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Just Some Thoughts/My Experience With Gibson Basses - Not a Gibson Bashing Thread!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BassDaddy77, Mar 7, 2021.

  1. BassDaddy77


    Feb 12, 2010
    NE Ohio
    Why do so many assume Gibson doesn't take bass manufacturing seriously? They have designs unique to them, several of which have been in and out of production for nearly 70 years.

    I believe the primary reason for their unappealing reputation (generally speaking) comes from what differentiates them from Fenders (or FSOs). Some observations off the top of my head:

    - They are usually ergonomically quite different than a typical FSO (shape, balance points, where they "hang" etc)
    - They have a distinctive tonal pallette very different from the typical FSO
    - Most models (a couple exceptions) historically are through-neck or set neck which means replacement or swapping is very difficult or impossible limiting repairs/customization
    - Model pricing has been all over the map from year to year without perceived justification in the eyes of the consumer

    However, the following qualities are generally favored by the average FSO style player, and Gibson has been offering these features for a long time:

    -Most of their bass models are nitro lacquered (a big deal for many FSO lovers)
    - They use high end hardware (Grover, Hipshot, Babicz, etc)
    - They typically use "perceived as premium" woods (mahogany, ash, maple)
    - Most bass models come with a very nice plush lined hardcase with vintage styling (again, another big deal for some folks)
    - All Gibsons are made in the USA (yet again a big deal for some)

    So, it's strange to me that Gibsons have garnered such unfavorable reviews with so many bassists over the years. They seem to have been everywhere in the '60s and '70s (perhaps due to the lack of available options?), but are admittedly less commonly seen nowadays. But with a list of perceived favorable qualities at least as long as perceived unfavorable ones, it just doesn't add up IMHO. And to be fair, there are lots of players who enjoy and seek out some of the qualities mentioned in the first group. Sound, ergonomics, uniqueness, and nostalgia are actually reasons that some folks want a Gibson bass in the first place. I guess you could say they march to the beat of their own drum.

    I enjoy the Gibsons in my current stable, and can honestly say that I've never owned one that wasn't well built in my eyes. I currently own or have owned:
    1979 Thunderbird
    2013 Thunderbird
    2015 Thunderbird
    2013 Midtown Std
    2013 EB4 (sometimes called an EB13)
    Two 2014 SG Anniversary Specials
    2019 Les Paul Tribute DC

    -So, a decent sampling of their basses, albeit missing out on those '60s, '70s and '80s icons like the original EB series, Ripper, Grabber, RDs, Victory, etc.

    Have I absolutely LOVED every one I've owned? No. But to be honest, they've all been well made, solid offerings even if I wasn't completely enamored by a couple. I could say the same thing for every brand of bass I've owned multiples of in terms of likeability, but not for consistency in quality. In my experience, Gibson has probably been the best in terms of "quality across the board." I realize this may not be the same experience for everyone. And perhaps I've just been lucky, lol.

    Having said that, I'm definitely no Gibson fanboy. I simply enjoy them as one of many brands that I've appreciated and been blessed to play over my relatively short tenure in the electric bass world.

    So, if I'm missing some huge sticking points/observations on Gibson basses, I'd love to hear from anyone who would be willing to share. I only ask that we try and keep it civil, lol. I know I may be "flirting with disaster" with my title. I certainly mean no harm, and am well aware that there have been many similar threads over the years (most of which I've read through). But, hey....if ya don't ask, ya won't know, right?!
  2. BassDaddy77


    Feb 12, 2010
    NE Ohio
    Mods, feel free to move this into "Basses" if deemed more appropriate. :)
  3. Have to say I've had two Thunderbirds, a 2012 sunburst & the Nikki Sixx "Red bird" ( flamed maple wings ).
    Enjoyed them both and still have the sunburst one.
    Never had an issue with neck-dive ( in fact on par with most other instruments I've owned ), the build quality on both was good and the sound has always been perfect for my types of playing ( hard rock, punk & a bit of metal ).
    MCF and BassDaddy77 like this.
  4. Leonid Nidis

