1965 Firebird V
Bthomas9, on december 14, 2012 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Price paid: $ 3100
Purchased from: Sweetwater
Features: This is a Gibson Custom Shop built in 2012 but they just list it as 1965 Firebird V. It is a neck through design which is not found on very many guitars and is rarely found from Gibson. The neck is a 9-ply walnut and mahogany with banjo style tuners, solid mahogany wings for the body. The neck on this model is very chunky (43mm at the third fret)and is a little larger than most Les Pauls. It is very similar to the Fender Kenney Wayne Shepherd Strat neck as far as size and feel. This is a very long guitar! On the centerline, it is 43 inches long. The average Strat and Les Paul are 38.5 inches. This makes a huge difference in the feel compared to a Strat or Les Paul. If you have ever played a Gibson Explorer, it feels very similar. The Firebird headstock is unique in that is very long and narrow and has a step routing. It is one feature that really makes it recognizable.
Most modern guitars have gone to a poly finish but this is finished in a Pelham Blue Nitrocellulose lacquer. It gives it a very Vintage look, feel and smell. It is metal flake finish but the metalic is very subtle (not like some of the sparkle finishes). The body tapers from the center from 1.5 inches to 1 inch. At the body contour edge, it is only about.75 inch so for being such a large instrument is it very light. The bridge is the typical Tune-o-matic ABR-1 bridge. One major standout feature is the Maestro Vibrato. It looks great and works really well for most applications. If you require huge dive bombs with your tremolo, this is not for you.
There are two mini-humbucker pickups which are similar to the old Epiphone pickups but have been re-engineered with alnico bar magnets and the windings directly on the magnets. It includes the typical Gibson 3-way switch for neck, neck-bridge, bridge selection. There is a tone and volume for each pickup. The hard shell case is large enough to live in and is built like a tank. It include a lifetime warranty and Certificate of Authority. // 10
Sound: I typically play rock, blues and Texas country. I am running through a Mesa Boogie Express 5:50. This combination alone gives me 95% of the tones I require. On a clean amp setting, the neck gives close to an acoustic sound and the bridge provides a classic (almost Telecaster) tone. Running with distortion will give you those 80's - present rock tones. Most guitars I own have a specific tone and style but this is the most versatile I have ever played. You just have to play with the volume and tone and you will be amazed how different this will sound. // 10
Action, Fit & Finish: The action from the factory was close to perfect for me. It was not so low that you couldn't thrash it but it wasn't so high that it felt like an acoustic. To me, setup has always been a very personal preference so I have no issues with how it was delivered. The pickups were adjusted pretty much by the book. It is a Custom Shop guitar so I expected it to be near perfect when it arrived and it was. The finish, tuners, frets, nut, etc. All met my expectations so I have no complaints. The only issue that did develop was the Tune-o-matic bridge. After several hours of play, it started to get some string rattle on the low E and G strings. This is typical of this bridge and a little "nut sauce" corrected the issue. // 9
Reliability & Durability: Gibson has been making this guitar since 1963 and pretty much perfected it by 1965. Since this is a 1965 Reissue (even though they don't call it a reissue) I am confident this can withstand any normal use whether it is live play, studio or beating around the garage. I would rely on it without hesitation. I would never play a gig without a backup ready but I would be shocked if I ever had to break out a backup with this as my main axe. Given it's history and test of time, this guitar should last a lifetime. // 10
Overall Impression: The overall impression of this is that it is a rock solid classic. Johnny Winters is a blues Legend that used this as his main axe for decades. On the flip side Dave Grohl uses the Firebird on several of the Foo Fighters classics like "Pretender". If you look at the list of players and the variety of music they play with this guitar it should give you a idea of what it can do. That said, here is what I consider the bad: The neck is heavy. You have to us the strap button on the back of the neck to get a decent balance. If you try to use the strap on the horn, the neck will hit the floor. Some say it is because of the heavy banjo tuners but that isn't actually true. You can take the tuners off and it is still neck heavy.
I don't personally care for the tune-o-matic bridge on any guitar so the first thing I did was change it to a Res-o-Max NV2. This is a lighter bridge with Graphtech saddles which improves the overall tone and gets away from the buzz and rattles common to the tune-o-matic bridge. I have 20+ guitars in my collection, I have been playing for over 20 yrs and I build custom guitars so I have several to compare this to and I will give the 1965 Firebird a 9.8 out of 10. It is pricey but not too crazy compared to other custom shop guitars from Gibson and Fender.