Gretsch G5426 Jet Club$299 street, gretschguitars.com
The Jet Club comes in a flashy silver finish with enough chrome accoutrements to force a second glance. It’s an attractive instrument that begs to be played—and luckily it plays great right out of the box. Admittedly, it’s more or less a Gretsch-ified Les Paul, but it somehow fits the company’s classic aesthetic.
The G5426 has a gorgeous rosewood fretboard, and it’s fun to play thanks to the maple neck’s medium-C shape and nicely rounded shoulders. In defiance of conventional sentiment regarding bolt-on construction, it also delivers thick sustain. There’s even some midrange airiness, thanks to its chambered basswood body.
Like a lot of affordable instruments these days, the original hardware isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s also acceptably functional. The tuners turn smoothly, although to me they don’t feel super solid. Tuning stability could likely be improved by swapping them for upmarket units. In addition, I’ll look at dressing the synthetic bone nut’s slots—not because they’re particularly rough or disappointing, but just to fine-tune performance. To be honest, most guitars these days, regardless of price, could use similar attention.
Plugged in, the stock Jet Club sounded a bit dark, but that’s fairly common with entry-level imports, as lower-grade electrical components comprise a significant cost-saving measure. Even so, the Club’s stock tone is loud and surprisingly bombastic, so I’m thinking that giving some attention to the pickups and circuit will bump up the clarity factor. This one’s got some soul, and I intend to bring that out.
The only complaint I had with the Jet Club was that some of its fret ends stuck out a bit too far, resulting in prickly playing in some positions. This is something I can fix on my own without much effort—and, in defense of Gretsch’s overall attention to detail, the leveling and crowning work on the frets was flawless. I couldn’t find any notes that choked or buzzed during my initial playing tests.
All in all, this is a great guitar for the price. I’m looking forward to digging into this one—and I’m thinking we’ll go a slightly different direction with our mods, rather than try to turn this into the stereotypical “ultimate Gretsch.”
Photo 1 — A Vibramate V5 Standard kit enabled us to add a Gretsch must—a Bigsby B5 vibrato—to the Jet Club
without any drilling.
For the most part, the mods we chose for the Gretsch Jet Club couldn’t have gone more smoothly. Each bit of hardware, including the tuners, fit without any extra drilling or routing required. (The circuitry upgrades required a little extra work. More on that shortly.) The Vibramate V5 Standard kit made installing the Bigsby B5 vibrato (Photos 1 and 2) an especially painless exercise—no more difficult than turning a few screws into place! (If you’re not familiar with it, the Vibramate is a U-shaped metal platform that lets you add a Bigsby to an instrument already outfitted with a Tune-o-matic-style bridge and stop-tail without having to drill extra holes. If you can change your strings, you can install a Vibramate.)