The C. Whitney Guitars Dragon’s Heart Polyamide-Imide Guitar Picks Review

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

The Dragon’s Heart Polyamide-Imide Guitar Picks (C. Whitney Guitars) Review

Before I begin with my write-up, I wanted to say that I was delighted to have an opportunity to review the Dragon’s Heart picks. I have (literally) jars of picks I’ve accumulated over the past decades of playing guitar, bass, mandolin, (the extremely occasional) banjo, and world instrument. I’m always on a quest to see what new or better sounds I can make with the instruments I have or use.

DragonsHeartPicksLogo

There are different formulas and materials and prices for the varieties of the Dragon’s Heart guitar picks. I’ve been playing the three (current) varieties of the Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Hearts. This includes the Hardened pick (70% Polyamide-Imide/30% Glass Fiber), the Original (88% Polyamide-Imide/12% Graphite), and the Pure Dragon (100% Polyamide-Imide). These picks last 3-5 times longer than the standard plastic thick pick, and have largely different sonic characteristics than many other guitar pick materials.

You can see more about all the Dragon’s Heart Picks here at dragonsheartguitarpicks.com

It’s easy to say that many pick designs have come and gone over the years. After all, musicians such as me are always trying to find a way to make music in a fresh way. Many designs become staples (such as the plastic classic 351-shape teardrop pick) and others become used as useful and interesting novelties (such as custom-ground metal coins). My experience is that even more (probably most) actually fall somewhere in between. Each and every pick material, design, and use has its legions of fans and detractors.

Dragon's Heart Pick Pure Dragon

Dragon’s Heart Pick Pure Dragon

Let me begin my review summary by saying two VERY important things. Picks have a HUGE effect on the sound of an instrument (for those who use picks 🙂 ). EVERY musician is as individual as their fingerprints – and therefore their tastes and abilities vary almost wildly. We are all different: Vive la différence!

Quick Opinion

Buy some today

The Dragon’s Heart Picks are versatile, well-made, and sonically extremely interesting. Given that Dragon’s Hearts are fairly thick and rigid, they are different in their sound, playability, and player-experience feel from standard plastic 351 Fenders or even thick Steve Clayton three-sided Delrin picks.

You can buy Dragon’s Heart Picks here at http://www.dragonsheartguitarpicks.com/store/

Dragon’s Hearts have a rigid, extremely precise feel. They have a well-defined attack (varying slightly depending on which pick edge you use – see below). They are easy to grip and comfortable in the fingers both when they are new and after they have been used for a while.

Dragon's Heart Pick Original

Dragon’s Heart Pick Original

This review is written with an open-minded approach to picks: I don’t advocate anyone to play a particular size, material, shape, or type – rather, I look at picks as a VERY inexpensive way to help one’s playing style grow. It’s easier and simpler than almost any other technique to change one’s tone. And besides, it’s just plain fun to find new territory with a simple pick change.

The short summary of this review is this: if you want more control, more sound, better attack, and durability, you just can’t go wrong with Dragon’s Heart Picks. They’re fantastic! No matter your picked instrument, give all the Dragon’s Heart varieties a try. You’ll keep them around for a very long time.

Dragon's Heart Pick Hardened Style

Dragon’s Heart Pick Hardened Style

Sound and Playing Style

You can hold your Dragon’s Heart pick in three different ways (plus a bonus fun fourth way!) to get three different sounds and playing styles.

One main “point” is a sharp, almost talon-like picking edge and surface (see what I did there? ;-)). Another point is rounded and almost circular in shape, and the third is reminiscent of the old-fashioned 351 teardrop tip. If you hold the pick just right, you can also get a combined round-tip and sharp-tip to get a two-point picking attack that’s quite a bonus – it has a very unique feel and sound.

The sharp point gives a clear and concise attack with an incredibly quick release. It requires a deft touch to go fast and a gentle hand to go slow. This edge is excellent for high-speed shreds or really high-treble jazzy rolling fast arpeggios.

Dragon's Heart Pick Sharp edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Sharp edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “normal” style point is just as you’d expect. You get the kinds of attacks and string releases you’d expect from a beveled-edge teardrop-shaped thick pick. Very nice… intermediate between warm and clean.

Dragon's Heart Pick Triangular edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Triangular edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rounded point gives you that warmer approach with a very slow release and a moderately slow attack. It’s also useful for “swiping pick attacks” where the hand not only plucks the string with the pick but the pick is slid or swiped down the surface of the string a bit. One can truly get a sweet, warm, swishy attack and a lovely rounded-off back end of the release with this surface.

Dragon's Heart Pick Round edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Round edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, VERY nice… EXTREMELY flexible and easy to use for a variety of styles and sounds in one given playing session – all with one pick.

Dragon's Heart PIck Two Edges At Once

Dragon’s Heart PIck Two Edges At Once

Comfort and Durability

C. Whitney Guitars’ Dragon’s Heart picks are easily some of the most comfortable thick-ish picks I’ve played in my 42 years of stringed-instrument playing. I have long, medium-diameter fingers with moderately high hand strength. I don’t sweat in my hands much – although I’ve been known to have dry hands at times. For me, I don’t want to know that the pick is in my fingers. I just want it to be an extension of my mind: from mind to hand to pick to string. Overall, when I pick up a Dragon’s Heart, it just works. It just fits. It just feels fine. And that’s a good thing.

The Polyamide-Imide picks don’t get slippery or require me to give them the death’s-grip hold in order to keep them set at the right angle when I’m playing wrapped or even plain/wire strings. This is EXTREMELY important to me because I have arthritis and joint pain: I need my grip to be the LAST thing about which I must think when playing an instrument with a pick.

When it comes to durability, the edge and angle of the edge of the picks stays consistent for a long time. I’ve not played any my three Polyamide-Imide picks for more than 1000 hours – with that said, they have held up as well or better than some of the thick “clear plastic hard” picks I use a good bit (including my gel Jim Dunlop >1mm picks).

The critical durability of the edge of the pick… It’s important to note that I am not a hard picker. I don’t bang the strings (I caress them, or at most pluck them). With that said, when I’m playing rock music I do the rare-but-inevitable pinch harmonics from time to time. I do play a HUGE variety of instruments and string materials (flatwound, half-flat, round-wound, coated, uncoated…), so I’ve run my Dragon’s Hearts through the ringer quite a bit. Now that I’ve played them quite a bit, I can say that I’m not getting the dulled edges and he numerous I have seen with other alternative-material picks by this point. I still get wear and little marks here and there, but I can assure you that they don’t cause any sound difference or playability difference for me. I suspect I’ll get the manufacturer’s approximate durability hours on my original three Dragon’s Hearts.

I’m looking forward to a long time of service from my Dragon’s Hearts. With emphasis on “looking forward to…”

Price and Quality

The Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Heart picks are a premium-price-point pick for most players. These don’t cost a quarter dollar each at your local store. That’s OK. they’re worth MUCH more. I’ve paid between $.10 for a pick and I’ve paid $12 for a pick, so I’m willing to try new stuff. These are WELL worth the money. The price is appropriate for a durable, long-view, ultra-versatile pick.

Even guitarists on a budget will find the Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Hearts to be a bargain in the long run. As one’s playing style is enhanced by the pick’s uses, and the durability of the pick is realized, the price is actually well worth the extra money.

Quality-wise, all three of my Dragon’s Hearts felt great on all the surfaces, were well-made, and had no crazy rough parts to them in their factory bags. As I played them, the overall consistency of feel and durability between the three current Polaymide-Imide picks was very similar.

Wishes and Wants

There isn’t much in my Jim’s Wish List for these, honestly. They’re as I’ve described and I probably wouldn’t change a thing, other than maybe a version with a dragon cutout in the center for those who need a little extra grip for sweaty or oily hands. Otherwise? Great!

The Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass Review – Sleek, Slender, Seductive, Sonorous!

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

The Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass Review – Sleek, Slender, Seductive, Sonorous!
Fender Jazz Basses were proposed by the founders of Fender Musical Instruments as the “deluxe bass.” The wonderful P/Precision bass was making the scene for electric bass applications all over the world – and Fender wanted to wow the world again with a new design: a new way of thumpin’ the house!

The Jazz bass was introduced, with its slinky offset body, simpler and (on some models) slenderer neck at the nut, and its two powerful single coil pickups. Where the original P bass gave us thunder and thump, the Jazz gave us something new: GROWL with the thump and the boom!

The Aerodyne bass was introduced a few years back as an alternative, more comfortable, and even a little more versatile Jazz bass – made by the master craftspeople of Fender Japan. It got sexy flatter smoother edges, body binding, a color-matched headstock, and a pair of pickups: one Jazz, one Precision.

