The jingle-jangled morning has come for those looking for a moderately-priced electric twelve string:  The Gretsch Electromatic G5422-12 ($1,150 retail, streets for about $300 less) provides all the goodness that one desires out of a twelve string in a solidly constructed easy to play package.



The recently revised Gretsch Electromatic hollowbody line (which includes both single and double cutaway six-strings, and long and short scale bass) have been upgraded with Black Top Filtertron pickups.  It was generally agreed that the previous pickups were inferior and replacement was nearly mandatory for those that purchased the guitar.  The Black Tops on the “54xx” model series eliminates that need.


Black Top Filtertron and Adjusto-Matic bridge

Black Top Filtertron and Adjusto-Matic bridge.


Then…on top of the pickup upgrade, Gretsch added binding to the inside edge of the F-hole: a small, but classy touch.


The body of the review 12-string we were sent to review (and, actually, the entire Electromatic Hollowbody line) is made of laminated maple.  While the body is fully hollow lacking the center block unusually associated with thinline guitars (the double cutaway body measures 2.25” at the rim), there is a sound post that connects the top and back directly underneath the bridge to reduce feedback.


Measuring the width of the body

Measuring the width of the body.


The sunburst finish on our review model is beautifully applied with a nice splatter free fade from the darker edges to the amber center.  The back, side and neck are finished in a dark mahogany shade with no bleed into the top, back and f-hole’s single ply binding.


The neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard.  It appears that there is a very light finish on the fingerboard, a la’ Rickenbacker – but not nearly as thick, that makes the playing surface feel closer to ebony with a silky feel.  Closed back tuners turn smoothly and the string slide through the nut smoothly making tuning the beast less of a chore than one would expect. 


The Adjusto-Matic bridge (which look nearly identical to another company’s tune-a-matic) sits upon a rosewood base, as per tradional hollowbody spec, and allow intonation for the pair of strings.  Since the lower four string pairs are a different diameter, and may pair a wound with a unwound string, perfect intonation of both in the pair is near impossible…such is the nature of the instrument regardless of manufacturer.  (Note there are some electric 12 strings with 12 adjustable saddles.)


There is a volume control for each of the pickups, along with a master tone control and a master volume control mounted on the upper bout.  A three-way selector allows the usual combinations of the two pickups.  The Black Top pickups themselves have two polepieces per string each, and there’s three bezel screws that allow the pickups to be adjusted so there top is parallel to the strings.  Hip.


The Gretsch Electromatic G5422-12

The Gretsch Electromatic G5422-12.


Running the Electromatic 12-string into a vintage Fender Twin Reverb instantly brought to mind all the great electric 12-string songs through the history of the instrument: Beatles, Byrds, McGuinn and Petty.


There is all the chime and jangle one would expect, and by using the pickup selector the guitar can sound aggressive (bridge pickup) or dark/moody (neck pickup).  The pickups supplied sufficient signal to a Thunderdrive pedal for a little distortion, and the octave strings provided great definition with the crunchier signal.


The slim C-shaped neck, which measured 1.75” at the nut, feels extremely comfortable.  Those who have been turned off by the feel of 12-string guitars may want to try this one to see how it actually should be done.


Sadly those looking for this Hollowbody 12-string to do double duty as both an Electric and an Acoustic guitar will be disappointed with the Electomatic 12’s unplugged volume:  It is barely louder than a unplugged solidbody guitar.  However, those use to playing acoustic guitar, either 6 or 12 string, will find this guitar as a perfect way to transition into playing electric Rhythm guitar as the octave strings provide a shimmer similar to the higher harmonics of an acoustic.


For Electric players, let’s face it: How many electric six strings do you need?  The Gretsch Electromatic 12-string is a great way to diversify your sound and add to your tonal pallet.  It does it well, and it doesn’t cost a lot of bucks.


Gear Used: Shure KSM-12 Microphone, Fender Twin Reverb Amp, Hosa Elite Cables, DIYKits Tunderdrive.


You might also be interested in:

Gretsch Electromatic G5420 Video Review

Gretsch Electromatic G5420 follow-up

Gretsch and TV Jones Filtertron Video Comparison

Originally posted 2013-01-05 23:43:49.