Gretsch has been making guitars since the days when parlor styles were first popular in American music, so it’s only natural that they still have a hand in the market. The company’s G9500 Jim Dandy model is a popular parlor-sized guitar for beginning players. Keep reading this Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy acoustic guitar review to learn more about this guitar.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Parlor Guitar
Parlor-sized guitars are small and have shorter scale lengths than most acoustic guitars. These guitars were popular for performing in homes and small venues in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to them being named for the parlor rooms in which they were often played.
Today, they’re still popular among musicians who want an acoustic guitar that is more comfortable to play than a larger dreadnought style. Parlor style guitars are also great for traveling musicians, since their smaller size makes them far more convenient to carry on the road.
Parlor style guitars are great fits for acoustic blues, country and some jazz styles. Their smaller size gives them a vintage tone that is distinctly geared toward the midrange. If you’re looking for a more modern tone with richer lows, a full-size guitar will probably be a better fit for you.
Different woods have different tonal qualities, and the choice of wood impacts how the guitar resonates. This is especially true of the guitar’s top, which produces most of the tone. If you wanted a tone that was punchy in the midrange with rich lows, for example, a guitar with a mahogany top would be a good choice for you. For a responsive, well-balanced tone, sitka spruce stands out as a good choice.
Many parlor style guitars these days are acoustic electric models that feature piezoelectric pickups. These guitars can plug directly into amplifiers, making them more versatile for live performances. Plenty of parlor styles, though, are purely acoustic. If you don’t plan on playing live shows or recording with your parlor style guitar, you may not need to amplify it.
Introducing the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy
The Gretsch Jim Dandy acoustic guitar is an affordable model meant for the guitarist on a budget. This parlor style guitar is a no-frills instrument that promises to deliver the tone of classic small format guitars at a very low price. While it isn’t really comparable to a high-end parlor style like the Cordoba C10, the Jim Dandy stands up fairly well on its merits as an inexpensive guitar.
- Sounds like a vintage parlor style guitar
- Sunburst finish adds a classic look to the guitar
- Very low price point makes it accessible to almost everyone
- Agathis body isn’t as tonally rich as higher end woods
- 18-fret fingerboard limits upper registers somewhat
- Finish has noticeable flaws
Why the Gretsch Jim Dandy?
Neck and Body
The back, sides, and top of this guitar’s body are all Agathis, an inexpensive pinewood used widely in budget electrics and acoustics alike. While the use of this wood keeps the price down, there are some tonal sacrifices involved. Agathis has a sound that’s similar to mahogany or basswood but lacks the sustain of either one of these woods. X-bracing inside the body helps with projection and adds a bit of true vintage tone to the guitar.
The neck of the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy is a C-shaped nato neck with a rosewood fretboard. Nato is a wood used in place of mahogany on less expensive guitars, and it can actually have a fairly good tone. The neck is comfortable for playing, though the 24-inch scale seems a bit short and the use of 18 instead of the standard 19 frets limits what you can do with the upper range of the guitar.
For a cheap guitar, the Jim Dandy’s hardware is fairly good. On this guitar, you’ll find Gretsch’s classic open-back style tuning machines, as well as a compensated saddle that helps keep strings stable and in tune. The nut is made of plastic, but that’s something you have to expect on a guitar in this price range.
It’s worth noting that this guitar doesn’t feature any kind of electronics. Once again, this is a budget guitar, and the decision not to put a pickup or preamp into it helps to keep the price down.
Sound and Tone
For what it is, the Gretsch Jim Dandy performs quite well in terms of tone. The strength of this guitar is definitely in its tight mids and twangy treble, both of which make it suitable for classic acoustic blues and country. The lows could be a bit more pronounced, but overall the tone is reasonably well balanced. Ditch the pick and give fingerpicking a try, because this guitar sounds just right when used in classic country fingerpicking styles.
If you want to get a tone that reminds you of the 1920s and 30s on a budget, this guitar is for you. It isn’t especially versatile, but it does what it’s intended to do quite well.
Action, Fit and Finish
The build of this guitar is quite good for its price range. You’ll have no trouble playing it right out the box without additional setup or adjustments.
Although it has a nice tone and is built well, the G9500 Jim Dandy has some pretty serious finish issues. The lacquered finish is uneven and has some fairly noticeable flaws in it. A lack of trim makes this guitar feel even cheaper than it really is.
Overall, this guitar’s looks are rough and uneven, but that may not bother you if you’re looking for that old-school country or blues tone. In fact, the sunburst color, 50s-style headstock and imperfect finish combine to make the guitar look as vintage as it sounds.
Reliability and Durability
Gretsch has always been known for building guitars that last, and the G9500 Jim Dandy is no exception. If you’re looking for an inexpensive travel guitar that can stand up to life on the road, this may be the right instrument for you. The plastic nut will probably wear out with time, but that’s the only serious wear and tear concern you should have when buying this guitar, and they’re cheap to replace.
While the Gretsch Jim Dandy acoustic guitar isn’t a bad value, there are better buys out there. This guitar does deliver a reasonably good tone at a price anyone can afford. The problem is that too many sacrifices were made to keep the price in line, especially in terms of wood choice.
If you need a guitar on a very tight budget, there’s nothing wrong with the Jim Dandy. If you can afford to spend even a little extra, though, the Fender CP-60S is a better value. On the whole, the Jim Dandy just isn’t the best parlor guitar you can get in a budget-friendly range.