Ron Ellis is a legend. I would have no reservations. I'm sure they are not "duds" LOL. I agree, sound-wise. Totally. But it's about more than that... again, it's like the difference between buying a Porsche off-the-rack (a great car), vs a Ferrari (a more-than-great car). The CS stuff isn't about TONE so much as everything else, imo. And BTW- I'm with you. If Gretsch made a Vintage Select that was Red Sparkle, I'd already be invested LOL. I love that yellow Collings one, tho... Even if the Gretsch came with Filters, I'd just drop T-Armonds in it (fantastic pickups, I had them in my thin lone Cabronita for awhile).