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Last Updated on January 19, 2024 by Justin Thomas

Author: Santiago Motto

Aka. Sandel. Telecasters and all-mahogany Martins lover.

Besides that, Sandel is a professional writer, guitar player, confessed guitar nerd, and all-things-guitar consumer. He has been playing for 25 years which makes him a nineties kid with serious low-tuning youngster years, and a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music.

Whenever Santiago is not pouring all that experience and love for the instrument into articles, you can find him playing live shows supporting his music and poetry books as “Sandel”. If he’s not doing either of those, you can also find him gigging with his band, “San Juan”, writing, reading, or enjoying the Sun.

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Editor: Edward Bond

Edward has been playing the guitar since 2002. So Edward has over 20 years of experience as a guitarist, has authored 15 guitar books, has written for renowned music blogs, and spent a decade teaching music. He began merging his passion for writing and music in 2020 and has written for big guitar websites such as Guitar Head Publishing and KillerGuitarRigs.com.

Originally from Seattle, Edward moved to Norway in 2021 for a master’s in music. He’s studied at the Jazz Institute Berlin and Conservatorium van Amsterdam, and currently resides in Trondheim. His education includes a European Jazz Master’s, a diploma in Film and Game Scoring from Sofia, and a Bachelor’s in Jazz from University of Oregon.

Edward has played in numerous bands and currently, Edward works on his own project Starship Infinity


Gretsch guitars are more than just fine instruments; they make an iconic visual and sonic statement. These big-bodied, fully or semi-hollow guitars have seen all kinds of stages, from country to heavy metal.

However, when you review their catalog, you often see a significant disparity between price and features. The question pops up in your head: Where are the various Gretsch guitars made?

Gretsch guitars are made in the USA, Japan, Korea, China, and Indonesia. This difference in origin also significantly affects build quality, materials, price, features, and accessories.

That was the short answer. Are you ready to investigate the topic? We’ll dissect together what these differences mean. By the end of the article, you’ll know precisely what Gretsch guitar is right for you and pretty much everything about the different Gretsch factories.

Let’s do this!


Gretsch Manufacturing Locations

Most of the world’s largest and most reputable guitar brands partially moved production to Asia between the ’60s and the ’90s and Gretsch is no different. Gretsch builds many of the instruments in Japan, China, Korea, and Indonesia.

Moreover, the two biggest companies, Fender and Gibson, created new subsidiary brands for their overseas products: Squier and Epiphone. Gretsch has not followed suit.

But Japanese build quality and commitment to excellence proved too much for cheap copies aimed at students and beginners. Therefore, when the Gretsch family, one of the oldest guitar making families in America, repurchased the company from Baldwin, they resumed guitar construction in Japan in 1989.

That was the moment in Gretsch’s history when the company set the benchmark for all Asian production.

Furthermore, by 2002, the company announced a strategic partnership with Fender. By 2004, the Gretsch USA Custom Shop had become a reality, shaping dreams into guitars from Fender’s Corona, California facilities.

But how are these guitar lines manufactured? Which is the one for you?

Gretsch or Gibson? – Duo Jet vs Les Paul!

Where Are Gretsch Professional Series Made?

Gretsch Professional Series guitars are made in Japan.

I remember very clearly opening my first Professional Series Gretsch case. They are jet black on the outside with a blue or red velvet interior. The guitar’s flamed maple top, sparkle color, gold hardware, and beautiful ornamentation hit you immediately.

The Professional Series is Gretsch’s flagship line of instruments. Unveiling a Professional Series Gretsch guitar is a similar feeling to opening an expensive Gibson case. Why do I mention Gibson here? Because of price, quality, and features, Gretsch’s Japanese-made Professional Series is nearly equivalent to buying a USA-made Gibson or Fender.

If you are after the legendary “Gretsch sound,” this is the place to look for it. 

The Professional Series is divided into four sections:

  • Vintage Select: Era-correct appointments and colors on timeless classics. This series represents the finest of Gretsch’s legacy. You can compare it to Fender’s American Vintage series or Gibson’s Original Collection.
  • Player’s Edition: Gretsch is not only a legendary company, it’s also an innovator trying to make usable guitars for the modern working musician. These aren’t era-correct reproductions but modern takes on classics. This is the proper collection for those looking for reliability and traditional sounds. It can be compared with Fender’s Ultra Series and Gibson’s Modern Collection.
  • Artist Signature: Artists have been using (and abusing) Gretsch Guitars for decades. Some were lucky enough to have their modified instruments made by Gretsch as part of the Artist Signature series. If you love the modified Malcolm Young Jet or Billy Duffy’s rock-ready Falcon, this is the place to find those. Both Fender and Gibson offer similar Artist Signature Series, too.
  • Limited Edition: Have you ever thought of a Paisley Penguin? When Gretsch guitar makers want to get a little crazy and rethink classic models, they do it for the Limited Edition series. You can find small-batch guitars with different colors, appointments, and features. Gibson and Fender offer the same idea in their Limited Edition series.

