Gretsch Broad’Tron Pickups & How They Differ from Filtertrons

Author: Santiago Motto | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Ever since their first appearance, Gretsch guitars have been a sound trademark in the music world. Yes, Gretsch guitars sound like no other guitar on the planet and offer their lucky owners a broad sonic spectrum of outstanding tones.

That being said, Gretsch offers a very diverse line of guitars with different pickup configurations, wood types, and hardware.

One of the newest additions to Gretsch’s marvelous line is the Broad’Tron pickups. Are they the heirs of that great Gretsch sound or a poor humbucker mimic?

If you’re asking the same question, then you’re in the right place.

We’re going to go deep into the Gretsch Broad’Tron pickups and compare them with the timeless Filter’Tron tones. Finally, before reaching the conclusion, we will also see some cool models from other companies.

Are you ready to find out everything about Broad’Tron pickups? Well, buckle up because here we go!

Once Upon a Time, The Humbucker Race Began

In the late ‘50s, players were faced with a major problem.

On one hand, Gibson was making the amazing P-90s for their hollow and solid-body guitars. P-90s, as you might know, are beefed-up single-coil pickups; thus, they produce 60-cycle hum.

On the other hand, Fender was making the Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars with single-coil pickups. These sounded brighter but still had the 60-cycle hum.

Finally, Gretsch had guitars with the almighty Dyna-Sonic pickups which are a hybrid between a P-90 and a single-coil pickup.

So, Gibson and Gretsch decided to embark on a parallel journey toward the creation of a hum-less pickup. This wasn’t just a random occurrence; on the contrary, it was something the companies pursued because of players’ requests.

The year was 1954, on Gretsch’s side, an engineer by the name of Ray Butts, who had a very close relationship with guitar legend Chet Atkins, was looking for a way to get rid of 60-cycle hum.

This was because the Gretsch Echosonic that Atkins had been playing since the early ‘50s had given him more than enough headaches with hum; especially in the studio.

So, Butts connected two single-coil pickups in series and out of phase creating the world’s first humbucker pickup.

Make no mistake; this was one of those epic “Eureka” moments in guitar history.

Yet, while Butts was doing his thing for Gretsch, Seth Lover was working for Gibson designing and building amplifiers. It was around that time, in 1955, that Seth figured out the way to wire two out-of-phase coils with reverse magnetic polarities.

Thus, he created another humbucker pickup parallel to Butts’ invention.

The thing is that Lover and Gibson applied for the patent first and the world-famous P.A.F. pickups became the first humbuckers in history for most people.

In case you’re wondering, the PAF name comes from “Patent Applied For” because it took from 1955 to 1959 for Gibson to finally receive the patent for the PAF models.

Those pickups, the original PAFs, can be found online for thousands of dollars a piece.

Filter’Trons, Butt’s creation, had a different sound, though. Yes, they sounded brighter and had a larger dynamic range.

Seth’s humbuckers sounded (and still do) more compressed in the mids, offering not as much dynamics but more punch and a bigger bottom end.

Finally, the fact that most humbuckers today are shaped after the original PAF design instead of the Filter’Tron design makes original Filter’Tron and Filtertron-style pickups more unique-sounding.

But enough about history, let’s dive into what makes the Gretsch sound.

Filter’Trons and the “Gretsch Sound”

If we were to compare Gretsch and Gibson in terms of popularity, the decision would be unanimous: Gibson is more famous.

Yet, Gibsons can’t do the sounds Gretsch guitars are most famous for.

For example, it is impossible to try and emulate Brian Setzer’s tone without the help of his amazing hollow-body, Filter’Tron-equipped Gretsch signature guitar.

Also, you can’t obtain the natural twang and crystal-clear high-end you need to play country, rockabilly, or hillbilly from a humbucker-equipped Gibson guitar.

This is because the physiognomy of PAF pickups and that of Filter’Trons is very different. That difference is a game-changer in terms of tone.

That original path laid out by the Filter’Tron grew in people’s ears into what we now know of as “the Gretsch sound”. Let’s break it into parts so you can get a better grasp of what “the Gretsch sound” is all about:


This is, perhaps, the biggest difference between regular humbucker pickups and Gretsch pickups and the reason why country players embraced them.

Yes, because of how close the coils are and the length of the screws, you can get a crisp, bell-like high-end from Gretsch pickups that you would only expect from Fender single coils.

Balanced mids

The midrange is, to rock and roll, what cheese is to Pizza Hut. Yes, the tones that made rock n roll famous are almost always associated with the midrange (roughly between 1kHz and 2kHz). These are very prominent in PAFs and are what make the crunchy sound rockers love from their Gibsons.

