There's nothing quite like "that great Gretsch sound". The luminous, sparkling highs, the sweet mid-range and the room-filling low end of the best Gretsch guitars have captivated musicians and audiences alike for decades. Over Gretsch's tenure as one of the leading forces in all things country and rock 'n' roll, the guitar giant has amassed a dedicated list of disciples from retro guitar heroes George Harrison, Chet Atkins, Eddie Cochran and Bo Diddley, to modern six-string pioneers Jack White, John Frusciante and Pat Smear.
With a company history that spans more than a hundred years, it can get a little confusing if you are trying to nail down which is the best Gretsch guitar for you - but don't worry, we're here to help. We've hand-selected what we believe are the best examples of Gretsch's outstanding craftsmanship, style and sound from across their entire catalogue.
From the super affordable Streamliner range to the ever-popular Electromatic line, all the way to the Professional series, we have a guitar for everyone here - we've also made sure to group them by series to make it a little easier to find what you are looking for.
So, if you are on the hunt for an elegant electric guitar that oozes sophistication and class - and has a sound to match - join us as we count down our favourite Gretsch guitars available right now.
Best Gretsch guitars: Our top picks
The Gretsch catalogue is ever-expanding, with guitars in every price category, from some of the best electric guitars under $500 to giggable staples that will wow your bandmates to high-end vintage reissues that look, sound and feel just like the real deal.
For those on a budget, the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner is a brilliant option. It truly is hard to believe just how little this guitar costs. It may not have all the bells and whistles of its premium counterparts, but we can't deny that it more than delivers on the timeless Gretsch look as well as that signature tone.
Moving further down the line, we have the Gretsch G5622T Electromatic Center Block, which for us, is one of the most versatile guitars Gretsch offers today. The addition of the centre block allows you to play this stunning six-string loud and proud without worrying about unwanted feedback.
Last but not least, we have the drop-dead gorgeous Gretsch G6136TG Players Edition Falcon. The White Falcon is nothing short of legendary and has become somewhat of a poster child for Gretsch over the years - with everyone from Brian Jones to Brian Setzer, Neil Young and John Frusciante turning to the soaring sound of this striking hollowbody to achieve some of the greatest guitar tones ever committed to tape.
Best Gretsch guitars: Product guide
Since launching in 2016, the Streamliner range has been the go-to way for beginner and budget-conscious musicians to achieve the legendary tone of a Gretsch. Over the last few years, the Streamliner series has ballooned into a massive offering, with plenty of guitars to suit all playing styles - but we thought we'd stick to the fairly traditional styling of the G2420.
While the Streamliner may look like a retro Gretsch, it actually delivers a more contemporary tone thanks in part to the Broad'Tron BT-2S humbuckers. These slightly hotter pickups have been specially designed for this series, with a focus on a tighter bass response and a more aggressive midrange - perfect for all your blues rock needs.
So if you're looking for a modern twist on the well-trusted Gretsch formula that comes in at a very reasonable price, then the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner is the guitar for you.
Read our full Gretsch G2420 Streamliner review
Sticking with the fabulous Streamliner series, our next entry in this guide to the best Gretsch guitars is the rather unique Gretsch G2655T Streamliner Jr Double-Cut P-90. It may not have a very streamlined name, but it does give a pretty spot on account of what you get for your hard-earned cash.
A shrunken-down version of the more conventional double-cut hollowbody, the G2655T is more akin to a Gibson Les Paul or SG in size, making it the perfect option for those who simply can't get on with the cumbersome nature of the G5622T.
It's not just its unorthodox size that makes this miniature Streamliner an outlier in the Gretsch catalogue, it also happens to be loaded with a set of P-90 pickups! These single-coil pickups bring a surprising amount of power to the table, with a rich mid-range that sings when overdriven. If you've never tried one of these guitars, we highly recommend seeking one out.
It's fair to say that Gretsch's Electromatic range has gone from strength to strength over the last few years - with many seeing the series as not just a viable alternative to the more expensive Professional line but as a great collection of electric guitars in its own right.
This more affordable range is an offshoot of the core lineup, made primarily in Korea, which allows Gtretsch to keep the costs down but don't worry, they certainly don't scrimp on features or the build quality.
