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Firebirds : reverse vs non reverse.

#1 User is offline   gibsonfndr 

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 03:25 AM

Hi guys.
Maybe this question will sound silly to you but here I go.
The non reverse firebirds seem to be not quite as desirable/collectible/sought after guitars as the reverse ones.
But why ?
Is it only the "look" of them ?
Or are there tonal differences between them ?
I mean for example are a reverse VII and a non reverse VII different sounding instruments ?
Cheers.
Laurent.

#2 User is offline   thejay 

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 05:22 AM

Firebirds have a different sound in general but I think it would have to deal with comfort and balance as they are big guitars
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#3 User is offline   pippy 

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 06:49 AM

Hi there, gibsonfndr.

Quote

...The non reverse firebirds seem to be not quite as desirable/collectible/sought after guitars as the reverse ones. But why ?


There are a few reasons for their relative weak showing on the 'Collector's Value' front. The looks, obviously, as few people find the series two Firebirds prettier than the earlier ones; but there are more 'normal' reasons, too.

Quoting from Ian C. Bishop's "The Gibson Guitar from 1950" (1977 edition) :

" These {the series two style} guitars were probably even less of a success than their reverse-body ancestors had been and many big dealers still had unsold, brand new Firebirds of this type in stock right up to the early seventies, although production had ceased in 1967......{the second series version was} produced in much larger quantity and were considerably more unsaleable..."

Quote

...Is it only the "look" of them ?
Or are there tonal differences between them ?
I mean for example are a reverse VII and a non reverse VII different sounding instruments ?


The VII's (and V's) in both cases had the mini-humbuckers so should, in theory, sound similar.

The I's and III's of the '66 series, on the other hand, came with P-90's so will sound different.

The series one instruments had a through-neck body, which would likely help sustain over the second series which had the more usual set-neck.

I think I am correct in saying the nut-width of the second series was narrower than the '63 series so the 'feel' will be different (although I'm far from being an expert on Firebirds! I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm mistaken!).

The series one Firebird VII had an Ebony fingerboard (with large block inlays) and so will feel a bit different. All the series two guitars had Rosewood 'boards (and dot inlays).

Another thing that was regarded as a 'downgrade' for '66 was a change to fairly nasty slider-switches rather than the three-way toggle used on almost every other Gibson for p-up selection.

#4 User is offline   gibsonfndr 

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 10:35 AM

Oh I never noticed this "slider switch" on early non reverse ... but now that you mention it.
Luckily the custom shop reissues do have the standard togfgle switch.
Cheers.
Laurent.

#5 User is offline   Oringo 

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 06:28 PM

Why are non-reverse Firebirds less valuable than reverse? This is a tricky one to answer. I own both and have owned and played alot of Firebirds over the years and I know other guitarists who've also had or played both.

The Reverse Firebird was a very radical departure from other solid-bodies, and the through neck and huge body shape make them pretty unique from a design standpoint. The Non-reverse is much more traditional, having a slab body and glued in neck, so from a construction point of view, it's not that different from an SG.

In terms of numbers, there may have been fewer non-reverse made than reverse!

60s reverse-body models (63-65) - 5151
mid 60s non-reverse models (66-69) - 3868

I'd take those numbers with a grain of salt, though, because of the 2283 Firebirds made in '65, there were some of each.

In terms of playability, both are uncomfortable, unbalanced guitars, but I think most people who've played both find the non-reverse lighter and a little easier to handle.

In terms of sound, that's a very personal call, but I agree with XTC guitarist Dave Gregory who writes on his web-site that he finds the non-reverse better for sound. Over the years I found my non-reverse Firebirds to be usually more "resonant" than the reverse ones, but no two pieces of wood ever do sound exactly the same...

So why the difference in price? I'd say it comes down to a couple of factors, the unusual design, and the fact that you can associate the Reverse to a couple of legendary artists like Johnny Winter and Eric Clapton. I love the playing of "Gatemouth" Brown, but let's face it, you have to be a real guitar "nerd" to know who played a non-reverse Firebird!

#6 User is offline   brundaddy 

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 09:12 PM

I like the looks of the non reverse better. Does it balance better? Gate was the man, I met him in New Orleans. A hell of a nice guy who loved his BBQ!

#7 User is offline   gibsonfndr 

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 07:35 AM

Interesting ansewrs guys.
I confess I played my "non reverse VII" live again yesterday end enjoyed every second.
I hear you when you say "resonant".
And of course Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown is unknown outside the hard core blues fan circle (I am one of them) maybe we should mention Brian Jones who played one ?
I remember Steven Stills claiming these guitars were the best of both ( Strat / Les Paul) worlds.
Oh and let's not forget Warren Haynes who definitely had me saying "let's buy one non reverse" !
LOL.
Cheers.
Laurent.

#8 User is offline   Rick 

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 08:23 AM

Reverse Firebird all the way.
I think that the Non Reverse model it's just..ugly :-s
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#9 User is offline   ladyscaglyc 

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 12:50 PM

Each to their own but I like any Firebird, non or reverse, P90s or miniHBs, Gibby, Orville or Epi.
As far as looks go, the non-reverse appeals more to me.
Funny too as Gibson was "shying away" from a lawsuit, their non reverse looks and feels more "Jaguarish"
than the orig. reverse.
And there is something to be said about the unbalanced feel of them.
-Makes you really become part of the play/sound. JMO.
s/Vin


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#10 User is offline   Explorer 

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 12:18 AM

When people think of a Gibson Firebird they think of the reverse model. The original Non-reverse birds featured P-90's, in line tuners and the slider switch. You tend to see most of them in either Sunburst or refinished natural looking walnut. The original reverse Firebirds featured banjo tuners, mini HB's and the standard Gibson toggle found on their other guitars. The reverses also tended to come more often in custom colors which makes them more desirable to collectors due to their "custom" nature and the limited supply of these guitars out there. The custom colors like Pelham Blue, Inverness Green, etc. tended to be put on the upper model Firebirds (V's and VII's) but also was available to Firebird I and III's. The Reverses also did come in natural sunburst as well. Most notable Firebird players became famous using Reverse models so I think this also has an impact on the desirability of these instruments.

