G6120T vs G5420T

Discussion in 'THE Gretsch Discussion Forum' started by MichaelRopp, Aug 15, 2021.

  1. MichaelRopp

    MichaelRopp Electromatic

    Jan 20, 2021
    Hey, all. I kinda hesitate to admit this, but I am now in possession of both a G6120T Setzer Nashville BNSV, and a G5420T in the Fairlane Blue. (Hi... my name is Mike, and I'm a guitaraholic...) Confessions aside, I'm writing because I'd be interested to hear what you much more experienced Gretschsters think of these two axes.

    Tonally, the 5420 is brighter and perhaps a little "spankier", whereas the 6120 is warmer, "woodier", and maybe a little smoother on the high end, but in my case that's a total apples-to-oranges comparison because mine have different strings on them--the 5420 has round wound 11-49s with a plain G but my 6120 has Labella Jazz Flats 11-50 with a wound G. Someday I'll put the exact same strings on both and do a head-to-head comparison.

    Right now, I'm thinking more in terms of the highly subjective overall question "Is the 612oT 'better' than the 5420T?" For me, if one asks that question qualitatively, the answer is yes, it absolutely is. You notice it the moment you pick them up. The 5420 is good, but the 6120 is something special--it feels so good in your hands, it sounds better, and it really does make you not want to put it down. However, a new 6120T is on the order of 3-4x the price of a new 5420. Is the 6120 3-4x "better"? This is where the subjectivity makes this hard and I don't know what the units of "better" are, but if pressed for an answer I would have to say, no, probably not. The reason is that as exceptional as the 6120 is, the 5420 is a really nice guitar. Build quality, playability, looks, tone, staying in tune, all really good.

    Sorry... I'm rambling. Would like to hear the thoughts of anyone who's played both. Have a good week, everyone.
  2. dreamingGretsch

    dreamingGretsch Synchromatic

    Oct 12, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    While I cant say with 6120 and 5420.. I do notice that instant quality step up once I picked one up..

    However, to compare my experience with yours, I had a Korean (Peerless), Japanese (Terada) and MIC Epiphone Casino against my Gibson ES-330.. the feel is instantly different, however, is my Gibson ES-330 worth 3-5x the price over its cheaper copies? I can honestly answer that it is not.. but I went with feel and I had the money that time so I went with a 330.. but the best among those 3 is the Japanese made one.. but it is still expensive, so the next best thing was the Peerless made Casino.. just upgrade the hardware and pickups, and you're 85% there..
    MichaelRopp likes this.
  3. G5422T

    G5422T Country Gent

    May 24, 2012
    This question comes up often.

    The 542x guitars are very nice guitars. Lot's of love around here for these.

    Numerous 6120 models out there, but Setzer and LTV versions are considered "as good as it gets" for a modern 6120.

    Are the "worth it" or "the best"??? That's an individual call. It is to many, and it's not to some.

    Myself, I say yes, as Prolines are a top quality guitar in so many ways.

    Best of luck choosing.
  4. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Friend of Fred

    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    Both are beautiful models.

    One is a less-expensive because it’s not quite as nice as the other.:)
  5. NowEarThis

    NowEarThis Gretschie

    Jun 23, 2021
    Northern Rivers NSW Australia
    Of course the 6120 is going too be the better guitar. Wether it's 2-3-4 times better is not the question, but it would hold it's value and you'd feel happier knowing you have the "Best".
  6. MichaelRopp

    MichaelRopp Electromatic

    Jan 20, 2021
    At the moment, I'm not really choosing; I may just hang on to both. :) In all seriousness, it does seem to me that it's not entirely a question of the 5420 just being a budget version of the 6120. The 6120 has the trestle bracing, but as I understand it the 5420 uses sound-post bracing, right? Also, my 6120 has the TV Jones Ray Butts Filter'Trons and the 5420 has Gretsch Blacktop Filter'Trons. I think tonally they may be different enough that having both isn't all that crazy a thing. Again, in my particular case the difference in strings muddies the tonal comparison and someday I'd like to put the same strings on both and compare again.
    Craig Encinitas likes this.
  7. MichaelRopp

    MichaelRopp Electromatic

    Jan 20, 2021
    NowEarThis: I've been an Epiphone owner/player for a long time, and one of the questions that always comes up with Epiphones is the comparison with their Gibson cousins, and whether the Gibsons are really "worth it". Wide variety of opinions, but you'll hear a lot of players tell you that Gibson isn't actually better. I've seen dozens of discussions along this line in Epiphone-land. I'm relatively new to Gretsch, so forgive me if this "is the more expensive guitar actually better?" question isn't a "thing" over here. (And if it isn't, I can definitely see why as there really is no question.)

