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Gibson Thunderbird IV & Blackbird Owners, please check pups...

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by stiles72, Nov 6, 2010.

  1. stiles72


    Mar 20, 2009
    Albany IL
    Could any of you fellow Gibson Thunderbird IV (modern) and Blackbird owners check to see what the bottom of your pickups are marked, and how they look? I've had this discussion with a couple of you - and the consensus is that even though the modern TB+ pickups look the same externally, Gibson had possibly three different versions of them- each potentially sorced from a different manufacturer.

    Reason I want to check is that I have a '00 Blackbird that has almost twice the output and a much fatter/thicker/warmer tone than my '07 Thunderbird IV. The difference is night and day between the two. The Blackbird was modded when I received it - instead of the on/off toggle, it has a 3 way selector and v/v/t/t like a Les Paul. It has CTS 500K pots and .047 caps.

    The T-bird IV was stock when I got it, and sounds good on it's own - but compared to the Blackbird - it's brighter, cleaner, and doesn't have nearly as much output. I did try swapping out the stock 300K Gibson pots for 500K CTS, and I rewired it so that the tone only affected the neck pup. However it made no real audible difference - still thinner and cleaner compared to the Blackbird.

    One thing I have noticed is that the bottom of the Blackbird pup is marked "214" and the IV is marked "204" in crayon/marking pencil. I called Gibson to see if this was an indication of output or a model # etc... but they had no idea what it was, and said the IV and Blackbird should have had the same pups. In the pics below you can also see the Blackbird pup is encased in sort of a clear poly fill, and the IV is not.

    Both are great basses, but I really want to get the IV to sound more like the Blackbird since changing between the two requires major tweaks to my amp setting when switching basses during shows. Since switching the electronics didn't make any real change in output, I'm guessing that it's a difference in the pups. Thoughts?


  2. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    You can clearly see they are not the same pickups. Look at the "screw tunnel" on the bottom photo. It's a different plastic shell.

    Switching from 300K to 500K will make the bass brighter. You might want to try 250K. That might warm up the top end a bit.

    One way to see if the pickups are different is to take a reading on a multimeter to check the resistance. The brighter pickup will probably read lower, which also accounts for the lower output.

    That might have been intentional at the time they made those.

    I suspect the numbers written on the pickup have to do with the person who assembled them, or checked them. It's very possible that Gibson has them made over-seas.

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