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I had read that the Korean built Gretsch were a better quality than the later Chinese builds, is that true ? I have not been able to find any of the usual oversights on my MIK.
The Korean builds have a good reputation. If I’m not mistaken, they’ve never been replaced with Chinese builds. I think there are four basic levels:
  1. 2-series (streamliner) - made in China
  2. 5-series (electromatic) - made in Korea
  3. 6-series (proline) - made in Japan
  4. Custom shop - made in US
However, as discussed above, the 5-series often get upgraded with new bridges, electronics, pickups and/or Bigsby.
 

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The Korean builds have a good reputation. If I’m not mistaken, they’ve never been replaced with Chinese builds. I think there are four basic levels:
  1. 2-series (streamliner) - made in China
  2. 5-series (electromatic) - made in Korea
  3. 6-series (proline) - made in Japan
  4. Custom shop - made in US
However, as discussed above, the 5-series often get upgraded with new bridges, electronics, pickups and/or Bigsby.
I can attest to that.
 

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They are not niche at all. In fact they are on a billion recordings for the simple reason that they sound cool and cut through a mix beautifully. If you listen to music every day you probably hear a Gretsch every day.
They might not be niche guitars to pros, but they are to the average player.

Hell even here it will be a minority of the membership that owns one, and this place is populated by gear whores and junkies.


The budget Electromatics etc are just typical of all cheap mass produced guitars- bad parts, poor fretwork, crappy dead sounding pickups. They are also much more prone to rattles and buzzes. Japanese and American Gretsch guitars are mostly excellent though.

There are excellent Electromatics out there. I bought this one and absolutely love it. The fit and finish on it are excellent, and I liked it better than some models that were double the price.


 

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  • Any signature sound they might have is associated with the past (rockabilly, Buffalo Springfield, etc)
Not meaning picking on you because a few people have said this, but I disagree.

You also can't ignore the lasting legacy (and now older more afluent fans who can afford Gretsches) of bands like The Cult (Duffy was in Theatre of Hate before that rocking the same Falcon), The Cramps, Rancid, and Depeche Mode to just name a few more. It's a specific tone, sure, but not niche in the sense of being limited to a few dead genres as people are implying - that's a wide range we have already. Also you can't ignore the underground; Rockabilly (and it's many offspring) are far from dead, and you can't ignore the Gretsch/Filtertron sound as the other surf guitar (see Shadowy Men from a Shadowy Planet; who granted resisted the surf label, but admitted to it later). I just recorded a band featuring a Gretsch (semi)hollowbody, kinda barngoth (countryish gothic rock).

Being a niche is often a benefit to a guitar company's sales vs you know, more Teles and (super)Strats and LPish things. The issue really comes down to the other points you, and others, made - mostly expense especially with regards to comparable alternatives. I mean putting a filtertron in Tele neck position is a huge thing - there is appeal, most of us just can't afford it.
 

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I had read that the Korean built Gretsch were a better quality than the later Chinese builds, is that true ? I have not been able to find any of the usual oversights on my MIK.
That is the general consensus, however I would now argue some of the newer Chinese Gretsch (Any Electromatic Pro Jet or Semi hollow) quality is fantastic and just as good. I was a bit of Country of origin snob, but while Les Paul shopping I picked up a 5227 double cut away pro jet that caught my eye. I was absolutely floored by the quality fit finish and sound that I bought it shortly after, This was only my third guitar that I bought brand new. The wiring, switches and pots suck but that's really any Korean/Indonesian/Chinese guitar.
 

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The Korean builds have a good reputation. If I’m not mistaken, they’ve never been replaced with Chinese builds. I think there are four basic levels:
  1. 2-series (streamliner) - made in China
  2. 5-series (electromatic) - made in Korea
  3. 6-series (proline) - made in Japan
  4. Custom shop - made in US
However, as discussed above, the 5-series often get upgraded with new bridges, electronics, pickups and/or Bigsby.
Not all Electromatics or 5 Series are made in Korea, Only their hollowbodies are so your 5410, 5420, 5422. Your 5622, 5655 and 52xx are all made in China
 

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You also can't ignore the lasting legacy (and now older more afluent fans who can afford Gretsches) of bands like The Cult (Duffy was in Theatre of Hate before that rocking the same Falcon), The Cramps, Rancid, and Depeche Mode to just name a few more. It's a specific tone, sure, but not niche in the sense of be
That’s very much been my path to Gretsch. Edge in the Pride video with a White Falcon. Martin Gore. Greg Keelor. Andrew Scott from Sloan (who was inspired by Setzer but doesn’t play rockabilly). Even more recently Adam from War on Drugs.
Having hung out around Gretsch players in recent years, though, there’s a disproportionate number of 50s rockabilly lovers.

But, hey, I bought my number 1 - a tele - because Robert Smith played one on InOrange!
I was a bit of Country of origin snob, but while Les Paul shopping I picked up a 5227 double cut away pro jet that caught my eye.
Gretsch cured me of my country snobbery. My 6122 was my first non-North American guitar and it’s a thing of beauty. I’ve since bought fancier (a Collings acoustic) and cheaper (a Squier Jazzmaster for $150). A good guitar is good if it inspires you to play and have fun.
 

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Gretsch is actually fairly uncommon these days and the sad thing is that Gretsch announced to the public a few years back that the electromatic line sells more than the high end stuff . And in a since the electromatics are a more playable guitar than the vintage reissue due to the different neck construction. It’s also really easy to mod a lower end Gretsch and you’ll end up with a guitar that outplays the country gent and falcon due to the oversized heel they possess. In the recent years they the started the player lineup that get rid of that heel and they practically got rid of there USA models besides one the 55 white falcon reissue. The biggest problem is they don’t have their own custom shop they are actually done at the fender custom shop so you get fenders greasy palms over a beautiful guitar only to destroy what they once were.

and for resale it’s Gibson ,Martin or fender. Anything else is looked at as an oddity
 

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Gretsch is actually fairly uncommon these days and the sad thing is that Gretsch announced to the public a few years back that the electromatic line sells more than the high end stuff . And in a since the electromatics are a more playable guitar than the vintage reissue due to the different neck construction. It’s also really easy to mod a lower end Gretsch and you’ll end up with a guitar that outplays the country gent and falcon due to the oversized heel they possess. In the recent years they the started the player lineup that get rid of that heel and they practically got rid of there USA models besides one the 55 white falcon reissue. The biggest problem is they don’t have their own custom shop they are actually done at the fender custom shop so you get fenders greasy palms over a beautiful guitar only to destroy what they once were.

and for resale it’s Gibson ,Martin or fender. Anything else is looked at as an oddity
Especially Suhr….
 

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Gretsch is actually fairly uncommon these days and the sad thing is that Gretsch announced to the public a few years back that the electromatic line sells more than the high end stuff .
What's wrong with admitting that? I bet the same can be said for many manufacturers. I'd love to see the breakdown on MIM vs MIA Fenders.
 

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Not all Electromatics or 5 Series are made in Korea, Only their hollowbodies are so your 5410, 5420, 5422. Your 5622, 5655 and 52xx are all made in China

My 5420TG Limited Edition (pictured above; link to L&M's webpage below) is made in Korea, not China.



Getting my Gretsch prompted me to move my ES-335, that's how much I like this Gretsch!
 

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I've always liked the way Brian Setzer works his Gretsch. In the early 80s he was a small lad and that guitar looked big on him but he sure could swing it with the rest of the Cats:
Musical instrument Arm Musician Guitar String instrument
 
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