With updated humbucking pickups and an all-new tailpiece, the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner sees an already brilliant line of guitars get a considerable improvement in both the looks and tone department. Despite being aimed firmly at vintage tone lovers, this budget big body delivers more than just blues and jazz.
If you've never played a hollow-body guitar before, the Streamliner series is a great entry point into these throwbacks. Famously utilized by Chet Atkins in the 50s and then popularised by George Harrison in the 60s, Gretsch hollow-body guitars have firmly established their place in the annals of rock and roll fame. Previously known as 'semi-acoustics', hollow body guitars became all the rage in the 30s when guitarists needed a way to compete with the volume of drummers, something we're still doing to this day!
Early Gretsch electric guitars can lay claim to what may have been the first humbucking pickup ever, Ray Butts' famous Filter'Tron. However, history will always remember Gibson's ever-famous PAF, as they filed their patent first. Arguments over innovation aside, the G2420 features a specially created set of humbuckers based upon the classic Filter'Tron, the Broad'Tron BT-2S. Designed to emulate that classic guitar tone minus the hefty price tag, these humbuckers are firmly at the center of what makes this guitar so versatile – more on which later.
Gretsch G2420 review: Build
At first glance, this Gretsch is certainly a head-turner. Pulling it out of the box, we find it's surprisingly lightweight despite its leviathan-like size. That big body is finished in glossy Village Amber, a translucent finish that lets you see the grain of the laminated maple top. Now, while this striking finish is beautifully offset with a tortoiseshell pickguard, it's the Chromatic II trapeze-style tailpiece that's the showpiece. This is what makes the guitar look like a proper vintage workhorse, and there's also an upgraded G2420T version available with a Bigsby if you want to add some warble to your playing.
The neck profile is a thin "U" continuing the theme of mixing period correct with modern playability. The glossy finish is flawlessly applied and there's some nicely applied black paint around the f-holes to accentuate their look, giving this guitar plenty of vintage vogue. Hump block inlays add a further touch of venerable style with a comfortable 12-inch radius on the Laurel fretboard.
As you'd expect, this Gretsch opts for a set neck construction, with the fretboard reaching significantly onto the body as is tradition with these types of guitars. This helps lend them their warmth of tone and lively feel.
The Gretsch control layout consists of a single-tone knob, two volume controls and a separate master volume control on the lower bout. If you're used to a Strat or LP-type control arrangement, it takes some getting used to, but the flexibility of being able to lower the master volume without affecting the level of each pickup adds another string to your tonal bow.
Gretsch G2420 review: Playability
The neck is an absolute joy to play, feeling very modern despite the supposed 'U' profile typical of vintage-era guitars. It plays surprisingly quick and reacts fantastically to bending, the medium jumbo frets giving you that nice balance between smooth action and a little bite from the fretboard. Upper fret access is pretty limited, something the designers appear to acknowledge with the lack of fret markers beyond the 17th fret. Let's face it, though, this isn't the kind of guitar you'll be shredding over two octaves with anyway.
It's set up beautifully out of the box, with no intonation or action adjustment required to start blasting those blues double-stop bends and ascending chromatic jazz licks. Considering the body size, the neck is surprisingly slinky in all dimensions, with the fretboard width comfortable enough to make light work of fretting those harder dominant 7 voicings. The tuners are marvelous as well. They rarely go out, even with some aggressive vibrato and huge two-tone bends, holding up better than some we've encountered on guitars twice the price.
The body size is absolutely huge, though. For younger players or someone of smaller dimensions, it may well be a struggle to stay comfortable. There's no armrest cut, so you'll be resting your forearm on an angle, which over a long time can introduce a bit of discomfort, especially when sitting down. Switch to standing and you'll find things a lot easier, and you may even find yourself inadvertently doing the duckwalk!
Gretsch G2420 review: Sound
The upgraded BT-2S pickups deliver more output than the vintage-spec humbuckers of yesteryear, a frequent request of modern guitar players. While this may displease some vintage-tone hounds, there's still plenty of warmth on tap, and the clean tones are absolutely stunning through our Fender tube combo.
The bridge pickup has a nice bit of bite when you dig in, but it's not too trebly, instead delivering an even response that's cutting without being harsh. It responds equally well to open chords and single-string picking, and the mixture of acoustic resonance you get from the hollow body with the amp tone really makes you feel connected to the instrument.
The neck pickup isn't quite as dark sounding as we were expecting. Instead, there's great clarity to this position that's very pleasing, especially as some neck pickups in this price range can sound a little 'woolly'.
Adding a drive and reverb pedal into our signal chain, we proceed to turn things up a notch and get straight into blues and hard rock territory. The G2420 responds wonderfully to lower settings of drive, with a tasteful crunch that begs for 7th chords with modal lead embellishments. It doesn't just do well at blues and jazz playing, though, crunchy indie guitar chords also sound fantastic, and it even excels at some sparse post-rock noodling when we dial in a healthy dollop of shimmer reverb.
As you might expect, you lose some articulation when moving into high-gain territory, and we need to seriously reign in our settings when we introduce a Maestro-inspired fuzz pedal into the chain. You can still do a nice Jack White rendition, but moving towards a more intense modern high-gain sound just doesn't quite work. This one chink in the G2420 Streamliner's armor doesn't really matter, though, because it excels at so many other sounds.
Gretsch G2420 review: Conclusion
If you're looking for something different to inspire your playing, the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner could be the guitar that gets those creative juices flowing again. The ultra-playable neck and versatile pickups make it an inspiring instrument to play, while the low-barrier price point makes it one of the best electric guitars for beginners, intermediates and beyond.
- PRICE: $499/£389
- BODY: Laminated maple, hollow body
- NECK: Nato with thin "U" profile and 12" radius
- SCALE: 24.75"
- FINGERBOARD: Indian laurel
- FRETS: 22, medium jumbo
- PICKUPS: 2x Broad'Tron™ BT-2S
- CONTROLS: 1x master volume, 1x master tone, 1x bridge pickup volume, 1x neck pickup volume
- HARDWARE: Adjusto-matic bridge with Chromatic II tailpiece and die-cast tuning machines
- LEFT-HANDED: No
- CASE: N/A
- FINISH: Village Amber (Reviewed), Aged Brooklyn Burst, Phantom Metallic, Walnut Stain
- CONTACT: Gretsch Guitars