Reviewed: Gretsch G5420TG 135th Anniversary Electromatic

Gretsch Guitars | | RRP: $2149

How do you quantify class? How do you describe the thing about someone or something that cuts them above the rest? Furthermore, how do you distil that ethereal otherness that defines the illustrious few and renders them indelible marks on history’s pages? There is any number of adjectives that come close to pinpointing said essence but none that do so in such a way as to simplify it en masse. The proof is in the pudding, as the adage goes, and any attempt to coagulate something so mercurial is folly. In the instrument world there is a temptation to allow descriptors like country of origin, wood type et al to take the reigns, but at the end of the day nothing compares to the relationship a pair of hands has with any given fretboard. There is no substitute for the way a piece of wood unveils itself to a player and no amount of generalisation will render a blanket rule as long as nature has her way.

I mention this in relation to the Gretsch G5420TG, and its comparison to another of the company’s 135th anniversary models as reviewed elsewhere in these hallowed pages. The chief difference between these two models is the country in which their originating factories reside, Korea and Japan respectively, and the assertion that one nation is pre-destined to craft a superior guitar to the other, but more on that later.


Almost universally, guitar players over the decades have come to revere the many and varied Gretsch designs. As the spec sheet belies, the G5240TG is a tribute to the unerring singularity that earns that respect time and time again. The focused, clear and unmistakable tonality of proprietary Blacktop FilterTron pick-ups is thoroughly in its element here. The bell-like, bullet-tipped ping of plucked notes is as healthy as ever and matches the luscious gold hardware in style as much as luster. The finish soars with big band era va-va-voom; the richness of metallic cherry top and gold rear look like something Marilyn Monroe would have worn to visit the President. Intimidatingly blingy as it is, there’s no denying the playability of this design. The slimmer version of the classic ‘U’ neck profile and arms-reach placing of controls renders it undeniably playable. Comfortable as your old acoustic but with more moxie then the rest, it is as much a humble instrument as it is proud as a peacock.


To simply assume that the Korean anniversary tribute pales in comparison to its Japanese counterpart is lazy and reductive. Neither country has slouched on such a momentous occasion as this and, while they are different beasts with different roars, neither is more or less noble than the other. The G5420TG is a glorious, classy and fitting tribute to the illustrious history of Gretsch guitars.

Hits and Misses


Marginally softer voicing than its cohort that suits its gala-ball-ready visage to a T


Arguably too flashy for some but certainly not yours truly