Thoughts on 90s Gretsch models (MIJ) ?

Discussion in 'THE Gretsch Discussion Forum' started by TheChicagoGoblin, Feb 28, 2021.

Recent Electromatic or 90s MIJ?

  1. Meh, you'll probably appreciate a MIK Electromatic more.

    6.9%
  2. I'd spring for the MIJ Gretsch if I were you!

    93.1%
  1. TheChicagoGoblin

    TheChicagoGoblin Electromatic

    9
    Feb 27, 2021
    Richmond, VA
    Hey folks,

    I didn't think this question was appropriate for the Vintage forum, but perhaps I'm mistaken!

    I'm sooo close to pulling the trigger on a used (2019/2020) Electromatic, but I've got cold feet.
    Why? Simply because I'm sitting here wondering if plopping down an extra $400-800 is a better idea.

    I see a '96 Tennessee Rose in pretty good condition at a nice price, only about $400 more than my desired budget. Can I swing it? Sure, but will I really notice that much of a quality jump?

    The plan was to nab a TruArc for an Electromatic and then eventually upgrade to TV Jones pickups if I need to. Would going for a 90s MIJ negate the need for further upgrades?
     
  2. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Friend of Fred

    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    I have a 1995 6120 that I absolutely love!
    I’ve modded it to be a Poison Ivy tribute model based in her 58 6120 (vintage style TV Jones Ray Butts Filtertrons, B3 Bigsby, Poison Ivy sig pickguard).
    1521537F-1619-47D6-A45C-13EACFA8857C.jpeg
    It was an awesome guitar stock. Way better fit and finish than my 5420. The pots, switches and wires weren’t the greatest, but I just play everything turned up, so it doesn’t matter THAT much to me.
    Speaking of Poison Ivy, her backup Gretsch on stage was a 90’s 6120w, all stock, and it’s awesome. I wanna get one someday, and I’d leave everything JUST how it is!
    9A422999-6107-4A56-9728-9D7CEB25EA19.jpeg
     
  3. bluenote23

    bluenote23 Country Gent

    Oct 17, 2009
    Montreal, Canada
    It's just my opinion. I had a G5129, so a rather old Electromatic. When I got my 1997 Red Sparkle Jet, I stopped playing the Electromatic. The proline was just a nicer guitar to play in every way. No scarf joint neck, no plywood braces or blocks.

    The preFMIC ceramic Filtertrons are really good pickups. A little different from HS Filtertrons, with more grit which is a plus if you like to play dirty. They still have the brighter, clearer quality of Filtertron humbucking pickups but just a little wilder.

    My Red Sparkle Jet still has the stock G logo tuners and the cheap mini pots and Asian switches. They never gave me any cause to want to change them. I don't know what kind of bridge comes stock on a preFMIC 6119 (it's an adjustomatic on later models). My Jet came with a roller bridge (not a Space Control) that is pretty common on preFMIC Gretschs. That piece is not so good (it reduces volume and surely affects tone) and that, I swapped out. A Compton or Gretsch bar or even a quality import adjustomatic will do the job and the cost will be minimal.

    If you can, play the guitar. You'll know if it's a keeper or not.
     
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  4. Merc

    Merc Friend of Fred

    May 6, 2017
    Florida
    The pre-FMIC I’ve owned were two MIJ Jets (1998-99), and a 99 Hot Rod. Quality was great on all three. I swapped out one of the Jets pickups for TV Jones. Strangely enough I had preferred the original ceramics in it. I really liked the neck shape but not the the small feet wire.

    As for the 99 Hot Rod which would be more inline with what your inquiring about hollowbody wise... my complaint was the neck was really thin for my taste. Like shredder thin. Super small fret wire too. I had swapped in TV Jones SuperTrons and it really rocked hard though. It had a sound post. I believe many or all in the 90’s had a sound post as opposed to the Trestle brace or ML bracing. It is worthwhile to mention the 90’s had super thick plywood tops. Maybe 5 ply. I had swapped my Hot Rod wiring for a TV Jones harness. Only to discover the pickup selector thread section was not deep enough for the top. But it was still an awesome guitar.

