Gretsch G6636TSL Silver Falcon Review
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.
Will Ray's Bottom Feeder: JSW Cutaway Guitar
Oh boy! A cool custom guitar built by one of Buddy Holly’s songwriting partners.
I’m always a sucker for odd guitars, so when I saw this baby on eBay a few years ago, my picking fingers stood at attention. It had a Bo Diddley-style, rectangular-shaped body (with no cutaway at the time), Gretsch-style pickups, and a Tele control plate. It also had a Tele-style maple neck with “JSW” painted on the turquoise headstock. In doing a little research, I learned that Sonny West, a well-known guitar builder out of Texas who also co-wrote several of Buddy Holly’s hits, made this guitar. I could see potential in this guitar, so I sniped it at the last minute for $90 with free shipping.
When it arrived, I decided there was enough room on the tailpiece side to install a Hipshot B-Bender. I also figured that since I was installing a Hipshot, I should get a better bridge to accommodate the Bender, so I installed a Wilkinson Tele Half Bridge, which can be strung from the back as well as underneath. It was easy to string the B string through the existing B-string hole on the rear of the ashtray without having to drill an extra hole to accommodate the Hipshot. I also really dig the sound of these compensated brass saddles.
Although the Sonny West-built 6-string came with Filter’Tron pickups, the Hipshot B-Bender and bridge were custom additions made by Will Ray.
I played it onstage a few times with my band and really liked the way it sounded, but wished I could do licks further up the neck. So, I took it to my neighbor, who knows a thing or two about woodworking. I explained the problem and we set about giving the guitar a cutaway. He used a band saw and carefully cut out enough space so I could have access to all the upper frets. We discovered that the body was semi-hollow, which contributed to the instrument’s light weight and resonance. He took some of the wood from the cutout and filled in the areas that were exposed by the cutaway.
Sawing the cutaway created openings in the semi-hollowbody cavity, which were expertly plugged, and then artfully decorated with cigar box stickers.
Bottom Feeder Tip #887: Before attempting to modify a guitar like this, make sure the guitar is worthy of such an endeavor. In this case, it was. I became a fan of Sonny West guitars after this experience, and have since purchased a second guitar by the builder and did the exact same thing, adding a cutaway and a Hipshot. Because I’m into cigar-box guitars, I had some cigar stickers and put a few on it, so it could officially be classified as a cigar-box guitar now.
The Fender-style headstock features the initials of the builder on its turquoise finish: “JSW” for Joe “Sonny” West, who also co-wrote the Buddy Holly hits “Oh Boy!” and “Rave On.”
So, is it a keeper? Yep. I love the sound of the pickups, and when playing in a club, the guitar can give me nice controllable feedback at around 20 watts, due to its semi-hollow construction. And the Hipshot adds a new dimension to the sound. Listen to my audio clip online and hear this baby for yourself.
Gretsch G6609TFM Players Edition Broadkaster Review
New-design Full’Tron pickups turn a familiar semi-hollowbody into a potent axe that’ll wow fans of both vintage Gretsch sounds and sparkling modern tones.
After decades of largely being associated with country and rockabilly, Gretsch introduced the Center Block series in 2013 in an effort to appeal to guitarists who prefer a little more volume and gain. The series, which includes entry-level Streamliners, mid-level Electromatics, and high-end Japanese-built models, pairs Gretsch’s trademark laminated-maple semi-hollow construction with a spruce block running down the center of the body to reduce unwanted feedback.
Now, with the release of the center-block-equipped G6609TFM Players Edition Broadkaster (as well as the more compact G6659TFM Broadkaster Jr. single-cut), Gretsch seems poised to break down even more doors, thanks to the Broadkasters’ new Full’Tron pickups. The company’s first U.S.-made pickup debut in around 40 years, Full’Trons were designed specifically for Center Block instruments and feature alnico 5 and 2 magnets in the neck and bridge, respectively.
Modern Meets Vintage
As part of Gretsch’s relatively new Japanese-made Players Edition series (launched in 2016 to further telegraph cognizance of guitarists’ evolving preferences), the Broadkasters feature a host of notable upgrades. The Bigsby B7’s string-anchoring bar has holes through the center rather than those pesky little pegs—a super-convenient feature that eliminates the time-consuming pain in the keester of having to bend a J shape into the ball end of each string so it (hopefully) stays put while you wind the other end onto the tuning post. There’s also a no-load master tone with a vintage-style Squeezebox paper-in-oil capacitor (which is removed from the circuit at maximum setting), a treble-bleed master volume circuit (also with a Squeezebox cap), Gotoh locking tuners, and modern-style strap locks.
Fit, finish, and setup on our 24.6"-scale Broadkaster were exemplary in virtually every way. The bourbon stain over the “tiger-flame” maple top and back is luxuriant perfection (dark cherry is also available), as is the aged-white binding running from stem to stern. And from the Graph Tech Tusq XL nut all the way up the medium-jumbo-wired, 12"-radiused ebony fretboard, the G6609TFM proffered inviting, silky-smooth playability. Even the surprisingly easy responsiveness of the vibrato spring was noteworthy.
