I bought my Epiphone Thunderbird only a year after purchasing an electric guitar, on which I started learning to play, simply because I wanted to fool around with something new and wanted to play all those heavy, punchy bass riffs which obviously I couldn’t do with my guitar. After playing on my electric guitar and grabbing this bass guitar for the first time, I simply felt as if I went from a child’s guitar to a man’s guitar. The Thunderbird is big, heavy and its beefy tone certainly reflects its size. This is a versatile instrument that simply looks and feels amazing, but it did come with a couple of problem, reason why I am giving it a 4 star rating. I will mention the issues later on, but they were not something that required a professional in order to resolve them, it simply took a bit of adjusting here and there.
Before looking into all the technical sides of this bass guitar, you can’t help but simply fall in love with the Thunderbird’s shape, color and overall look. It certainly stands out of the crowd, especially when most players seem to run after the precision bass. When I found this instrument, I have pretty much set my mind to get it just because I fell in love with its design.
With a body made from mahogany and a neck crafted from hard maple, together with a dot inlayed rosewood fretboard, the Thunderbird is ready to make any room shake and vibrate with its amazing low end tones. It also comes equipped with 2 Epiphone TB Plus bass humbucker pickups which certainly will provide you with versatility when it comes to sound.
The Thunderbird has volume controls for each of these pickups, giving you full control over them by offering you the possibility to adjust their volumes individually when you playing with both of them on or you can simply kill the volume of one of the pickups and just play with the one of your choice. It is simply a matter of taste when it comes to the sound you are looking for. I, for example, prefer to play with both pickups on at the same time, at maximum volume because it gives the Thunderbird a punchy sound that is mean and can certainly stand out without being drowned by the electric guitars. This bass also has a general Tone knob which will adjust the tone for both pickups and unlike on most instruments in this price range, this tone control actually does have a tremendous impact on your sound. Other bass guitars seemed to me, when I tried them, that the tone knob is almost purely decorative but that isn’t the case with the Thunderbird.
I also love its bridge system, making it extremely easy to change strings because you can just slide the string into the bridges slots without looping them. The only problem in this case comes if you want to play in C standard or any other low drop tuning such as drop B. This bass guitar is a 4 string one, not 5 and if you want those low tunings it could get a bit in the way, especially if you are afraid of making slight alterations. In order to play in such a tuning, you would require thicker strings, but they might not quite fit into the bridge, requiring you to file the slots of the bridge in order to fit these strings. It is not a difficult modification, but it is something to keep in mind if you are thinking of using it for low tunings. The bridge system is also very easy to adjust, however, when it comes to the guitar’s action. You have 3 points where the bridge is fixed with screws and you can simply turn these until you have your desired action.
Now to finally talk about the one big issue that that Thunderbird has in its factory, unaltered state. When playing in a sitting position, the bass is perfect and you won’t notice anything, but once you attach a strap to it and stand up you will notice an extremely obvious neck dive. This can be a huge problem but fortunately it is very easy to fix. The neck dive appears because the top strap lock is located in a spot which makes no sense and causes the instrument to seriously lose its balance. The top lock is located where the backplate that connects the neck to the body is and this location is a terrible design choice for two reasons. Firstly it leads to the neck dive problem and secondly the strap lock is aimed towards your body, literally stabbing you in the chest, abdomen or even in the groin, depending on how high or low you keep the bass positioned. Luckily, all you need is to drill a small hole into the bass guitar, at a higher position where all the other basses and electric guitars have their strap lock located. Doing this won’t harm the guitar and you may watch countless videos on how to do this or you can simply take it to a luthier or to your local guitar store and leave the professionals handle it. Once you place the strap lock in its new, higher position, the neck dive will vanish completely and you will have a perfectly balanced instrument. This issue should not keep you from getting this wonderful bass. It may be an annoyance we should not encounter with a brand new instrument, but all it takes is a 2 minute modification.
I play a wide range of music consisting of heavy metal, progressive metal, classic rock, punk and pop punk rock and a lot more. Due to my music tastes I needed a versatile instrument that could handle them all and the Thunderbird is the perfect bass for all of these genres. It’s worth mentioning that I play bass with a guitar pick because that is the style and sound I love but you can just as well play using the typical fingering techniques. I have heard from a couple of friends that this instrument isn’t appropriate for the slap bass technique but I can’t express my own opinion on this because I simply don’t play that way. It is something to keep in mind if you focus on that style and do some further research on it if the Thunderbird attracts you.
