Electromatic Series guitars aren't just a good way of getting your hands on an affordable Gretsch, they've actually developed a bit of a cult following in their own right.
For example, owners of the Pro Jet and 5120 semi-acoustic often rip out the existing pickups to replace them with higher spec TV Jones models. Type in 'Electromatic modification' into YouTube and you'll see what we mean.
These guys want to convert their Electromatic Pro Jets into Duo Jets and Electromatic 5120s into G6120 rockabilly machines; just like Eddie Cochran and Brian Setzer's big orange guitars.
Now Gretsch has got in on the Electromatic pimping fad. The freshly scrubbed Pro Jet and Double Jet models now feature pickup upgrades and new fingerboard inlays.
The Pro Jet is based around a chambered basswood body with a laminated arched maple top. You can own a Pro Jet in a black or gold finish with a deep brown back and neck.
The set maple neck is topped with a slice of rosewood, 22 medium jumbo frets and again has a 305mm (12-inch) radius, the same as a Les Paul, which might give you an idea of the great playability on offer here. By the way, the fingerboard comes studded with similar, '57-era 'hump block' inlays to those featured on the recent Gretsch George Harrison Signature and Custom Shop Tribute model guitars: fab indeed.
The Jet's complement of hardware includes a set of vintage-style tuners, classic screw-on strap buttons and beautiful chrome 'G Arrow' control knobs. You also get a horseshoe Bigsby Licensed B50 vibrato although this isn't period correct: '50s-era Jets would have been retrofitted with the longer-bodied B3 Bigsby. Just like the one on Beatle George's original guitar in fact.
The previous Pro Jet - and Double Jet - were loaded with the same mini-humbuckers that now come fitted to the CVT III Corvette. As such, as mentioned before, both Jets have been duly upgraded with sexy-looking Blacktop Filter'Tron humbuckers that claim to offer a more authentic Gretsch tone.
Running the Jet through a clean channel it's immediately clear that the new Blacktop Filter'Tron pickups are more Gretsch-like than those original mini-buckers.
The bridge Blacktop has much of that punchy clean sound that we expect from a Duo Jet. It's great for beating out old-school rock 'n' roll riffs. Gretsch guitars are more versatile than we give them credit for and both Jets pump out convincing rockabilly, blues and surf tones.
Then there's the rock stuff. Steve Marriott of The Small Faces and Humble Pie, and Malcolm Young of AC/DC, have both proven how great Gretsch Jets sound with some overdrive.
The Blacktop Filter'Trons work great with the filth. The inherent brightness of the pickups cuts through an gives the overdriven tones a ballsy edge.
We're not claiming the Pro Jet sounds like the high rolling Professional Series Gretsch models. There is still a big difference, but these latest Electromatics get closer than ever to the real deal.
It's time to give that elephant in the room a right good kick up the rear. Which is to say, why didn't Gretsch go the whole hog and build affordable replicas of its classic Jets while it had the chance?
It wouldn't have taken much more effort. The Pro Jet only needs a B3 model Bigsby vibrato, a chunky silver-backed perspex pickguard, sculpted pickup rings and a pair of DynaSonic lookalike single-coils to nail the '57 Duo Jet's aesthetics.
Maybe Gretsch doesn't want to compromise its Japanese-made Professional range: if you buy a two grand-plus work of art such as the Gretsch G6128T-GH George Harrison Signature Duo Jet, you want everyone to know you unloaded your bank account on it. A 500 quid doppelgänger of your new pride and joy would likely not make you happy.
But as it stands, the Pro Jet and Double Jet are perfect for Gretsch virgins seeking out great build, playability, tone and good looks. And the Electromatic cultists will no doubt keep on pimping them to get them even closer to the real thing, despite the pickup upgrades.