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6feet7

Thoughts on a Gibson Thunderbird V

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GAS has hit again. This time in the shape of a 2006 Gibson Thunderbird V (V as in 5 string version). In my opinion they look absolutely as cool as a cucumber (but then I think that about Rickenbackers, and I've had 3 of them and hated every one). I did get a Jackson David Ellefson bass a while back to scratch the pointy headed itch, but the lack of a forearm contour and that imperceptible 'just not gelling with it' meant it went pretty quickly. 

The reason for this post is really what do the great and the good of basschat actually think of a proper (i.e. not the Epiphone version) Gibson Thunderbird V? (Before I part with money I don't really have for something I might be selling on here for a loss a week after I've bought it)

Edited by 6feet7

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The 5 string gibson version from that time is not a 'classic' style thunderbird with the usual neck thru construction but is designated as 'thunderbird studio' model. instead of the neck-thru construction of nine-ply mahogany/walnut neck with mahogany wings it has a mahogany body with a mahogany set neck, and a different bridge.

Edited by Jean-Luc Pickguard

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1 hour ago, 6feet7 said:

GAS has hit again. This time in the shape of a 2006 Gibson Thunderbird V (V as in 5 string version).

What sort of money are you looking at?

 

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9 minutes ago, Jean-Luc Pickguard said:

The 5 string gibson version from that time is not a 'classic' style thunderbird with the usual string thru construction but is designated as 'thunderbird studio' model. instead of the neck-thru construction of nine-ply mahogany/walnut neck with mahogany wings it has a mahogany body with a mahogany set neck, and a different bridge.

But what's it like? as I only play 5 stringers it's this or nothing. I'm more into how it looks and feels and am not bothered about how it's made.

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2 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

What sort of money are you looking at?

 

Just over a grand

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For a fairly rare genuine Gibson, that doesn't strike me as outrageous.

You're already well aware of the known T-bird issues, as would be any potential buyer as and when you want to move it on, so if the price is at least OK then you're unlikely to take much of a hit.

Can you play it first or is this a punt on eBay or similar?

 

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1 minute ago, Happy Jack said:

For a fairly rare genuine Gibson, that doesn't strike me as outrageous.

You're already well aware of the known T-bird issues, as would be any potential buyer as and when you want to move it on, so if the price is at least OK then you're unlikely to take much of a hit.

Can you play it first or is this a punt on eBay or similar?

 

There's one in Spain and one in Germany, so trying is out of the question. The problem is that we have a month before import taxes will be added, so it's now or never. 

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15 minutes ago, 6feet7 said:

But what's it like? as I only play 5 stringers it's this or nothing. I'm more into how it looks and feels and am not bothered about how it's made.

I tried out the four string version of the studio. It was okay but not in the same class as an epiphone vintage pro.

There's a five string epiphone pro-v at the Gallery at the moment which does have a thru neck: https://thebassgallery.com/collections/all/products/epiphone-thunderbird-5-string

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29 minutes ago, Jean-Luc Pickguard said:

I tried out the four string version of the studio. It was okay but not in the same class as an epiphone vintage pro.

There's a five string epiphone pro-v at the Gallery at the moment which does have a thru neck: https://thebassgallery.com/collections/all/products/epiphone-thunderbird-5-string

I've seen that but don't want active, which the Epiphone is. I'm allergic to putting batteries in my basses (though I could remove the wiring, put new pickups in and still be £400 in pocket). The Epi also doesn't have a forearm contour, which is a big no no as far as I'm concerned :(

Edited by 6feet7

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Do any thunderbirds have a forearm contour? I don't recall seeing one on any I've owned or played.

Edited by Jean-Luc Pickguard

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2 minutes ago, Jean-Luc Pickguard said:

Do any thunderbirds have a forearm contour? I don't recall seeing one on any I've owned or played.

The Gibson one appears 'smoother'. The Epi ones seem to have a sharper edge.

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3 hours ago, 6feet7 said:

I've seen that but don't want active, which the Epiphone is. I'm allergic to putting batteries in my basses (though I could remove the wiring, put new pickups in and still be £400 in pocket). 

you wouldn't need new pickups (and I assume like the other neck thru epiphones, they are gibson pickups), just take the preamp out, take the battery out, and wire the output from the blend to the output socket.

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12 hours ago, Jean-Luc Pickguard said:

I tried out the four string version of the studio. It was okay but not in the same class as an epiphone vintage pro.

There's a five string epiphone pro-v at the Gallery at the moment which does have a thru neck: https://thebassgallery.com/collections/all/products/epiphone-thunderbird-5-string

That looks odd (as in unusual) for a Gibson/ Epiphone.

You could still get it and replace the electrics with V/V/T/T for not-too-much cash. 

A luthier could likely add the forearm contour or more radiused edges. 

If it were me, I'd factor in a re-fin, too. Black? White? Matte Grey? or even a dark Gibson-esque stain like Cherry, Dark Green, Grey... 

 

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4 hours ago, Lfalex v1.1 said:

That looks odd (as in unusual) for a Gibson/ Epiphone.

You could still get it and replace the electrics with V/V/T/T for not-too-much cash. 

A luthier could likely add the forearm contour or more radiused edges. 

If it were me, I'd factor in a re-fin, too. Black? White? Matte Grey? or even a dark Gibson-esque stain like Cherry, Dark Green, Grey... 