Gretsch pickups, on the other side, give you a clean, punchy sound because they were designed to attain maximum volume without breakup.

Low Output

Gretsch’s humbuckers typically offer players a lower output than what most humbuckers offer. This also helps keep the midrange clean as you pump up the volume and the gain.

So, “the Gretsch sound” is based on a stellar high-end, moderate midrange, and low output. This makes Gretsch guitars great for playing any style since they take pedals seamlessly, don’t drive amps more than other guitars, and deliver slightly compressed, hum-free, clean tones to build upon.

Introducing Gretsch Broad’Tron Pickups

As perfect heirs to the Gretsch tradition, Broad’Tron pickups have three different versions.

Broad’Tron is the name given by Gretsch to the humbucker pickups on three lines. Therefore, we have three distinct models.

Let’s take a look at which of these Broad’Tron pickups we’re talking about in every line Gretsch offers.

These are the guitars you can find these pickups on:

Professional Collection (BT-65)

Electromatic Collection (Blacktop Broad’Tron)

Streamliner Collection (BT-2S)

Broad’Trons and the Gretsch Sound

We’ll base our article on the Blacktop and BT-65 Broad’Tron pickups.

How do these pickups work in generating the quintessential “Gretsch sound”?

Well, to begin with, these pickups are capable of delivering the articulate, glass-like top end that made these guitars so famous. Moreover, the definition levels that the company has achieved with a pickup that is almost as hot as a regular humbucker is nothing short of a revolution.

Yes, Broad’Tron pickups are more aggressive, hotter, and more powerful than the regular Filter’Trons, but offer similar transparency and percussiveness. This is paramount for musical styles like Rockabilly where slapback delay and spring reverb are vital to the overall sound.

So, yes, Broad’Trons are made to be close to the quintessential Gretsch sound that we all love but offer the player a hotter output with more gain.

Getting Closer to PAF Sounds

As we said before, PAF sounds are among the most sought-after tones in the world. Furthermore, if you come across an original one, you might be holding thousands of dollars in each pickup.

The Broad’Trons are Gretsch’s version of such a pickup because they offer the player a little more grit. Depending on the amplifier and the signal chain, Broad’Trons can deliver that midrange-driven overdrive many people love.

Does this mean that Broad’Trons are closer to PAFs than to Filter’Trons?

Well, the answer is no, but they are Gretsch’s hottest pickups and offer the same gain level that classic-voiced PAFs do.

This means that, while the top end is perfectly clear, and the bottom end is tight and focused, the midrange can become musical while overdriving the amp.

Furthermore, as you might know, hotter pickups react differently when plugged into pedals. Therefore, the sounds you get from a Broad’Tron-loaded Gretsch aren’t like anything else in the market today.

The guitar will offer you some of the bite and low-end growl (especially hollow-body Gretschs) while retaining crystal-clear high-end and enough gain for any amp to overdrive.

More Gain & More Volume

Volume is a tricky thing.

Yes, I wrote “volume” instead of “gain”. Why did I do that? Because they’re different concepts and both are very important for the sound definition of Broad’Tron pickups.

How so? You might ask while scratching your head with a pick.

Well, simply put, adding more gain to your guitar doesn’t add more volume. On the contrary, adding too much gain might make the sound muddy and it might disappear in the dense mix of a band situation.

So, to raise volume levels, you usually lower the volume on the guitar (AKA the gain) and increase the volume of your amp. This is what old Filter’Trons did: offer the biggest headroom to play everything louder and clearer.

The good news is that Broad’Trons can offer you a Filter’Tron-like high-end with more punch without losing clarity and articulation.

For example, if you are a fan of Billy Duffy’s (The Cult) you might be familiar with his over-the-top approach to overdriving a hollow-body guitar such as the Gretsch White Falcon.

He can do that without the obnoxious levels of feedback because he plays his guitar with Filter’Tron pickups and a ton of gain.

Well, that is the tone you can expect from Broad’Trons when you hit them with gain stages (pedals, amps, computer): a full, round, rocking, humbucker with uncanny high-end and enough growl to set the dance floor (or mosh pit) on fire.

Broad’Tron vs Filter’Tron

We’ve gone through what makes Broad’Tron pickups so important for rockers rocking Gretsch guitars. But how do they compare with the original Filter’Tron pickups developed in the ‘50s by Gretsch?

Well, we’re going to go through a detailed comparison of the most important characteristics of each pickup so you can make an informed decision.


Gretsch’s website uses the term “Power” to talk about pickup gain. In that category, the classic Filter’Trons introduced in NAMM 1957, receive a 7 out of 10.

To give more perspective on that number, single coils receive a 4 and P-90s a 7.

As you might know, the gain levels of a pickup change the dynamics of the guitar drastically. This low output allows Filter’Tron pickups to sound warmer than your regular single coil or P-90 but with just enough power to be a great canvas to paint gain stages on.

Yes, Filter’Trons get along with fuzzes and dirt pedals marvelously but have more difficulties driving an amplifier organically.

That’s where the Broad’Trons come in to save the day. These pickups are the most powerful iteration of this design and receive a hot 9.5 in power. This brings the gain levels to match those of traditional humbuckers such as PAFs.

What’s the catch? Well, the catch is that the Broad’Trons are a beefed-up version of the Filter’Trons and Gretsch managed to keep most of the singing high-end of the originals with added gain.

Yes, the tone of the Broad’Trons is something close to Filter’Trons on steroids.

This affects the way a guitar can drive an amp, therefore, Broad’Trons are great for classic AC-DC style rock and roll where defined chords and organic harmonic overtones are the thing.


Tone-wise, the Gretsch page assigns a different measure that’s called “Definition”. This number is also measured from 1 to 10 and it moves inversely to “Power”. Yes, as the first increases, the second decreases, and vice versa.

This means that the more gain the less definition. Definition, in this case, can be thought of as the muddiness in the signal when you work with high gain versus the crystal-clear notes of a clean guitar.

Filter’Trons get a solid 9 in definition while power receives a seven. This is something that can be heard in the clear, bell-like high-end, moderate mids, and tight bottom end.

In other words, these pickups offer uncanny dynamics, a balanced tone, and a hard-to-find transparency that’s the trademark of the brand.

Broad’Trons, on the other hand, live in a different scenario because values are the complete opposite. Yes, they receive a 9.5 in Power and a 7.5 in Definition, confirming the rule above.

Again, what’s the catch?

Well, a regular PAF humbucker receives 9.5 in power and 5 in definition.

How so? You might be wondering. Well, very simply, the crystal-clear high-end that’s a Gretsch trademark differentiates the Broad’Trons from all other pickups. They offer the same power but in HD.

Mind the Physical Differences

This is an addition to what I said before about the different Broad’Tron versions.

Not all lines offer the same Broad’Tron pickups. For example, if you get a G2210 Streamliner Junior Jet, you’ll see in the description it comes equipped with Broad’Trons BT-2S. These are different from the Broad’Trons on a G6228 Player’s Edition Duo Jet, the BT-65.

Also, the price difference between the guitars is over $2,000.

But this difference in the pickups isn’t just a matter of tone, they’re physically different.

While the Broad’Trons in the Professional Collection are closer to the Filter’Trons (thinner and taller), the ones you’ll find in the Streamliner Collection are regular humbuckers with a cover.

This is important because, when you want to swap them out, they won’t be compatible.

Don’t worry about it, though, we’ll see in a bit some brands that make great-sounding Filtertron and Broadtron-like replacement pickups that fit into a humbucker hole.

Who Are the Gretsch Broad’Tron Pickups For?

Gretsch Broad’Tron BT65 pickups (Professional Collection version) were designed by tone guru Tim Shaw to be the most rocker-oriented pickups Gretsch had made so far.

So, these pickups are for players who want to retain the high-end of single-coil instruments while also having an extra oomph to drive the amp.

Yes, if you play styles like rockabilly, rock and roll, punk, hard rock, and any other style that requires natural overdriven tones and you want your guitar humbucker-hot without getting muddy, these pickups are for you.

Moreover, if you are like me, a complete Fender head, but want something that can compete with humbuckers in terms of gain without losing that crystal-clear high-end, then these pickups are for you.

Finally, if you love the slightly edgy overdriven or distorted tone, play lead guitar, and love maple necks and ebony fingerboards, these pickups are for you.

Who are Gretsch Filter’Tron Pickups For?

Gretsch Filter’Trons were introduced to the public in 1957. Thus, they respond to the sound of a certain era in a way.

That era was the era of country, folk, and fingerpicking. Gretsch guitars enjoyed enormous success among such players because they could deliver the singing highs without the hum at a very loud and clean volume.

Therefore, if you’re looking for headroom in a Fender-worthy, crystal-clear, dynamically-rich pickup to play oldies and classics, these pickups are for you.

Also, if you love pedals and need a blank canvas to paint on and construct your tone, these pickups are for you.

Finally, if you want to attain that classic Chet Atkins tone of the hollow body guitar with the classic low-end growl and the bell-like highs, these are your pickups.