    Leonid Nidis

    Jan 1, 2018
    I have an sg I love but it took a while to get there.
    It's different,it rings out in it's own way,slides sound and feel different.
    Hard to explain but I noticed that when I play a fender 9 times out of 10 i get good useble sounds right away no matter how i pluck.
    The gibsons i played its 3 out 10 and you can get unpleasant tones,too muddy or hollow.
    Gibson instruments "punish" you so to speak,maybe this is part of the reason they are less popular.
    Quality wise I never had a problem or saw one.
    BassDaddy77 likes this.
  5. squarepeg


    Dec 21, 2010
    I had an EB3 back in the 1970s, when they were very popular. I preferred the feel to that of a Fender.

    I recently acquired a 1970 EB3 that needs some TLC. I took it to band practice, and the BL said he had never heard a bass with such a deep sound. The other members liked it too.
    Giffro, Root 5, wmmj and 6 others like this.
  6. BassDaddy77


    Feb 12, 2010
    NE Ohio
    I will say that my SGs took a little time to figure out as well. They respond so differently than most other basses. I seem to be in a minority that enjoys them strung with rounds just as much as flats. Turning down the bass EQ on the amp a tick has helped with clarity for me. Once EQ'd well, they really sing, IMO.
    Tbone76, wmmj, bobyoung53 and 3 others like this.
  7. Leonid Nidis

    Leonid Nidis

    Jan 1, 2018
    Imo they thump as is and to balance that rounds are just right I use ernie balls but looking to go brighter.

    The key is to mix the pickups cos separately they dont sound as good.
    I play with the bridge open and add fat as needed with the neck.
    With the right touch it can get very clear and crisp.
    Tbone76, dkelley and BassDaddy77 like this.
  8. squarepeg


    Dec 21, 2010
    I don't like flats on any bass, but particularly on a Gibson. Just my opinion.
    MynameisMe, dkelley, Ellery and 4 others like this.
  9. ajkula66


    Sep 23, 2016
    A couple of tidbits on getting the most out of your Gibby:

    a) Do not play it like a Fender. A light right hand will take you a long way, unless you're dealing with a Bird or an RD and want the actual growl.

    b) Do not EQ it like a Fender.

    c) On the older ones - mostly EB models - the volume pot for the neck pickup is there for a reason. Use it wisely. Unless you're after Bruce/Pappalardi sound and enjoy frying your preamp with no cooking oil involved...:woot:

    My $0.02 only...
    Alan Scharrer, Tbone76, Ukko and 6 others like this.
  10. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    I appreciate the nitro finish, solid hardware and eccentric styling on my EB-5.
    It sure doesn't take a setup like my Roscoe, though. And the electronics, well, let's just say they are as quirky as the looks - in ways not always good.
    But some settings work well sometimes. And where is the fun in playing FSO all the time? (Even when SCPB, P, JJ & P/J have all proven to be more predictable & versatile IME.)
    BassDaddy77 likes this.
  11. ficelles


    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    I had an early 90s Thunderbird (fretted 4 of course) for a while, really wanted to get on with it as the memory of The Ox with a T-Bird is such an iconic image but I found it just too large for me. I always felt I was going to hit things with that long headstock (things like guitarists and singers mostly) so I let it go to a friend. It was one cool bass though.

    Being mainly a fretless player my options for another Gibson are limited, there's a nice RD Artist fretless on Reverb at the moment but it's too many £££s for me, wouldn't mind a fretless EB-2 or EB-3 but were factory unlined versions even made? I think the fretless "EB-3" Jack Bruce used was actually a Warwick.

    I'm waiting patiently for Gibson to release a Thunderbird Studio V unlined fretless, hope they're reading this :)
    Tbone76, wmmj, Son of Wobble and 2 others like this.
  12. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    I have opinions on this topic as well.

