Different beasts, but.....Epiphone Thunderbird or Harley Benton Enhanced MP-4EB?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by serch777, Sep 17, 2020.

  1. serch777


    May 25, 2020
    Durham, UK
    Hi guys, I'm looking for a decent back-up bass. I've heard good things about both Epiphone's range of Thunderbirds and the Harley Benton Enhanced P Series. I know they're very different profiles, but if you could choose one over the other. Which would would it be?

    I love the Thunderbird's aggressive tone, but I also love the sounds I've heard from the Harley Bentons. Since we're in and out of lockdowns here in the northeast of the UK, it'll be difficult for me to try any before buying (I don't think any stores around even distribute HB).

    Any input and experiences would much appreciated. Cheers guys!
  2. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    if there are 'Birds out there that are better than my lowest rung bolt-on Epi IV then that would be a scary thot cos mine with flats gets constant love, but those HBs seem super on their own.
    serch777 likes this.
  3. Wfrance3

    Wfrance3 Supporting Member

    May 29, 2014
    Tulsa, OK
    I have never owned a Thunderbird, but have played one in a music store a time or 2. I didn't dig the balance. The neck wants to take a dive like a prize fighter on the take... I'm with you on the aggressive tone. Kinda reminiscent of a music man with the eq in neutral...

    If the HB has similar pickups and good balance, then that's the one.
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  4. nabilhuakbar


    Jan 13, 2020
    I owned an MP-5 with the natural finish and I currently own an Epiphone Thunderbird IV.

    These basses are two completely separate beasts, and it honestly depends on what you're going for.

    You'll get a ton more flexibility out of the MP-4, and I'd actually recommend the MJ-4 over it because you get a little bit more versatility with the pickup switching and the Single Coil jazz pickup genuinely seems that it sounds a lot better than the P pickup in the MP-4. I actually wasn't a very big fan of the P-tone of my MP-5, but YMMV.

    The MP-4/MJ-4 will have excellent finish and a 0th fret, which is pretty cool. Mine had a perfectly set, really low action and it played really well. The Preamp is really hot, and you can get a pretty decent range of tones out of it plus it's passive/active. The MP/MJ will be a lot brighter and it will sound pretty different from the Thunderbird.

    Thunderbirds are dark, deep, and growly. You'll probably be able to get an MP/MJ in the ballpark of a T-bird with the right eq settings, but the only thing that really sounds like a Thunderbird is a Thunderbird.

    I sold my MP-5 a while back because it was a good bass but I just couldn't connect with it. I just got an Epiphone Thunderbird IV to fill a tonal nice that my P-bass and L2k Tribby couldn't quite replicate.

    So yeah, it really just depends on what sounds you're after. If you're looking for more of a do-all Swiss Army Bass get the MP/MJ. If you're looking for that Thunderbird oomph, get the Thunderbird.
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  5. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Thunderbird for sure if you're talking Vintage Pro, Classic Pro or the Pro IV.
    As for neck dive?
    Easy fix any bassist should know how to correct.
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  6. nFinnyD


    Oct 31, 2017
    Definitely the MP for flexibility, but if you know the the TB has the all the tones you are looking for then go that way. What bass are you looking to back up for?
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  7. serch777


    May 25, 2020
    Durham, UK
    A Rickenbacker 4003 :bassist:
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  8. stingray69

    stingray69 Talkbass Legit

    Aug 11, 2004
    St Louis Area
    I've owned both an EPI-TBird Pro 5 and currently Harley Benton MP5-EB's. I really wanted to get along with the T-Bird - I loved the tone, but the deal breaker for me was that I just simply couldn't get on with the way the body shifts the neck a lot further to your left-hand side. It's quite unlike anything I've ever played before. Imagine the 12th being about 6-8 inches further to your left than normal and that's kind of what it's like. Muscle memory kept making me WAY overshoot up into the upper registers when trying to playing up high. The unique body shape also made playing the TBird in a seated position at home very difficult as well. The TBird weight was also on the heavy side, but then again so is the HB MP-5EB. Although I dug the TB tone and really wanted it to be a keeper, the playing issues I was having with the T-Bird is what made me decide to return it before the 30-day return window closed. Maybe I'll give the TB another go later on down the road.

    The HB Enhanced Series are also fantastic, IME. Hard to believe they can pack that much quality into that price range. I love the zero fret and I can get very low action with it. The Ebony fingerboard model imparts a great clarity to the tone, although there is a Maple board version (I also have that as well). The maple board version is a little more traditional sounding, in that the high end doesn't extend out quite as far, but both share the same great fundamental tone. The Ebony just brings out a little more of the "string" as compared to the maple board, IME. The HB stuff has been quite a surprise - I've taken them out on gigs and they perform like champs - deliver great live tones, stable tuning, compliments on tone, etc.

    So yeah, great (but different) tones from both the TBird and the HB, but each has different pros/cons in weight/playability areas. So although I wanted to make the Epiphone T-Bird work (for me), it wasn't meant to be, YMMV. But I'm beyond impressed and happy with the Harley Benton(s) I have.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2020
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  9. nabilhuakbar


    Jan 13, 2020
    If you're already looking at Harley Benton anyways, what you really should be thinking of is their RB414 then...it's basically a clone-but-not-a-clone of a Ric. Doesn't sound exactly like a Ric, but it's in the ballpark.

    Also I can vouch for @stingray69 's opinion, he's probably got more experience with the Harley Benton MP series than anyone else on this board.
    serch777 likes this.
  10. stingray69

    stingray69 Talkbass Legit

    Aug 11, 2004
    St Louis Area
    Thanks for the kind words, although I do feel like a late-comer to the Harley Benton basses.

    I can only speak about the Enhanced Series models, but no doubt - I am beyond impressed with the quality for the price that they are asking!