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Gibson Thunderbird - Old vs. New

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Kink Rimson, Dec 13, 2005.

  1. Can anybody on here offer a comparison between the old and new thunderbirds? Specifically the tone. I only have access to the new ones.

    Old, meaning the ones used by Entwistle, Martin Turner and the like. Big chrome pickups.

    New, meaning the current model with soapbars and black hardware.
  2. I sure hope the new ones are better is all! The old ones werent all that great, adn the 76 reissues the worst of all. Dead tone. HOWEVER, that's 30 yrs old memory talking so fwiw!
  3. macahan


    Mar 22, 2005
    Karlstad, Sweden
    dude.. you're wrong.. the 76 i used to own sounded AMAZING..
  4. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii

    My '76 sounds great. They do sound different than the new ones, but that doesn't make them bad.
  5. 69'Vette


    Jan 28, 2003
    Cedar Hills, UT
    I have at least one version of every regular production Thunderbird made except for a non reverse II (which I sold recently) and a 60's reverse IV. In case anyone's wondering, my '66 Embassy covers the same audio territory as the II did, so I reluctantly sold it due to a financial need.

    60's Thunderbirds are my favorite and every one I've ever played has sounded great, but I love them all. No era "sucks", though there are small but discernible differences in sound between each era (and even between different 'birds built on the same day). Unless you're looking specifically for the tone heard in a 60's or 70's 'bird, I'd recommend getting a newer (87 and up) one. Dollar for dollar it's the best value you'll find and 95% or more of listeners won't hear a difference anyway. That being said, after you get that one I recommend immediately starting a fund to pay for all the rest, which you'll end up wanting. :D
  6. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    +1 on both points.
  7. Rezdog

    Rezdog Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    T.Rez, Canada
    Greetings from the North,
    I still like my 76 TBird. Picked it up new from Gus Zoppi's old store on 8 Mile Rd. in Detroit, back in ancient times. Had a BADASS bridge installed and put a set of Rotos on it. Ran it through a 1st series SVT into 2 Fender angled 412 Bassmans or 1 412 and a 18 reflex. The TBird sounded awesome. Maybe I lucked out and got a good one. I've pretty much retired it but I'm thinking about pulling it out and putting a set of tape wounds or flats on it just for a change. Just like any bass type you can name, some will be better than others.
    Find what's good for you. I did.
    Happy Times,
  8. YEs... I'm drawn to the newer ones but have heard MUCH negativity about the quality. Anyone shed some light on this? Has Gibson gone off the rails?
  9. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I'm not sure how "new" you are talking, but my '91 Bird is of top notch build quality and has never given me a hind of trouble over 14 years of pretty heavy gigging.

  10. KPJ


    Oct 2, 2001
    Methuen, MA USA
    On a related note, does anyone own or have tried one of the new Studio 'birds? Either a 4 or a 5 string. I know they have set necks and different bridges and hardware, but I believe the pickups are the same. They cost about a third less than the regular 'bird.
  11. 69'Vette


    Jan 28, 2003
    Cedar Hills, UT
    I've read an in hand review of the new studio 4 from a player/collector in Germany. Thumbs up on the sound and feel.

    AFA quality issues on newer 'birds goes, I know three or four guys who ended up returning their brand new Thunderbirds due mostly to crappy finish issues. I have a 2001 in white that I bought NOS last year. It also has a crappy finish. Still sounds good though... If you're looking to buy a new 'bird, just don't buy it online. Play it and inspect it in person, so you know what you're getting. If you buy one used (on eBay or whatever), just make sure you can see enough good pictures that you know what the finish looks like before you buy.
  12. Rock City

    Rock City

    Apr 8, 2001
    Hey '69Vette!
    I'm "babysitting" your old non-reverse II for a couple weeks! Pris went away and left it with me.
    I agree with 'Vette's statements that there's no crappy era, they're just all different.
    I have a '76 'Bird that has been my favorite instument for 10 years. I have a '65 Embassy, that with your eyes closed, you'd think was a '64 'Bird. The non-reverse II sounds almost like the Embassy without the bridge pickup on, but sounds nothing like the '76. I have a friend with a '79, and it's awesome, but it's different still than all the others.
    I've played modern 'Birds that were amazing, and ones that should have been kindling. You really need to get out there and get them in your hands to see if they "do it" for you.
  13. 69'Vette


    Jan 28, 2003
    Cedar Hills, UT
    Hey Corey, Steve must really trust you! It's funny you mention your Embassy. As I wrote above, I found the same thing and decided to keep the Embassy. I've had the exact same experience as you with the various 'birds I've played and owned over the years. The good ones all have 'that sound', even though each era sounds a little different. The only one I ever had that I thought was a dog ended up being one of my all time keepers once I had it gone through by a guy who really knew how to set up Gibsons. It went from sounding kind of dead to sounding incredible! It's a '96 that I retrofitted with old style hardware:


    And just because, here's my Embassy:


    It has the same bridge on it now that Steve's II has. Sounds killer, as you know!

    BTW, I sold a Waterstone 12 recently but still have a white Musicvox. I want one of the newer Waterstones at some point... Great basses!
  14. Rock City

    Rock City

    Apr 8, 2001
    Hey 'Vette.....wanna sell the bridge that came off your Embassy? Mine has an early 60's EBO bridge on the studs now. I'd love to put an original on there, but I'll do the Dasson if I can't find one. The Dasson is a work of art! I'm just kinda anal!!!!
    Your/Steve's II is a good bass. I had it at a rehearsal the other night, and it rocked. BIG neck on that one! Now I just gotta fiqure out how to make him hate it!!!!! L.O.L.!
  15. abngourmet

    abngourmet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2004
    Speaking only for myself, I find the older ones sound much better to me ... more treble, growl, etc. than the new ones. Personally, I think it has to do with the pickups. The TB Plus Ceramics just plain suck IMHO. I know there are guys here that love them, so to each his/her own. I hated them so much that I dropped Bartolinis in mine, and I'm still trying to figure out how to get Bartolini active electronics into that small cavity.

    As far as I know they're still made out of the same wood - mahogany, so you shouldn't find too much of a difference between the newer and older models. Build quality is great on my '87 Custom shop, so I have no complaints.

    My two cents,

  16. What are those pickups? That looks KILLER :bassist:
  17. 69'Vette


    Jan 28, 2003
    Cedar Hills, UT
    They're stock TB Plus pickups with chrome covers. Gibson made a bunch of them sometime in the last 15 years for some project. I've never seen what Gibson used them for, but I met a guy in New York with two sets. He'd done an all chrome mod to a 90's sunburst model and sold me the other set. I had him do the mod on mine and he set it up so it plays and sounds incredible.

    A pair of these sold on eBay a couple of weeks ago for some insane amount (over $600). I'd love to get my hands on a pair of Chandler 'bird pickups. Not for $300 a piece though!