Unsolicited opinions on the G5230T and Gretsch as a whole.

Discussion in 'Electromatic Gretsch Forum' started by danielktdoranie, Oct 15, 2021.

  1. Alaska Mike

    Alaska Mike Electromatic

    Apr 12, 2021
    I have 2 Japanese-made Fenders. One of them was made when there was no US Fender factory (1985). I was just a kid, really wanted a Telecaster with a rosewood fretboard, and had read glowing reviews guitar magazines, so I dropped more money than I had ever accumulated before on a MIJ Telecaster. I have never regretted it. While other guitars have come and gone, I have kept that one. I knew nothing of Fender's woes, because that sort of thing wasn't as widely reported as it is now. All I knew was that the guitar was extremely well made and fit me like nothing I had ever played before.

    I have a Korean-made Epiphone Les Paul that was a basket case after decades of abuse, but had more acoustic resonance and playability than a whole lot of Gibsons I had played before it. A couple hundred in parts (mostly pickups, and it's a very respectable player.

    My Chinese-made G5230T took a little work too, but not an excessive amount, to make me really love it. The basic instrument was well-built and plays like a dream. Really, tuners and electronics were all that it really needed. Sure, I added more, but that was because I like tinkering. My G5220 was an inexpensive short-scale bass that has the tone and playability I like.

    My Chinese-made Traveler EG-1 and EG-2 guitars have been outstanding in their roles. When I'm on the road, I always feel drawn to pick them up and plink away for awhile.

    My MIM Telecaster Partscaster (almost all Fender parts, but assembled my me) is a pretty solid guitar. Still a work in progress, but a fun project and test platform.

    All of those imports have poly finishes. All of them were built to a certain specification to protect the value of the original brand and provide a solid product at their respective price point. I'm not a fan of using cheap electronics or tuners, and would rather pay a little more for the good stuff, but I understand why they were selected.

    I would rather have a US-made guitar, but I am not paying just for that distinction. That's just rewarding bad behavior. My Ultra Telecaster and Gibson Les Paul Player Plus were made in the US.

    The Gibson is my only nitro finished guitar, and I'm not overwhelmed with that feature. I bought the guitar because it played well enough, had P-90s, the price was reasonable, and I knew it probably would retain value. I actually prefer the neck finish on my Telecasters by a pretty large margin.

    I don't like relic finishes. I don't like finish checking. I don't particularly like super-gloopy poly finishes, either. I sent back a G&L that was almost unplayable because of how thick the neck finish was. I guess I'm less concerned about the finish medium itself or who applied it than how well it's applied.
    new6659, Stefan87 and Mr Swisher like this.
  2. amp360

    amp360 Synchromatic

    Oct 21, 2012
    I agree with almost everything you say. Despite the crap Gibson takes everything they make is:

    1- American
    2- Nitro
    3- Plek'd

    When you consider what they sell and the price they sell it at they're one of the best values out there for a really nice instrument at a fair price. With the new price increase (that everyone is doing) a new SG Standard or Les Paul Studio in gloss is about $1600. A new USA (if you can even call them that) poly bolt together Stratocaster starts at $1300.

    Last Christmas I was in a Guitar Center and bought two $1000+ model Gretsch guitars for $450 each on blowout. Honestly, for $450 they were priced about where they should be. I feel sorry for anyone who actually would have paid $1000 for either one of them. I think for the lower end imported guitars Epiphone makes pretty nice guitars. Generally they're not a guitar/price range I shop in but my son's friends mostly have Epiphone and Schecter guitars and for the money they're decent instruments.

    I've owned a ton of Japan made Gretsch guitars (Elliot Easton, Tennesee Rose, Country Gentleman, etc...) and have yet to own one that feels, plays or sounds like my old ones (57 and 67 6120). From a distance they look good but if you're used to playing a really nice guitar they just don't stand up. I have a Historic R Les Paul and I have a couple 50s Les Paul guitars. Yes, the Historic was probably more than a new 6120 but the old LP is also worth a lot more than an old Gretsch. The Historic guitars are fantastic and certainly are great guitars on their own even if they sound different (not worse/better) than the old ones.

    A big part of the problem is FMIC's willingness to slap any (once) iconic brand name on anything and another part of the problem is that since most imported guitars are made in the same few factories a lot of inexperienced players have never had the opportunity to play the original guitars they think they're buying modern versions of.

