Review: Gretsch G6620T Players Edition Nashville Center Block Double-Cut

Gretsch’s recent resurgence proves that you can visit new places without losing your accent. Meet the company’s latest blend of vintage style and modern reliability…

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Blending cowboy-kitsch styling cues from the company’s past with a spec sheet that modern rock guitarists can get on board with, the G6620T delivers ‘that great Gretsch tone’ from a business-class seat – unlike the rollercoaster ride of old. Our favourite model in Gretsch’s NAMM 2019 collection, this instrument represents the brand’s newest evolution of its centre-block equipped, double-cutaway semi-hollow format.

After pop morphed into rock in the lysergic Petri dish of the late 1960s, Gretsch – much like Rickenbacker – found itself somewhat sidelined. Though they were still cool as hell, for many mainstream rockers, Gretsch six-strings became regarded as ‘special effect’ instruments that would be pulled out for a tune or two, but weren’t deemed robust enough for a whole set in the new world of low-slung guitars and high gain.

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Gotoh locking tuners help keep things stable

A handful of high-profile players managed to made it work – Malcolm Young and Billy Duffy spring immediately to mind – but for the most part, when the time came to rock out, guitarists would reach for another G-brand. Yet for a certain stripe of rockabilly outlaw, Gretsch is still the only guitar company that matters.

Over the past couple of decades, a modification-hungry subculture has thrived. Rock ’n’ roll gunslingers not only discovered innovative hardware and electronics solutions from the likes of TV Jones and Tru-Arc Bridgeworks, but also forums where like-minded Gretsch fans dispense advice on how best to saddle up these bucking broncos and keep them under control at stage volume.

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The headstock’s abalone horseshoe is set into a flame-maple fascia

But wouldn’t it be nice to drop a couple of grand on a guitar and find that it doesn’t need to be modded or upgraded, or have foam stuffed into it for loud live use? Happily, back in 2013, Gretsch launched a series of Center Block instruments designed to tackle feedback issues, while the more recent Players Edition upgrades saw such luxuries as String-Thru Bigsby tailpieces and paper-in-oil tone caps enter the fray. ‘Every song, every night’ is the maxim, with the aim to transform these premium electrics from pro toys to pro tools.

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At first glance, the G6620T seems to be a Nashville-ised version of the G6137TCB Panther Center Block model on which your correspondent has leaned heavily in recent years. However, look closer and there are a series of subtle differences that nudge it closer to Gibson’s thinline designs.

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The tortoiseshell scratchplate features this classic Western motif

Both the Nashville and the now-discontinued Panther models were hand-built in the same small Terada facility in Kanie, Japan. They share a double-cutaway body design that’s approximately 400mm in width and 44mm deep at the edges, but the string geometry is different. Where the Panther’s bridge sits on a pinned rosewood base and the fingerboard floats from between the 19th-20th fret onwards, the 2019 Nashville model has a lower profile, and is further removed from a traditional archtop as a result.

While the Panther’s strings are some 20mm from the top in the area between the pickups, the Nashville model has a clearance of around 14mm. Its Adjusto-Matic bridge is fitted directly to the body and the neck join is more like an ES-335, with no air under the end of the fingerboard, while the Bigsby B7CP’s tension bar gives a break angle across the bridge that’s more akin to a stopbar than the shallower string angle created by the Panther’s B6C.

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Aged pearloid Neo-Classic thumbnail inlays adorn the ebony fingerboard

The Nashville model’s Round-Up Orange finish is Gretsch in excelsis, and other visual elements such as the enlarged and bound f-holes, the aged pearloid Neo-Classic thumbnail inlays in the ebony fretboard and the engraved tortoiseshell pickguard contribute to an overall look that’s classic Gretsch – but not too chintzy. At the headstock, with its Gretsch logo and horseshoe motif inlaid in abalone, the flame-maple fascia adds further flamboyance but locking Gotoh tuners are present to steady the ship.

In use

The typically slim-and-sleek neck provides largely unimpeded access to its upper reaches and the G6620T has plenty of acoustic sustain and clarity. Given that our own centre-block-equipped G6137TCB has very similar specifications and the same High Sensitive Filter’Tron pickups, it gives us an opportunity to find out how much difference the neck-to-body join, no-load tone control and paper-in-oil tone capacitor make to the guitar’s sound.

After spending some time with the Panther by way of an ear-orientation exercise, we switch to the Nashville model and hold a few first-position chords. The Players Edition instrument immediately offers a smoother experience with more sustain; you can’t only hear it – you can feel it under your fingers, too.

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The neck join contributes to the guitar’s smooth sustain

Further testing reveals that the Panther is perhaps a little more explosive, with more attack and more of a snarl, but the even decay offered by the Nashville model gives the impression that a tasteful helping of subtle, slow-release compression has been dialled in.

It’s a smoother ride for conventional blues lead playing, too, with a greater palette of tones available thanks to more effective onboard controls. The no-load tone control has a much more useful taper, while the master volume’s treble-bleed circuit retains clarity when you turn down – ideal for those who get their drive tones from a cranked amplifier and want to be able to clean up without turning to mush.

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The High Sensitive Filter’Trons can handle anything from clean to mean

It’ll still do fireworks, of course. Despite the myriad aftermarket Filter’Tron-style humbuckers available and the numerous in-house variations developed by Gretsch in recent years, we still think these High Sensitive units have a lot to offer. Underrated and versatile, they can go from Johnny Marr to AC/DC, or George Harrison to Jack White, in a heartbeat. It’s a great guitar for heavier alt-rock styles too, with a saw-toothed combination of power and grit that works brilliantly for aggressive QOTSA-style rhythms and white-knuckle lead.

The irony is, of course, that modern stage-volume limitations and sophisticated monitoring systems mean that it’s easier to use a fully hollow Gretsch in a live environment now than it has been at any time since the 1950s. But the company’s latest Center Block models offer a very different and arguably more universally appealing playing experience.

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The String-Thru Bigsby makes string changes a breeze

By any measure, the G6620T is an extremely versatile, great-sounding electric with a classic aesthetic – it even represents decent value for money when you consider that our Panther model retailed for almost £600 more back in 2013.

Key Features

  • PRICE £2,389 (inc hard case)
  • DESCRIPTION Semi-hollow double-cutaway electric guitar. Made in Japan
  • BUILD Laminated maple top, back and sides with chambered spruce centre-block. Set maple neck with 12-inch radius ebony fingerboard, 22 medium-jumbo frets and Graph Tech Tusq XL nut
  • HARDWARE Adjusto-Matic bridge, Bigsby B7CP String-Thru vibrato tailpiece, Gotoh locking tuners
  • ELECTRICS 2x High Sensitive Filter’Tron pickups with individual volumes, no-load master tone control, master volume with treble bleed, 3-way pickup selector switch
  • SCALE LENGTH 24.6″/625mm
  • NECK WIDTH 43.3mm at nut, 53.1mm at 12th fret
  • NECK DEPTH 21.4mm at first fret, 23.6mm at 12th fret
  • STRING SPACING 35.5mm at nut, 50.6mm at bridge
  • WEIGHT 7.94lb/3.58kg
  • FINISH Round-Up Orange gloss urethane
  • CONTACT Fender EMEA gretschguitars.com

Like this? Try these…

TV Jones Spectra Sonic Supreme £2,295, Gibson 2019 ES-335 Dot £2,399, Gretsch G6609TFM Players Edition Broadkaster £2,479

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Gretsch G6620T Players Edition Nashville Center Block Double-Cut
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