1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Thunderbird pickups?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by SubEndSorcerer, Dec 16, 2004.

  1. SubEndSorcerer


    Nov 27, 2004
    Can someone tell me about Thunderbird pickups? I was browsing at Bartolini's website and they have Thunderbird pickups but they really don't give much of a description of them. Are they similar to soapbars? I basically only know the characteristics of Fender style pickups. Could someone clarify Thunderbird and soapbar pickups for me. I'm on the quest for a Quadrophenia/Blizzard of Ozz type tone....the clanky fender I have right now isn't doing much for me.
  2. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    Thunderbirds are soaps, soap is just the general shape (ie soapbar). I've got Epi Thunderbirds which are singles with a review listed in Dimento's soap pup experiment (search). Don't now what the original Gibsons are. There was a couple sets of new Blackbirds on Ebay a few weeks ago but a bit much for my taste and I'm satisfied with the Epi's. Have read reviews by many who prefer them over the Gibsons. I doubt the Barts will sound the same but the Bart site should at least say whether they're singles or HBs - and that will give you some idea. If not you can call Bart or look for reviews on them on the net.
  3. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    A guy I know has a Les Paul bass with these in it along with a Bart preamp, which I think is the stock config. They're the noisiest pickups I think I've ever heard and very middy. Whenever he mentions this to a guitar shop they tell him that it's common with the pickups he's got. Definitely try to listen to them before buying them or else make sure you have the option of returning them.
  4. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    That's interesting cause Barts are usually dead quiet. Maybe so but I'd probably call Bart and ask about that.

    The Epi's are singles so I assume there's 60 cycle hum but it's been a while since I've had them in a bass so don't remember, the review would say tho. Even if so, I doubt the Epi's are any worse than any other singles cause I'd probably remember that. Seems they were some hi-output, punchy, well balanced pups - which is why I kept them.
  5. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    Went back and read my own review on the Epi's.


    It was the PV Foundation's that were singles not the TBirds (HB's). So I'd guess the Gibsons and Barts may be HB's as well. At any rate, noise from a Bart is a red flag to me and indicates something is not as it should be somewhere, probably grounding.

    Time to drop the Epi's back in for a while.
  6. slinkp


    Aug 29, 2003
    brooklyn, NY, USA
    Oh man, we have had tons of discussion of T-birds and all related topics over on the Dudepit gibson bass forum.

    Some quickie info, based largely on hearsay except where noted:

    * Barts do not sound anything like T-birds of any era.
    They are not nearly as aggressive. Some would say bland.

    * There are three totally different eras of Gibson Thunderbird pickups.

    a) The original (sixties) model was a humbucker in a nickel cover.
    To many people, this is THE T-bird sound and nothing else
    comes close. THese fetch big bucks on ebay when you can
    even find them - very rarely. I've had a saved search up for
    a year and saw *one* of these for like $250.

    b) The 1976-79 "bicentennial" model was a "sidewinder" humbucker
    in a chrome cover. Unusual design. Brighter than the old ones.
    I snagged one of these on Ebay for $100 which started me on this
    crazy obsession. I like it, it's gonna end up in a custom bass
    I'm having done.

    c) The modern Tbird with black soapbars. These still have some
    T-bird character but do sound more, well, modern.
    Opinion on these is divided - some like them, some don't.

    As far as non-original replacements, there aren't many options:

    * Chandler made a T-bird replacement pickup modelled on the 60s ones but a bit brighter. These have not been made in a long time, Chandler says they will not do it again, and they are hard to find. I've heard only good things about these. Never seen one for sale.

    * Greco (a Japanese company) made illegal knock-offs of T-birds. The pickups were based on the old 60s models and reportedly got the tone pretty well. I have one of these basses and it's now my primary bass.
    It just sounds fantastic. But I don't have another bird to compare it to.
    You can snag one of these basses for $400-ish on ebay, which might be
    easier and cheaper than getting a pair of 60s tbird pups!!!

    * "Orville by Gibson" is/was a japanese company making licensed
    replicas of Gibson instruments. If you can find these they're reputed
    to be excellent and reasonably priced.