    Gone are the days of saving up for the high quality just like the guy on the record played Fender, Gretsch, etc... now it's about owning a lot of guitars vs playing a lot of guitar.

    There's also this myth that old Japanese guitars were such great instruments. Sure, some were (the high end Ibanez, Yari and smaller production Yamaha like Paul Simon played) but most were junk when they were new and I can't believe they've gotten better just by being old. One of my first guitars was a Tokai Goldstar Strat. It was ok but to see people shell out $1000+ for one of those is insane as I was thrilled the day I dumped it and bought a USA Strat, which was better in every way.

    I guess compared to a lot of the junk these days those old clunkers seem good. Who knows!

    IMHO I wish the classic brands were small, made in the same countries they came from and were the same quality for everyone. If you go to the local music store and pick up a Fender, Gretsch, Gibson, Martin, etc... it should be the same thing as the guy on tv has. In 1960 if you went to your local music store to buy a Strat, LP, 6120, etc.... chances are it was the same as the person famous playing it.

    Best large production guitar out there is Rickenbacker followed by Gibson.
    Gretschzilla likes this.
  3. wildeman

    wildeman I Bleed Orange

    May 10, 2015
    I'll take glossy, smooth poly over sticky nitro any day....just like, my opinion man..
    new6659 likes this.
  4. Henry

    Henry I Bleed Orange

    Apr 9, 2014
    An alternate take is despite being American, nitro and Plek'd, they still make crap. :p
    Alaska Mike and Hickeroar like this.
  5. Roy Clark

    Roy Clark Synchromatic

    Jun 16, 2017
    Bat cave.
    My Custom 77 boutique guitar is almost 2000 dollars new. France company. Used I got it really cheap. Art deco. It is he best guitar I own. The other is a Samick made Jupiter reissue original made by Harmony. It is the second best guitar I own. Both have great electronics. The Custom 77 has expensive parts. But the Custom 77 has a import Bigsby. Both have polyurethane.

    Polly ages well. Nitro snobs tend to say, "I don't want a guitar smothered in plastic!". But nitro is plastic... a primitive one, but plastic nonetheless. Ron Kirn said and he makes custom guitars expensive. He said in his book First, let’s look at Nitrocellulose Lacquer. It’s sad, but today the word “nitrocellulose” in advertising copy, by a major guitar manufacturer, is meaningless, here’s why. . . Back in the ‘50s, the lacquer was the real stuff, genuine nitrocellulose; it was used because nitro dries quite fast which reduces production time. Fender often used DuPont Duco, an automobile finishing product. By the late ‘50’s DuPont had introduced an acrylic lacquer, DuPont Lucite. Chemically, it is nothing like nitrocellulose, but it still dried lightning fast. It is the Lucite that was most often used for the metallic finishes. Fender DID still clear coat the Lucite with Duco, so you had Nitrocellulose over Acrylic. Oh, DO NOT try to do this at home, Acrylic and Nitro are NOT at all compatible. You will screw up your finish royally. You have to know what you are doing to get a nitrocellulose clearcoat to go down over acrylics. Do it wrong and you get the splotchy, crinkly horrible finish you see on antique tool boxes.

    One of the suspected characteristics of Nitro is that it will continue to shrink for many years, thus improving the tone of the guitar. That’s the topic of another discussion, were just talking about the “mystique” surrounding Nitro today. In the ensuing years since the 50’s there has been any number of new formulations for coatings that have been used on guitars. The primary reason for the search has been the reduction production time. The faster a guitar can be squirted with paint and have it dry and harden to a point that it can be polished, the more money the manufacturer saves in production costs. That’s it. That’s why there has been a continuing stream of “new” finishes used in a Guitar’s manufacture; it has nothing to do with quality of sound. Remember the “baked” automotive finishes of the 70’s and 80’s, that was all that was about, just rushing the drying time. Today just about all finishes used on Guitars, Furniture, Cars, anything made that has to be painted as it rolls down the production line, use a catalytically accelerated finish.

    This means the finish is formulated with additional chemicals so by adding Heat, Ultraviolet Light, or an over spray of another chemical, or even some forms or radiation can be used to harden the finish FAST, like in minutes. Compare that to the 30 seconds it took nitrocellulose and acrylic to dry to touch, but they still had to air dry completely for about a few weeks before they could be sanded and polished. Urethanes otherwise known by us all as “Poly” is the most often chemically enhanced finish used on 41 22 Chapter Five Ain’t Quite There Yet.

