Gretsch Jim Dandy Review – Flat Top Parlor Acoustic Guitar

The Gretsch Jim Dandy is a classic parlor guitar styled after the company's "Rex" parlor guitars made just under a century ago. The Jim Dandy combines classic Gretsch looks with modern playability and crisp, bright tone. It's also an excellent value.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Parlor Guitar

Parlor guitars have a rich history and a signature tone, but depending on your playing style, they may or may not be right for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop:

  • Do you need midrange-focused tone? Parlor guitars like the Jim Dandy don't have as much nuance to their sound as larger guitars like dreadnoughts do. However, they project well, and their tone emphasizes midrange frequencies.
  • Do you need a smaller guitar for practical reasons? Smaller guitars are easy for children and smaller adults to play. Their smaller bodies also make it easier to bring them along while traveling.
  • What tonewoods do you prefer? Parlor guitars can be made of just about any tonewood. When shopping, be sure to check that the build of the guitar you're considering suits the music you play.
  • What's your budget? Some manufacturers make very high-quality, all solid flat top parlor guitars. Less expensive parlor guitars may not have the same sound, but you can still find a respectable one if you shop carefully.

Our Picks for Review

Guitar

Guitar

Model

Price

Full Review

Main

Gretsch

9500 Jim Dandy

Cell

Alternative

 Gretsch

Rancher Penguin G5021WPE

Cell

Alternative

Ibanez

Performance PN1MHOPN

Cell

Alternative

Fender

CP-60S

Cell

Gretsch Jim Dandy Review

PRO's & CON's of Gretsch 9500 Jim Dandy

Before we jump into our Gretsch Jim Dandy review, though, let's check out some of this little guitar's pros and cons:

Pros

  • Smaller-bodied design makes the Jim Dandy a great choice for kids or smaller players, and it also makes it a great travel instrument.
  • Vintage-inspired looks set it apart from other parlor guitars.
  • Short 24 scale design reduces string tension, making string bends easier.
  • This is a very affordable instrument.

Cons

  • Several buyer reviews have reported that the finish on the guitar is poorly done.
  • The top and body are made of laminated basswood--basswood isn't known as a great tonewood, and laminated guitars also don't sound as good as solid ones.
  • Smaller build means it doesn't have much low end, which may not be ideal for some guitarists.

Features and Benefits

In this section, we'll take you through some of the key features of the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy. However, it's important to note that on a guitar at this price range, companies need to cut corners somewhere--you can't realistically expect a sub-$200 parlor guitar to have all the bells and whistles of a guitar ten times the price. With that said, let's take a look:

Tonewoods

Seeing as the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy is at a low price point already, you'd probably expect the tonewoods used to not be great. The top, back, and sides are all made from laminated basswood. This is a cheap tonewood that's more commonly seen as the body wood for less-expensive acoustic-electrics, and it's especially rare to see it used as a top wood on an acoustic. While plenty of people who have played the Gretsch G9500 has said that it sounds great, basswood doesn't have a great reputation as a tonewood. This interesting video discussion offers one guitarist's opinion on basswood guitars.

Neck and Playability

The G9500 has a Nato neck, which is more common for guitars in this price range. Nato is tough and durable, and it's also lightweight, making it an optimal choice for travel guitars. The neck of this guitar is also a C shape, which sets it apart from some other parlor guitars. Many of them, especially those modeled after historical models, have a chunkier V-shaped neck. This profile can be harder for people with smaller hands to play, but the C shape neck is slim and fast-playing. This video demo shows one player's experience with the G9500.

The shorter scale also impacts the playability of the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy. The 24 scale length means you'll have an easier time bending strings, and the lowered tension might make playing more comfortable for those who are new to the instrument. However, some buyers seem to note that the action is a little high, so this is a guitar that could benefit from a professional set-up.

Finish and Appointments

The appointments on the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy are nothing to write home about, although that's to be expected with a budget-priced guitar. It's got a walnut bridge and fingerboard. Walnut isn't a bad bridge/fingerboard wood by any means, but it's primarily used as a cheaper rosewood alternative.

However, this guitar also has a nut and saddle of synthetic bone. Since many guitars at this price point have cheap plastic nuts and saddles, it's a welcome surprise.

The finish is where things get a bit tricky. In photos, the red vintage sunburst finish looks high-end, especially paired with white binding. However, many buyers have noted that the finish appears cheap, and one review below mentions that the "binding" was just paint. The finish may be one of the corners Gretsch had to cut in making the G9500 Jim Dandy, but better that than sound quality. This video demo lets you see the finish up close.