    * Epiphone makes a bolt-on Thunderbird style bass with black soapbars.
    I'm afraid I don't know what these sound like. THey don't get discussed much on the dudepit.

    Then there are some related pickups in a guitar-humbucker-sized package
    (a totally different size/shape):

    * Gibson Les Paul Standard basses now come with chrome-plated guitar-humbucker-sized pickups called "TB Plus". You can get these for $100 or so from classicaxe in nashville. They are reputed to have something of the Thunderbird growl, but are a bit more "modern", whatever that means. Note that if you have a Paul with black soapbars, those are totally different pickups and are reputedly Barts.

    * Epiphone Elitist thunderbirds are reputed to be better-made than the current-production Gibson thunderbirds! The pickups are chrome-plated guitar-humbucker-sized. Nobody seems to know whether these are the same as the LP Standard pups mentioned above, but supposedly they also have a nice T-bird character.

    Then there's the custom option - or is there?

    * No pickup manufacturer I've been in touch with is able to reproduce
    the old chrome t-bird pup covers. Well, of course they *could* but
    tooling up for manufacturing a new metal pup size/shape is very expensive
    and only worthwhile if you're gonna sell a LOT of them.
    But if you can find something to house it in, lots of people could probably
    make something that sounds more or less like an old T-bird pickup.
    Not cheaply though... custom jobs never are.

    And that pretty much exhausts my knowledge on the topic.
  7. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    Quality post slinkp
  8. SubEndSorcerer


    Nov 27, 2004
    Slinkp= thanks for your help...Is there *any* other way to get that woofy tone on "The Real Me"? I was thinking my P-Bass could get me there. but I'm sure the pup/amp is also a factor. Right now my p bass sounds clunky/thuddy. But I'm sure the pup/amp (GK-1x10 combo) is a factor in that.Maybe a P-bass pickup with more mids and lows and a touch more heat than the standard american pups? What's the secret to that tone, I'm obsessed with it. Can you think of any other bassist who got a similar tone?
  9. slinkp


    Aug 29, 2003
    brooklyn, NY, USA
    Well, the T-bird tone is partly also the wood I think... a mahogany neck-through just sounds more resonant and mid-y than any maple bolt-on P-bass I've played.

    But before you get too obsessed... remember you're talking about Entwistle's unique touch... and he'd sound like himself no matter which of his 9000 basses he was playing :)

    I do think the t-bird pups have more lows than a P-bass pup, a more resonant upper-midrange, and maybe a bit less on the way high end. At least that's my greco. Maybe another pbass pickup would get that character but I have no idea which one.
  10. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    would concur on not getting hung up on a given tone, although I can see the preoccupation. There are tons of variables in getting even a live tone, a recorded tone can be much more difficult. Who knows what tweaking was done to the live tone. That and the fact that just the mix of the instruments played live will make the bass tone sound different than with different instruments or the same instruments played differently, aside from any tweaking done to them in the recording.

    I know McCartney had and used other basses but his main bass was a Hofner - which is on the bottom of the list for a versatile bass. Yet the Beatles played practically every style of music common up to their time and it sounded great, in no small part due to the fact that George Martin was a genius.

    Even if you got the tone, it may not work well to other tunes or different styles.

    On the flip side, you won't know till you try and in the process you're bound to learn something that will be of use on down the road.
  11. slinkp


    Aug 29, 2003
    brooklyn, NY, USA
  12. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    Yep, a tad extreme but hey, you can't take it with you. Something that dud is acutely aware of.

    Been playing those Epi TBirds last few days off and on and they're not the chrome plated jobs. Nevertheless, they're every bit as sweet as I remember. Quality J tone and dead quiet on any setting. I've chucked Fralins, Smiths, and Antiquities (among others) - but kept these. I think I got these in a package deal for a couple bucks.

    Sure would be fun to do a blindfold test with that dude with his $500 Tbirds and my $2 Epi's.
  13. I am making a Neck pickup for a Franken-bass I've been working on, but I bought a T-Bird bridge pick up. I too had some extra noise, but the fault was in the fact that I was fully wiring the bass on my own. After a few changes, it is a VERY good pickup.
  14. anyone know how many times a t-bird pickup is wound?
  15. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii