Thunderbird IV review by Gibson

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.2 (9 votes)
Gibson: Thunderbird IV

Price paid: C$ 1000

Purchased from: Craigslist

Sound — 10
Currently I mostly play rock and funk but I use a lot of jazz voicing like 7's and ETC a lot of people think this bass is a one trick pony of just rock and metal well this in my opinion is an absolutely poo opinion and isn't one from people who really play Thunderbirds. The sound generally can be described as, "Dark, Bassy, 70's" I run it through a Mesa Boogie 750 Big Block on a couple different cab setups mostly with 2 10 inches and always a 15 inch but once and awhile a optional 12 inch, what a lot of people don't know about this bass is its amazing Mid range response especially to Harmonics! This bass note for note will just ring for years and Harmonics sing at a very special dark but punchy tone that is just amazing but never really used by the masters of rock that have used it over the years, the bass has a natural low Treble high Mids sound very 70's at full tone the bridge pickup on max and the neck being notched back good with a lower mid higher treble EQ for a delicious blend of Funk tone that is just amazing for finger-style playing which is another thing many people don't use this bass for. I however use this bass mostly with the neck pickup around 8 as at 10 the signal will distort from just how powerful these pickups are they are stronger than any active EMG is and the bridge pickup at around 5 and the tone depending on what I am doing maxed for harmonics and jazz voicing or around 5-7 for normal rock playing with a pick which brings me to another things this bass has IMMENSE punch with a pick up at the bridge area which is amazing for punk but I mostly pick close to the neck for a thumpy darker tone but from the pick a nice blend of punch. My only negatives are this bass as amazing as it is the bridge it comes with isn't very good at all and it really didn't show what the bass could REALLY do and it was a pain to adjust and the saddles and design are just awful as it doesn't transfer much through the body as it sits up away from the body on 3 pins so I switched it out for the Hipshot 3 pin SuperTone bridge and I must say it improved the tone and response and character of this amazing bass ten-fold and I can say for its sound and diverse mid range punch it is my main bass, not cause I want to ride my strap low and be a Rocker cause it looks c00l.

Overall Impression — 9
This bass is more than what a majority of people say it is from its punchy Mids to it's thunderous Lows this is my favourite bass as a musician of nearly 10 years and I have used it live nearly every time since I have had it from Indie rock acts to funk bands to hard rock bands its done them all fantastically. With a quick bridge change and tuner change from black to chrome I got nothing but positive comments on the sound and looks of this bass from day one and if it was ever stolen or lost I would get another one immediately but I would most likely get a custom shop one over a normal one with some slight improvements such as getting rid of the glued wings and making the entire bass solid for an even better tone.

Reliability & Durability — 8
This bass is pretty bare and not a whole lot can go wrong on it there are some obvious things tho that make this bass more delicate than a mass majority. First the headstock is very large and the neck thru neck means you can't just go out and bolt on a new neck if you ever break any part of the neck I've knocked the headstock very hard on stage multiple times but it hasn't cracked or even been damaged yet but I could see how this may be the case if you are unlucky. Second being the finish is a nitrocellulose and will require more care than a poly finish such as on a Fender and it is thinner making scratches more likely to be seen and especially on the back of the bass where it rubs agaisnt your body some cloudyness of the finish which is really unavoidable if you use it as a main bass. And thirdly the bass uses glued on wings on a neck-thru body which with improper care and going to different humidity and other such places I would imagine without proper care these glued wings could come off but I have traveled with the same bass to a couple countries and no such thing has happened to me with proper care. Past these obvious cons of the design the wiring is simple and time proven and I use this bass much of the time without a backup without any problems.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
A talk with the previous owner and I found the nut was the only thing faulty with this bass as it was cut incorrectly but that was a 20$ fix and a quick adjustment. The wood on this bass is absolutely the greatest looking mahogany I have ever seen on an instrument and the sunburst really shows the grain off perfectly so much so I took the pickguard off it just to see more of this eye-catching finish and I wonder why anyone would color this bass a solid finish the only negative to this was there is a hole behind the pickguard for the pickup wiring but I made a tiny cover to hide this and it now looks stunning, even the neck and headstock have this amazing finish and you can see the pretty mahogany grain and bright yellowish strips of walnut on the back all the way from the end of the bass to the very tip of the headstock. And the famous neck dive really isn't quite as bad as everyone makes it out to be honestly and doesn't effect my playing whatsoever and the neck is VERY thin its a little thinner than some of the jazz basses and the taper goes very thin very fast from the 12th fret to the 1st which I adore for fast walks and just general comfort. As for the action the bridge is pretty bad but when I got the bass originally it wasn't too bad and was playable for about a year until I changed it out to a much superior designed bridge.

