Watering down the product?

Randy99CL

Country Gent
Feb 17, 2020
2,195
Albuquerque
There is still a lot of hand work in the fitting and finishing of a guitar so you still need experienced, quality-oriented workers.

I don't think less expensive models cheapen the reputation of a maker. Gretsch commands respect, even their least costly are very good quality for the price. Every guitar they sell is playable or will be with a setup. I expect they will last for decades also.
We players know about the MIJ models and appreciate the quality and sound.
Fender is the same way, their MIM series are so good that they don't hurt the Fender rep.

But there are snobs out there. As I've written before, there was a thread on the Gibson forum that the LP Studio Tribute I bought is "not a real Les Paul." Made in US in the same factory by the same people, mahogany body with maple top, modern PAF pickups, rosewood fingerboard, says Gibson on the headstock, WTH? It has a maple neck but I actually prefer maple because it is such a strong wood that breaks are much less likely.
 

Randy99CL

Country Gent
Feb 17, 2020
2,195
Albuquerque
And I’ll also say that while you could be correct about the lower end secondary market, I have a feeling a lot of it is folks get a lower end Gretsch to see what they think. And the lower end offerings are quite frankly EXCELLENT for lower end offerings. Maybe excellent enough for people after a bit to say “okay, I really like this Gretsch thing. Let me sell this and move up the ladder a bit”. Just a thought.
I agree with this. My first guitars were (all chinese) an Epiphone and a Squier and another Epi, but they just whetted my taste for the better brands. Next were MIM and a MIJ Fenders, MII and MIK Gretsches, MII G&Ls and eventually two Gibson Tributes (LP and SG).

Those Gibson Tributes are good examples of what a maker can do: they are US made in the same factories by the same people but they have done what they can to lessen the cost of the product.
Satin finishes save a lot of time (I heard somewhere that polishing the finish takes half the time to build a guitar). No binding is a big deal because when you watch the factory tour vidoes binding really takes time also.
Good quality US-made pickups and Switchcraft/CTS electrics but no switching options. Good quality but less fancy tuning machines, etc.
Plainer, less expensive maple and mahogany. Less fancy rosewood fingerboards, plekked instead of hand finished.
The end result is a great playing and sounding guitar that doesn't look as good as the more expensive models but perfect for my budget.

You would think Gretsch could make a less expensive Japanese model (they'd sell a million) but Gretsch is all about binding and gold hardware and sparkle finishes and expensive pickups and figured wood and flash and that is OK. Without those things the Gretsch would just be another Alvarez or whatever.
 
Last edited:

Viking Power

Synchromatic
Jun 11, 2018
724
Mountlake Terrace, WA
I do disagree about the Players Editions being “watered down” Prolines.

The PE’s are made in Japan and are the same high quality as any ProLine and they have features that some people want, locking tuners, treble bleed, string thru Bigsby, narrower bodies etc.

I think the PE’s and the Vintage Select series ( that are not totally accurate vintage reproductions) are excellent additions to the Gretsch line.

The modern Streamliner guitars are bringing in a new and younger crowd to the Gretsch world and that is the important base of the buying pyramid.

Without the Electromatic line I would never have become a Gretsch owner a number of years ago considering the cost of a ProLine. I’ve owned 5 ProLines because of that Electromatic I could afford.
All of this resonates with my experience. My gateway drug being a G5622T that I still own. From there I’ve now owned 2 prolines, both PEs and think they are amazing guitars of the highest quality.
 

pmac11

Country Gent
Mar 4, 2018
3,664
Toronto, Ontario
Are you sure? Fender sure hasn’t.

And I’ll also say that while you could be correct about the lower end secondary market, I have a feeling a lot of it is folks get a lower end Gretsch to see what they think. And the lower end offerings are quite frankly EXCELLENT for lower end offerings. Maybe excellent enough for people after a bit to say “okay, I really like this Gretsch thing. Let me sell this and move up the ladder a bit”. Just a thought.
This. I had this conversation in my local music store yesterday. Tried a couple of Electromatics (G5622T and G5420T) and while the metal knobs were nice, they certainly didn't play any better than my G2420T. Told the salesman it wasn't worth the outlay for such a marginal difference.

Of course, now it looks like my next Gretsch will have to be a proline.Thankfully they sell used gear.
 