    Musical instruments today. It is for all intents and purposes, a plastic coating. It is tough though. I gotta give it that much. Now Jump forward to the mid 80’s. This is when the Vintage Guitar craze started. The CBS junk years were coming to an end. CBS’s Fender was just about bankrupt because few serious guitarists were buying their butchered products. Fender was sold to the new guys and they hired Leo Fender as a consultant. His recommendation, “Build ‘em like I did.” This meant nitrocellulose lacquer would now become a feature on some guitars. Since Nitro takes so darn long to get to a point it can be polished, alternative methods were explored. Thus a chemically modified “Nitro” lacquer was used that can be catalytically accelerated.

    It bears NOTHING in common with the nitrocellulose lacquers of the 50’s and 60’s, nada, nothing. Other than this. . . and this is an d 60’s, nada, nothing. Other than this. . . and this is how they can call it nitro. The name nitrocellulose comes from the chemical make up. The “cellulose” is from a cellular component coming from the CELL walls of wood. Thus, pitch a little of that “cellulose” component in some mysterious concoction, and the Federal Trade Commission will allow you to call it nitrocellulose. Now, why would Fender or anyone else do that? Because many of you guys want nitrocellulose lacquer because of the ancient mystique surrounding it. The merchants know the vast majority of potential customers don’t really have a clue and couldn’t identify dried and finished nitrocellulose if they fell head first into a bucket of the goop.

    But since they want it, the manufacturer will find a way to preserve the speedy manufacturing process, AND call the paint on the booger what you want to hear it called, that is. . .“nitrocellulose”. So don’t throw your money away, Poly sounds just fine assuming the guitarist can play. Today if you order a Nitrocellulose finish on your Fender guitar, they will ship it to you with the nitro over-coated over a polyurethane finish. This is intellectually dishonest but still meets the criteria for legal advertising. To further aggravate the situation, Nitro is only available on their better guitars, so you would think that in the 2 grand they are charging they could find a few dollars for a real Nitrocellulose lacquer finish. Sorry, not gonna happen. But there is good news, realistically it would take an anechoic room and a digital audio spectrum analyzer to really tell the difference between a Urethane finished and a Nitro finished guitar’s voice. So save your money. Quote from Ron's book.

    One thing I can tell you about Nitro vs. Poly, Nitrocellulose has an “alive” feeling kinda like the beautiful skin on your Grand Daughters face, Poly feels like dead plastic because that’s what it is. Ron said it.

    So if you do not like poly that is fine. I like both. But like Ron said it does not really matter anymore. But some just want expensive guitars to have nitro and that is cool also.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2021
    NowEarThis and juks like this.
  6. ZackyDog

    ZackyDog Friend of Fred

    Feb 6, 2015
    In the USA
    Gretsch G5230T with chrome bar bridge.png
    I really like mine, especially after I modded it (TV Jones Neck Classics, Truarc Serpentune Bar Bridge, Gretsch-by-Bigsby).
    Mr Swisher, new6659 and Shock like this.
  7. NowEarThis

    NowEarThis Gretschie

    Jun 23, 2021
    Northern Rivers NSW Australia
    When I first saw my 1999 MIJ 6121 I noticed it was Made in Japan. I didn't think twice about buying it, I just knew it would be well made, and it is. Same with my 2007 MIJ 6120.

    I read somewhere the Terada factory has been making orchestra instruments for longer than guitars so that says something ;)
  8. Hickeroar

    Hickeroar Gretschie

    Oct 4, 2020
    That was my first thought too. :-D
  9. Alaska Mike

    Alaska Mike Electromatic

    Apr 12, 2021

    I started this year really, really wanting a Gibson Les Paul or ES-335. The pandemic is absolutely the worst time to buy one, because supply is low and prices are high.

    I quickly gave up on 335s, because I just couldn't find what I wanted at a price I thought would hold up. So, I started playing every Les Paul I could find. The vast majority were used, because nobody had new ones. Mostly Henry J models. All of them bound models (because I'm fancy). Over 50 guitars played in Alaska and up and down the Eastern Seaboard. My expectations shifted as the price point changed, but basic playability, resonance, and craftsmanship were my baseline. I tried really, really hard to find one that had all three. The amount of sloppy woodwork and finishing was astounding. The number of guitars I discarded because the were acoustically dead was amazing. The number that were essentially unplayable (and yes, I know how to set up a guitar) was embarrassing.