    I would really like to hear whether folks here have thoughts about the tonal ground covered by the 5420 and the 6120.
  8. Mr Swisher

    Mr Swisher Country Gent

    Jun 12, 2012
    6120 - 5420= 700 better :D
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2021
  9. MichaelRopp

    MichaelRopp Electromatic

    Jan 20, 2021
    dreamingGretsch: yeah, I can identify with your experience. I've been playing Epiphones for quite a while and have had really good luck with them, and in several cases I felt that the higher-end guitars just weren't enough better to justify the increase in price. I changed that tune when I picked up the 6120. It's the first high-end guitar I've had that I felt was totally worth it. And of course "worth it" is entirely subjective and personal.

    But at the same time, I'm not at all dissing the 5420--quite the opposite. Because of differences in tonal shading, I can seriously see why someone might have both.
  10. Stefan87

    Stefan87 Country Gent

    May 20, 2019
    Brisbane, Australia
    while i don't have a 5420 i do own a 6120ssl with tv jones classics and 2 electro jets with blacktops, now i know they are different guitars but the tvj and the blacktops are definitely different in tone, I know you mentioned about having a different set of strings on both guitars and while i know that would make some difference in tone its not the main factor, the blacktops are good pick ups bit the tvj are another level.
    Craig Encinitas likes this.
  11. rake_ether

    rake_ether Gretschie

    Aug 24, 2019
    Athens, GA USA
    Your question reminds me of the many times I've purchased something and then asked others for their opinions about it. What do you think about them? Isn't that what should count? They're both great guitars and the more you play them the more you'll decide which is better for you (or both). Enjoy. Figuring it out will be fun.:)
    Craig Encinitas and Archtops like this.
  12. Dana Rudd

    Dana Rudd Country Gent

    Nov 26, 2019
    Greybull, WY
    I have two 6120's and a 5420. I prefer the 6120's in my opinion they are worth the additional price for me.
    The 5420 is a good Gretsch and all many can afford. We have a lot more people enjoying Gretsch guitars because of this price difference.
  13. MichaelRopp

    MichaelRopp Electromatic

    Jan 20, 2021
    @rake_ether, yeah, I kind of went off on a tangent with the whole "is it worth it?" question, because that's totally subjective. What I'd really like is that I've found that on this BB there are a lot of people who **really** know Gretsch guitars, and as a newbie I was hoping to get some well-informed opinions regarding the differences between the two. It seems to me that the 5420 is not just a budget version of the 6120. Yeah, it is in some ways, but there are enough differences in construction and electronics that to a certain extent they're very different animals. I'd like to learn more about how those differences play out in terms of tone, from people with experience in such things.

    I suppose in the end I'm trying to justify keeping both of them. :)
    rake_ether likes this.
  14. rake_ether

    rake_ether Gretschie

    Aug 24, 2019
    Athens, GA USA
    Got it. I don't have a 6120 but I do have a 5420 and 6119 Tenny. I love both of them and they are different animals.
    Groutsch and MichaelRopp like this.
  15. MichaelRopp

    MichaelRopp Electromatic

    Jan 20, 2021
    @Dana Rudd -- thanks for your insights. In what circumstances or for what genres do you find yourself reaching for the 5420? (Or do you?)
  16. sgarnett

    sgarnett Synchromatic

    Apr 14, 2020
    I have a Streamliner 2420, Electromatic 5622, and Proline 6120 Smoke.

    The Streamliner is very well made for the price. I replaced the rattlematic bridge with an ABM2400, and pulled half of the pole screws out. It has a unique voice and I love playing it. Sure, I’d like nicer knobs and tuners, but they work. The stock wiring is a weird hybrid of Gretsch and Gibson with the volume pots wired wrong.

