The term ‘player grade’ can confuse novice guitar geeks. “Surely, all guitars are designed to be played?” they cry.
However, ‘player grade’ is a marketing term vintage dealers use to describe a guitar that’s been dragged kicking and screaming through the past few decades yet still shows signs of life.
It might be an old Gibson SG Junior with a repaired neck break or a set of non- original Grover tuners. Maybe you’ve seen a 70s Fender Strat some callous ne’er do well chiselled out for humbuckers back in the day thanks to Eddie Van Halen. It’s a guitar that’s fallen foul of shifts in fashion and really shouldn’t fetch the same money as an unmolested example.
This new Gretsch Players Edition G6228FM BT Jet promises all the fateful mods we hope to see in player grade vintage guitars (bigger frets, great tuners, upgraded hardware) without the senseless brutality. Nose through the spec sheet and among the locking tuners and modern-style strap locks, you’ll see that this guitar is a classic single-cutaway, chambered mahogany and laminate maple-topped Duo Jet.
That should be all we need to say, yet already there’s an interesting tweak to bring to your attention. Any true Gretsch nut will tell you that original 50s and 60s Jets have highly resonant 51mm (2 inch) deep bodies; as a result, the recent spec-correct Vintage Select reissue Jets also plumb those depths. The remaining Professional Series Jets ship with a depth of 44.45mm (1.75 inches) and that’s been the case for almost 30 years.
However, our G6228FM BT, and the rest of the Players Edition range, is 47mm (1.85 inches) deep. You’d think that, considering that the idea is to cut these Jets for better handling, building them thinner would make more sense. Adding depth to the body can compromise access to the upper frets.
It’s not immediately obvious but Gretsch has made the additional, albeit slight, body depth work by setting each guitar’s mahogany neck deeper into its body. Upper fret access is actually easier on these Players Edition Jets than any of the other Professional Series examples. The neck mod isn’t the only Players Edition family trait set to leave the purists in distress.
Look closer and you’ll notice that both guitars feature an anchored Adjusto-Matic bridge. Now, the whole ‘which Gretsch bridge design sucks the least’ thing isn’t just a bone of contention, it’s the whole bloody skeleton. Just about every Gretsch shipped from the US and Japanese factories over the past 60 odd years has had a floating bridge held in place by the tension of the strings. Some guitars had the ridiculously over- engineered ’51 to ’58 Melita (aka Synchro-Sonic) bridge, others brandished the equally-maligned 60s Space Control effort.
The consensus among the Jet cognoscenti is that the infinitely more primitive ’58 bar bridge, favoured by George Harrison, was the pick of the litter. The thing is, no matter which bridge you end up with, they can all be dislodged by a barrage of over- exuberant rhythm chops. To counter this some players, including Gretsch patron saint and Stray Cat Brian Setzer, have their floating bridges pinned down to prevent slippage. The Adjusto-Matic bridge fitted to these Jets dispenses with the floating format altogether. Instead, the bridge spans two height-adjustable posts set directly into each guitar’s top, just like another famous single cutaway 50s survivor.
This Jet isn’t based on any particular ancestor. Yes, the script headstock logo and big block fingerboard inlays are lifted from the Vintage Select ’53 Duo Jet but the stylish ‘V’ stop tailpiece is a feature found within the more affordable Streamliner and Electromatic ranges. It echoes the classic Cadillac tailpiece found on some White Falcons and Penguins and we have to say, it looks great on the G6228FM BT. The ‘FM’ in the model designation references the ‘Tiger Flame Maple’ top. Gretsch has employed flame maple on special run G6120s and Setzer Signature models recent past but it’s still an unusual sight on a Jet.
The G6228FM’s ‘BT’ tag reveals that it’s harbouring something a bit more mysterious, a pair of new Broad’Tron BT65 humbuckers designed by ex-Gibson and now-Fender pickup swami Tim Shaw.
This Shaw character is well-known among Gibson pickup fetishists thanks to the humbuckers he produced for a fair old chunk of the 1980s. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise then when we reveal the Broad’Tron BT65s loaded into the G6228FM BT owe more sonically to an overwound PAF than something you’d expect from TV Jones. As we’ve already established, this Jet isn’t looking for a position in a Beatles tribute band. Thanks to the late Malcolm Young of AC/DC we know just how well a Filter’Tron takes care of business when the gain is cranked.
The G6228FM BT has way more thump in the bottom end than twang and a more pronounced midrange that really comes in handy when you get into the real heavy stuff. This one is even more for brother Angus’ speed. Oh, and this is the first Jet you can play metal on. A real wolf in sheep’s clothing if ever there was one.
The BT is like a 2018 Ford Mustang. You get the curb appeal of the vintage original but the power and performance are as contemporary as it gets. This is the Jet you buy instead of a Les Paul or ESP Eclipse.
As ever with the Professional Series, playability, tone, build quality, even value for money are so consistently excellent that we could have cut and pasted this sentence from any of our previous reviews. We also love that Gretsch has lifted some features from its more affordable ranges. The V stop tailpiece from the Streamliner and Electromatic stuff looks right at home on the G6228FM BT, and the guitar reaps the benefits of the anchored tune-o-matic-style bridge that has been present on those mid-price Gretsches for a good few years now.
Unless you’re one of those people that think music died when Elvis was drafted into the US Army, this primped, modded and player-centric Jet should suit you right down to the ground.