 

I know that if I got the Epi I’d still be hankering after the Gibson so I think that it’s a Gibson or not at all (and because the Gibson I’m looking at is the studio version in black it’s easy enough to sand in a contour and refinish that area).

I still can’t decide. It’ll be on the NBD if I do get it :)

Edited by 6feet7

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I would love a Gibson Thunderbird V and spent ages looking for one, but sadly all I could find is that studio one, which to me (like with you and the Epi), it isn't a thunderbird.

I don't know why they never did one, except well, gibson and basses.

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13 hours ago, Woodinblack said:

you wouldn't need new pickups (and I assume like the other neck thru epiphones, they are gibson pickups), just take the preamp out, take the battery out, and wire the output from the blend to the output socket.

And if that didn't work i.e. an onboard preamp was needed, I'd need a new set of passive T bird pickups (which would be £460 from Bass Direct - more than the bass costs). 

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26 minutes ago, 6feet7 said:

And if that didn't work i.e. an onboard preamp was needed, I'd need a new set of passive T bird pickups (which would be £460 from Bass Direct - more than the bass costs). 

That would work - they are Gibson T-Bird pickups, just coils of wire which go to a blend pot, then to a volume pot, then to a preamp which has bass and treble. They are not active pickups.

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Apparently now I look according to the internet, someone claimed they did have active pre-amps in them, but they also worked without a battery (which would of course make that first statement seem unlikely).  Either way there is a wiring diagram for an active passive switch.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-many-guitars-so-little-time/1125565-modding-epiphone-thunderbird-pro.html

I so wanted a 5 string thunderbird I am still interested in the Dingwall (but I would have to hear it first)

Edited by Woodinblack
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I'm not a collector of basses, so I would consider the Gibson to be hugely overpriced for what you get. It's also way too heavy and unbalanced for me.

Edited by TheLowDown

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3 minutes ago, TheLowDown said:

I'm not a collector of basses, so I would consider the Gibson to be hugely overpriced for what you get.

You could be right. I’m not even sure why I’m looking. I’ve got two gorgeous Maruszcyck Jake V’s (a P/J and a P/MM) and a Warwick Starbass Pro V, plus a double bass. 
I think it’s wanting to have that ‘Rawk’ look whilst I can still stand without a Zimmer frame. 

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28 minutes ago, 6feet7 said:

You could be right. I’m not even sure why I’m looking. I’ve got two gorgeous Maruszcyck Jake V’s (a P/J and a P/MM) and a Warwick Starbass Pro V, plus a double bass. 
I think it’s wanting to have that ‘Rawk’ look whilst I can still stand without a Zimmer frame. 

There's a Thunderbird copy by Harley Benton for around £170 if you want that shape. Heavy as hell though. Perhaps they include a zimmer frame.

https://www.thomann.de/gb/harley_benton_tb_70_sbk_deluxe_series.htm

Edited by TheLowDown

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30 minutes ago, 6feet7 said:

You could be right. I’m not even sure why I’m looking. I’ve got two gorgeous Maruszcyck Jake V’s (a P/J and a P/MM) and a Warwick Starbass Pro V, plus a double bass. 
I think it’s wanting to have that ‘Rawk’ look whilst I can still stand without a Zimmer frame. 

I see where you are coming from.  Once I discovered that occasionally T-birds came in at 8lb I suddenly HAD to have one for much the same reason.  At one point I thought 'T-birds are a young man's bass, not for a thick waisted middle-aged man'.  But now I'm a thick waisted old man I don't actually give a toss.  So I got one.  Just BC (Before Covid), sadly, so not even used it in anger yet.  But I can take it out the case and strike a pose any time I like 🤘

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Here we go, then.

I've never owned one, but I've played a couple quite extensively and I've owned about a dozen regular IVs.  Bare in mind this is a more of a no-frills Studio model rather than a five string IV. 

Personally, I don't really like them visually.  You lose the traditional headstock design (with the raised frontage) and IMO the extra machine just looks odd, that said I always felt the Thunderbird wouldn't translate into a five string so I don't know what they could have done to improve the clumsiness of the (Studio 5) design.  (My Lull has a reversed 1&4 configuration; B on top and E-G on the bottom; Gibson could have gone with the Reverse headstock and done a 4&1, which may have looked better.)

Neck profile was somewhat chunkier than a regular IV (it's like comparing a wider Precision neck with a four string Jazz neck).  Couldn't tell you what the wood was (probably mahogany) or what the neck contruction is/was.  You lose the raised centre strip on the front of the body and the pickups, knobbage and bridge are simply loaded onto a slab body.  Pickups are just standard 2000s TB ceramic HB soaps, no different from the standard IVs.  While the bridge looks way more functional that the four string three-pointer, it looks pretty horrific; it's a huge slab of chromed brass/steel and I always felt they could have done something better/sleeker.

I'll admit the chamfer around the body was a bit rounder and more comfortable to that of the regular IVs, so a little more easier on the right forearm.  Balance was OK.  It felt heavier than any of my Thunderbirds were.

I would just say in closing, EVERYONE please stop comparing Epiphones with Gibsons.  In every personal review I've seen, it seems that the glowing reports are more down to people being of the belief that they're getting a lot of bass for less £££, rather than the fact the Epiphone is simply a transitional model en-route to a Gibson or because they couldn't afford a Gibson.  I can't stress any more that just because it looks similar to a Gibson Thunderbird, it isn't a Gibson Thunderbird, even if you put a Gibson truss-rod cover on it.

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