Features — 8
I bought this bass a couple years ago around 2010 second hand and apon looking at the serial number it tells me it was produced April 28th 2004 at the Nashville Tennessee plant production #322 its in Sunburst with the classic passive Thunderbird Humbuckers that you can supposedly Drive a truck over. A black Tune-O-Matic bridge and black Y Grover tuners with a very thin tapered neck thru neck with 20 frets and a long 34 inch scale with one tone knob and two volume knobs on the bass wing of the body. It was left in a case pretty much from 2004 when it was bought and it had some nut work on it past that I bought it 100% original and in perfect condition I later changed out the bridge to a chrome Supertone and the tuners to chrome grovers from black as I found the bridge to be a very bad design and the black satin chrome color to be just downright ugly.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Really? This is a review. Not English class. It's legible compared to many, many, MANY other reviews/lessons/etc. that are out there. Rate the review on the content, not the errors. Well done on the review by the way. Very descriptive, you actually give realistic numbers, and I think that I am now going to try to get this bass at some point!
    It was a good review but people here are right, there are many sentences in one sentence and that makes it hard to read. I mean, I understood the review but it would be much easier to read with proper punctuation. I've just bought a Tokai TB48 Thunderbird and it's great. I assume the Tokai and the Gibson are pretty close to each other when it comes to sound, playability and features. And I agree with the review, they can do more than just rock and metal. Bridge pickup sounds jazzy and neck pickup sounds P-Bass-ish. It's a bit neck heavy but it doesn't really matter. And I have to turn the bass knob down or it gets too boomy, but that's what EQ controls are for. It feels great in my hands, somewhat easier to play than the Squier P Bass I used before this.
    Boy oh boy tho do the Tokai rock for jazz the treble just brings it out so much more.
    The Tokai are nice copies some people even prefer them they have a bit more treble and usually are based more on the old 70's bird but they just don't got as much power in the pickups as the original and in my opinion lack that characteristic low end but still a very nice bass but to me not really a bird.
    I think the headstock looks great! If you think it looks like a dick maybe you should stop thinking about dick and concentrate more on your playing. I found the above review very informative and agree with many of the points made. Thanks to the poster for sharing their exprience and shame on all those who can merely sit and pick it apart due to 'bad' punctuation. Basic intelligence should really allow you to read between the lines and get to the gist of what the writer is trying to say...or must you have everything spoon fed to you like ****ing babies?
    tom pierce
    ...O.K, I've played thunderbirds since the 80s so this stands as testament to how I feel overall. That being said; these are tricky birds to keep in TOP form. If you aquire a new one from Nashville...expect undetailed fret ends, no radius on the edge of the fretboard, string spacing centered too far from the edges of the fretboard,(this is why the Hipshot Supertone is so prevelant as they allow adjustable string spacing. although even this is barely enough.)Also Gibson seems to apply the same preference for narrow string spacing relative to neck width @ the nut also....Don't get me wrong,...These basses are delivered in a playable condition..BUT..If you are an experienced player,..and appreciate the refinements that represent custom shop level finishing, advised that you might have a bit of work to do..(or have done) before the true beauty and playability inherent in these wonderfull sounding basses truly surfaces.
    I agree i did not work very much or erm... At all on the review structure actually i just sat down at my desk and just wrote out a basic description of what i wanted every segment to say and decided this would work well enough as a review even if it butchered the english language i found it readable and informative and got my ideas and suggestions across well enough for an instrument that very much needs more informative descriptions than it does more scrutiny.
    I think You all will send me to Hell, but Gibson instruments are overrated. They do not have the quality they had. I've played this bass for quite a time, and it suck. The sound has no variety and the bass is unbalanced. And the headstock looks like a dick =)
    If you dont know when to stop reading, because their aren't full stops and commas. Then you need to stop reading, and try think about using common sense. Anyway the bass just looks ****ing cool.
    Blaming the reader is not the solution for the writer's errors. Yes we can get the point he is trying to get across, but it's just more professional to add punctuation.