The Thunderbird together with its roaring humbucker pickups will certainly offer you a deep low end sound that will stand out and will refuse to be drowned by other instruments. The tone knob ads even more versatility to this. If you turn the tone knob down you will get an even lower sound that will blend in the mix without showing off, but if you turn it up entirely you will have a deep, but punchy tone that can certainly put the focus on you. The best example I could give you of such a tone would be by looking at the band Tool. There you will hear a punchy bass tone that stands out on its own, kind of making the bass play head to head with the screaming electric guitar, enriching the sound dramatically.
Personally, I managed to get close to any famous bass tone out there with the Thunderbird. It seems to be an extremely versatile instrument that doesn’t rely just on the amplifier for its tone, you can simple fool around just with the bass guitar’s controls and you will have entirely new sounds for every time you turn a knob.
I haven’t experienced any weird feedback noise, there is no background humming that I can hear, but you may experience some sympathetic vibration humming on occasion, which is quite normal for any string instrument. For those who don’t know, this means that a string will vibrate on its own when you hit another string and this causes a minor background hum. The Thunderbird makes a barely noticeable sympathetic humming sound but in case you are a beginner, you should learn to mute the unwanted strings in order to avoid this humming. It’s something common and can be found on the cheapest instrument as well as on the most expensive, high end guitars.
Action, fit and finish
The Thunderbird may require you to make a proper setup, looking at the truss rod, adjusting string action and working on the intonation. Out of the box my bass came with its truss rod properly adjusted, but the action was set up ridiculously high and the intonation was off. This is something you can easily work on yourself without needing the help of a professional because intonation is easy to adjust and the action can be modified just by turning the screws on the bridge. The tuning pegs work in perfect condition; they do their job and keep the strings in tune properly, while the nut did need a bit of adjustment. The Thunderbird’s nut wasn’t quite poorly cut, but some of the slots needed a bit of filling down, which was easy and took only a minute.
The finish itself is wonderful, both on body and neck, making the bass look truly beautiful. The finish seems to be fairly resilient because I dropped my bass from a low height a few times and even knocked it against the wall several times because of not paying attention in a small room. The paint didn’t chip off and there was no damage.
Reliability and durability
Owning this bass for 2 years now and this thing is as solid as a rock. Nothing ever went wrong with it, not even the slightest thing. I would trust this bass to take me through a live gig without any backup because it is solidly built, it is extremely resilient to wear and tear and it will hold up well in any scenario. Even the paintjob is durable especially when thinking how many times I banged it against a wall or something in my house. The Thunderbird is simply rock solid and I don’t need to treat it with as much gentleness as with my electric guitars, knowing that she can take it.
I am extremely happy that I bought the Thunderbird and not a P-bass that I was also considering at one point. In design it is far more attractive to me and in tone and sound it is perfect for any kind of rock and metal. A highly versatile instrument that comes with a deep but punchy tone is all I could ever want for the kind of music that I play. I do not play fingerstyle and for me this bass is simply the best when it comes to picking. Plenty of ways to rest my hand while picking and maintaining speed and accuracy at the same time. I would comfortably recommend the Thunderbird for any bass picker like me no matter the genre of music. Despite its common problem mentioned above, this is the best purchase I could make and if this bass would be stolen or somehow destroyed (if even possible) I would certainly invest in a new one just like it.
Made in Indonesia (it is less worse than China) with the same wood as the Gibson model: mahogany body, neck-through mahogany / walnut.
Narrow neck (38 mm at the nut, as a Jazz Bass) and round.
20 medium jumbo frets
A neck pickup volume, bridge pickup volume, tone, always as a Jazz Bass.
The grip is fast, it is not too heavy for the "all mahogany" and is balanced!
Access to acute is something else, the neck joins the body at the 15th fret, difficult to go further.
Both Gibson humbucker pickups combined with the mahogany send serious, that's why I chose this model: comparison with my Jazz Bass stops there.
I love old bass sounds (McCartney, Roger Glover), I used: one branch (even live on the sound) and sounds.
So it's fat, do not bother with trying to slapper.
I use a Little Mark III head and cabinet TecAmp XS115.
I just receive it, so they are all fresh impressions, but promising!
I had the same low price (Rockbass Streamer, AZ R4003, Squier P-Bass Special), it seems to me clearly above the rest, so much quality level I think it rivals my Jazz Bass for Japan 1996.
At that price, it is (with the Squier Vintage 70 Jazz Bass Mofified) one of the best price / quality ratio, provided that like this type of sound.