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This article was originally published in issue #23
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Although not usually associated with the pop-punk and emo scene, veteran US guitar brand Gretsch has teamed up with Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy fame to produce a signature model that is a definite aesthetic departure for the iconic company! The model has been updated for late 2013 to coincide with the re-launch of the band. Based on the 1961 ‘G5135 CVT’ Corvette model, the company’s first true solid-body instrument, the succinctly titled ‘G5135CVT-PS Patrick Stump Signature Series "STUMP-O-MATIC" Electromatic CVT’ (oh, come on - Ed!) takes the original CVT body design and updates it with a series of new appointments, including string-through construction, a trio of pickups and a modern paint job.
Unlike the original ’61 model which sported a mahogany neck and body, the ‘Stump’ version features a mahogany body and maple neck whilst retaining the rosewood fretboard and gloss urethane finish. The CVT Bigsby bridge is gone, replaced with string-through construction, but keeps the anchored ‘Adjusto-Matic’ bridge for added sustain and tonal warmth. Expanding upon the original in terms of electronics, the CVT-PS has three Mega’Tron pickups with the ability to switch the middle humbucker in or out of the circuit and a blend switch to dial in as much of that pickup as required into the signal path. Also included is a kill switch for modern rhythmic effects, a standard volume control and 3-way pickup selector switch. 3-per side vintage style tuners and a synthetic bone nut complete the design that looks as modern now as it probably did upon its original release.
As you'd expected from Gretsch, the build quality is flawless, as is the finishing, resulting in a guitar that oozes quality, even though it doesn’t hail from the USA. In fact, it's made in China, but don't let that put you off for an instant. All of the chosen components feel professional and solid and the workmanship is top notch with great fret finishing and paintwork. Whilst the neck joint may look a little fragile on first inspection, this is a tried and tested design and is surprisingly solid in practice.
This is certainly an attractive guitar and the bright white finish looks fantastic adorned with its three silver stripes and choice of chrome hardware, lending a distinctly retro feel to the otherwise modern looking design. Unlike many other more eccentric guitar designs, the CVT shape seems to defy genre pigeon holing and could easily work in a variety of musical contexts from a visual perspective, an impressive feat given that this is also a signature model. The functional yet unique pickguard shape enhances this further and works well with the rolled and contoured edges of the body where the unique details even extend to the original 5135 CVT locking strap buttons.
This unique body shape results in a very comfortable playing experience, thanks to those contoured edges and amazingly useful, almost 90 degree cutaways. As a result, upper fret access is completely unhindered and the smaller neck profile and 24.6” scale length give a fantastically comfortable set-up across the entire range of the guitar. The painted neck finish may not be to everyone's taste but it certainly didn’t cause any significant issues in our review. Played acoustically, sustain is good thanks to the mahogany body with string through construction and the tone seems to be even across the fretboard with decent intonation for a Chinese made instrument at this price point. No tuning issues were discovered at all and despite being a solid piece of mahogany the CVT isn’t overly heavy and retains a good balance, whether stood up or sat down.
Plugged into our studio amp, the Gretsch revealed a very detailed and almost P90-esque flavour from the trio of Mega’Tron pickups. The Mega’Tron is essentially a hotter version of the classic Filter’Tron pickup and that extra bite results in a very versatile range of tones from all out power chord distortion with a tight bottom end and detailed top, to classy clean tones from the neck pickup with a smooth and glassy feel.
Introducing the third pickup into the equation is where things get very interesting though and is what sets this guitar apart from the other CVTs out there. With the middle pickup out of the circuit you get options of Bridge only, Bridge and Neck and Neck only using the three way switch. Engage the rotary switch to enable the Middle pickup and you can now use the blend control to add in as much of that Middle pickup as you like, resulting in a huge range of tonal options that can be altered exactly to your taste. By blending in the Middle pickup in each position you essentially tame any of the more extreme characteristics of that position, taming the highs of the bridge pickup or the lows of the neck. It’s a superb addition and really adds to the versatility of this signature CVT model.
Gretsch certainly has a great guitar on its hands here. The 5135-CVT was already a superb, if often overlooked, addition to the solid body market but the addition of that third pickup combined with great workmanship and build quality result in a guitar that should grab the attention of many more players than just the Fall Out Boy fans. Well worth checking out.