There is a small but dedicated fanbase of the “junior” electric guitar and I’m not just referring to the adolescents or beginners which these are marketed towards. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong used to sling a Gibson Les Paul Junior back in the early pre-Dookie days and even contemporary pros have them as part of their arsenal. Sure, these juniors might not have the beefed up specs of their full-fledged namesakes but they are most definitely not bargain bin electrics – they are professional instruments through and through.
As you might expect with anything named “junior,” these axes sport a smaller form factor than your standard electric and usually come with one or two pickups – not to mention they usually sell for much, much less than their bigger brothers – which is why these junior guitars are very popular among the modding community in particular. Today, we’re going to be looking at one such miniature model, the recently upgraded Gretsch Electromatic Junior Jet Bass II. At $297.50, it certainly falls well within the budget of every guitar player but is it worth your hard earned cash? Let’s take a look.
The Electromatic 2220 Junior Jet Bass II is essentially an updated model of original 2210 Junior Jet Bass that features a slew of cosmetic upgrades such as chrome Gretsch ‘G’ knobs instead of the Gibson-style speed controls, along with a more classic-looking headstock. Although the particular bass we’re looking at comes equipped with twin mini-humbuckers, there is also another model – the G2214 – which is essentially identical minus the bridge pickup and the three-way switch. Both basses are short scale, as you would expect, meaning that they should appeal to players with smaller hands or anyone that is looking for a less piano-like, punchy mid electric bass tone. Both also come with a fat bolt-on neck with a deep ‘D’ profile along with a rosewood fingerboard.
The Junior Bass II comes sporting 20 well-placed medium jumbo frets – as opposed to the older model which only featured 19. Although it might not seem like much at first but those extra three frets are very much the fingerboard equivalent of ‘taking it to eleven,’ or in other words, a noticeable difference. It was nice to see that Gretsch decided to keep the Junior Jet’s slab-like basswood body which feels nicely balanced when hanging from your shoulders – good news for those of us not too fond of body contours.
There is of course one glaring drawback that we found with the Junior Jet I that we were disappointed didn’t get rectified with the Junior Jet II – the bolt on neck construction. Sure, Gretsch isn’t trying to sell these Junior models to expensive guitar buffs but when you think about the fact that other similarly priced electric basses boast a set neck, it does feel kind of surprising. Alright, now that we know what this baby is packing, how does it actually sound?
If you believed all of the hoopla surrounding the announcement of the Junior Jet Bass II, then you have every reason to expect that this electric pumps out plenty of that ‘great Gretsch sound.’ Well, that’s kind of hard to corroborate since I’m sure most of us weren’t even aware that their basses have a signature sound. A Gretsch guitar, sure, they definitely have their own signature tone – but their bass lines? Well, regardless – let’s see what that great Gretsch bass sound is all about. After plugging this baby in and selecting the bridge humbucker, I knew exactly what Gretsch was getting at – it was pretty much the Jet guitar line’s signature rock voice! There’s enough presence and just the right amount of growl that is perfect for both classic and modern rock – even punk, really. Think AC/DC, The Clash or even Foo Fighters and you’ll get the idea.
The neck on the other hand has a much more classic yet subdued ‘60s vibe. After messing around with the tone, it was fairly easy to get a Paul McCartney Beatle-era bass sound. Add some bridge and a bit of gain and ‘60s era The Who is in there as well. If you really wanted to take this bass straight into the old school sound, a set of flatwound strings would be an excellent replacement to the .045 to .105 roundwounds that come standard – not to mention they would also work great for jazz and blues tones as well.
So, turns out that the Jet Junior Bass II doesn’t actually have a sound truly its own, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you see this as an introductory electric. It instead provides plenty of vintage sounds that work as well in ‘60s and ‘70s pop and rock as they do with many other modern genres that require a little retro tinge on that low-end. Players looking for a bass with a big deep sound such as metal bassists should probably look elsewhere though.
All in all, if you’re looking for a decent bass with surprisingly good sound – and don’t have much money to work with – the Gretsch Electromatic Jet Junior Bass II definitely gives you plenty of bang for your buck. Beginners in particular not yet accustomed to the wider fret segments of a standard scale bass should definitely have this axe on their shortlist. But even at under $300, the Junior Jet Bass II does have some good competition and could have really used that set neck to pull it apart from the pack. But even with that said, the Jet Junior Bass II is most definitely worth every single penny!