After posting my Gretsch Electromatic G5420 review, I received this email…
I saw your demo of the Gretsch G5420. Very nice. I like the way you harmonized “Something” by G. Harrison.
Question: Why does this guitar sound so great on your demo and the PGS demo, and so dead in the store and on other demos?
And my response…
Off hand I can think of three reasons why the Gretsch Electromatic sounded dead in the store, and perhaps on the other demos you heard (maybe four, actually)
First would be the strings. A guitar hanging on the wall at a store, especially one that is as inviting and intriguing as a Gretsch Hollowbody, has been played by many hands. And, not everyone washes their hands before they play the guitar in the store. So the construction worker grungy hands are on the strings, and the office worker who just a KFC friend chicken played it too. Dirty strings sound bad. The good news is you’re not out of line asking for new strings to be put on a guitar you’re considering of buying. If they won’t change the strings, I’d consider going to another store.
Second, these guitars have floating bridges…they are not attached to the top of the guitar and are held in place with the pressure from the strings. Since this bridge can move, it can potentially scratch the finish on the guitar face, especially during shipping. To prevent the scratching, the manufacturer puts a thin sheet of foam material under the bridge. Some music stores leave that foam in place (it is intended to be removed) when placing the guitar on display. The guitar will function with the foam in place, but it does interfere with the tone. It prevents the energy of the strings, via the bridge, to pass on to the body of the guitar.
Third. Maybe the guitar in the store was a dog. I doubt it with this style of guitar, but I suppose that the occasional dude runs thought the line. This would occur more often with an acoustic guitar, or even a solid body electric guitar, where the piece of wood being used just isn’t a musical piece of wood — even if it’s from a species know for its tonal qualities. But the Electromatic, and most if not all of Gretsch’s pro line hollowbodies, are made from laminates — the musical instrument manufacturer’s term for plywood, but it’s really, really good plywood. With the quality control of the wood and the guitar’s construction, my guess is that this is not the issue…but it could be.
I take a lot of time with the audio in the demos I do (check out the Hosa guitar cable review). Rather than merely relying on the microphone built into the camera, I record the audio separately. After dialing in the guitar to find the sweet settings, I mic the amplifier the same way I would in a recording studio. For this video I was using a vintage Fender Twin Reverb mic’d with a Stedman N-10 running into the mixing board with the EQ set flat. For the dialog I set up a Shure KSM-27. Both mics were recorded on different tracks. Then after recording the demo, I muted the dialog mic (which, of course, was also picking up the guitar signal) so that they playing example only had the sound of the amp mic…just as if it were being used to make a record. This is then sync’d with the video, with the camera’s audio being discarded.
All of this is long winded, I know, but I wanted to show the lengths I go to to provide the most accurate representation of what the gear actually sounds like.
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