Gibson RD Artist

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Rob W, Jul 23, 2001.

  1. I just had the good fortune of acquiring a very prime example of a Gibson RD Artist bass. What an amazing instrument! :)

    It is a tobacco sunburst instrument with a beautiful ebony fretboard and is in inredibly clean condition.

    A few questions for anyone who knows about these basses -

    First of all I'm trying to get a ball park date on the bass - the serial number is so lightly stamped that it seems impossible to make out what it is, so that's no help. I do understand that the later versions had slightly different switches than earlier ones. I have the usual 4 knobs (bass and treble cut/boost plus a volume for each pickup). Then there are 2 toggle switches (3 way) - the bottom one is the pickup selector while the other one engages the compression/expander circuit.

    So can anyone tell me if this might be an earlier or later one?

    My other question is regarding the compression/expander circuit. I'm not sure I understand the control. When I flip the switch to the right (away from the bridge) it seems to engage the circuit. The middle position seems to be normal, but I don't know what the left (toward the bridge) position does. Does anyone know?

    In any case, the RD Artist has certainly got to be one of the most overlooked basses out there. The thing just sounds incredible! One of the best vintage finds I've ever come across.
  2. notduane


    Nov 24, 2000
    You could try searchin' for the serial number at .

    Can't help ya with the onboard Moog circuit. Embellisher? :D
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Roughly 1978 to 1981 when it was replaced by the Victory.

    One position turns on compression, the other expansion (never could understand what good this was).
  4. Brooks

    Brooks Guest

    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    The Gibson Artist series were made from late '78 to '81. They were top of the line models, and included Les Paul Artist, ES Artist and RD Artist (both bass and guitar). They all feature a preamp built by Moog. The switches are (from the neck position) Preamp on, Compressor, Expander.

    I have the Les Paul and the ES...definately want to get the RD.
  5. Just a bit difference of opinion about the manufacture dates of the RD Artist. I was teaching at a music store at the time and we had an RD Artist in stock in late 1977. I stopped work there in the spring of 1978. This one was an ash/maple version. Very pretty, very heavy, and tons o' tone.
  6. According to 'The Bass Book' (GPI Books), they were made from 1977-82 (the RD Standard was only made '77-'79).

    From what I can gather, the earlier ones had the two regular sized toggle switches while later versions had one regular toggle and 2 mini toggles. I don't know at point point this was changed though.

    Apparently they came in 3 finishes - natural, sunburst and black. I have to say, other than mine, I've only seen them in natural leading me to believe the other colours are a bit more rare.

    I wish I could make out the serial number though - that would be useful.
  7. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Congrats, Rob W!

    You are the proud new owner of the finest bass that Gibson ever made, IMHO.

    One of my buddies that I used to go to church with had a butterscotch natural ash/maple like you were talking about.

    With the compression on, this bass has IMHO the best aggressive rock bass sound of any bass ever made.

    I never found much use for the expansion, and neither did my buddy.

    Sad story - he quit going to church and quit playing the bass, and pawned it for $100(back in the late 80's).

    I begged him for the pawn ticket, but he said he was going to go back and get the bass. He never did.:(

    The RD Artist is on my short list.

    As soon as I get a Cirrus 6, all I need to find is a butterscotch natural RD Artist, a Westone Quantum(Steinberger copy), a Westone Pantera 5 in pearl white, a black Peavey T40, and a sunburst/tortoise P bass. That will give me one of every bass that I have ever owned, plus my current crop and the RD.

    Again, congratulations.:) This is one of the most overlooked basses ever, IMHO.
  9. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Yeah, Michael, a reissue would be cool, but without the Moog preamp the RD Artist would just be another cool looking heavy as a boat anchor bass.

    It's great to look at, but that Moog preamp makes the bass IMHO, and I'm not sure if they could find someone to duplicate it.

    Time for another RD Artist sob story.:(

    A local music store had one of these back in '90 or '91, and wanted something like $250 for it. I was broke. Went back after I got paid, and it was gone.:( They said that they sold it a few minutes before I came in.

    But I will own one someday. Too bad they didn't make a 5 string.:p
  11. Matthew West

    Matthew West Guest

    Sep 7, 2000
    Richmond, VA
    Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but I have a few questions about this bass. My local shop has a tobacco sunburst one, and I was wondering

    1. What's a good price on one of these things? They want something like $875, which seems a bit much. It appeared to be in pretty good condition, but a few of the knobs were kind of hard to turn. probably just needs some TLC.

    2. When I played the E string, all it had was a dull thud. This is probably due to old strings, but is there any other reason this could be happening? The other strings didn't sound like that. Maybe an old battery?

    3. What type of battery does this thing take, or does it use phantom power?

    The thing looks like the most bass-ass rock and roll bass I have ever seen, but it is it up to the task? I like a big P bass on steriods sort of tone. When working properly, will this bass be able to cut through when needed?

    Oh, Embellisher - a butterscotch RD Artist recently sold on ebay for $375. You didn't get it, did you?
  12. Lumpycat

    Lumpycat Guest

    Sep 16, 2001
    Philadelphia PA
    Good luck with that thing. I'm sure that there were only a few made and that they have been passed around from shop to shop since the early 80's.
  13. RJ


    Aug 17, 2000
    San Francisco
    does anyone have a pic?
  14. notduane


    Nov 24, 2000
      (`77 RD Artist)

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  15. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Portland, OR
    Fine looking bass!...Sheesh... I guess that's another one I need to own eventually. Which brings the list up to oh, 30,721ish...I think that would look great in Black, with a maple neck and..maybe tortise shell pickgaurd?...yeah.
  16. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    The black ones came with a rosewood board.
  17. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    :mad:I missed out on that one.:(

    If I had seen it, I would have bid on it.

    As far as the one that you are looking at, $875 is a bit on the high side. Good examples, with the original hard case, are usually around $750. usually has a couple of dealers with RD Artists listed.

    As far as the sound of the E string, my guess would be a dead string, if the other 3 sound OK. Have the dealer put a new set on it, or get one of those $9.00 sets at GC and put on it to check it out.

    The bass takes a 9 volt battery, or is it 2? I can't remember. I only saw in the back of one once, many years ago.

    Make sure that the preamp works. You have 2 switches at the bridge, and one is for compression, one is for expansion, IIRC. You should notice a big change in tone with either switched on.

    An RD Artist with roundwounds would cut through with no problem IMHO. Even though I don't play 4 stringers much anymore, I would still love to have one of these.
  18. Matthew West

    Matthew West Guest

    Sep 7, 2000
    Richmond, VA
    Thanks Embellisher. Ever played a Victory Artist? I just saw them for the first time today. They look even cooler than the RD, and seem to go for less money. I would imagine the tone would be about the same?
  19. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    The Victory Artist has the same Moog preamp as the RD Artist, I believe. I don't like the Victory body shape, but it should sound very similar to the RD.
  20. Matthew West

    Matthew West Guest

    Sep 7, 2000
    Richmond, VA
    Jeff, I PM'd you with another question.