Thunderbirds: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Warpeg, May 31, 2017.

  1. Warpeg


    Jun 20, 2005
    My experience with Gibson Thunderbirds is about 30 minutes, which is how long I played one at a GC one day a few years ago. It was nice. The tone seemed okay through a 25W Ampeg and it was comfortable on my lap while sitting. However, I do not have any real-world experience with one and I am considering ordering a newer model.

    So......what can you Thunderbird experts tell me about Thunderbirds? I have read a multitude of threads on TB about Thunderbirds, but I'd like to see if I can get a consensus.
    • How is the tone? My measuring stick is a Fender '63 Reissue do you think they compare?
    • I read that these have neck dive issues and that they are not comfortable to wear. Is this true?
    • I read that playability is similar to a Ric. Will the edge of the body dig into my forearm like a Ric will?
    • I read that they are somewhat fragile basses? Is this accurate?
    • Do these pair well with a certain string?
    • What else should I know about these?
    Mantis Tobaggan likes this.
  2. Warpeg


    Jun 20, 2005
    Herrick likes this.
  3. JJR58

    JJR58 Dirty Bird

    Dec 2, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY.
    Head over to The Thunderbird Club.
    Those folks over there know their stuff.
  4. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    I bought this one two weeks ago.
    It's the Epiphone Classic IV.
    Used, $399 with a hardshell contoured Epiphone case.
    Gibson pickups and Hipshot bridge.
    Sounds great and it'll only sound better when I put on the proper strings.
    No neck dive whatsoever...imagine that.
    Good points: killer tone, nice neck, great looks, good price.
    Bad points: not a single one.
    No need for a Gibson with one of these, but I'd be willing to listen to anyone who could even begin to explain why a Gibson is better.
  5. A thinderbird and a stingray have always been two basses on my short list I've wanted
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  6. wolfkeller

    wolfkeller Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2013
    I have many t Birds including a 2013 Gibson.
    They are fragile in that they have a very thin neck at the nut and they have the nitro finish. They're not as rugged as a fender. Much easier to damage imo due to the finish type but they look great.

    Sound, deep and dark with stock pups (Wich is a very good rock tone) they will get aggressive when pushed. They will NOT sound like a fender jazz or precision. Much thicker tone. I've tired EMG PJs in t Birds pup housings to get a PJ sound...nope. They have their own sound and it's a great one.

    Comfort, they feel very comfortable and natural to me but I'm used to em. Definitely alot different from a fender. Very good balance and no dive.

    I only used rotosound RS 66 on them, definitely brings out a more aggressive, punchy tone.

    I love birds but more for the look. Sound wise I definitely prefer a good PJ bass. My rig is built around that fact to compensate for the bird sound.
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  7. wolfkeller

    wolfkeller Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2013
    I'll also add that the Gibsons are overall awesome and we'll made basses. I dig fender but imo, Gibson smokes em with the Thunderbird. That's good and bad cuz I'm less worried about hurting a non Gibson.
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  8. lowendblues

    lowendblues Supporting Member

    Oct 8, 2004
    I agree 100 percent.
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  9. wolfkeller

    wolfkeller Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2013
    Gibson is not worth the extra $. Those classics are awesome. One thing the Gibson has that I prefer, the headstock veneer rather than the painted bevil.
  10. JJR58

    JJR58 Dirty Bird

    Dec 2, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY.
    In my humble opinion JD, Go easy on the Gibson's.......
    hillerup, kat888 and jd56hawk like this.
  11. Bent77

    Bent77 Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2013
    Desert, Colorado
    Nice Epi Bird, best pick bass ever.

    Just saying
  12. dvrader


    Nov 26, 2015
    I used to think thunderbirds were the coolest looking bass ever. I wanted one badly for years.

    Then I finally bought one. It was the most unergonomic bass I've ever owned.

    Never played it again after the first week. Finally sold it a few years later.
    StraffordMike likes this.
  13. So I guess maybe I shouldn't post this photo?? (Sorry @JGbassman, couldn't resist :thumbsup:)
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  14. One man's unergonomic is another man's perfectly comfortable go to. Me being one of those. They're not for everyone, sorry you didn't get it.
  15. higain617


    Sep 12, 2013
    I now have an Epi Thunderbird IV Pro, which I really like. It's enormous but doesn't neck-dive, and has USA TB+ pickups. It has a similar tone to my old LP bass, but is less awkward. Also, this one came with a Hipshot full-contact bridge. I've heard the Epi has the same pickup spacing as a 70's T-bird.
  16. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    Good luck trying to find a thinderbird these days - exceedingly rare!
  17. ProgressiveDoom

    ProgressiveDoom Guest

    Mar 31, 2017
    That is a complete and valuable recommendation right there:thumbsup:
  18. ProgressiveDoom

    ProgressiveDoom Guest

    Mar 31, 2017
    You only gave it a week?. As a finger player I love the low contour of the body's mid section, its like a palm rest and beats my Fender P for that reason alone.
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  19. Tanner5382


    Sep 26, 2010
    Georgia, USA
    Since you mentioned Ampeg, I will offer in my opinion that Gibsons and Ampegs aren't really a great combo like Fenders and Ampegs are. I much prefer Gibsons with British or British voiced amps like Marshalls, HiWatts/Reeves, Oranges, etc.

    Don't try to EQ a Gibson like a Fender like so many Gibson detractors seem to want to do. The key to EQing these, again in my opinion, is cutting bass and boosting treble. Mids to taste, boosted for me personally.
    StrangerBasses, MCF, hillerup and 6 others like this.
  20. ubernator


    Oct 30, 2004
    lost angels
    Birds can be hard on the forearm like rics. A wrist band solves that.

    They do neck dive, but only with slick straps. Another easy fix.

    They want to be slung low, but maybe that is just because most rock stars that used them were low slingers. When I see a bird slung high, it just doesn't look right to me.

    Mahogany is a darker tone wood. If you want a bird to sound like a fender, there is the epiphone NR with PJ pickups and fender wood types, alder and maple.