The Gretsch White Falcon has, since its first introduction, been one of the most strikingly good looking guitars on the market.
While its unique white and gold finish may have wavered in and out of style to some, those in the know have long treasured the White Falcon for its incredible quality, and hugely dynamic tonal range. From Neil Young to Malcolm Young, this has been the signature guitar of some of music’s biggest names, and truly transcends genre.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we were fortunate enough to get hands on with this incredibly special guitar. Read on to see what we thought.
Who is This For?
The White Falcon is one of Gretsch’s premier models. Unlike their entry-level guitars, it is made in Japan and built to the most exacting standards. With that in mind, it is really aimed towards advanced and professional-level guitarists, although the playability is such that it is still a user-friendly guitar for intermediate players – as long as money is no object.
Appearance / Features / Controls
While this model also comes in Midnight Sapphire (black), for us, white is the best color for the White Falcon. Fortunately, our test model had the white finish. On unboxing, we found it to be one of the single best-looking guitars we’ve ever had the privilege of reviewing. The signature pickguard with falcon imagery looked incredible, and the white bodywork was topped off with a beautiful gloss clear coat that really complimented the shimmer of the gold accents.
As briefly mentioned above, the hardware on this model is all gold, and while many players steer clear of this type of styling, we would urge you to reconsider preconceived notions when it comes to the White Falcon, because it looks fantastic.
It had a string-through Bigsby trem system, which is a big improvement on the traditional style. String changes are much easier with the string through, and we’re glad they went in this direction for the Player’s Edition.
The bridge was a Nashville Tune-O-Matic style, which made the setup really straight forward – always a plus, especially on vintage style guitars.
As for electronics, it had a pair of Gretsch 67 Filtertron Humbuckers. They not only looked good, but they also offered a fantastically dynamic range of tones. It featured Gretsch’s “no load” tone pots, too. They can be bypassed for additional signal strength and clarity – This was a feature that we absolutely loved.
Performance / Sound
This is a full hollow body model, so as expected, it was exceptionally lightweight, despite being constructed with laminated maple (which is typically one of the heavier woods). The neck was also maple, and came with a vintage U shape profile that we found really fit the guitar well – it had enough thickness to feel substantial in the hand, but wasn’t so chunky that it ever felt uncomfortable.
It had a stunning ebony fretboard, which felt about as good as a fretboard can. It was tactile, while remaining hard enough to withstand years of use. The fretboard edges were rolled, too, which gave it a “played in” feel right out of the box. Another unique feature on the fretboard was the inclusion of photoluminescent fret markers. This made it really easy to see where we were playing in darker conditions, and it’s a feature that working musicians will no doubt love.
We found it to be resonant and loud when played unplugged. It wasn’t quite dreadnought loud, of course, but it still played well acoustically, adding further usefulness to this guitar.
Once we amplified it, the fun really began. We started with some clean tones, and we were really impressed with the bright, jangly tones from the bridge position, and the soft, warm, jazz tones from the neck. The cleans were all classic Gretsch, so fans of the brand will not be disappointed.
With the gain up, and the amp setting on our Boss Katana in the Crunch position, the guitar gained a meaty rock edge. It really excelled with high gain, overdriven tones, and was an absolute weapon when it came to AC/DC style hard rock. While it doesn’t quite have the metal image, we were also incredibly surprised to see how well it handled heavy distortion without excessive feedback, too.
Other Guitars to Consider
The Gretsch White Falcon is a category defining guitar when it comes to hollow bodies, but the styling isn’t to everybody’s taste, and of course the price tag is well out of reach to many. With those points in mind, check out these excellent alternatives:
The Epiphone USA Casino is the flagship model from this historic brand. It’s the same as the famous “Beatles Guitar”, and offers incredible tone from its dual P90 pickups, and exceptional US made build quality, with the finest woods and hardware going into its construction. It’s a genuine peer of the Falcon, and offers an alternative approach to the high end, pro level hollow body for those looking for different tones, or different styling than the Gretsch.
If you dig the Falcon look, but the price is out of reach, the Gretsch G5422TG Electromatic is a real viable alternative. With its hollow maple body, Bigsby trem, and Filtertron pickups, it offers a similar sound profile to the Falcon at a fraction of the price, and the white finish and gold hardware complete the look. It might not be made in Japan, but the construction quality is still superb, so working musicians on a budget should give it strong consideration.
The Gretsch White Falcon is an absolute icon in the world of guitars. It has provided the soundtrack to countless hits, and will no doubt be involved in many more. It’s a true pro grade guitar for the most discerning player, and while the price tag might be high, it could really be considered an investment piece. When they are in stock, they tend to sell out fast, so getting your hands on one might prove tricky.
The gorgeous looks would be nothing without its effortless playability and dynamic tonal range, both of which this guitar has in spades. If you’re looking for a high end hollow body, and these sound like features you’re interested in, then this classic should be a no brainer.