Gretsch G9110 Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

9 Dec 2018

Gretsch G9110 Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

Well here's another ukulele brand that had long been absent from the Got A Ukulele pages. About time I featured a Gretsch and this one is their G9110 Concert Ukulele.

Gretsch G9110 Ukulele

Gretsch is a big name in musical instruments and their previous absence here is not through want of trying. I have tried and tried and tried, but there has been literally no interest from them. A real shame as it's a brand I have always liked in guitar circles and one I hear favourable things about in ukulele circles too. Hey ho. This was bought by me in order to feature it.

Gretsch are a very old and revered brand in the musical instrument world. They are an American company, originating in New York with a vast heritage in guitars in particular, but also banjos and some other stringed instruments. Need I say more than names like Duane Eddy and George Harrison as players of the brand to give them their top billing? Like many brands, they expanded with most lines being made in the far east, with a smaller number of high ends still made in the USA. They are also now owned by Fender. Still, I have a soft spot for Gretsch and used to perform with one of their mandolins and still own and play a Gretsch parlour guitar.

Whilst their guitars are the main focus, ukuleles have been in their range for a few years now, falling into their 'folk and bluegrass' range. The G9110  concert model sits alongside a range of other Gretsch ukuleles, but part of a three scale range that includes a soprano and a tenor with very similar specifications. That is to say that this range is a set of very traditional looking laminate mahogany double bout instruments that exude a certain vintage look. They even call these models their 'standards' and you can see why.

Gretsch G9110 Ukulele body

As I say, it's all laminate mahogany, and finished in a rather attractive rubbed dark stain which makes the instrument look much older than it actually is.  It's a mix of rich reds and dark browns that look great I think. But otherwise, standard it really is, in both shape and looks. There is nothing else here to decorate it rather than a very simple sound hole rosette in a transfer. I like it very much for the simplicity and old timey looks though. It's a satin finish too with which I must say there are one or two finish marks in it which are annoying me. The nature of this aged stain also makes the dark patches uneven. I like that though, and it IS kind of the point, but if you like your ukulele pristine and uniform in colour this may irriate you. The top and slightly arched back are single pieces, whilst the sides are a pair and on the whole it's put together well.

The bridge is a slotted style, made of rosewood fitted with a straight topped saddle made of what appears to be bone. It's standard stuff, but that bridge mounting is FAR bigger than it needs to be, particularly on the sides.

Gretsch G9110 Ukulele bridge

Inside is reasonably tidy, with notched linings and fairly delicate bracing, though they went a bit crazy with the glue gun on the kerfing. What you do get to see though is just how thin this laminate wood is on the top. That's superb and the way GOOD laminate should be as it's going to make it very resonant. Seriously, this is as thin as some Kiwayas I have seen. Marvellous

The neck is also made of mahogany finished in the same antique style stain. It's jointed at the headstock and heel, and whilst the headstock joint is nearly invisible, the one at the heel is extremely obvious and quite ugly. The profile is typically far-eastern and too rounded on the back for my liking and that's not helped by a nut width of just under 35mm. Gretsch say it's 35mm, but my callipers say it's closer to 34mm. String spacing is about 27mm so all in all it's too narrow a neck for me, though I have seen worse.

It's topped with a rosewood fingerboard which is evenly dark and in very good condition. The end shaping above the soundhole is very reminscent of a Martin ukulele and works well with the vibe of the instrument.  It has 16 frets in total with an old style joint at the 12th. Whilst the edges are not bound the frets are dressed extremely well with not a hint of a sharp edge anywhere. Pearl dots are fitted into the rosewood at the 5th, 7th, 10th, double 12th and 15th. These are also repeated on the side.

Gretsch G9110 Ukulele fingerboard

Beyond the bone nut we have a crown headstock, but rather than looking like all the others that use this shape, this has a really classy curved edge profile to it which I am really taken with. This coupled with the interesting grain on this example, the antique staining and the classy looking Gretsch logo sets this headstock off into something terrific.

Gretsch G9110 Ukulele headstock

Tuners are unbranded open gears with small black buttons. They work ok, but you know what I am going to say... Well, actually not quite what you think I am going to say.. Yes I would like friction pegs here, but what REALLY gets me down is these exact models and the soprano counterparts DID come originally with friction pegs... and Gretsch stopped it. That irritates me immensely as the brigade that suggestthat 'all friction pegs are bad' have got through to them... Grrrrr..

Gretsch G9110 Ukulele tuners

Finishing it off are a set of Aquila strings and a 'nothing more than functional' soft branded gig bag. And these can be picked up over here for round about £130 which is a pretty attractive price.

As you can tell, apart from one or two minor niggles, I really rather like the look and build on this. It's also very light and well balanced. Set up is 50% there, with a nut action amongst the best I have seen for a 'bought blind' instrument where they tend to set them high, but the saddle is too high for my liking at a touch over 3mm at the 12th. An easy adjustment though.

Gretsch G9110 Ukulele sound hole

And that thin laminate is doing it's job because this is resonant as a drum. And of course, with that comes extremely good punch, projection and volume. In fact this is one of the loudest concerts I have played for some time. On the down side, sustain on this one is only average really and I'd like a bit more, but i'm still rather taken with the tone. Boxy and laminate it is not, with a very pleasant jangle and shimmer coming through when strummed. It's very chimey when picked too.  OK, it's not loaded up with bags of character, so it's still a touch one dimensional but certainly one of the better laminates I have heard. Really pleasant and, well, old timey.. like the looks.

Gretsch G9110 Ukulele back

So it's pretty much all positives here. A very well made ukulele with terrific looks and the sort of uber thin laminate that I always tell people to look for. A couple of minor niggles in the build, but it's really not a lot of money to fork out. And whilst that sustain lacks a little for me, this is an instrument with a pleasant tone with which you will have very little trouble being heard. Recommended!


UKULELE PROS

Great old time looks
Good overall build
Light and balanced - brilliantly thin laminate!
Lovely headstock
Jangly pleasing tone
Great volume and projection

UKULELE CONS

Some minor finishing issues
Too narrow a neck for me
A touch lacking in sustain
PLEASE put the friction pegs back on!

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8 out of 10
Sound - 8.5 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 8.8 out of 10

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3 comments :

  1. Thanks for the review, Barry. I really was tempted by this when I first saw it on Musician's Friend and some of the Internet stores here in the States. But I had no idea if it was any good. I just picked up a Famous soprano and love it. The Gretsch may need to go on the list.

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  2. Replies
    1. I have a Gretsch solid mahogany tenor G9120-SM that I love!

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