Epiphone Thunderbird IV Reverse Bass Reviews 4

I bought my T-Bird at a local music store in Wisconsin. Through some bargaining I payed $330 for it, along with a hard shell case for $80. I bought it because it was the bass I've wanted since before I started playing bass--wanting it made me start playing. I've been waiting over and year and a half for it.

Ok, I'm in love with the shape of the body. I also like the lifetime warranty. (I'd also like to point out that I'm the only one on this site to properly distinguish that it is the "REVERSE" Thunderbird bass, which means that the body shape is actually backwards from the original Gibson Firebird/Thunderbird shape. If you want to see something cool, go try to find a five string Thunderbird V non-reverse bass.) It only comes in one finish (unless you buy the "Gothic" one which is really lame) which is a sunburst finish and is really striking. The white pick guard with the little birdy-stencil is a tasteful and nice touch. I like the fact that it's huge--I'm over 6 ft. tall and this bass is really designed for adults; while it could be a good beginner bass because it's very easy to play, you need to be able to 'handle' it. It sounds wonderful, plays as good as any other bass I've played, which is something considering I used to play a Rickenbacker and often play a $1,000 Jazz Bass. Oh yeah, you can also buy the "Epiphone Elite Thunderbird IV Reverse Bass" just to have the word "American" attached to it, but my Korean model is built so well that I'd rather keep the extra 700 bucks. Plus, the "Chrome" hardware on the elite looks really lame, and the flat black hardware on the Korean model looks way badass. Oh yeah, and the Epiphone hardshell case is so big that you can fit a pair of drumsticks in the storage compartment...if you're so inclined to do so. All in all, I'm extremely happy with my T-Bird.

Okay, if you want this bass, you better be willing to wait for it. The reason I had to wait a year and a half for it is because Epiphone, while they are a giant world-class corporation, does not have their shit together enough to supply their customers with what they want. If you decide to buy one and you are holding it in your hands within a month, consider yourself very lucky. Also...I had one on order from the local music store in town, but when musiciansfriend.com was showing them in stock, I decided that I'd waited long enough so I ordered it. Three days later, it arrived. However, when I opened it up, something seemed...off. Plus, immediately one of the volume knobs came loose. Ironically, the same day the T-Bird that was on order at the music store arrived. I went over to pick up the case and noticed that the finish on the T-Bird there looked completely different...it faded from a deep bronze in the middle to a dark brown and then a black around the edges, whereas the one from musiciansfriend.com was one constant shade of an off brownish-red. Needless to say, I was pissed. I sent the one with the lousy finish back right away and picked up the better looking one.

It's a gigantic alder-maple body that is alarmingly light...you would expect some beefiness considering it's girth, but the only real weight is one the ungodly large head, which makes it awkwardly neck-heavy. The head measures some nine and a half inches long, which is why you have to buy the Thunderbird-specific case from Epiphone. Nothing else will accomodate the T-bird's size or unusual shape. I would hesitate to call the fretboard "rosewood" as people seem to be doing...to me this is an area where Epiphone obviously cut corners to save cost. It looks like it's made out of the same material as the rest of the bass, but painted flat black and then sealed. It doesn't really bother me though because it still plays wonderfully and looks great. Other than that, it has pretty standard fare; bolt on neck, two passive pick ups, volume control, tone control, etc. On the neck is a badge with the serial number and stuff and also says made in Korea. When I talked to one of the guys at the music store about reasons for the possible crappiness of the other T-bird that was delivered to my house, he replied "Oh well, you know, it was made in Korea and the quality control isn't as good as it would be with a Gibson in the US." Then I pointed out to that badge where it says "Hand-Crafted in Korea, Inspected in Nashville, Tennessee U.S.A." Heh heh.

Bottom line is, the T-bird IV Reverse is glorious. However, if you really want one, you must be patient, and also before you buy, play it first just to make sure you don't get a lemon. People have asked me if it was worth the wait, and I say it definitely was, but having the unpleasant experience of waiting a year and a half just to order one that I wound up sending back because it was lousy leaves a sour taste in my mouth. And it is for that reason alone that I cannot rate it more than a 4.

Tom S. rated this unit 4 on 2004-01-20.

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