Broadkast in Progress
I tested the G6609TFM through a variety of amps, including a Fender ’64 Custom Deluxe Reverb, a ’76 Fender Vibro Champ, and a Jaguar HC50 running in tandem with a Goodsell Valpreaux 21—the latter being my go-to rig for a combination of lovely old-school grit and clean, brawny headroom. My immediate tonal observations? The Full’Trons are quite aptly named. But I’m also happy to report that their visual vibe and “’Tron” naming convention aren’t merely an effort to capitalize on buzzword-obsessed guitarists’ fixation on all things vintage. The essential Filter’Tron character is here in spades—there’s just more of … well, kinda everything.
Specifics? Particularly on neck and middle-position settings, there’s a sizable boost in bass presence. The Full’Trons are also hotter than many similar-style pickups. Although the net effect of the added output and bass oomph will vary from rig to rig, at times the Broadkaster’s more resonant body and hotter pickups sounded a little woofy for my taste when run at full bore. However, wailing blues and classic-rock riffers will likely be ecstatic about the neck Full’Tron’s searing fatness. Either way, the G6609TFM’s handy control scheme renders the point moot: Simply adjust either the master or the neck unit’s volume—depending on your tonal destination (more on this in a sec)—to reduce output and, therefore, bass wallop. Voila—“problem” solved!
But extra beefiness is only half the Full’Tron picture. Regardless of pickup-selector position, most players will be struck by the Broadkaster’s single-coil-like clarity and chime. In fact, with tone and volume max’d, vintage hounds might be tempted to dismiss the Full’Trons as too bright and modern sounding. A/B’d with a G6636T Players Edition Falcon—an otherwise identically spec’d instrument featuring Gretsch’s traditional High-Sensitive Filter’Trons—the Broadkaster flaunts an upper midrange sparkle and compression that’s more pronounced and in-your-face than the somewhat nasal, mid-scooped sound of HS Filter’Trons.
Super-flexible pickups and controls yield traditional Filter’Tron sounds and more modern tones with a fuller feel and lively sparkle. Impressive build and setup quality.
Limited aesthetic options. Miniscule nick on edge of 1st-string nut slot. Slight roughness on some interior kerfing cuts.
Gretsch G6609TFM Players Edition Broadkaster
Whereas the Falcon easily yields warm, gritty, classic sounds reminiscent of iconic old-school rock and country recordings, the Broadkaster can sound almost hi-fi in contrast—although the negative connotations most would associate with that term are an injustice. With no volume or tone attenuation, these new pickups are so full-range that it’s possible to, for example, get tones very much like a more resonant and open-sounding Strat.
But by no means does the Broadkaster have to sound modern or hi-fi. The key to unlocking its magic is taking the time to explore the many possible combinations of knob settings. I’ve heard players complain that Gretsch’s master volume is needless or in the way, but here it’s an absolute gem. Besides being perfectly placed for on-the-fly adjustments during glorious, infinitely sustaining fuzz excursions, the master volume (and tone control) need only be rolled back a bit (10–20 percent for the former, maybe 20–30 percent for the latter) to get tones incredibly close to those available on the HS Filter’Tron-equipped Falcon. Like most tone controls, the Broadkaster’s attenuates treble more noticeably than mids through most of its range, so you may not get the exact level of mid scoop, but you’ll get 90–95 percent there—a negligible difference, especially considering the Full’Trons’ vast array of tones you could never conjure from HS Filters. It’s this sort of flexibility that enables the bridge pickup to go from tough and/or cutting rock sounds to stellar slapback-soaked rockabilly twang and traditional-sounding surf runs with ease.
My only complaints about Gretsch’s G6609TFM Players Edition Broadkaster are fairly shallow: The lack of less-flashy wood options and more color choices is a bummer for those of us who find the flamed-maple thing too fine-furniture-y—never mind the extra cost it must add. More substantially, given the Full’Trons’ stellar flexibility, some players wishing for the best of old and new Gretsch tones might like to see a modern iteration of the company’s traditional upper-horn “mud switch”—one that would tweak the circuit to avail traditional Filter’Tron tones at a flick.
But this is nitpicking. I’ve played many fine guitars in my day, and honestly, most of the time I find myself thinking, “This is nice, but my upgraded mid-level guitars sound and play just as good—at a fraction of the price.” I’m a firm believer that, if you put a pair of nice pickups in any solidbody with decent fretwork and proper intonation, you can usually get it to sound and react as well as boutique instruments. But I think there’s a lot more to making a hollow or semi-hollow guitar really sing—it’s much more of an art and a science to get the resonance and breathy quality right. On the latter point, Gretsch has done an astounding job with the Broadkaster. It’s the first guitar I’ve played in a very long time where, the more I played it, the more I lusted.
Watch the Review Demo: