Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

Firebirds-05 Gibson vs. 90 Orville


Recommended Posts



I took delivery a couple days ago of a like-new 2005 Firebird (tobacco sunburst in the photo) with the idea that I would wind up either selling my Orville Firebird or selling on the Gibson, depending which one I like better. I mentioned it in another thread, and I had said my biggest fear is that they'll be so different I'll want to keep them both. Well, guess what...


They are VERY different!! Luckily, I don't have to make up my mind right away, so I'm going to take a few months and play on them both, then see how I feel.


I've had a few surprises: the workmanship of both guitars is comparable, though I was expecting the MIJ guitar to be better (that's the case comparing the Orville with with my '66 made in Kalamazoo Firebird). Bravo, boys in Nashville! Of course, the frets on the Orville go over the neck binding, which has been finished well on the Gibson, but the neck inlays are higher quality MOP and better finished on the Orville. Fretboard rosewood is also a little higher quality in the Orville than the Gibson.


The Gibby is almost new and feels like a freshly made, unplayed guitar, while the Orville has had about 20 years of hard playing, not to mention that it came with smaller frets to begin with, so the Orville has a more "vintage" feel to it, and a more "vintage," warmer tone in both pups, the new 'bird having more "crackle" and "sparkle" at the same amp settings. I put this down to the new one having the newer higher-output ceramic pickups and the Orville having the older alnico types. I put an ohmeter to the guitars, and surprise, surprise, they're both showing identical readings, 15.5k at the neck vs. 7.5k for the vintage pup in my '66. Very curious! Since the Orville sounds more like my old Firebird, I always assumed it had alnico pups.


I know I'm pretty lucky to be in this position, so I'm going to enjoy it for as long as I can. All I can say is I'm both pleasantly surprised by how good this modern Gibson is, and how good the Orville is next to it. I'm also reminded how much two similar guitars with the same pickups can sound so different!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting indeed, I have a 2010 Gibson Firebird V and presume it has the ceramic pickups (identical to your 2005). I have many guitars and always wanted to own a Firebird and I got a good deal and jumped. I have no beef with the stock tuners, love the guitar in every way....BUT I was expecting the pickups to be "different" I suspect I am not going to be happy until I buy a pair of "low wound" AlNiCo Firebird pickups a lot closer to those 7.0k pickups of the early 60's Firebirds....probably will have to go Lollar.....also will have to investigate any differences in wiring, pots and caps 1963 to 2010. Can you help me out any.......My answer to your post is simple, if possible, Keep 'em both......... [thumbup]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the thumbs up, guys.


This is gonna be a fun "winter nights" project. Right now a direct comparison isn't quite fair as the guitars aren't set-up exactly the same, but over the coming weeks I'll play, adjust, try different strings etc until I get to know what feels best to me on the new Firebird, and that might just influence how I set-up the Orville. If there's one thing 45 years of fiddle playing has taught me, there's no one "right" set-up, so I try to keep my mind open and try to listen to what the instrument is telling me.


A couple of years ago I was fixing up the '66 non-reverse, which had 2 Kent Armstrongs and a Seymour Duncan SM3 in it when I bought it. I started a thread here asking forum members for their impressions about different Firebird pickups, and Lollars kept coming up, both from reputation and from real owners. In the end I managed to find an original gold covered Gibson for the neck that didn't require a second mortgage to buy, so I put that on, kept the SM3 for the middle and wound up with a cheap Chinese mini-humbucker at the bridge. I believe that's got a ceramic magnet(s) and with it's 15k output it sounds more like a full-size humbucker. When I installed it, I thought it would be a temporary "fix," but in the end, I like the options it gives me (I wired the guitar so I can dial in the middle pickup independently) and I think it's going to stay in there.


Curious thing, though, I already had the Orville at the time, and I was convinced it had the low-output alnico p/u's because it has the sound I wanted from my neck pickup on the '66. I know the Orville has 500k CTS pots and 0.22mf green ceramic caps. My '69 12 string had 500k pots and flat foil caps, but I'm not sure of the inductance value. My '66 had been totally re-wired when I got it, but it now has 500k CTS pots and one master tone with a 0.22mf Sprague orange drop. I haven't taken the back cover off the 05, yet, but I believe Gibson has been putting 300k pots and foil caps on these since the '90s. My first impression of the '05 isn't at all negative, though, and I don't think I'll be swapping out the pickups unless my impressions start to radically change over the coming months. I do have an unused SD Antiquity II sitting around, though, so who knows...

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...