For nearly two years, I‘ve been intrigued by the dark side: watching YouTube videos, reading reviews and opinion pieces. I had search agents going in ebay and ebay-kleinanzeigen (Germany). I was rearing to go out and buy a long scale length 6-string. I‘ve had a Jackson 7-string for a couple of years, which has a longer-than-normal scale length of 27“, but - in my opinion - the difference between fenders 25.5“ and 27“ isn‘t that huge (only about 6%). Also, since I‘ve not had the time to really learn proper 7-string playing, I felt that a truly baritone 6-string might be the better way to go.
The Gretsch G5260 Electromatic Jet Baritone has a huge scale length of 30“ - a 15% difference to a Fenderesque axe and even more to a Gibson. The various pro and non-pro channels on YouTube reviewing the Gretsch all seemed to feel that the only drawback were the pickups („too low output“) but that the rest of this China-made instrument was of excellent workmanship and quality. And, to be fair, it is in a price range I can accept, not being a professional musician.
And when - by chance - I found out that an instrument store in my area had one in my desired color in stock, I felt this was a sign from the guitar gods to go try the thing out. What follows is my personal take on the guitar I was able to try out.
My color of choice from what Gretsch makes available for this model was „Jade Gray“, which looked quite pretty in the pictures on various websites.
Surprisingly, the color - at least in the light at the store - was much more gray than „Jade“, so much so that it was a bit of a turnoff. Initially, I saw no flaws on the instrument. The paint job was superb, the instrument felt well-balanced and was lighter than I had expected. The strings felt good and not rough or cheap. The frets were polished.
The only thing that initially threw me off were the odd screw-type strap buttons. There is a threaded bar fixed in the body that the strap button is screwed onto. This is supposed to lock down your strap, I guess. Never seen anything like it! The threaded piece is really thin, it didn’t give me a sense of „this will keep my strap on no matter what“. Also, I use Schaller-like strap locks on all my guitars; there is no way to mount these on this guitar as far as I could tell. Minus point there!
Once you started to go into details, however, a few things popped up. For one, the fret ends on the lower side of the neck - especially the last 10 or so closest to the body - were quite sharp feeling. One of them was sharp enough to cut my finger. This is something that can easily be taken care of by filing down the fret ends, but it is actually quite a bit of work.
Then there is the hardware. The pickups look nice enough, but both the pickup switch handle and the volume/tone knobs are cheapest plastic. I have a pretty good comparison of what to expect at home: I own a Gretsch G2420T Streamliner that cost pretty much the same as the baritone when I bought it four years ago. That guitar is a completely different beast to this one from a hardware (switch/knobs) quality angle (it is actually a superb guitar).
The ultimate faux-pas on the Baritone was the pickup selector switch body, the edge of which was razor-sharp! I can well imagine one severely cutting their finger in the frenzy of switching to the neck pickup during a concert. It is completely unclear to me why, for a guitar retailing at around 550-600€, a manufacturer would select horribly cheap hardware like the knobs or the switch. Proper hardware would have cost what, 2€ more?
Clearly, quality control isn‘t where it should be with the plant that makes these for Gretsch.
I played through a tube amp, so the comparison to what I‘m used to from my sound at home (also a tube amp) gave me a pretty good picture of the pickups and general sound of the guitar, I think. I can‘t quite follow the „too low output“ comments of a number of reviewers. The pickups were punchy and sounded great, transporting the highest and lowest notes without fail. Don‘t be put off - check the pickups out yourself, I thought they were fine.
My biggest concern before actually testing the guitar was the painted neck. The aesthetics of a painted neck are always subjective - I personally don‘t like the way these look, but since you generally don‘t see the back of the neck, I don‘t mind. On the Gretsch, however, my concern became reality: it is sticky. If you‘ve played a fender maple neck, you‘ll really feel hindered by the paint on this one. Had I bought the guitar, I probably would have ended up sanding the neck with very fine sandpaper to get rid of some of the stickiness.
My second concern, as this was a topic mentioned in at least one of the reviews I had seen, was the reach required for a 30“ scale length. This turned out not to be a problem, however, it felt fine.
With any guitar I‘ve bought, I‘ve very much relied on my „this feels amazing“ sense while playing it. I‘ve got to „feel the vibe“ if you like. That wasn‘t the case with this Gretsch, unfortunately.
It might be a number of things that influenced this very subjective assessment, but I opted not to buy the instrument. Would I have felt differently if the knobs and switch had been proper material? Yes - but it probably wouldn‘t have changed my mind about the purchase.
The exercise also showed me that a baritone guitar - at least for me - isn‘t the epiphony I had expected or hoped for.
I‘m not a music major so I have a lack of knowledge about the positioning of an instrument that is set up to be tuned lower than a regular guitar, but I don‘t see the need to own one at this time.
A really fascinating thing for me was that you can't bend a whole note up on a 30" scale baritone...