "Tangle" position better in this instrument than I did the grittier-sounding Gretsch Ceramic Filters that were in the similarly constructed late '90s / early 2000s Blue Pearl Jet and Champagne Sparkle Duo Jet that I used to have.

If you're finding yourself on the fence, I would also point to the tremendous value for money represented by the Off Kiltertrons' ingenious (and completely passive, no battery-powered preamp) design, multiplicity of extremely credible tones, top quality materials, rock solid construction, and beyond generous customer support.
 


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