Do you want a quick list of my favorites? Check these ones out:

  • Vintage Select: Gretsch G6136-55GE Vintage Select 1955 White Falcon.
  • Player’s Edition: Gretsch G6228TG-PE Players Edition Jet.
  • Artist Signature: Gretsch G6120TFM-BSNV Brian Setzer Signature.
  • Limited Edition: Gretsch G6134TG Limited-edition Paisley Penguin.

Gretsch Pro vs Gretsch Electromatic Guitars

Where Are Gretsch Electromatic Series Made?

The country of manufacture of the Gretsch Electromatic Series changes depending on the build. Hollow and semi-hollow Electromatic guitars with a center block are built in Korea. All solid body Electromatic guitars are made in China.

There’s a Gretsch guitar for every stage of your playing. Just as the Professional Series is aimed at the professional gigging musician, the Electromatic series is aimed at enthusiasts, hobbyists, and amateur players. That said, you can find them on any stage around the globe.

If you ask me, I would say that if you want another color for your arsenal, these guitars do the Gretsch tone just right.

Gretsch Electromatic guitars are mid-priced electrics that can easily compete against Epiphone or Mexican-made Fenders. Although Korea’s reputation as a guitar maker is above China’s, the Electromatic series maintains a high standard.

My favorites? Of course!

  • Hollow-body Electromatic: Gretsch G5191 Tim Armstrong Signature.
  • Semi-hollow body Electromatic: Gretsch G5622T Electromatic.
  • Solid Electromatic: Gretsch G5210T-P90 Electromatic Jet.

Where Are Gretsch Streamliner Series Made?

The Gretsch Guitars Streamliner series is aimed at those curious about the brand or beginners and they are made in Indonesia. They cost about half of what you’d pay for an Electromatic.

What does it mean in terms of quality that they are made in Indonesia? There’s a big difference between Streamliners and Electromatics in terms of woods, hardware, and accessories.

For example, the original B60 Bigsby of an Electromatic turns into a licensed copy in the Streamliner. Likewise, the authentic Filter’Tron pickups found on Electromatic guitars are copies named “Broad’Tron.” Finally, the maple neck of the Electromatics is replaced by a cheaper nato one.

These differences, plus the short guitar-making tradition of the factory employees, combine to lower manufacturing costs. Thus, the Streamliners are a great entry point to get to know the brand.

They don’t sound as defined or twangy as the Professional or Electromatic Gretsch guitars, but they are a good substitute for a low budget.

My favorites? You bet!

  • Hollow-body Streamliner: Gretsch G2410TG Streamliner.
  • Semi-hollow Streamliner: Gretsch Limited Edition G2604T Streamliner Rally 2.
  • Solid Streamliner: Gretsch G2215-P90 Streamliner Junior Jet Club.

Gretsch Streamliner Guitars – So Good That Rob Bought One!

Where Are Gretsch Custom Shop Series Made?

The Gretsch Guitars Custom Shop Series is built at their Corona, California facility and represents the best of the best of Gretsch; it is the place where Gretsch dreams are made into guitars. The Custom Shop manufactures one-off runs of specific instruments.

Heavily influenced by their partnership with Fender and in Fender facilities, the Gretsch Custom Shop first debuted at the NAMM show in 2004.

Although Custom Shop prices are expensive, you can’t buy a higher-quality guitar from the brand. In other words, the Gretsch Custom Shop represents the best of the best of Gretsch’s quality and heritage.

Also, except for the vintage originals, these are the most expensive Gretsch Guitars today.

Gretsch Guitars Custom Shop Tour

Where Are Gretsch Acoustic Guitars Made?

All Gretsch acoustic guitars are manufactured in Indonesia to very high-quality specs. 

Gretsch acoustic-electric guitars carry the brand’s uncanny sound and approach to the acoustic territory.

That’s just a way of saying it because a guitar like the Gretsch G5034TFT Rancher is a one-of-a-kind dreadnought acoustic with a neck humbucker and a whammy bar. You’ve read that right; this guitar features a factory gold Bigsby tremolo and a Fideli’Tron humbucker.

Besides that, the company also offers 6 and 12-string Rancher Falcon acoustics with jumbo bodies (G5022CWFE) and a series of affordable parlor guitars (like the G9520E Gin Rickey).


Asian Vs. American Gretschs: Does Manufacturing Location Matter?

The answer to this question is yes, manufacturing location matters.

The reasons behind this answer are: 

  • Tenure. 
  • Materials.  
  • Facilities.

Gretsch’s USA facilities represent only the best and most expensive of the Gretsch line. That said, we can divide Asian production into three different lines:

  • Japanese Gretsch Guitars.
  • Korean and Chinese Gretsch Guitars.
  • Indonesian Gretsch Guitars.

Japanese Gretsch Guitars

Many people consider Japanese guitar production to be at the same level as the USA. Moreover, according to Dan Smith, the first batch of vintage-style Fenders produced in Japan in 1982 left Fender’s USA craftsmen astonished due to their quality. 

Gretsch established their factory in Japan in 1989, over three decades ago. Therefore, the employees and facilities making the Professional Series have the tenure to transform legacy into outstanding instruments.

I’ve opened many Gretsch boxes in my life when I worked at a Fender dealer. I think they are equivalent to Gibson USA or Fender USA instruments in nearly every way.