The two models have noticeable differences and thus have noticeable sound differences. So it comes down to player preference which model is your favorite. Personally I own a Gibson USA Firebird V Reverse with the mini HB's and really enjoy this guitar. The mini HB's truly make it a unique guitar because nothing else currently on the Gibson line features them. Not to say I don't like P-90's, I own a Gibson SG with P-90's another great guitar. But when it comes to the birds I am a reverse man through and through.

#11 User is offline   Oringo 

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Posted 13 July 2010 - 03:16 AM

Explorer, what you wrote about reverse 'birds is spot on, but some of the things you wrote about non-reverse 'birds could use some clarifying:

Non reverse 'birds came with 2 or 3 p-90's for the Firebird I and III, 2 or 3 mini-humbuckers (same as on the reverse) for the Firebird V and VII. The 12-string Firebird v-12 came with two mini-humbuckers. All bodies were routed the same and all came with the same neck, dot-inlay unbound (except the 12 string which had the same neck as the es 335 12 string)

All were available with custom colors and there seem to be quite a few out there.

The slide switch caused lots of trouble and Gibson started putting the toggle back on non-reverse Firebirds during the 1968 production year. My 12 string came with a toggle from the factory.

What's certain is that the non-reverse was cheaper to build for Gibson, set neck and one body for all, while the reverse needed long pieces of wood carefully laminated to make the 9 piece neck and there were three different body routs and four different neck layouts! After that, it's obvious the collector market is willing to pay more for the reverse 'birds, but in the end they are quite different guitars that share a model name and a logo and a few parts.

If you haven't seen it, check out this link to a great site:

http://www.vintagegu...uk/Firebird.php

#12 User is offline   Kyle W 

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 11:45 AM

I always thought that upper bout on the non-rev Firebirds looked imbalanced and too Fender-ish, although the 3 P-90s are a nice idea (wish they'd tried 3 P-90s on a reverse body...maybe it could have been the Firebird VIII, perhaps ?) I'm hoping to get a reverse Firebird someday soon. How are the "banjo" style tuners? Do they hold tune well, or are aftermarket replacements preferable? And how does the weight (and weight distribution) compare to an Explorer?
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#13 User is offline   Oringo 

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Posted 17 July 2010 - 02:42 AM

Kyle W,
Don't get me wrong, I love Firebirds, but you just hit the 2 worst features...the banjo tuners don't tune well, they are high-geared and get notchy with age. In my humble opinion reverse Firebirds don't balance as well as Explorers, the headstock is bigger and heavier, especially with the original machines, and the neck/body relationship throws the neck farther out to the left. You can live with it, and a good wide leather strap can make up for it, but I know a lot of gigging guitarists who've given up on Firebirds for those reasons.

By the way, there were a few transitional reverse Firebirds in the 60's that were made with p-90's and the non-reverse headstock. They come up for sale from time to time, but there's an extra zero on the price compared to more recent models...

#14 User is offline   Macaholic 

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 10:47 PM

View Postladyscaglyc, on 23 June 2010 - 12:50 PM, said:

Each to their own but I like any Firebird, non or reverse, P90s or miniHBs, Gibby, Orville or Epi.
As far as looks go, the non-reverse appeals more to me.
Funny too as Gibson was "shying away" from a lawsuit, their non reverse looks and feels more "Jaguarish"
than the orig. reverse.
And there is something to be said about the unbalanced feel of them.
-Makes you really become part of the play/sound. JMO.



Gibson should have taken fender to court and handed their Asses back to them. Gibson is a world class guitar while fender is merely an off brand not even comperable to a Gibson.

#15 User is offline   Macaholic 

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 11:05 PM

I want to give Gibson a big thank you for my new Firebird V 2010. I had a brand new Classic white Flying V that the finish started to stain about six months after I bought it. Long story short, I called Gibson to have the finish redone under warrantee, and they said that they could not refinish it, but they could replace it with another model since the V's had been discontinued. Anyway, they gave me a choice of a few different models, one which was the Firebird in my choice of available finish, which I picked vintage burst. Man what a beautiful Axe! Gibson is one hell of a company to do buisness with. Roger Ball was the rep who took care of everything and what a gentleman he is. Very profesional and a very nice guy. Gibson is number one in my book, and I would rcomend them to anyone looking to buy the best guitar money can buy. I have been a Gibson player for over twenty years now and I play nothing but Gibsons. Keep up the good work Gibson!

#16 User is offline   LPDEN 

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 03:22 PM

Interesting and enjoyable thread! I owned a Non-Reverse 3 P-90 reissue a few years back. It was fine, but my personal preference is for the reverse style I suppose out of traditional looks and feel mostly. As I mentioned in another thread, I am back owning a new Firebird, the newly released Elliot Easton Tiki Firebird, or as I am referring to it the Tiki Bird. It's probably the nicest and most versatile Firebird I ever played. One thing is for sure it overs so much ground, I am getting rid of a few other, namely saying goodbye to my Strats.
-LPDEN----------
Gibson Electric Guitars:
2012 Gibson Jeff Tweedy SG | 2013 Elliot East Signature Tiki Firebird
FOR SALE: 2010 Gibson Custom Historic SG Special VOS P-90s - Faded Cherry

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