Gretsch Electromatic Pristine Jet review: Does its performance match its dazzling looks?

A limited edition run with metallic finishes and gold hardware, the Pristine is a head-turner, but it also brings some frustrations with its sparkle

Gretsch Electromatic Pristine Jet, photo by Adam Gasson

Gretsch Electromatic Pristine Jet. Image: Adam Gasson

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Review Overview

Our rating


Our verdict

The positive build, pickup and playability experience is slightly undermined by tuning and mechanical issues with the Bigbsy on our test model

How much does the name on the headstock matter to you? Specifically, the Fender/Squier and Epiphone/Gibson… even SE/PRS internal debate. Of course, guitars should be judged on their own merits, but for some one brand will always be considered a bridge to the other and lesser. Gretsch sidesteps some of that handwringing by simply emblazoning all its guitars with a Gretsch logo; whether a $349 Streamliner or $3,000 Players Edition. It’s refreshing.

The rub is there can be a huge price jump from Electromatic guitars to Players Editions and Vintage Select models, and with many great-looking guitars across the lines, you need to look closer to distil the differences. Gretsch has been really flying the flag when it comes to packing value into its entry-level models. The well-established Electromatic range is positioned on a rung up the feature spec ladder from the Streamliners that were launched in 2016. Within this, the Pristine Series allows Gretsch to flex even more visual panache with some limited editions. Bodes well.

The Chinese-made Pristine series’ difference is cosmetic. It features its own selection of two-toned metallic finishes; alongside the blue/slight greenish sparkle of Petrol, there’s the lighter blue/silvery Mako we have here and White Gold finishes available. All the Pristines feature gold hardware (including the Bigsby licensed B70) and cream inserts for the FT-5E Filter’Tron pickups. The combination takes Gretsch bling to another level, and that won’t be for everyone but I think it’s a beautiful-looking guitar to look up. And the build on this test model is… well it’s pristine.

Electromatic Pristine Jet headstock, photo by Adam Gasson
Electromatic Pristine Jet headstock. Image: Adam Gasson

Does the Electromatic Pristine Jet play well?

That doesn’t count for much if it plays like a splintered broom. Switching from a Fender and Gibson to a big ol’ hollowbody Gretsch can feel jarring, but the chambered Jet is the perfect gateway, especially with the low action this test example has. The acoustic response is satisfyingly resonant, and even the Gretsch floating and slightly angled pickguard is a help; anchoring my picking hand fingers for added comfort.

Don’t fear the mention of the ‘U-shaped’ neck profile if you’re unfamiliar. This ‘thin’ take on the carve is closer to a Slim Taper Les Paul profile than you might think with its 12-inch radius. Even though it’s chambered, this Jet is also closer to that kind of LP single-cut weight too at 8.4lbs including its Bigsby – which may well be noticeable for anyone coming from a Telecaster, for example. Or at least the kind of Teles I play.

So far so good, but the Pristine starts to frustrate after I plug in. It’s the Bigsby, but it’s not the tuning woes you’d expect – at least at first. Every time I use the Bigsby, the signal crackles. This could well be a grounding issue, and a relatively straightforward fix, but it’s certainly not positive to experience it on a $750 guitar, or indeed any guitar, out of the box.

Tuning stability is pretty good on everything except the G string, which goes so frequently sharp or flat even with the kind of gentle Bigsby use I prefer – often to add movement to chords – that I become a little paranoid about using it.

It’s not uncommon, and may just need attention in the right place. Fitting a roller bridge can help, and some say heavier strings and upgrading the nut are the way to go. It’s best to try one change at a time. I’d recommend finding a tech who has experience with Bigsby guitars to diagnose and advise if you run into this kind of issue. Indeed, if you’re not able and willing to do the work yourself I’d always factor in a setup from a tech to the cost of most mass-produced guitar purchases.

Electromatic Pristine Jet body, photo by Adam Gasson
Electromatic Pristine Jet body. Image: Adam Gasson

Does the Electromatic Pristine Jet sound good?

So two issues on our review guitar here would need attention, because the alternative is pure frustration. But this guitar sounds and plays great elsewhere to show us the fun we can have. The FT-5E Filter’Trons have a wonderful touch sparkle and that adds real character to driven barre chords as you let them ring out Dave Grohl Learn To Fly-style. An appealing balance of shimmer and muscle that shines with a chorus or flanger too.

The neck has a bloomy, hollow quality that really inspires – an antidote if you’re jaded about dark humbucker experiences. I found the middle position useful go-to for lighter rhythm work but more so mellow fingerpicking. Coupled with the buttery smooth low action and no fret choke in sight, it makes our test guitar’s Bigsby issues all the more of a downer on an otherwise positive experience.

Gold hardware on the Electromatic Pristine Jet, photo by Adam Gasson
Gold hardware on the Electromatic Pristine Jet. Image: Adam Gasson

Gretsch Electromatic Pristine Jet alternatives

There are plenty of single-cut options above, around and below the Jet’s price point but the Bigsby factor narrows scope down considerably. Epiphone has no options currently in production and Fender’s Vintera Tele with Bigsby is the same. Cheaper within the Electromatic range is the $599 Electromatic Jet FT with silver hardware, a choice of five finishes, Bigsby B50 tailpiece and Black Top Filter’Tron pickups. Schecter’s T-style PT Fastback II is $799 with a B50 and SuperRock Custom Alnico humbuckers with coil-split options.

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