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Pickup height questions

Discussion in 'Electromatic Gretsch Forum' started by dswo, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. dswo

    dswo Electromatic

    13
    Apr 8, 2017
    East Carolina
    I got my first Gretsch last night, the new G5420T with smaller headstock and thumbnail fret markers. It just oozes character!

    I've been playing it for a few hours now, and the setup from Street Sound NYC, where I purchased it online, seems just fine. First impressions of the sound: I expected more jangle from the bridge pickup, and the low E needs more punch. The first is not a complaint, just an observation. When I turned down the tone knob, I got the best "Sunshine of Your Love" tone that I've heard from any of my own guitars.

    I'm used to adjusting pickup heights on Fender guitars, but these Gretsch Blacktops seem to be their own beast. I've read as much as I can find on the subject, including this thread here: https://www.gretsch-talk.com/threads/blacktop-filtertron-adjustment.89303. But I still have a few questions.

    1. Why does the factory set them low? The bridge and tuners seem a little cheap, but nothing about this machine feels careless. I find myself wondering, does the low E sound wimpy because it is wimpy, or because my ears aren't tuned yet to That Great Gretsch Sound? Is the bass side set low because it tends to overpower the rest of the strings?

    2. I've studied the pickup heights that TV Jones recommends, but there's a crucial piece of information missing from the ubiquitous diagram. Do you measure the distance when the string is open, or when it's depressed at the last fret (the way you would on a Fender)?

    [​IMG]

    3. When I compare the recommendations here with the actual pickups on my guitar, I notice right away that the diagram recommends the same height for both sides of the pickup, whereas on my guitar the bass side on both pickups is noticeably lower. Is there any consensus about whether the TV Jones recommendations are good for Blacktops? I realize that, for some people, the answer is just "Dig in and experiment." I don't mind doing that on a guitar whose character I'm already familiar with, but Gretschen are new to me. I'm sure I can adjust this one to my existing taste, but one of the reasons I bought this guitar was to expand my palette. After I get to know the Gretsch sound a little better, I'll feel more comfortable tinkering with it.

    Some pics follow. Thank you all in advance for your advice and consideration.

     
  2. englishman

    englishman Friend of Fred

    Age:
    59
    Apr 5, 2014
    Detroit
    I'm sure the measurements are intended with open strings.
    Filtertrons are very sensitive to pickup height. they tend rto sound a lot better cranked up.

    Welcome to the forum and congrats on the new guitar.
     
  3. silvertonebetty

    silvertonebetty Gretschie

    384
    Jun 18, 2012
    canada
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  5. silvertonebetty

    silvertonebetty Gretschie

    384
    Jun 18, 2012
    canada
    Whoops


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  6. stevo

    stevo Country Gent

    May 1, 2012
    Atlanta
    Welcome to the Gretsch family!

    Factory height - Gretsch factory does a lot of things wrong in my opinion. Most nuts are wrong and bind, intonation is often way off, action is usually abysmal, etc. etc. I'm certain they're clueless about best pickup height too. But then I've played a few new USA PRS, Gibson and Fenders and I'm not sure they're any better. It seems that a guitar that is set up well from the factory isn't a common thing.

    Height - Open strings only. Depressing the strings begs the question, "where?" String height varies depending on where you depress. I don't know why it's a Fender thing, I've never done it with a Fender either. The only reason I depress a string on my Strat is to make sure I'm not crashing against a pickup, but my pickups are Kinmans and you can set them higher.

    Blacktops - I don't know from experiment, but I think his diagram is a good starting point for all his pickups. But dig-in-and experiment is good advice. I've done my share and you'll know when you've hit that sweet spot. And you'll really know when you're too close.
     
    luvdablues and dswo like this.
  7. benjwri

    benjwri Country Gent

    Age:
    79
    Oct 27, 2011
    Central ON Can
    The 'measurements shown are a good starting point'. From here it's up to your ears.
    Welcome to the forum!
     
  8. Joey L

    Joey L Gretschie

    324
    Jun 24, 2016
    White Plains, NY
    I have a 5420t. I suspected the tuners might be a problem, but they are not. I put a bit of nut sauce on all of my guitar nuts which helps prevent binding. If the nut was cut bad it will have to be cleaned out a bit. The bridge I did change to a roller bridge. There are many other good, but different options out there.
    I used the TV Jones pick up heights as a starting point. I then adjusted the pole pieces following the Setzer diagram that basically follows the radius of the neck. Then I fine tuned by ear.
    While the Blacktops are not bad pick ups, I did install TV Classics, which provide a more refined Gretchy tone. Lastly, I found this guitar likes 11 guage strings- tone and feel for me at least.
    While I own other high end Gibson and Fenderguitars, I always seem to be playing this guitar at home. The neck feels great and it's fun to play.
     
  9. wildeman

    wildeman Friend of Fred

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    Gretsches are not known for wimpy bass string response!o_O Screenshot_2017-04-20-17-41-04-1.png
    Something is awry my friend:D
     
    dswo likes this.
  10. Henry

    Henry Friend of Fred

    Apr 9, 2014
    Petaluma
    FYI the TVJ instructions do explicitly state "strings open" near the middle of the page. Anyway, happy adjusting!
     
    dswo likes this.
  11. dswo

    dswo Electromatic

    13
    Apr 8, 2017
    East Carolina
    I believe you. But which page are you looking at? I'd like to read what else it says, but can't find it.
     
  12. Henry

    Henry Friend of Fred

    Apr 9, 2014
    Petaluma
    It's in the image in your OP from TVJ, right under where it says "TV Jones Guitar Pickups"
    [​IMG]
     
  13. dswo

    dswo Electromatic

    13
    Apr 8, 2017
    East Carolina
    Zoink! There it is! (Blush.)
     
    Henry likes this.
  14. dswo

    dswo Electromatic

    13
    Apr 8, 2017
    East Carolina
    I got out my screwdriver and ruler, removed the pickguard, and matched the heights to the TV Jones recommendations as much as possible. (Would have lifted the bass side of the neck pickup a little more, but I ran out of screw room.) Put the pickguard back on -- realized that I needed to take the whole thing off, including the metal brace, to mount the guard to the brace again -- and got a better bass response. After some more tweaking, I also raised the pole pieces on both E strings; I didn't try to match the Setzer diagram, just restore what my ear was missing.

    Thank you, all.
     
    Henry likes this.