Korean and Chinese Gretsch Guitars

On the other hand, the Electromatic Series is made at the less experienced and more affordable Korean and Chinese facilities. These guitars don’t feature the original precious tonewoods like rosewood, ebony, or mahogany, or the accessories and appointments that you see on the more expensive Japanese models.

Indonesian Gretsch Guitars

Finally, the Streamliner and acoustic series are made in Indonesia, a country with a growing reputation as guitar makers. Other giant guitar brands also build affordable models there like Fender, Schecter, Cort, Ibanez, Samick, and PRS.


Who Should Choose Gretsch Guitars?

Let me give you a little background on the history of Gretsch so you can understand better who these guitars are for.

The brand started with a German immigrant named Friedrich Gretsch in 1883. He started making drums, banjos, and tambourines in New York. By 1916, the brand was one of the biggest musical instrument manufacturers in the US.

Around that time, the company began making guitars. They even outdid a young Leo Fender, securing the image of the day’s most significant players, such as Chet Atkins, Duane Eddy, and Eddie Cochran.

After being sold and repurchased by the Gretsch family, the company continues making legendary instruments with a distinct sound and attitude.

What is the Gretsch Sound?

From the Gretsch Guitars resonator to the biggest hollow body to George Harrison’s Jet, Gretsch has always had a distinctive sound. This sound is resonant and spanky and simultaneously big and round. It formed the foundation of many styles like rockabilly, early rock and roll, country music, and jazz.

Gretsch guitars are usually found in the hands of players looking for a big sound with a tight bottom end and sparkling highs. They’re great for lead playing but also handle chords, arpeggios, and effects. In short, they are generally excellent all-around instruments.

Shaking Walls with That Great Gretsch Sound

Some notable Gretsch players are:

  • Malcolm Young of AC/DC.
  • Jack White.
  • John Frusciante.
  • Rich Robinson.
  • Brian Setzer.
  • Richard Fortus.
  • Billy Duffy of The Cult
  • Bo Diddley.
  • Stephen Stills.
  • Reverend Horton.
  • Tim Armstrong of Rancid.
  • George Harrison.
  • Duane Eddy.

Conclusion

The answer to “where are Gretsch guitars made?” is simple. They have diversified their manufacturing locations just like many of the world’s largest guitar brands. 

The company manufactures its top-notch Custom Shop in the USA, its Professional Series in Japan, the Electromatic Series in Korea (hollow and semi-hollow) and China (solid-body). Their entry-level Streamliner series and acoustic guitars are made entirely in Indonesia.

Although the difference in quality, craftsmanship, and materials is noticeable, the “Gretsch sound” can be found in every model.

So, comb your hair, shine your shoes, wear them suspenders, and go try the one that best suits your budget. You’ll surely find a Gretsch guitar that comes close to your dreams.


FAQs

Are Gretsch Guitars Good?

Japanese Gretsch guitars are on par with Gibson or Fender USA-made instruments. Likewise, Gretsch’s USA Custom Shop makes some of the finest instruments in the world. Gretsch guitars are not only pleasing but also unique-sounding instruments.

How Much Do Gretsch Guitars Cost?

Gretsch Streamliner line can be found starting at around $350. On the other side of the spectrum, Gretsch Custom Shop instruments can go for $10,000 or more.

Which Gretsch guitars are made in the US?

USA-made Gretsch guitars are only Custom Shop instruments.

What famous guitarists play Gretsch?

  • George Harrison
  • Brian Setzer
  • Malcolm Young of AC-DC
  • Chet Atkins
  • Jack White

Which Gretsch is not made in China?

The only Chinese-made Gretsch guitars are solid-body Electromatics. All the rest of the catalog comes from a different factory.

Where is the Gretsch Electromatic G5420T made? 

The Gretsch Electromatic G5420T is made in Korea. Read our in-depth review!

Where are Gretsch White Falcon guitars made?

Gretsch Guitars White Falcon guitars are made in Japan, except for the Custom Shop models made in the USA.

Santiago Motto

Aka. Sandel. Pure Telecasters and all-mahogany Martins lover. Besides that, Sandel is a professional writer, guitar player, confessed guitar nerd, and all-things-guitar consumer. He has been playing for 25 years which makes him a nineties kid with serious low-tuning youngster years, and a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. You can connect with Santiago on LinkedIn or just email him.
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Juks

I don’t think there is any production left in Korea. Even G5420 is made in China now. Has been awhile.

Santiago

Hey Juks! Thanks for pointing that out. There’s no official communication from Gretsch saying they moved production to China. Nevertheless, China’s guitar manufacturing is at its all-time best, in my opinion. I mean, after what happened with the Epiphone Greeny, Epiphone is ready to make guitars at Fender Mexcio level from Chinese facilities.
So, do Chinese-made Electromatics mean Gretsch is testing the waters to make a move and manufacture everything in China? We’ll see what comes out of that.
Thanks for the comment and happy playing!

Last edited 3 months ago by Santiago Motto
George

Electromatic Hollow bodies are now all Chinese. Sadly.