This stunning double-cutaway guitar features a chambered spruce centre block, meaning it will perform better at higher gain settings compared to vintage examples, while the 12"-radius fingerboard with 22 medium jumbo frets is a joy to play.
To top it all off, the Black Top Broad'Tron humbucking pickups deliver the quintessential Gretsch tone and the licensed Bigsby B70 vibrato tailpiece allows you to add some subtle movement to your chords.
We'd argue that Gretsch is most widely known for their mammothly oversized hollowbody guitars. Instruments such as the G6120, the Falcon and Tennessee Rose have captured the imagination of many guitar players, drawing them in with their sophisticated good looks and out-of-this-world tone – however, there is a slight problem, the rather sizeable price tag.
Luckily, Gretsch has the perfect option for those looking to nail the look, sound and feel of this distinguished guitar but could do without the eye-watering price - Gretsch G5420T Electromatic.
Featuring the tried and true Gretsch formula of a laminated maple body, a rounded maple neck and a dual set of FT-5E Filter'Tron pickups, this produces the twang and clarity you expect from these larger-than-life instruments.
Read our Gretsch G5420T Electromatic review
If you are looking to produce thunderous, down-tuned riffs that most definitely occupy the more extreme end of the music spectrum, your first thought might not be to turn to the country sensibilities of Gretsch - but the Gretsch G5260T Electromatic Jet Baritone proves they can hang with the heaviest metal guitars out there.
Based on the beloved Jet design from the early '50s, this new Baritone version extends the neck length to an impressive 29 ¾", which helps keep the tension on the strings at the optimal level for down-tuned playing.
What separates this baritone from other extended scale instruments on the market - apart from its stylish charm - is the mini humbucking pickups which deliver the twang and bright attack Gretsch is known for, while the Bigsby B50 lets you know you're undoubtedly playing a Gretsch guitar.
Whether it was seeing John Frusciante play this gigantic guitar in the legendary video for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' mega-hit Californication, Dave Grohl in the video for Foo Fighters' energetic Monkey Wrench, or the countless performances by The Cult's axeman Billy Duffy, every guitarist can remember the first time they gazed upon the majestic beauty of the Gretsch White Falcon.
Along with the Falcon's striking good looks comes a sound like no other. Equal parts bright and present, with a bass response to die for, this is easily one of the best-sounding hollowbody guitars in the world.
The Players Edition Falcon keeps the important aspects of this legendary guitar but modernises certain elements to make it even more playable for the contemporary player. For example, the U-shaped neck, with its 12"-radius ebony fingerboard, has perfectly rolled edges for added comfort, while the 22 medium jumbo frets mean those large bends will never choke out - and better yet, the Luminlay side dots mean you can see exactly where you are, even on the darkest stages.
Brian Setzer has been proudly flying the Gretsch flag since the beginning of his career and his G6120TFM-BSNV Nashville model flawlessly showcases his love for the retro brand.
The Stray Cats six-string slinger has opted for a remarkable flame maple top that's carried over to the headstock, 1959 trestle bracing and oversized F-holes, which are believed to give "improved sonic projection".
To help Setzer perform his famous lightning-fast licks, the Nashvile's neck is equipped with a 9.5" -12" compound radius ebony fingerboard with rolled edges - although it is worth noting that this guitar does sport a V-shaped neck profile, which some modern players may struggle with.
At the heart of the instrument is a duo of TV Jones Brian Setzer Signature Filter'Tron pickups, which are tight and articulate, with a hotter output when compared to vintage Nashville models.
Often found in the shadows of its more famous and higher-soaring big brother, this flightless Gretsch has long been criminally overlooked. It may not offer the same depth of sound as its larger counterparts, but this chambered mahogany beaut offers a completely different sonic experience for Gretsch fans - and is a personal favourite of this writer.
As you'd expect, this Vintage Select Penguin is designed to mimic the golden age of Gretsch design, delivering a retro-inspired instrument that looks like it just jumped straight out of the '50s. That said, it's not all style over substance. Tonally the G6134T-58 will transport you back to a simpler time.