Alternatives From Other Brands

Are there other brands making pickups that can replace the traditional Filter’Trons and the hotter Broad’Trons? Well, the answer is yes, plenty of them.

Let’s take a look at the best 5 options on the market right now.

MOJO Pickups

Mojo Pickups is a UK-based guitar pickup manufacturer. They offer plenty of options for replacement pickups for your guitar. You can get the classic tone and shape by purchasing their Mojotron.

Furthermore, if you want to install these pickups on a humbucker-equipped guitar you can simply buy the humbucker-sized version.

For those after something hotter, the Mojotron Extra carries a tad more oomph as well as the Mojotron Extra Bladed. If you favor the Broad’Tron pickups, the Mojotron Extra is your best choice.

Lollar Pickups

Lollar is another legendary aftermarket pickup company. They don’t offer as many choices as MOJO pickups do but also have a humbucker-sized version of their Lollatron pickup.

According to Lollar, their version is based on a ’63 Country Gentleman (Chet Atkins’ signature guitar) and can deliver a full tone with rich lows and singing highs without ever getting muddy or breaking up.

Seymour Duncan

Seymour Duncan is the owner of one of the best-known pickup companies in the world. Also, he is a very good friend of the late Seth Lover (there is, in fact, a Seymour Duncan “Seth Lover Model” pickup).

That being said, the brand also makes the Psyclone Humbucker Filtertron, which is their take on the classic Filter’Trons but with the size to replace a regular humbucker.

Both the Seth Lover Model and the Psyclone are faithful, low-output recreations of the original pickups that revolutionized the world.

TV Jones

TV Jones is, perhaps, the next best thing after Gretsch to get your pickups. Yes, the brand is the most-common aftermarket replacement for Gretsch-style pickups.

For those after the original Filter’Tron sound, the Classic TV Pickup will be like finding gold. They are the closest you can get to the original snap. Also, the Magna’Tron pickups resemble the bite, attack, and chime of old Fender single-coil pickups but without the hum.

On the other hand, those who favor Broad’Tron pickups might be more tempted to try out the Power’Tron, created especially to handle the fiery riffs of Mr. Billy Gibbons. Also, the Brian Setzer signature model adds a tad more overdrive to the signal without losing its definition.

Creamery Custom

For those after the uniqueness and the finesse of hand-wound pickups, Creamery Custom, a top-notch English manufacturer is quite a discovery. They hand-make a line of 5 models to accommodate most players.

For Filter’Tron lovers, the Classic Black Cat is perfect. For those who prefer a little more gain like in a Broad’Tron, the Classic Black Cat Hot is a great choice.

The Bottom Line

Filter’Trons and Broad’Trons are different iterations of the same timeless sound.

Gretsch is a company that’s always investing in R&D and trying to come up with clever solutions to customers’ requests. Just like Chet Atkins pushed innovation forward when he needed a hum-free guitar, players who wanted to have a little more gain on their instrument without sacrificing “the Gretsch sound” needed hotter pickups, and they were heard.

Finally, pickups, pots, and strings make the cheapest tone experiments in the world.

Try these pickups and make your guitar sound exactly like the tone in your head.

Happy playing!

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About Santiago Motto

Santiago is a guitar player with over 25 years of experience. A self-confessed guitar nerd, he currently tours with his band 'San Juan'. Called 'Sandel' by his friends, he has a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. San especially has an immense love for telecasters and all-mahogany Martins.

1 thought on “Gretsch Broad’Tron Pickups & How They Differ from Filtertrons”

  1. Dear Santiago.

    This is a really great post for me.

    I almost went crazy with Gretsch’s insane pickup nomenclature.

    I installed Broadtron pickups into my semi-hollow guitar. While looking for a pickup with a new sound, I found a pickup called the Broadtron, which has the power of humbuckers and clarity close to single coils, and I was able to purchase a set through the reverb.

    While I was satisfied with the pickups and using them, I found out that there are other pickups in Gretsch named Broadtron.

    Gretsch doesn’t explain what the differences are between the pickups.

    Users are left confused and inaccurate guesses abound. I’m still confused if the pickups I’m using are the Broadtrons listed in Gretsch’s chart.

    Maybe just trying out all three Broadtrons and comparing them to each other can alleviate my confusion. But the question remains whether the bt-65 and blacktop broadtron are sized to replace regular paf humbuckers.

    Is it possible to use the bt-65 and blacktop broadtron as a replacement for normal paf humbuckers?

    What do I need to replace them with?

    Thanks for this post

    Best regards


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