Review: Gretsch Electromatic Pristine LTD Centre Block Double-Cut with Bigsby

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Review: Gretsch Electromatic Pristine LTD Centre Block Double-Cut with Bigsby

Gretsch Electromatic Pristine
Words by Christopher Hockey

Gretsch Electromatic Pristine LTD Centre Block Double-Cut with Bigsby | Fender Music Australia | RRP $1699

Clean, elegant design and a powerful sound that has to be heard to be believed is the name of the game in the new Gretsch Electromatic Pristine series. In this Limited Edition series, Gretsch boils their identity down to two essential factors: stunning style and uncompromising sonic power. The result is perhaps the finest collection of guitars in their price bracket, with the Pristine series coming in at $1299-$1699 RRP (as of writing this), you’ll be amazed at the quality of these guitars and the lack of corner-cutting that went into their construction.

Gretsch Electromatic Pristine

The Electromatic Pristine Ltd Centre Block is a semi-hollow, double-cutaway beauty loaded with two single coil pickups and a Bigsby vibrato. Featuring a mahogany body with a chambered spruce centre block, this guitar is lightweight, has excellent feedback rejection and sounds like a dream. The genius of the centre block design is that it retains all the airy, open sound of a hollow body guitar but cuts down on unwanted feedback and provides a clearer, snappier attack. Increased sustain is also a benefit of the centre block design as compared to fully hollow instruments, something that is particularly noticeable in this guitar.

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The Pristine’s mahogany neck is a thin U-Shape that will be pleasantly familiar to Gretsch fans. Smooth, comfortable and designed for speed, the neck’s glossy finish is not a hindrance in the least. Atop the neck sits a beautiful laurel fretboard, spanning 22 frets and featuring a 12” radius. This flatter radius is preferred by Gretsch due to it being conducive to easier bending and the fact that it all but eliminates the possibility of ‘fretting out’. The Pristine’s laurel fretboard produces a warm rich tone and is capped off by Gretsch’s signature thumbnail inlays. 

This particular instrument was finished in a gorgeous two-tone metallic blue, labelled by Gretsch somewhat misleadingly as ‘Petrol’. The lovely blue finish sparkles and glitters under lights and perfectly compliment’s the guitar’s eye-catching gold hardware. With a classy white binding, natural mahogany back and sides and nice details like a matching gold ‘Plexi’ pickguard, this is a beautiful guitar only Gretsch’s vintage automotive-inspired sensibility could have produced. 

Slightly unusually for Gretsch, the Gretsch Electromatic Pristine Centre Block features a pair of P-90E single coil pickups. P90s are a fantastic pickup known for bridging the tonal gap between humbuckers and traditional ‘F-style’ single coils. With more bite, clarity and dynamics than a humbucker and more body, midrange and power than other single coils, P90s are extremely versatile pickups that excel in any musical setting. Wired for tonal transparency and a wide frequency range, Gretsch’s P-90E pickups are a great addition to the world of single coils and sound absolutely stunning in this guitar.

The Pristine Centre Block’s bridge pickup has a bright spanky tone with an airy top end that only hollow body guitars can produce. With a warm spongy midrange and a solid bottom end, when set clean this pickup sounds fantastic for everything from country pickin’ to George Harrison style lead work. A little dirt turns this position into a powerful rock and roll engine that sounds utterly ferocious without ever losing clarity or dynamics. 

In the middle position, the P90Es really come into their own. With a nice balance between woody warmth and zingy, articulate highs, the middle position is an often overlooked wealth of possibilities. Somewhat reminiscent of a T-Style guitar, this position has plenty of twang and with the tone rolled off, takes on a slightly out of phase sound that can be a really interesting tool. The middle position in this guitar is also particularly suited to funk and soul tones, adding to its tremendous versatility. 

The neck pickup sounds warm, full and clear. The lower output of P90s as compared to a humbucker ensures that even when overdriven, the signal stays relatively uncompressed, allowing picking dynamics to have their intended effect. In this position, a very generous amount of bottom end is present without ever sounding flabby or uncontrolled, and enough of that classic Gretsch shimmer remains to still cut through a mix.

Along with the very handy independent and master volume controls, the tone control on the Gretsch Electromatic Pristine Centre Block is far more effective and useful than on many guitars in this price range. Featuring a pleasantly linear treble roll-off, the tone control on this instrument provides a very usable and wide tonal spectrum in all three positions. Many guitarists will relate to the frustration of the binary ‘zero to ten’ nature of a lot of tone controls, but Gretsch have taken the time to ensure that their guitars do not suffer from that weakness.

Gretsch Electromatic Pristine controls

Other brilliant little details in this series include built in strap locks, an addition that makes one wonder why all guitars don’t feature the same thing, off-white inserts on the otherwise gold P90s that really make them visually pop, groovy ‘G-Arrow’ logos on the control knobs and a matching coloured headstock equipped with gold retro-style die-cast tuning pegs and a mother of pearl Gretsch logo. Finally, no hollow body Gretsch would be complete without a Bigsby vibrato arm, the key to making all your rockabilly dreams come true. 

At the end of the day, nobody nails the airy, open tone of a hollow or semi-hollow body guitar like Gretsch do. They’ve been making them for over seventy years and they are masters of their craft. The dynamic, open tone of single coil pickups really accentuate the inherent tonal gifts of the centre block design of this guitar and are a welcome addition to this new series. Overall, it’s an excellent example of the sound, look and feel that have kept this brand relevant for as long as we can remember. 

The fact that that great Gretsch sound can belong to you for such a reasonable price is a testament to Gretsch’s commitment to quality at every price point in their catalogue. The attention to detail, both sonic and visual, in the Pristine series is quite a thing to behold and remember, it’s a limited run. Go try one today and take in the stunning design and rich, powerful sound for yourself, before it’s too late!

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