The magnificent TV Jones Classic pickups ooze retro charm, delivering the unmistakable clarity and bite the Penguin is known for.
Read our full Gretsch G6134T-58 Vintage Select ’58 Penguin review
The famed Country Gentleman pretty quickly outgrew its name, with everyone from George Harrison, Johnny Marr and Jonny Buckland, to Elvis Presley and Richard Fortus proving this esteemed gent can do way more than country.
The Country Gentleman's 2" thick maple body delivers a lively, bright tone, while a fully sealed top - yeah, those f-holes are painted on - provides some much-needed feedback control at louder volumes.
Now, like the Players Edition Falcon above, the Gretsch G6122TG pays homage to the guitars of yesteryear while also giving players the modern features they've come to rely on - such as a 12"-radius ebony fingerboard, beautifully rolled edges and medium jumbo frets.
Best Gretsch guitars: Buying advice
A brief history of Gretsch
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The Gretsch brand dates all the way back to 1883 and was founded by Friedrich Gretsch, a German immigrant who settled in the USA. The now guitar giant had fairly humble beginnings, starting life as a small music shop in Brooklyn, New York, where Friedrich would import and sell a range of instruments - not limited to guitars.
Spotting a gap in the market and determined to give his customers what they wanted, Gretsch would eventually start to produce their own guitars - turning the modest music shop into one of the most popular and enduring guitar brands of all time.
In the beginning, Gretsch primarily offered acoustic archtops aimed squarely at the jazz musicians of the day, but by the '50s, Gretsch would be a household name, having furnished popular acts such as Chet Atkins and Eddie Cochran with eye-catching and superb-sounding guitars.
By the '60s, Gretsch was still riding high, with a very famous Liverpudlian introducing a whole new generation to this fab brand. However, The Beatles' connection wasn't quite enough to save Gretsch from what would come next.
By the end of the Swinging Sixties, Friedrich would retire after years of service to the wonderful world of guitar, selling the company to the Baldwin Piano brand. Unfortunately, mismanagement of the Gretsch name and a seismic shift in the musical landscape would result in Gretsch shutting down production in the early-80s. By the middle of the '80s, the Gretsch moniker would be returned to its rightful owners, with Fred W. Gretsch - the great-grandson of Friedrich - buying the company back from Baldwin, restoring musicians' faith in the brand.
That brings us to the modern era of Gretsch where things take another turn. In 2002, Gretsch teamed up with former rival and fellow guitar titian Fender. The big F would now handle all the manufacturing and distribution of Gretsch guitars worldwide, helping to keep the legacy of this legendary brand alive. This new partnership would prove incredibly fruitful, with Gretsch producing a wide range of new guitars and vintage reissues to much critical acclaim.
Gretsch range explained
The Gretsch electric guitar line can be separated into three main categories, with each offering its own unique characteristics and price points.
The Gretsch Streamliner series is the most affordable of the three lines, but don't worry, these guitars still feature many of the classic Gretsch design elements you've come to expect from this legacy brand. Manufactured in Indonesia, the Streamliner range includes a wide array of guitars that will suit almost any player.
From retro-inspired hollow bodies to stripped-down versions of the Jet and even junior models, this is a fun range of guitars that offers a lot of features for very little money.
The Gretsch Electromatic series is a step up from the Streamliner range, with a more premium build quality and higher-end components. Now produced in Korea, these guitars have been incredibly popular thanks to their outstanding price point and impressive build quality.
Much like the Streamliners, the Electromatic range offers guitars that will satisfy traditionalists and modern players alike - with fully hollow options as well as centre block versions.
The Electromatic guitars also benefit from a pickup upgrade in the form of the Black Top Filter'Tron humbuckers, which offer a more refined and nuanced sound compared to the Broad'Trons.
The Gretsch Professional series is the top of the line, featuring handcrafted guitars made in Japan with the highest quality materials and attention to detail - with two main options available, Players Edition and Vintage Select.
As the name would suggest, the Players Edition guitars are designed with the working professional in mind, offering players access to the best Gretsch has to offer, with modern features and manufacturing tech. In contrast, Vintage Select instruments are more focused on capturing the magic of the guitars from the '50s and '60s, with vintage appointments and specs.