Social Proof of the Guitar

Buying a guitar--even one that's relatively inexpensive--is an investment in your future as a player. As such, it's wise to take some time to evaluate what other players have said about a given instrument before you buy. In order to help you do that, we've gathered a few Gretsch Jim Dandy review snapshots from around the internet:

Gretsch 9500 Jim Dandy Review 01

This detailed, informative review covers some of the main strengths and weaknesses of the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy. Like many reviewers, this person was surprised by its quality tone given the price. However, they observed that the finish leaves something to be desired.

Gretsch 9500 Jim Dandy Review 02

Like many reviewers, this buyer seems pleased with the Jim Dandy. Their edit also gives you an idea of some potential upgrades you can make in order to improve the sound a bit.

Gretsch 9500 Jim Dandy Review 03

This brief yet positive review mentions that the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy could make a great first guitar. A player's first guitar often shapes their playing style, and a comfortable guitar like this one can also keep players motivated.

Alternatives to Gretsch Jim Dandy

The flat top parlor guitar may not be as popular as it once was, but you can still find plenty of affordable, great-sounding parlor guitars on the market. We've found a few guitars you may want to consider along with the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy.

Gretsch Rancher Penguin G5021WPE

How it Compares to Gretsch Jim Dandy

  • It's significantly more expensive than the G9500 Jim Dandy, putting it out of reach for some players
  • The distinctive finish is sure to be a draw for some players, but others will likely prefer something more understated
  • Included quality electronics make it a good guitar for gigging
  • It has a 25" scale length, which increases string tension over that of the Jim Dandy

Review

The Rancher Penguin is essentially an upgraded version of Gretsch's parlor guitar design. This one has a solid spruce top for richer sound and better responsiveness. The back and sides are made of maple, which helps promote detailed, bright tone. In terms of aesthetics, the Rancher Penguin is even more of a standout than the Jim Dandy--this particular color option is bright white with gold pickguard and binding. It also comes with a Fishman Isys III pickup system to make it easy to play live. If you want a distinctive parlor guitar that's easy to play at gigs, make sure you check this one out!

Ibanez Performance PN1MHOPN

How It Compares To Gretsch Jim Dandy

  • The slightly lower price compared to the Jim Dandy makes it an option for those on a tight budget
  • Open-pore natural finish shows off the wood's natural grain
  • Spruce and mahogany build is made up of better tonewoods than the all-basswood G9500 Jim Dandy
  • This guitar's 24.4" scale is only slightly longer than that of the Jim Dandy, so string tension is comparable

Review

This parlor guitar is slightly less expensive than the Jim Dandy, making it a great option for those on a budget. It has a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, although it's all laminated. The mahogany neck warms up the sound a bit, and the beautiful open-pore natural finish is highlighted by contrasting herringbone purfling. A rosewood bridge and fingerboard round out the package. If you're looking for a parlor guitar that is both beautiful and inexpensive, make sure you take a look at this guitar.

Fender CP-60S

How It Compares To Gretsch Jim Dandy

  • Solid top means it has fuller, more responsive tone
  • Neck profile makes it an especially good choice for those just learning guitar and seasoned players alike
  • Vintage sunburst finish gives it a retro look similar to the Jim Dandy
  • It's only slightly more expensive, making it another option for those looking for an affordable parlor guitar

Review

You probably already know that Fender produces some quality yet affordable acoustic guitars, and the CP-60S is one of only a few parlor guitars the company offers. This one has a solid spruce top with laminated mahogany back and sides. Its mahogany neck is in Fender's Easy-to-Play shape, and its rolled fingerboard edges are something that's usually only found on higher-end instruments. A rosewood bridge and walnut fingerboard give it an attractive look, especially considering the low price--it's only slightly more expensive than the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy. If you're looking for a vintage-style, affordable parlor guitar with a solid top, make sure you check this one out!

In Conclusion

Though it may have a few quality issues, we still think the G9500 Jim Dandy flat top is a great deal. Its sound may surprise you, especially given the fact that it's made from a relatively cheap tonewood. And while the finish may have some issues when inspected up close, this guitar is definitely a visual standout that's perfect for those who prefer unique instruments. And at less than $200, it's a great addition to almost any collection. Click here to check out the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy today!

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