Gretsch G9555 New Yorker Archtop with Pickup review

When rock ’n’ roll was in its infancy, most electric guitars looked like this.

The original Gretsch 6050 New Yorker was introduced as a budget archtop in the mid-1940s. Relaunched as part of the company’s Roots Collection in 2014, NAMM 2015 saw the electrified version arrive with a recreation of the DeArmond Rhythm Chief 1000 pickup: a vintage-style fingerboard-mounted single coil with a rubberised magnet.

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The New Yorker features an arched solid spruce top finished in an attractive satin sunburst with laminated maple back and sides and a satisfyingly chunky, vintage-style V-shaped mahogany neck. The intonation-compensated rosewood bridge is floating and, strung at the factory with a set of half-round .012-.052 strings and a wound G, the whole package is unapologetically old-school.

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The aforementioned floating pickup is governed by a single master volume with a nicely retro amber knob mounted on the oversized tortoiseshell scratchplate. The volume pot arrived a little loose, with the potentiometer itself rotating beneath the pickguard when making volume adjustments. Removing the knob and tightening the nut helps, but this sort of arrangement will often come loose with prolonged use. Adding another washer helps to stabilise things and neither this, nor the odd finish imperfection, are deal breakers when you take into account the sub-£500 street price.

In use

The New Yorker winds back the clock to the period before the dawn of the solidbody electric. For many modern guitarists, using an instrument such as this requires a mindset shift. At just over 16 inches in width, the New Yorker’s Grand Auditorium-style proportions are comfortable when playing seated. It comes factory fitted with only one strap button, so if you want to stand then you’ll have to fit another to the heel or use the shoelace method.

As you might expect, when played unplugged there’s considerably less volume, sustain and bass than from a similarly-sized Western acoustic, but it has a charming, rootsy breeziness that’s perfect for living-room strumming. With a strong attack and a hard pick, there’s a decent hot club jazz voice, too.

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Plugged into a small tweed combo, we’re again reminded how liberating a single-pickup guitar can be. Naturally, given the pickup position at the end of the fretboard, there’s no shortage of bass – the low end is huge and sonorous, and suited particularly to open D tuning – but thankfully that doesn’t mean the high end is woolly; in fact, it’s as sweet or as biting as your right hand dictates.

There’s a wide frequency separation between thumb and fingers when fingerpicking, and the New Yorker would make an excellent choice for solo live performers. The rosewood bridge lends character to the sound; dig in with a pick down at the bridge, into lots of spring reverb, and you’ll be rewarded with a woody lead voice that’s ideal for early 1960s Brit R&B.

Despite its primitive appearance, the New Yorker does more than retro sounds; it would be equally at home in the context of latter-day Radiohead. Hollowbody construction means volume and gain bring feedback, but working with the limitations produces inspiring results – try using a looper to lay down clean chords, then play overdriven single-note lines on top, using swelling feedback for an Ebow-like effect.

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Key Features
Gretsch G9555 New Yorker Archtop with Pickup
• Price £539
• Description Hollowbody archtop electro-acoustic. Manufactured in China
• Build Solid spruce top with oversized f-holes, maple laminate back and sides. Parallel tone bar bracing. Set mahogany neck with vintage V-profile. 240mm (9.45”) radius rosewood fingerboard with 19 vintage tall frets and dot inlays
• Hardware Floating rosewood bridge, nickel-plated trapeze tailpiece, Grover Sta-Tite open-geared tuners
• Electric Vintage-style fingerboard-mounted single-coil pickup with master volume
• Scale Length 635mm/25”
• Neck Width 45mm at nut, 56mm at 12th fret
• Neck Depth 23mm at first fret, 26mm at 9th fret
• String Spacing 40mm at nut, 55mm at bridge
• Weight 2.3kgs/5.1lbs
• Left-Handers No
• Finishes Antique Burst only
• Contact Fender UK & ROI
01342 331700
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