Ricochet

Senior Gretsch-Talker
Nov 13, 2009
22,305
Monkey Island
I'm starting to feel that with the advent of so many "entry level" and budget Gretsch models on sale now, and the difficulty finding new or used Prolines to try, that "Gretsch" doesn't seem to carry the mystique of years ago. I understand a business is to make money, and things move on, but the marque is starting to look a bit devalued, to me at least.

Mystique is so last mid century. It’s guitars for the people, everyone should be able to participate and get their medal.

Exclusive(as in no not you) brands like Rickenbacker are dead and don’t even know it.
 

mister rain

Synchromatic
Apr 23, 2020
804
new orleans
Can we say that all US factory-built instruments are superior to foreign made ones?

A machinist, or “machine operator” perhaps more correctly, running a CNC doing the same thing all day can be standing on US soil, or elsewhere & still carve a nice instrument body—the slab. Both can be exemplary employees.

Does Gretsch build guitars in the US at all?
no, “we” certainly aren’t ever going to say that. my two terada factory gretsches are the best i’ve ever played, hands down. even when those prejudices were young, in the 70s, there were amazing guitars coming out of japan.

as far as your desire for a usa made gretsch - sure. the custom shop guitars are made in the states. enjoy the price difference.
 

GenghisBomb

Electromatic
Sep 26, 2021
89
Canada
I'm starting to feel that with the advent of so many "entry level" and budget Gretsch models on sale now, and the difficulty finding new or used Prolines to try, that "Gretsch" doesn't seem to carry the mystique of years ago. I understand a business is to make money, and things move on, but the marque is starting to look a bit devalued, to me at least.
I can both kindof agree, and see both sides of it. One the one hand, Gretch not having a "sub brand" like Squier or Epiphone means that a Gretsch is a Gretsch is a Gretsch. This has the benefit of building extreme brand loyalty, as among other things, buyers of the Streamliners and Electromatics don't feel like they are being sold a "copy" (more on that later).

However, at the same time, I do think that the lack of overall attention to quality hurts the Chinese/Indonesian/Korean Gretschs. The pots and caps in the low end Gretsch models are generally dreadful, and the pickups are often not much better. I think Fender leverages TOO much of the brand loyalty that Gretsch possesses, and relies on that to sell the guitars, rather than the spec sheets. Compare a Sire H7 at the same price as a current G5420, and there is *no* comparison. The Gretsch will still need several upgrades to be a truly "forever" guitar for most, and the H7 is ready to tour with out of the box. Fender should really work on making the pickups in *all* Gretsch models provide "That Great Gretsch Sound", as ultimately, that is what people are buying, *not* the Gretsch look. People want that legendary clarity and chime. They can buy a Gretsch knockoff on Aliexpress for $200 that has "the look".

I think Gretsch being basically 100% an Asian brand creates a lot of issues, namely removing the "aspirational" aspect of the brand. Most people who buy a Squier or Epiphone would like to eventually own a Gibson or MIA Fender. We can debate the rate of diminishing returns the MIA models provide compared to the imports, but the bottom line is that customer *aspires* to own a "real" Gibson or Fender at some point. This means that every beginner that starts on that Squier Affinity or Epiphone Les Paul Special II has begun a journey that may very well end with them spending a lot of money in their 30's, 40's, and 50's on expensive Fender and Gibson guitars. The Japanese made Player and Pro series Gretschs are likely as good or better than any MIA Gretsch ever was, or will be, but the *perception* is not the same. The end of the journey for that beginner starting on a Streamliner is....another Asian guitar that costs more than a Gibson.

The biggest issue I see with Gretsch aside from the overall poor quality of the electronics they use is the lack of a "middle path". Gibson offers the Tribute series, which play, feel, look, and *sound* like the more expensive Gibsons. Fender has the Player and Player Plus series guitars, which similarly provide the "real" Fender sound and playability for a price the enthusiast can easily afford. These guitars are still aspirational, as they are "real" Fender and Gibson guitars, with the latter even being MIA. PRS does this well also, as their SE guitars are said to be as good as the MIA models by many players I know. They also have an insane obsession with making them playable. I bought a used SE One for $350, and the damn thing plays as good as any similar guitar at any price.

I think if Gretsch had a $1,000-$1,200 line that had real Gretsch pickups in them, Rosewood/Ebony fingerboards, industry standard electronics (CTS pots/Caps, etc) and hardware (no Chinese pot metal), either made in Korea, Japan, or even Mexico, it would go a long way towards establishing a clear path for the new Gretsch buyer from the Streamliner to being a lifelong customer.

I would posit that a lot less buyers who buy a Streamliner end up with a MIJ Gretsch than is the case for Squier to Fender MIA, or Epiphone to Gibson. This is the real problem with the FMIC era of Gretsch IMHO, along with the overall poor electronics.
 

ganaian

Newbie
Apr 12, 2015
2
roma
I'm starting to feel that with the advent of so many "entry level" and budget Gretsch models on sale now, and the difficulty finding new or used Prolines to try, that "Gretsch" doesn't seem to carry the mystique of years ago. I understand a business is to make money, and things move on, but the marque is starting to look a bit devalued, to me at least.
I see your point but, honestly, producing ALSO affordable guitars ain’t necessarily devaluing such a revered brand, at least to my eyes.
 

LesB3

Gretschie
Aug 17, 2021
264
Philadelphia, PA
I have to agree with Genghis, and echo the OP's sentiments about not being able to find a new proline in the wild. I live within 30 minutes of 4 guitar centers, 2 Sam Ash's, and 1 or 2 smaller stores, and havent seen a proline gretsch on the wall in over 3 years. The last one I saw (at a GC) was a 2019 PE Jet with a drum wrap finish and B7.

There's no real middle ground as pointed out above. Whether you spend $300 on a Streamliner or $900 on an Electromatic, you're still dropping a few more bills to upgrade the electronics (even more if you want to swap out the licensed Bigsby).

Gretsch could easily make a stripped down Jet (or even an Electrotone bodied Guitar) in the $1200 or so range.
 

Lee Brown

Pro- line
Nov 6, 2015
13
UK
I'm starting to feel that with the advent of so many "entry level" and budget Gretsch models on sale now, and the difficulty finding new or used Prolines to try, that "Gretsch" doesn't seem to carry the mystique of years ago. I understand a business is to make money, and things move on, but the marque is starting to look a bit devalued, to me at least.
That’s Fender for you. I have 3 proline, white falcon , Nashville 6120 and country gent but the new 5 series I agree are making the mystique and aspiration to own a Gretsch a thing of the past.
 

BohemianLikeMe

Synchromatic
Apr 18, 2020
776
Prague, CZ
There wasn’t a lot of mystique to Gretsch during the Baldwin era either. Tastes come and go, brands are hot or not. I’m not sure what a business can do to change that besides making a quality product and savvy marketing (which, as much as I love Gretsch, it is not doing).
 

LesB3

Gretschie
Aug 17, 2021
264
Philadelphia, PA
When I started guitar in the 90's, I couldn't find a hollow-body *anywhere*. Everything was Fender/Squier/Ibanez, and if you were spectacularly lucky, they might have a Turquoise Casino or Riviera on the wall, that's it. If you wanted a big body hollow-body, you were S.O.L.

My first Gretsch was a 60's Tennessean and, thankfully, I did not let the experiences with that guitar color my opinion of Gretsch. The only "entry level" Gretsch's I saw around at the time were sparkly 'Electromatic' Jet-esque toys for maybe $300.

I think Gretsch's problems may be somewhat unique in that they have to play to the narrow crowd of folks that subscribe to the stereotypical Gretsch pigeon-hole (aka Rockabilly / Psychobilly types) while also finding a way to address the broader rock / alternative market at the same time. In this way, I think the PE's might try to do this with the latter, while the prolines address the former. I think the Sycnromatics are squarely aimed at competing with the Squiers and Epiphones for first-timers (which is why they retain little to no "gretschiness") while the Electromatics attempt to meet us half-way, giving us the look of the prolines, but not much else.

So we're not looking at Chevy / Buick / Cadillac model, but one that also includes a Pontiac or Oldsmobile. One level too many? I don't know. I don't work in Marketing, no doubt that Fender has a room full of people that know more about this s*** than I. I'm frequently drawn to the colorful finishes I see on the Electro's (Tri-5's, Rat-Rods, etc.) and if I were starting out today, that's probably what I would grab.
 

jvin248

Gretschie
May 16, 2017
204
Near Detroit
.

In spite of the old thread, branding is still a problematic marketing issue.

