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A question for you super techies - Thunderbird

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Knifedge, Jan 15, 2012.

  1. Knifedge


    Jan 24, 2009
    I have two Gibson Thunderbird 5 string Studio basses. The first one I bought is ebony, serial number tells me it was made in 2000. The second one is cherry red, serial number tells me it was made in 2001. While I understand that even within the same identical (seemingly) bass there are very slight variations in tone, I find there is quite a difference in tone between the two of them. The guitars are exactly the same (seemingly) in every way. The pickups are identical, the electronics, weight, and from what I can see, the only difference between the two of them is the colour. I thought I was a little crazy at first, but a fellow TB'er is selling his ebony Thunderbird 5 string Studio in favour of his cherry red Thunderbird 5'er Studio because the sound of the red one is warmer and beefier, where the ebony one is a little more mid frequency shaped, so I don't think this is a coincidence. I have a hard time believing that the colour of the paint would make that much of a difference.. my intention for owning the two thunderbirds was to have two stage guitars where I wouldn't have to dial in a completely different sound if I have to change from one guitar to another for any reason (string breakage, electronics problem etc.). I know there are some amazingly bright folks in Talkbass land, any input would be valuable and appreciated greatly as this has been puzzling me for a while now. I thank you all in advance. :)

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  2. stiles72


    Mar 20, 2009
    Albany IL
    I don't think it's the bass itself - but rather the electronics. I have a black Studio 5'er, and have noticed that when the neck pickup is raised closer to the strings, the tone becomes thin and weak. When you screw the neck pup down (away from the strings) the tone opens up and becomes louder and beefier.

    Additionally, I have noticed some modern Gibson TB+ pups sound different than others. My '00 Blackbird (Sixx) has 1/4 more output and low end than the stock pups that came in my '07 Thunderbird IV- which didn't sound bad - just more midrangey and articulate. The difference was so noticeable, that I couldn't switch between the two basses in the course of a nights gig without major tweaking to my amp. Even my Epiphone bird sounded more consistent to the Blackbird than my IV did. After swapping out the pots, tone cap, strings, etc... I determined it had to be the pups. So after a few months of searching, I found a pair of TB+ pups that matched my Blackbird for tone and output- so now they are consistent with each other.

    If you make the adjustments to your 5'er neck pup and still aren't happy - I'd look into possibly upgrading to a pair of Thunderbucker 5 string pups, probably the '66 MAX ones. They are chrome, and they should really look nice on the Studio with all the chrome hardware.
  3. Keithwah


    Jan 7, 2011
    Milwaukee WI
    Don't discount the uniqueness of the wood itself. My Swamp Ash Jazz sounded nothing like my swamp ash custom with the same Bart set-up that I used to own. I also agree there is likely a variation in the electronics as well.

    I would enjoy the tone differences and possibly find songs that the tone differences might make it worthwhile. But if you bought the second one to accessorize wardrobe considerations....and I would assume that would not be the case, hard to get a 100% identical guitar anywhere. I have worked with several guitarists that would try to buy identical guitars so that they could switch without any difference in tone, always in vain.

    I am a big fan of Gibson Explorer sixers and have had quite a few at the same time over the years. Never for the reason of wanting them to sound alike. I just like playing them, and enjoy that each one is unique.
  4. Knifedge


    Jan 24, 2009
    Maybe in vain.. I do truly love both TBirds though... I will look into the Thunderbucker 5 string pickups after I finish my 5 string Fender Jazz refinish and overhaul (pics later when done).

    THank you for the advice bass brothers, it is very much appreciated. :)

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