Review: Gretsch Deltoluxe Parlor

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Review: Gretsch Deltoluxe Parlor

Gretsch Deltoluxe Parlor
Words by Christopher Hockey

Gretsch Jim Dandy Deltoluxe Parlor | Fender Music Australia | RRP $479.00

Gretsch’s popular Jim Dandy series is back and packed with more vintage Americana charm than ever. Inspired by Gretch’s mail-order line of ‘Rex’ student models from the 30s-50s, the Jim Dandy series features plenty of quirky old word charisma and fantastic tone at an incredibly affordable price. Front and centre in this year’s enticing new lineup is a new twist on old favourite, the Deltoluxe Parlor guitar. 

Gretsch Deltoluxe Parlor

An excellent example of what the Jim Dandy line stands for, the new Deltoluxe Parlor is an exceptionally stylish, functional and affordable instrument that when used for its intended purposes, is virtually beyond reproach. Despite its compact size, the Deltoluxe is a powerful tool, featuring all the traditional benefits of a Parlor guitar as well as the added bonus of an expertly designed magnetic soundhole pickup. 

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Parlor guitars have had somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Popular with early Bluesmen for their suitability to fingerstyle, they have a distinctly crisp, midrange-focused sound that allows single notes to ring out and sustain with clarity. Lacking the bass repose and volume of larger acoustics like Dreadnoughts however, Parlor guitar eventually went out of fashion as ensembles grew and guitarists’ need for volume increased. But, with the progression of amplification, Parlor guitars have remergered, coinciding with a priority shift away from sheer volume back to optimal tonal quality. 

Jim Dandy

The new Deltoluxe is a shining example of that classic tone and, just as importantly, it’s absolutely beautiful to look at. Gretsch are renowned for their aesthetic sensibility, and the high value they place on style is evident even in their most affordable models. Featuring a sleek black top-finish, dark natural wood back and sides, a white and gold rosette and a tortoise shell pickguard, the Deltoluxe has all the retro appeal you’d expect from a Gretsch. Mirroring the tortoise shell pickguard, the Deltoluxe also features a matching binding and even a splash of tortoise shell on the soundhole pickup itself, tying the design together nicely. 

Capped off with a matching black headstock and traditional, white open-gear tuning pegs, the aesthetic of this instrument is fully realised and timelessly stylish. The Nato neck, finished in a smooth semi-gloss, is a comfortable C shape and is paired with a lovely walnut fingerboard, 

perfectly complimenting the dark hues of the instrument’s body. Throw some simple but elegant white pearloid dot inlays into the mix and you’ve got a first class lesson in old-school cool. 

Apart from its very small body, one of the most notable features of the Deltoluxe, and Parlor guitars at large, is its short scale length. The Deltoluxe is an 18 fret instrument (12 to body) and has a scale length of 24”, perfect for smaller hands and open chord-oriented playing. Whilst certainly very well suited to beginners and children due to the smaller size, shorter scale lengths offer a myriad of other benefits for new players and veterans alike.

Amongst these benefits are reduced string tension (allowing for easier bending), a more focused tone and the obvious advantage of portability. Basically, Parlor guitars are just really fun to play. The small body and short neck not only give them their unique sound but naturally lend themselves to a different style of playing than one would associate with a Dreadnought, making them a great tool for when you’re sick of mindless strumming and want to change it up. 

The Deltoluxe is an exciting and inspiring guitar to explore. Its generous midrange throw, tinny but pleasant top end and subtle bass response make it perfect for fingerpicking, with or without a thumbpick. Its short scale length and zingy timbre also makes it a really fun guitar for slide work, instantly tapping into that classic early blues sound. Whilst not particularly loud acoustically, the Deltoluxe combats this shortcoming of Parlor guitars with a specially designed pickup. 

Based on the vintage DeArmond ‘Rhythm Chief’ design, the pickup in the Deltoluxe takes the guitar to a whole new level. Expanding upon its bottom end and accentuating its warm bluesy tonality, plugged in is the state in which the Deltoluxe truly shines. Surprisingly for an acoustic, it also works exceptionally well with effects, sounding particularly at home with a bit of distortion. Adding a little drive and reverb to your signal for slide playing takes you straight to blues heaven, and there’s plenty of room for experimentation. A lot of acoustic guitars sound incredibly muffled and artificial when plugged in, so it’s a real joy to play a guitar that retains its natural woody tone and shimmering highs when amplified. 

Most importantly, for a guitar with an incredibly modest price-tag, the Deltoluxe feels anything but cheap. The steel-reinforced neck is smooth, comfortable and straight, the fretwork is impeccable and the Sapele body is well constructed with X-Bracing. Whilst it’s certainly not the ‘biggest’ sounding guitar in the world, that can be a huge advantage in a dense mix, making the Deltoluxe a great tool for the studio. 

In a busy mix, a smaller, contained acoustic guitar sound is often more appropriate than the expansive, overwhelming range of a larger instrument. The narrower frequency range allows it to sit in a more specific pocket of the mix rather than taking it over entirely, and for that purpose the Deltoluxe really shines. In saying that, this guitar has ample volume for the price tag and many conceivable uses. For that, we can thank Gretsch’s thoughtful choice of materials, and their attention to detail when it comes to the build quality of even their most affordable instruments. 

So if you’ve never tried a Parlor guitar or have been thinking about buying one, now is the time. Whether as an affordable, comfortable guitar for a budding songwriter, a conveniently compact travel companion for a road-dog, or a bluesy lo-fi weapon in a studio’s repertoire, the Gretsch Jim Dandy Deltoluxe Parlor guitar sounds great, oozes cool and gets the job done in style. 

For more info, visit Gretsch Guitars.