When I was asked to review a Gretsch guitar, I was surprised to realise that in eight years as a maker and repairer in London, I had not seen a recently-made
model. This suggests to me that a) They are fitted with particularly tough frets; b) Nothing much goes wrong with them; c) The Country music business has its own circle of makers and repairers; d) The old ones were so well made that they refuse to die.
I am pleased to say that the first new Gretsch I have inspected closely is very nearly as fine as the old ones, and even appears to be made in the same way and from the same materials. Unfortunately, the fact that it is the same guitar, made in the same way, illustrates only too clearly the real increase in prices recently: if you don't trim the craftsmanship, you can't trim the price either!
The neck is strong, slim and feels almost as though it isn't there, but the claim to be three-ply
maple is a little tenuous; in fact, I generally find two—piece necks, such as this, more satisfactory. The ebony used for the fingerboard is really not of adequate quality for this guitar, and will tear badly during refretting. However, the "wild" grain of this type of ebony is clearly visible to the eye, and therefore can easily be avoided. I think this must be one that crept through, as it is not typical of Gretsch quality.
The truss-rod is operated by a gear box inside the heel, (did Jim Burns have something to do with this?) and it is easier than most to adjust accurately. Apart from the addition of the gearbox, this neck and truss-rod design appears to be the original one, and time has proved it to be a stable and reliable system (Most old Gretsch necks are still straight, and that is the real test.)
The instrument has a 24½ inch scale (622 mm.), which is relatively short and characteristic of all the Chet Atkins models. The string spacing is 35 mm (at the 42 mm wide nut,) and 51 mm at the bridge.
The catalogue claims black and white binding. The head facing is black vulcanised fibre (much preferable to plastic or black paint) but I would not describe it as ebonised. It doesn't need ebonising — it is black anyway. I don't know what "Neo-classic fingerboard inlays" means, but I have always liked position markers near the edge of the fingerboard, (see photograph).
The bridge is strong, graceful and easy to adjust without hurting your fingers, but the review sample was not properly brazed before plating, and has cracked at one end. (This is also unlike a Gretsch.) The grooves in the adjustable string saddles are clumsy and cause the first and second strings to buzz, and I would like to see these saddles gold plated to match the rest of the bridge.
The pick-ups seem to be substantially the same as those on my old Gretsch, but there appears to be some confusion about the metal pick-up covers — I would prefer to see the type of cover which overlaps the top of the pick-up, between the rows of screws. This is shown in the catalogue, but wasn't fitted to the review sample.
I must unfortunately state that the guitar was delivered to me with neck and pick-ups entirely unadjusted. The truss-rod gearbox makes adjustment of this so easy that it would present little problem to the owner (but the appropriate instruction leaflet was not supplied), although the bridge pick-up was stuck so high that it touched the strings when the action was set up correctly
, and I had to take it to pieces to free the vertical adjustment screw. There had been no attempt to adjust the pick-up pole-screws to suit the set of strings fitted. This is not in the makers' interests, as the guitar sounds much better with the pick-ups adjusted.
The lowest action under our standard review conditions (See the August issue) was 1.1 mm for the top, and 1.6 for the bottom string. The limiting factor was a slight, spiral warp of the neck and fingerboard. The figures are still very good for such a slim neck.
The control knobs appear to be either brass or anodised aluminium (if they are gold plate, then it has a very dull finish). They would look better if given a suitable chemical dip to stabilise the colour and match it to the rest of the gold plate. It is interesting to note that the gold plating on parts actually made by (or for) Gretsch, such as pick-ups, surrounds and bridges, is of a very high standard and similar to work done for me by a jewellery re-plater, whereas the plating on the switches and jack socket is perilously thin.
It is possible to make the tone control system more flexible by reducing the value (relatively simple) and/or converting the master volume control to a variable tone control, on one or both pick-ups (this involves complicated re-wiring). One could also squeeze additional value out of the stand-by switch by arranging it to give a lower output in one "on" position, for rhythm work.
Another interesting point is the nut, which uses a separate "Zero-fret". This ought to give trouble, but in practice it never seems to! I suspect this is due to very tough fretwire and a well chosen string angle at the nut. The machine heads are gold plated Grovers and all six work smoothly. The buttons are larger than usual, which you may prefer, but I don't find they make any difference in tuning.
The sound of this guitar on chord or solo work is magnificent. The chords sounded so rich that I went to turn the reverb off and found that it was already off! On single-note work, I found the treble-cut settings of limited use, until I roped in a couple of passing friends for back-up. Then I discovered that even on minimum treble, the guitar would still cut through two loud acoustics and sounded a little like a pedal steel. These pickups have the interesting property of retaining their punch, even with the treble off.
In spite of this, the tone was not quite as good when either volume control was turned down a little. (This is very common in electric guitars, see July and August "Improving Guitar" articles). The internal bracing and soundposts between the front and back of the body are massive, well fitted and appear to be made of hard maple. This may explain why this guitar has an excellent sustain for a "semi" and suffers much less
than some other makes from acoustic feedback and microphony.
1.) The controls are practical, but one could do more with so many knobs.
2.) The fingerboard is really not up to standard on this sample.
3.) Great to listen to.
4.) Great to play (after it had been set up properly)
5.) The components made by Gretsch are better finished than those which were "brought in".
6.) The published price of the guitar also includes a fine contoured case, a good quality leather strap, and a lead. The case was found to fit the 7670 guitar rather too tightly, owing to the tremelo arm fitting. Without a Bigsby, the fit would be perfect.
Retail Price £401.45
(The price includes a case, strap, and lead.)