The Epiphone Thunderbird Bass was my second dip into the pool of basses. I had originally borrowed a single coil Carver Jazz from a good friend of mine and while it was a solid item I couldn’t stand the single coil hum coming off the pickups. Honestly it nearly drove me made one day while recording some bass lines for Red Sky. After doing a little bit of research I of course found that while moving over to a humbucker style pickup would end the hum, I would also lose the tonality and crisp punchy bass sound used on most recordings. Honestly I didn’t care that much about the tone loss, I was more concerned with getting a clean usable recording. Enter the Thunderbird…
Like its Gibson equivalent the Epiphone is full sale and made with mahogany. However, the Epiphone has a bolt on neck, is finished in a satin stain and sports some knock off DMG pickups. Also the pickup cavity isn’t a match for Gibson Thunderbird pickups so don’t buy one of these thinking you can just upgrade, it involves a lot more time and money to get adapter kits and may not be worth the extra effort.
I can say that every once and a while you can get one of these for super cheap. Someone was actually selling this bundled with a small practice Yorkville amp and having already sold the same amp months earlier knew I could get a decent amount back on trading in. In the end I thing this guy cost $80, which was a steel for sure. However there was some work required in getting this back to playable, including having to glue the body pegs into the body so the action could lower and not tear the pegs out.
Nevertheless, these basses are a great item. The guitar is equipped with two volume pots and a single tone pot. This allows the player to dial in the thick percussive sound these basses are known for. I have found that one easy way to make these sound like single coils is to EQ the hell out of them in the production stage. In doing so these basses can easily get the punchy funk style sounds like a Jazz Master.
In terms of play ability this is a very easy and fun instrument to play… standing upright. It’s remarkably hard to play sitting due to the shape of the body. Even with the standing the bass can be a little neck heavy though the use of a good strap with some traction against the shoulder solves that problem. The neck is very smooth to the touch and due to the contours around the 17th fret allow easy access to the upper frets. I have found that I prefer using one pickup with the tone backed off a bit over the mixing of both pickups. This might be the result of the Traynor amp but in any case an easy solve when dialing in the right tone.
I would highly recommend this amp for any home studio musicians looking not to break the bank on an instrument that isn’t used frequently. If you are a more skilled/advanced player I would probably step up to the Gibson.