This past Saturday, I left my house to buy a new suit for work. The two hours after that are a blur. I arrived back home without a suit, but with a new Gretsch Electromatic G5440 LSB
More expensive than a suit, but I'll wearing this bass more than a suit (work is mostly casual these days anyway).
So for context, I am a 100% Fender P-Bass guy. I've tried different types of basses numerous times just to try and have something different in my arsenal, and it has never worked out for me (Fender Jazz, Stingray, etc.). I have a standard MIA P-Bass with flats, another MIA P-Bass I converted into a PJ with rounds, a fretless P-Bass and a Squier P (also converted to a PJ).
I've always been on the search for a hollowbody though. Mostly for the aesthetics I must admit, but once I joined a bluesy / jazzy / lounge band, my interest ramped up (even though my P-Basses are perfect for that too ... just different).
I did own a Gretsch G6073 Electrotone a couple of years ago. Was $2,300 brand new, and I bought it used for $1,500. I had to drive a bit far to pick it up. It was one of those situations where I didn't really love it when I played it. I also thought the fake f-holes were a bit cheesy for such an expensive bass. However, after driving the distance and having the money ready to spend, I figured I'd take it home and learn to love it. The only thing I learned was that you don't "learn to love" anything. LOL
No offense intended to other G6073 owners. For me however, with the short scale and pencil thin neck, it was as different from a P-Bass as you can imagine and was not the tone I wanted from a hollowbody. The tone wasn't the nice deep thud I was expecting (yes, I had flats on it). It was totally anemic and lacking in character. I took it to a local store and ended up trading it in for ... you guessed it ... a P-Bass!
Regardless of that experience, I was still interested in hollow body basses. I was aware of other Gretsch models but never paid attention to the specs and assumed they were all short scale with skinny necks. Always admired the stunning looks though and I never gave up on the idea of owning another Gretsch - but only at the right price and if I could try it out first.
I also tried the Jack Cassady, Gibson Midtown, German made Hofner 500/1 '63 reissue, Ibanez Artcore ... all great basses but none of them excited me enough to reach for the wallet.
Anyway ... it was only last week that I realized that Gretsch has a long scale model with a beefy neck (1.6875" nut width). If going by pictures only, it can easily be confused with the short-scale 5123B model - different fret inlays though (Edit: 5123 is actually medium scale, 5442 is short scale. Thanks AlexanderB and Donn).
Just my luck that a store 30 minutes away had a 5440 in stock.
Knowing that nothing could replace a P-Bass as my main bass, I fought as hard as I could for three whole days trying to convince myself I did not need a hollowbody and should just save the money (I do have to justify my gear purchases somewhat with a wife and kids). On day four, I collapsed and once I got behind the wheel, my car seemed to find it's own way to the guitar shop. I was powerless! Of course the bass was right there inside the door practically jumping out at me when I walked in.
So, the bass ... DEFINITELY a beefy neck. I love it. I do not have big hands, but I have always preferred a P neck to a J neck. The neck width on the G5440 is wider than a P neck, and it's very noticeable when playing, but I like it. I find it comfortable.
Tone wise ...BINGO. 100% of the woody tone I'd expect. I have DR Legends flatwounds on the bass and mainly use the neck pickup only. Very deep, but defined. It sat in the mix perfectly in band practice last night. Even the anal-rententive tone God lead guitarist only had compliments for the sound. Also sounds great with both pickups on full, but it is not as woody ... is closer to a semi-hollow sound to my ears. That may change once the strings are worked in a bit though.
The build quality is excellent. I had issues with the "Professional" line G6073 I had. I could never get it setup to my liking. I always has to keep the action a little higher than I would have liked to avoid fret buzz (frets were level). In comparison, the Korean made G5440 is flawless with action as low as my P-Bass (6/64" at the 17th fret, .012" relief), perfect fret work, finish is flawless.
To me, the $900 G5440 is a much better bass straight up than the $2300 G6073 I owned. In my hands anyway! A great bass period ... the price tag is simply an incredible bonus.
So in summary ...
- Would not be my #1 go-to everything bass. My P-Basses are forever #1. However, I can justify spending $900 for a great bass that will get a good deal of use.
- The Gretsch G5440 LSB is the PERFECT hollowbody for me. It's an easy playing adjustment switching back and forth with a P-Bass (due to scale and nut width), and delivers that woody tone you can only get from a true hollowbody. The perfect compliment to a P-Bass in my opinion.
- Neck dive? Oh yeah, like the worst. Not an issue for me though. Part of my forearm is always on the body and my fretting hand is holding the neck. No problem.
- No issues here about Korean quality. None whatsoever!