    ML bracing:

    F14176FC-02FF-452D-8064-C24831DB6247.jpeg

    Trestle Bracing:

    5E8A0AE8-6E51-466C-BD39-5754895D2552.jpeg

    Edited: spelling error. That’s my OCD at times.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2021
  5. TV the Wired Turtle

    TV the Wired Turtle Gretschified

    Jul 25, 2009
    Sandy Eggo
    If you are able to grab a 99' Pro Line 6120 that is a Setzer Hotrod or SSU, the neck will be a lazy V and the top will be 1/16" thicker than a 2003 FMIC top.. YET, the paint job will be thinner and there is the tone post post as well. More bark, more growl from these guitars. ..and yes this is my favorite Gretsch build of all my other proline guitars. FWIW.. the TVjones harness is using the standard Switchcraft toggle switch with
    a thread height of 0.34” which I believe is slightly less "Tall" than the import counterpart that was on it. That can sometimes make a guitar body seem thicker if its just shy of clearing the top (it can be resolved using the replacement knurled nut that is deeper
    and is part number W-SC-W056 )
    [​IMG]
    Ad nauseum on my love of sound post gretsch nashvilles..... with trestles there are four points of attachment that are glued to the back of the guitar (versus one point of attachment for sound-post bracing)
    The upper portions of the trestles are glued to the longer tone bar braces that also run in parallel down the underside of the top well past the bridge & This entire arrangement stiffens the top much more than a sound post does with its single point of attachment, thus stifling the resonance of the instruments top. Good for feedback control, not so great for those of us looking for great picking dynamics and a more open response for clean and medium dirt.

    [​IMG]
     
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  6. cvr31

    cvr31 Gretschie

    My first Gretsch was a 5420. Very nice guitar. But then I bought a pro-line and haven't looked back. Although my 5420 was very well constructed, every pro-line I've had just felt better, was easier to play, sounded better, and was clearly the all around "better" guitar. But can most people tell the difference when you're on stage playing it? Maybe, maybe not. That's for you to decide.

    Although all of my pro-lines have been made in 2005 or later, my friend used to have a 90's model 6120. It was definitely a bit more solid feeling than mine due to the thicker wood, and I could tell a difference in the pickups. However it was still, I feel, a better constructed guitar than the 5420. It just felt more solid and more finely finished.

    But neither holds a candle to my current 2013 6120SSLVO. That is the best feeling and playing 6120 I have ever laid my hands on. LOL!!

    Good luck with your search!
     
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  7. stiv

    stiv Country Gent

    Sep 12, 2014
    Florence, Italy
    I have an '89 6210. I can't be really unbiased as it's been my first "real" guitar so I love it to death, but the difference between mine and a friend's 5420 (althoug one of the very first as well, so korean made) was huge, both playability-wise and sound-wise. I guess that today they improved them a lot (as they did for pro lines, which stand more close to the orginal models than my 6120) so the gap may be a lot less. Still, all the Electros just feel a tiny bit too "plastic" compared to Pro lines even in these days.
    To me, it's all on what you'd have to play with them. 6210s are great guitars (and more versatile than most of people think) but they're not good for everything. Sure you could squeeze them in anywhere (as most of the sound is in your fingers, not in your axe) but sometimes they could be better replaced. My Electromatic 5220 is way better (even stock) for hard rock/70's vibes rock than my 6120 with Ray Butts any day.
     
    new6659 likes this.
  8. Merc

    Merc Friend of Fred

    May 6, 2017
    Florida
    My 99 HR was definitely not a lazy V. Although it was the 44th Hot Rod according to the serial number. I recall reading long ago Brian didn’t care for the original neck and had them changed. But I’m not sure how long into production before changes were made. I’ve since looked for the interview but can’t find it. Either way it was a solid instrument and very loud with that sound post. Lots of “bark” as you say. I wouldn’t hesitate on buying a pre FMIC guitar at all if it were priced right.
     