    The Korean Epiphone basket case I got sounded and played better than 75% of the Gibsons, and it was cheap.

    Eventually I picked up a Gibson Les Paul Classic Player Plus, because the price was reasonable for what I got. Not a great deal, but far better return on the investment than what I had tried. A bankruptcy guitar, I'm amazed by this.

    I've heard some good (and some bad) things about the new management. I'm hoping that a renewed focus on the core business will make them sustainable past the guitar boom. I still might end up saving my paper route and babysitting money for a Gibson Les Paul Custom or nice ES, but I will never buy a Gibson online after my experiences. Everyone has a dud now and then, but Gibson has used up theirs for the next decade or so. They have a long way to go before they earn my trust.

    ...and for a Plek'd guitar, there is a lot of really bad Gibson fretwork out there.
    new6659 and Stefan87 like this.
  10. Stefan87

    Stefan87 Country Gent

    May 20, 2019
    Brisbane, Australia
    I have been on a similar quest, as I always say I just flat out don't like Gibson but have really been wanting P-90's so am trying everything I can find by Gibson or Epiphone with p-90's in it and so far nothing has made me want to take it home, in fairness it's not because of issues more so just uncomfortable or uninspiring to play.

    I will say that the new model Gibsons/Epiphones have been better then other older but still modern Gibsons/Epi's I've tried, the Epi LP Jr was disappointing though when compared to my G5230T.
  11. Didn't say they weren't. However, IMHO not as good as USA made and I still hate poly. If the Japanese guitars used nitrocellulose I'd buy one, even if it is too much.

    Hell, if the Made in China Gretsches were nitrocellulose and made as well as Eastman's were I'd buy one in a New York minute.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2021
  12. I have NEVER had a Gibson I haven't had to take to a luthier to sort out, spending €100 in the process.I just factor that into any guitar I purchase. However, Gibson guitars are very well priced. I think they'd charge Steven Stern money if they came out not needing some adjustment so I am happy to pay €100 to a luthier versus €1000 more.

    My Eastman T386 came out of the case perfect. Literally the first time that has ever happened for me. Action, intonation, pickup height, feel, tone. Nothing needed to be changed whatsoever. I think the fact they are made in China puts people off because they immediately think about the Gibson knock-offs on AliExpress but what people don't know is that for decades before they started making guitars, Eastman Strings made orchestral instruments. They know their ****.
    Paulie26 likes this.
  13. Hell yeah, I have heard of Eastman! I own a T386, I LOVE it! It is my favourite gigging guitar.
  14. IMHO, if you're gonna buy an Epiphone, just but an Eastman T386... I have two the "cherry red" and a sunburst one I bought used, the seller was desperate for cash and I got it for €600, a total steal. I paid €950 shipped for the red one, new.
    Stefan87 likes this.
  15. I have already bought her a home. What's your point?
  16. I did't say they were junk though did I?
  17. Glaw

    Glaw Gretschie

    Aug 30, 2017
    I didn’t say you did. Maybe I should have said, if they weren’t so awesome they wouldn’t be so expensive.
    All three of mine are awesome to play and to look at.
    ZackyDog likes this.
  18. Mr Swisher

    Mr Swisher Country Gent

    Jun 12, 2012
    I concur on Eastman.. mine is such a good guitar.
  19. Alaska Mike

    Alaska Mike Electromatic

    Apr 12, 2021
    I really was looking at picking up an Eastman, but their headstock looks... lifeless. I know that's a petty complaint, but even on their nicer models it seems like a design afterthought. It's just a "butterface" aesthetic that I just can't get past. Is a used Gibson worth four or five or six times as much? Practically speaking, no, but I have to acknowledge how much irrationality comes into play when spending a bunch of money on a guitar. My own petty tastes and potential resale value have kept me from exploring potentially better guitars. The Gibson name on the headstock still carries a lot of cache.

    I may look at selling off a couple guitars so I can trade up to the black ES-335 Custom I've always wanted, if I ever come across it. I'm sure it's out there.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.