How does the Players Edition upgrade stack up on the brand’s sleek 6-string “Cadillac”?
Bridge pickup, then middle position, then neck.
All guitar controls at max. Recorded through the boost side of a SoundBrut DrVa MkII, a Ground Control Tsukuyomi mid boost, a SolidGoldFx Electroman MkII, and an Anasounds Element into a Goodsell Valpreaux 21 miked with a Royer R-121 going into an Audient iD44 then into GarageBand with no EQ-ing, compression, or effects.
Matchless style and mojo. Plays, feels, and sounds great.
Expensive. Pickups can feel limited compared to Full’Trons. Some may prefer a tone knob for each pickup.
Gretsch G6636TSL Players Edition Silver Falcon
When you think of iconic electric guitars, three biggies pop to mind—the Strat, the Tele, and the Les Paul. But for many, a hollow or semi-hollow Gretsch isn’t far behind. From Bo Diddley to Gene Vincent, Duane Eddy, Chet Atkins, George Harrison, Neil Young, Brian Setzer, and more, countless legends have donned these inimitable outlines to create some of the coolest music in our lexicon. And within Gretsch’s own hallowed halls, the Silver and White Falcon are perhaps the most elegantly head-turning—with their sparkle binding and victory-winged headstock rendering them the 6-string equivalent of a sleek ’50s Cadillac. The new G6636TSL Silver Falcon gets all this, plus the modernized Players Edition treatment.
Vintage Minus the Hassle
For a brand whose products are so influential and distinctive, guitar building must often feel like a catch-22—how do you honor a legacy while also appealing to players whose needs and reference points aren’t tied to vintage specs and appointments? Gretsch’s Players Edition aims to bridge that gap with features like Bigsby vibratos modded to facilitate no-fuss stringing, Gotoh locking tuners, Grover strap locks, and treble-bleed master volumes. Appointments particular to this model include a 1 3/4"-deep, semi-hollow maple-laminate body with a slightly smaller-than-vintage 16" width at the lower bout. Unlike 25 1/2"-scale vintage-spec Falcons, the G6636TSL mates Gretsch’s shorter 24.6" scale to a 12"-radius ebony fretboard with thumbnail markers and 22 medium-jumbo frets. To offer a measure of feedback control at high volumes, there’s also a chambered-spruce center block.
In terms of our review model’s craftsmanship and setup, I found little to knock: The action is nice and low, the fretwork is very good, though not completely free of roughness at the edges, internal woodwork is neat and clean, and all aesthetic touches are executed with aplomb.
The Edition/Addition Dilemma
Three years ago, I reviewed the G6609TFM Players Edition Broadkaster—a less-flashy instrument with the same scale, body style, woods, and controls as this Silver Falcon. To help me compare the Broadkaster’s then-new Full’Tron pickups to the High Sensitive Filter’Trons that are synonymous with the classic Gretsch sound, the company also sent an otherwise identically equipped G6636T Players Edition Falcon. The more I compared the two, the more surprised I was that I gravitated toward the Broadkaster. Low-output, vintage-spec pickups are the foundational sounds my ears tend to prefer. Yet, time and again, I found myself favoring the Full’Trons’ more powerful and mid-enhanced tones over the traditional Filter’Trons.
The Silver Falcon reviewed here is stocked with the vintage-style “High Sensitive” Filter’Tron pickups rather than the Full’Trons. Then, as now, I enjoy their gritty, mid-scooped tones. But I found myself wishing Gretsch had outfitted this guitar with the Full’Trons, which, to me, are more fitting for the Professional Series/Players Edition appellation.
It’s not so much that it’s a “vintage vs. modern” thing. Gretsch describes Filter’Tron pickups as being a 7 (on a 10-point scale) for “power and sonic size,” and 9 out of 10 for “articulation, clarity, and dynamic range.” Full’Trons, meanwhile, are rated 8 in both categories. Obviously words and numbers are just that, but what I noticed as I tested the Silver Falcon through various amps—from silver-panel Vibrolux Reverb and Vibro Champ combos to a Goodsell Valpreaux 21 and a Jaguar HC50—was that the High Sensitive Filter’Trons are much more, well, sensitive—but in a different way from what one might expect. They are perfectly capable of prototypical Gretsch sounds—tough bridge-pickup bite and snarl, chimey two-pickup jangle, and warm jazz are all there for the taking. But in addition to their slightly nasal sound, are also apt to yield somewhat brittle highs and high mids, particularly under heavy attack. (And this is coming from a guy who loves buzzing-bee fuzz pedals and jagged vintage Fender Jaguar sounds.) Full’Trons, meanwhile, are capable of traditional Filter’Tron tones plus many others that modern players might find more malleable and versatile.
I’ve lusted after a great Gretsch semi-hollow for a long time—in fact, I’m still kicking myself for not buying that Broadkaster (though I have a hunch Santa might right that wrong for me in the next couple weeks). Ever since reviewing it, I’ve been mystified by the lack of public accolades for its stellar Full’Tron pickups, and the fact that they’re not currently available on any other Gretsch models. The Gretsch G6636TSL Silver Falcon could be all the wonderful things it is and more with the added clarity, airiness, and flexibility of those Full’Trons. To be sure, though, it still plays, looks, and sounds damn good.