    The Electromatic has a center block, so it’s different. It has nicer hardware. I haven’t touched the pickups at all. I swapped in a spare roller because I had it, and didn’t have time to do a proper setup, but the stock bridge is much better than the Streamliners’. I may swap it back in when I get time to do it right.

    The 6120 Smoke is as close as I’ll ever get to custom ordering exactly what I want. It feels, plays, and sounds spectacular.

    I may yet buy a 5420 or 5422. Why? Because the 6120 stays in its case when I’m not playing it, and always gets a wipe down. I don’t need a beater per se (I have some very old guitars, and none look like a so-called relic). Still, for me it is very important to have something I can leave out on a stand. Sometimes I just have a few minutes to sit down and play, and a guitar that is always ready at hand is a lot of fun.

    At this point in my life, as much as I enjoy tinkering, I have no time. I would not buy an Electromatic to modify into a budget Proline. It isn’t a good use of my time or money. I would absolutely buy an Electromatic to leave out and PLAY as-is.

    My 5622 is on stand behind my workstation in my home office, along with a Katana Mini, always in reach.
    ALS57 and MichaelRopp like this.
  17. section2

    section2 Country Gent

    Dec 21, 2016
    I think the build quality on my 5620 is very close to the quality of my 6120 Jr. The 6120 Jr has a better nut, a better Bigsby, and better stock pickups and wiring, but those are all swappable. The bones of the guitars are close enough in quality that I'd say they're both outstanding instruments.

    I did end up replacing the nut, tone pots, bridge, and Bigsby on my 5620, and now it's just about perfect for me.

    As for the 6120-vs-5420 comparison: if I recall correctly, the 5420 has a five-ply top, while the 6120 is three-ply, so all else being equal, you should get more acoustic resonance from the 6120. Of course, the different bracing will have an effect as well.
  18. MichaelRopp

    MichaelRopp Electromatic

    Jan 20, 2021
    @section2 -- thanks for your insights. I'm not familiar with the 5620 and had to look it up. Looks similar to the 5420 but with a center block?

    I could see myself swapping the nut on the 5420 to get just a little better tuning stability, but I would agree that overall its build quality is really good. It's a lot of bang for the buck.
    section2 likes this.
  19. diamoroso

    diamoroso Gretschie

    Feb 4, 2019
    San Diego, CA
    I have a 5420 and a 6120, and my 5420 has been modded to get me closer to a 6120 before I jumped on purchasing one. I never was a fan of the Blacktop Filtertrons, so I swapped them out pretty quickly after purchasing. Nothing wrong with them, but they were not what I was looking for out of a Gretsch.

    My 6120 is absolutely a better guitar in every way than my 5420. The neck and frets are perfect, it really plays like a dream, and just feels like a different tier of quality in your hands. However, I am still really impressed by the 5420. Considering the price point, I don't think you'll find a better built guitar. I played many shows, and did several recording sessions with my 5420, and it's an instrument that can be used in a professional setting no questions asked. Do I think that the 6120 is 4x the guitar the 5420 is? Not at all. Am I satisfied with the price I paid for my 6120? Yes, 100%. I've owned and loved guitars in all types of price ranges, and I've come to realize you just can not get the little details that make the difference between the 5420 and 6120 with out paying up. The 6120 doesn't do anything for me that the 5420 couldn't, however it does feel and look better to me, and purchasing it didn't hurt me financially.
  20. section2

    section2 Country Gent

    Dec 21, 2016
    Pretty much. There are a few differences:
    • Center block
    • Shallower 1.75" body
    • Super Hilotron neck pickup
    • Individual tone knobs for each pickup
    • Fixed bridge
    • Tension-roller Bigsby
    • Back-breaking weight (seriously, I think mine weighs at least 10 pounds)
    They discontinued the 5620 about 5 years ago, though they're still making its double-cutaway cousin, the 5622. The 5622 has different electronics, and its center block is mercifully chambered, so it's a fair bit lighter than my beast.

    I replaced the 5620's nut with a Zero Glide, and I'm delighted with it. Lower action, perfect tuning stability, and livelier tone on open strings.

    If your 5420 has a Graph Tech nut, you shouldn't need to replace it, but it might benefit from a once-over with some nut files the next time you take it in for a setup. If you have an older model with a plastic nut, then it's worth upgrading.
    Craig Encinitas and MichaelRopp like this.
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