For this review, I decided to take the modern, high-tech approach, and mumble my way through a video, so you can see and hear the thing as well:
…which conveniently reduces the amount of waffling I have to do here.
I’m aware that Gibson (and Gibson-style) basses have long been an acquired taste, perhaps because apart from the recently released EB-2014, the famous manufacturer has not done a great deal to expand its range of bass guitars in the last couple of decades. (Though perhaps as long as Les Paul guitars continue their endless run of popularity, they don’t need to.) Granted, fans of the late Jack Bruce may have been inspired to pick up one of the many SG-style basses (I know I was), and it’s always nice to see the odd Grabber, Ripper or Artist appear from somebody’s bag, but it’s probably fair to say the Thunderbird is their most well-known model. Arguably better known than it’s smaller, six-stringed sister, the Firebird, though I realise I’m saying that from a bassist’s perspective.
It’s a beautiful instrument, in every respect. I like the design, the construction quality is spot-on, the sound is thick and rich with just enough growl, and it’s an absolute delight to play. I acquired this one second-hand, and the original owner replaced the standard three-point bridge with a Hipshot high-mass bridge. I haven’t swapped them back to see whether this improves the sound, but it does relieve the problem I’ve often encountered, whereby the Gibson bridge falls to pieces if you’re not careful when you’re changing the strings! I believe Gibson have rectified this problem on the 2014 Thunderbird (mine’s a 2011), but don’t let that put you off trying an earlier model – it’s a wonderful bass guitar. And, in spite of the shape, it’s surprisingly easy to get up to the “dusty end.”