    Many sheeple want just what their idols play. And since Gibson has actually made very few basses through the years compared to other manufacturers (such as the ones starting with F, MM, and GL, for instance), most sheeple wind up attracted to non-Gibson basses. It boils down to market saturation and subsequent exposure.

    I love their designs, and I have built myself a fair few derivatives.
    Tbone76, deff, coves and 1 other person like this.
  13. Gibson has for the most part always done their own thing in the bass world and I respect that. There are models I love, some I liked and some I hated but for most of my bass & guitar owning life I have been proud to have at least one in my modest collection. I owned but rarely played a restored G-3 for many years until I traded it for an EB14 5 string in Bullion Gold that is one of my main players now.
    The EB14 is a perfect example of what Gibson does "wrong" or right depending on your POV. The body shape is original and a bit off looking, the ergonomics or hang is a bit different. The finish is delicate and you can feel he wood. Top line hardware, set neck but the angle is just right. Beautifully flamed neck on my bass and a thick rose wood fretboard. Topped off with that Gibson crown headstock. Then we have the guts of the matter the powerfully bright pickups and trick electronics with the pull taps for single coil but no volume drop giving a wide swath of tones with a tone control that goes from sparkling to rumbling. This is what Gibson does best or "worst". FB_IMG_1577512118615.jpg FB_IMG_1577512199764.jpg

    I hate that Gibson updated this bass to look more FSO
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2021
  14. BassDaddy77


    Feb 12, 2010
    NE Ohio
    Beauty of a gold finish on that! Sometimes I regret selling my '13 EB 4-string. I had some trouble with "wolf tones" from those incredibly powerful pickups that I just couldn't adjust out no matter what I tried. I loved everything else about that bass though. Oddly enough, the 2015 Thunderbird I owned had those same pickups/electronics (although the coil-taps were toggle switches instead of push/pull knobs) and they rang as clear as a bell with no weird overtones.
    Tbone76 likes this.
  15. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Yeah - I much prefer the original lines, too.
    Hey, do your two pickups cancel each other out on your EB-5? Mine do. Not as absolutely as on an incorrectly wired J-bass, but any combination of both pickups on my EB-5 seems almost unusably thin and weak. I am really wondering if this is normal on this model, or if maybe there was a mistake at the factory. (They are wired the same on their respective volume pots - and they do cancel each other's hum in single coil.)
  16. ajkula66


    Sep 23, 2016
    There were no factory fretless EB-2 or EB-3 offerings, lined or unlined, The closest that one will get to that ballpark is Guild JS-2 which was offered as an unlined fretless.

    And you are correct, the funky looking EB in the hands of late Mr. Bruce was a Warwick indeed.
    George Dennis, Ellery and bobyoung53 like this.
  17. ficelles


    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    Oh no. New GAS. Guild JS-2 fretless...
    bobyoung53 likes this.
  18. ajkula66


    Sep 23, 2016
    Or a nice Ripper if you want to stick with Gibbies...I've given up on fretless ~30 years ago but if someone gifted me a Ripper or a JS-2 I could see myself going down that rabbit hole once again...;)
  19. BAG


    May 5, 2014
    New Zealand
    I've never owned a Gibson bass. I wanted to, and have tried numerous different ones in stores over the years, but every single one I have picked off the wall to play had an issue with fit or finish. They are quite expensive in Australia and the issues I found were such that I have not even bothered plugging any of them into an amp..... partly because there was no way I would pay the asking price on them with poor fit and/or finish and didn't want to be swayed by them potentially sounding fantastic.
  20. Peteyboy


    Apr 2, 2018
    Los Angeles
    I own a 70's EB4L. One of the problems with that design is the 3-point bridge. I replaced it with a Badass long before concerns about "vintage" resale value came up, so they drilled 3 holes in the body. I have no regrets about having that done.
    BassicJack likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Apr 14, 2021

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