Guitar brands are like buying houses. First to buy a house out in the country in the middle of farm land all think it's great to be out there. Then others arrive to build their houses out in the country and suddenly it's the city with noisy neighbors and nosy neighbors. The area is no longer special.

iu


Country of origin of guitar manufacturing is a complete marketing construct.
MIC guitars are bad but MIC smart phones are just dandy, even when both products are 'designed in the US'.

Determine what features make a 'high quality guitar', my list:
-Perfect fretwork, nut, and setup (find a great local guitar tech and even a $50 'beater' can be this way).
-Durable selector switches, pots, and jack (those are the parts the US brands dictate to their import models to cheapen up on, players can replace the whole set with top line parts for under thirty dollars).

Items that get too many shorts bound up that don't matter:
-Pickups (just check out Ry Cooder's cause of trending demand for old 60s cheap pickups)
-Tuning machines (always 'tune up' to pitch and no problems with even the 'cheapest' tuners)
-Trems (dive-bomb antics have faded from the music scene)
-Forum threads about 'my new guitar came with this scratch, it is really hard to photograph, but take a look. Should I return this for another?' (basically this is buyer's remorse kicking in, the new high priced guitar has most of the price in the logo/marketing, not ensuring scratchless production, delivery, and retailers).

Future trends: Import guitars sold direct from the factory via Amazon with no traditional markups for the Brand nor Retailer. Get the equivalent of a $3,000 guitar with all the 'high quality' but only pay $1,000 for it. Meanwhile all the pros and youtube channels play these new brands because they are so well made 'and sound great!'. Gibson may even rethink their fragile headstock problem as the huge Quality problem it is.

"Out here now, I get to listen to lawn mowers and leaf blowers drone on every day of the week and several at once on Saturdays. It used to be quiet and pleasant out here."

.
 

FoobiusBBarius

Electromatic
Apr 20, 2022
36
Parts Unknown
A lot of high-end equipment for any hobby is simply hard to find right now, whether that be guitars or whatever. Whatever's currently being made has probably already got a buyer lined up. Give it a year and I think it'll be easier to find new guitars, and because of that there'll be more people selling second hand.

As for why there's plenty of lower-end gear around, they're cheaper because they're quicker and easier to pump out, and the required materials and skill aren't as hard to find.
 

LesB3

Gretschie
Aug 17, 2021
264
Philadelphia, PA
Country of origin of guitar manufacturing is a complete marketing construct.
MIC guitars are bad but MIC smart phones are just dandy, even when both products are 'designed in the US'.

I think that's maybe an apples and oranges comparison. Smart phones are basically commodities now, guitars are still (arguably) a "luxury" item ("luxury" in the I don't need one sense, not in the Louis V sense). I'm mostly OK with having to buy a cheap Chinese blender at the Target for $29, but have to step back when looking at a $900 - $1000 MIC Epiphone. And I do look at labels. I won't buy clothes or shoes that are MIC, for instance, and will only reluctantly do so when there are no other options (i.e. Target blenders).

There's only *one* reason to make anything in China, and it isn't about "costs," its about maximizing profit. Subtle difference, but worth noting just the same. Companies like Fender and Gibson are beholden to investors / boards / vulture-capitalists, and when scrutinizing the actions of these companies, it all starts making more sense when you put what you see them in this context. If an extra $1.50 can be had by moving your plant from Korea to China (or Indonesia), it will be done because we need to keep those dividends coming, not because it adds value or is the better choice.

Determine what features make a 'high quality guitar', my list:
-Perfect fretwork, nut, and setup (find a great local guitar tech and even a $50 'beater' can be this way).
-Durable selector switches, pots, and jack (those are the parts the US brands dictate to their import models to cheapen up on, players can replace the whole set with top line parts for under thirty dollars).

I think wood is important too. Fit, finish, etc. Otherwise, a 2x4 with good pickups and pots meets the criteria above.

Future trends: Import guitars sold direct from the factory via Amazon with no traditional markups for the Brand nor Retailer. Get the equivalent of a $3,000 guitar with all the 'high quality' but only pay $1,000 for it. Meanwhile all the pros and youtube channels play these new brands because they are so well made 'and sound great!'. Gibson may even rethink their fragile headstock problem as the huge Quality problem it is.

I don't know. There's too much money to be had with things like the "Gibson Garage" and the "Mod Shop." Basically paying a premium so that you can mix and match regular production parts. You might see no-names do that on Amazon, but I don't think we'll see that with an established brand any time soon. Maybe someone will revive an old brand and do it.
 


Top