  9. Glaw

    Glaw Gretschie

    150
    Aug 30, 2017
    ca.
    87648BF0-DDD3-4BE5-A02D-992B801A1C87.jpeg
    05 6120, 06 6136, 95 rose. Easily play the rose the most out of the three and she sure is a beauty.
     
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  10. JC higgy

    JC higgy Gretschified

    Age:
    50
    Jun 6, 2008
    Belfast Norn Iron
    I had a 1996 6122 Country Classic I ,it was a lovely guitar but heavy,the tone was nice but to me it didn't sound Gretsch enough,but it was still a nice sounding guitar and i played it a lot for the 2 years i owned it. I didn't like the roller bridge though.
    Never had any of the electrical problems reported on these either,but then again,i only had it for 2 years.

    Now to be fair ,prior to owning it i was only used to vintage Gretsches so i was expecting it to sound like one of my old geets.

    [​IMG]
     
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  11. TV the Wired Turtle

    TV the Wired Turtle Gretschified

    Jul 25, 2009
    Sandy Eggo
    btw.. I had the first year SSL (setzer sig lacquer) and that thing had a hard V, super slim.
     
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  12. Glaw

    Glaw Gretschie

    150
    Aug 30, 2017
    ca.
    9BD16EDC-5E0B-4DD1-9C05-BE2C0FAC0A90.jpeg FC7D2E6B-6885-4276-B878-F3F358A65E3C.jpeg
    Did I say she’s a beauty
     
    Marko60, j.s.c, JC higgy and 7 others like this.
  13. LA Miles

    LA Miles Country Gent

    Dec 6, 2012
    UPSTATE NY
    If you really want a 6120-ish guitar, buy one (or a 6118). We all have a budget or what we are willing to pay but modding a 5420 is a sure way to lose money if you ever sell.

    Buying a 6120 right, gives you an opportunity to even make a few bucks. IMHO, don't get hung up on pre/post FMIC, but what makes you happy. Good Luck.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2021
  14. thunder58

    thunder58 Super Moderator Staff Member

    Age:
    62
    Dec 23, 2010
    tappan ny
    Admin Post
    I'd go for it
     
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  15. calebaaron666

    calebaaron666 Friend of Fred

    Aug 15, 2018
    Portland, Maine
    Agree 100%.
     
    Merc likes this.
  16. Shock

    Shock Gretschie

    210
    Sep 7, 2020
    Minnesota
    I have a 2001 Setzer SSU Orange Tiger coming this week. I thought it was pretty cheap, and couldn't let it go by. It will be the third pre FMIC. Still looking for that green one.

    Yeah, I have a problem...don't judge me!
     
  17. Merc

    Merc Friend of Fred

    May 6, 2017
    Florida
    Very true for most modded guitars. The best way to not lose as much when modding is to keep the original parts and switch back before selling. Then sell the aftermarket stuff separately. It’s more work but I feel the loss will usually be less then selling a fully modded guitar in most cases.
     
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  18. TheChicagoGoblin

    TheChicagoGoblin Electromatic

    9
    Feb 27, 2021
    Richmond, VA
    Thank you very much fellas. I think that's a boatload of sound advice.
    The Tennessee Rose is a beauty, though red has never been my go-to color.
    I think I'll continue to deliberate and call the store (in CA) directly; I've grown very tired of Reverb (200+ transactions).

    Seems like my best shot is:

    1. buy a recent Electromatic that's already upgraded.
    or
    2. find a nice MIJ.

    For neck reference, I will say that the RatRod's neck is my favorite-playing Gretsch I've held so far!*

    Gretsches I've held/played so far:

    MIJ 90's sparkle jet
    Several 2000s Electromatics
    Several Streamliners
     
  19. LMark

    LMark Electromatic

    6
    Jan 30, 2019
    MN
    I had a 6122-1962 and a 6120-1960, both from the 1990s. Workmanship in both was stellar. The 6120 lacked sustain but played great; I sold it. The 6122 had tons of sustain; I sold it only because I needed cash. I have a 2007+ 6122-1958 now. I like it best of all.
     
  20. Shock

    Shock Gretschie

    210
    Sep 7, 2020
    Minnesota
    Welcome to the board.
     
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