Saturday, 5 November 2011

Gibson Firebird X

Gibson continue to court controversy with another new techno rich offering.

I've not even seen one of these in the flesh but have read a couple of reviews and seen the demos on Youtube etc.

What do I think?  Firstly I like the Firebird shape this being based on the second non reverse version.  The headstock looks odd, I think it had to be 3 a side for the robot tuning but I think an asymmetric shape would have suited the body shape better.  The finish... well personal choice, I'm not madly keen and would have preferred at least some natural or block colour option.  The body is ash by the way, different for Gibson.  I have a home made Ash bodied humbucker loaded Strat - I like Ash, dense good sounding wood only used from time to time by Fender and some others. Maple fretboard!!  Yep Gibson seem intent on pushing the boundaries of their expected norms on this one!

Now the technical bit...

It is too much to cover but lets try.  You have three pickups all different magnet types.  There is the robot tuning system Gibson have sold on several other models already - now that is bloody clever!  If you do use a lot of different tunings it must be worth a look at.

But it is all the built in gubbins that is really the main thing here.  On the side of the top bout of the guitar are two banks of sliders blue and red.  Blue control modulation, reverb and echo effects, Red compression, distortion and EQ.    Each of the three sliders controlling a different parameter depending what effect is selected.  You select them by the two toggle switches on the front of the guitar toward the lower bout.  They select the effect but also you twist your knob (steady now!) to mix in the amount of effect with the dry signal.

So - already confused!  Yes it is hugely versatile - but hang on I've got to select this, twist that move the bloody fader on the side!!!  You can store and recall patches... HOORAY!!!  So you fiddle set up the sound store it and all set for the show.  All of this is analogue electrics - which Gibson make a big noise about and so have some reviewers - although I'm lost as to why really...  horses for courses really.  I think a lot of the control built in here (more to come later) would fit to digital sound sources a la the Line6 Variax as well.

Oh I forgot - it has piezoelectric saddles so has an acoustic simulation mode as well!

Now - you get to foot pedals as well!  This allows quick recall of the patches and also one of them is an adjustable one so you can vary some parameters with your foot whilst playing.  THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BITS OF THIS WHOLE THING!!!  Here is the thing I think will suddenly stick, it is simple but innovated genius at the same time.  These work by Bluetooth - you know the thing you use to connect your phone to a headset or to download photos from a phone to your laptop - it can do a lot lot more.  At last someone really using it for something brilliant.  No extra cables etc but external control of your guitars controls.  Ever tried "violining" on a Les Paul bridge pickup?  Not easy I can tell you...   with this idea that would potentially become common place - or jumping to predetermined pickup and control settings from a footswitch.  Trust me I think once others get their heads around this we'll see others jumping on this idea - if I made guitars I would be doing it now!!

So a leap forward or a leap too far?  Probably too far for most of us.  However I see this on sale at about £3,300 - there are a couple of places quoting under £3,000.   You all have that sharp intake of breath moment but hang on... Gibson Les Paul Custom £2,799 - PRS Studio £2,749... and you only get normal pickups and no patch / external control on them?   Think on it...

Gibson Mini Site dedicated to it.

Comprehensive demo by a Gibson product evangelist!


  1. Is it turquoise? My friend who builds guitars showed me one that looked like this a few years ago. I could swear it was turquoise.

  2. @John - where the hell can you get a house for £3000!!!!

  3. LOL - a bit Lord of the Rings - do you have to have large hairy feet to live there!

  4. I was talking about you the other day. My friend's fiancé has 6 guitars in the living-room (small room) plus others in the attic/music room. I said, 'I know someone to whom these wouldn't just look like a lot of guitars.'

  5. @liz - there is no thing as "a lot of guitars" just variety ;-)

  6. Definitely fancy...but with sooo much digital amp modeling software and related effects, how much does a guitar really matter any more? I would think beyond your basic quality instrument for $1000-1500 US, it's a bit of diminishing returns? An American model Strat or Tele, or a Gibson Les Paul or SG, maybe even a Rickenbacker 300 series of some sort can now be made to sound like almost anything. Now, an acoustic instrument is a whole different matter...and prices are definitely proportional to quality.

  7. @JJJ - That is an interesting debate for sure. I was into Line6 Pods for a while even using the old kidney bean live for some time - but I then drifted back to a 60W all valve 2x12 combo and a bunch of Boss (mostly) FX pedals.

    Interesting on the acoustic front as well - I partly agree but then I've recently played some guitars that defy both cost and construction assumptions. The Gordon Giltrap Signature for example, under £400 in the shops here, laminate back and sides... so should be a workman like plank - it certainly is not!!! Then you find the original custom built luthier crafted Rob Armstrong one - had laminate back and sides as well!