I always liked the look of the bicentennial Thunderbird with the chrome hardware, but I wasn't willing to shell out $3 - $4k for a vintage instrument or a Mike Lull version. When I stumbled across a talkbass thread about this model, I figured $600 was a reasonable price to pay for a Thunderbird experiment (my first T-bird). So:
Appearance/setup: I went for the white version, which is very white. A little vintage tint would have been nice, but it still looks pretty impressive out of the box. I also like the look of the tune-o-matic bridge and claw tailpiece as opposed to the standard junky 3-point bridge. The transition line on the headstock between the black and white paint was a little sloppy in spots. The good news is that I was able to clean up the paint line with just my thumbnail because the black paint comes off easily. The bad news is that the black paint comes off easily. So there's a ding against Epiphone for quality control. Made in Indonesia, inspected in the USA. Whoop-dee-do. On that note, the factory setup was awful. There was almost no neck relief and the intonation was way off, so it took a couple of sessions on the workbench to get everything as it should be. Otherwise the finish and appearance of the paint and hardware is good. That giant headstock is going to take a beating, I'm pretty sure.
Ergonomics/playability: The bass was lighter than I was expecting, but it's a bit heavier than my other basses (I don't have a scale). Having long been a fan of pointy guitars and basses, I expected the ergos of this bass to be a little weird, and they are. Nylon straps will mean instant neck dive, so a suede/leather strap is required to provide enough friction to hold the bass in place. Also, because of the jutting lower bout, I have to play with the neck angled up more than usual to allow my arm to rest comfortably while playing. The stock strap button positions also cause the body to tilt away from you. You'll see in the one photo that I moved the rear strap button up 3-1/2" to help alleviate this problem. Yes, it does help, but the thought of having to drill on a brand new bass may be off-putting to some. The neck will feel comfortable to anyone that likes Jazz necks (narrow). The ergonomics tend to push the neck out a little farther than normal, so it might seem a little disorienting at first when looking at the fretboard.
Sound: I typically play classic rock and alternative, although I'm a "set it and forget it" person, meaning I typically have both pickups on full and don't play with volume and tone knobs much. I also play with fingers and a pick, depending on the song. This T-bird is bright and distinct. My drummer noticed the treble, and my guitarist said he heard more thump. All good. I usually play either a Dean Jeff Berlin with dual Bartolini humbuckers, or a Hot Rod Jazz (with the S-1 switch in series mode). Even allowing for the sound of new strings, the Dean is a bit thicker sounding. I also compared against a Stingray, Stingray Classic, and a Sterling (US). For the type of sound I like (driving mid range), I actually preferred the Thunderbird, which surprised me. Against the Jazz it's probably a toss up. I also found the tone control to be a bit more useful than typical for a passive bass.
I've owned a Gibson RD Artist and two Victory basses. I found all three to have a very woody quality (as well as being physically heavy), which I attributed to the mahogany. There's a little of that with this model, but not too much. I like it. I'd rather not have to deal with the weird ergos, but that's the price of being stylish, I suppose.
One other note: Since the headstock on this bass is larger than the current models, it's a tight fit in the Epiphone case but it does fit.
Epiphone Thunderbird Vintage Pro
New T-bird with old school vibe