I love the Fender Aerodyne. I’m getting ready to buy my third – I’ve missed the ones I’ve sold in the past and it is time to put that sound back in my recordings!
AerodyneHeadstockFront

Quick Opinion:
If you’ve played Jazz basses before, you’ll remember the wonderful offset feel of that big body and monster scale neck (but with the easy slim-width neck at the nut). It’s nice to have that big monster thumpin’ out the sound. But when you pick up an Aerodyne for the first time, you think: Wow, that’s comfortable! And, you get that nice P/J pickup combination that suits even more playing styles – thunder, thump, growl, or all three!

I love this bass. As I go through instruments for my recordings, one thing I always find myself looking forward to is the chance to play an Aerodyne again. I like the simple basic Jazz, whether it’s standard, American, Special, Deluxe, or even Squier J: but the Aerodyne has a special place in my heart.

When my mom’s dad died many years back, a little extra cash came my way as a gift from him: This funded my very first Aerodyne Jazz. It was named “Charlie” (granddad’s name), and it served me well! I would love to still have that particular Aerodyne. It was the bomb.

Looking for a versatile full-scale bass that really sounds great and is probably the most comfortable bass in the business? The Aerodyne might just be for you!
The Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass is rockin’ at zZounds! My Sponsor and favorite Vendor!

AerodyneBodyFrontONly

Features:
Compared with the Fender Standard Jazz Bass, the Aerodyne is a “deluxe” when it comes to features. It has the general feel and appearance of a typical Jazz, but the sleek and slender body is a real plus: and the alternative pickup combination is a really nice change-up from the everyday Jazz.

At the risk of being a bit simplistic: This bass is a REAL sleeper in the Fender backline!

The CIJ Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass is interesting and different in many ways from its other Fender cousins:
* The US issues have black bodies with a matching black headstock (Japan and possibly other countries also have a nice wine color and possibly others)
* Basswood body for somewhat lighter shoulder-hanging
* Urethane black paint with cream/antique color binding on the body
* Maple neck with a satin urethane finish
* A rosewood fretboard that’s stained darker to match the overall black appearance of the bass
* A 7.25″ fingerboard radius
* 1.5″ nut width
* Smokey dark chrome metal appointments
* A four-saddle bridge
* A Fender Standard Jazz single coil pickup in the bridge position
* A Fender Standard Precision single/split coil pickup in the middle position
* A front-of-the body Strat-style input jack and plate
* No pickguard and no fretboard markers (there are dots on the top side of the neck)

I am not only an affiliate of zZounds, I’m a major fan and customer. I really like their zZounds Guarantee “30 days to try out your dream guitar.”
AerodyneBodyFullFront

Playability
As a guitar player and a bass player, I love the way it feels to pick up different instruments and enjoy the differences between the character of each instrument. Some artists love an instrument to be the same all the time, others like variety. I’m in the second camp. With that said, the Fender Deluxe Aerodyne Jazz Bass is a REAL treat to play, even for those who like to play one instrument and stick with it. They’re a real bargain and a real value – one that’s so playable it makes you forget that your fingers are dancing over a huge long piece of wood with telephone pole wires (how a guitar teacher once described “playing bass”) strung on the front.
I do like the Fender Jazz Bass in general: zZounds has a way you can buy your gear and fall in love with it – with a money-back guarantee…

The Aerodyne Jazz is easy to play. It has that “Stratty” feel to the body shape, yet its slenderness helps you forget that the Jazz is much larger than a Stratocaster in every way. The neck is divine, the body feels good against the skin, and the satin-ish finish of the back of the neck is easy on the fretting paw when you’re sweating up a storm on stage (or even in a studio).
AerodyneBodyOnlyBack

Sound
Here’s a great thing (among many) about the Fender Aerodyne Bass: The sound is fantastic and is pretty flexible.

There’s one master tone knob that controls tone output to the jack, and one volume knob each for the two pickup assemblies. You use the two volume knobs as a blender mechanism – thus no need of a pickup selector switch. Want more growl and highs? Turn up the bridge Jazz Bass pickup. Want less highs and more warm thump? Turn down the bridge a good bit and turn up the Precision pickup set all the way. Want both? Just turn them both to 11!

If you purchase a new Fender at zZounds, qualified buyers can even play as they play with the 12 month select brands (new guitars only) payment plan.
AerodyneSidePRofile

Fit and Finish
Seriously? The Fender Aerodyne Jazz is one of the best made Jazz basses on the market and easily one of the best basses I’ve played of any brand. I am very peculiar about the sensory experience of my bass guitars (sound, smell, look, AND feel). The Aerodyne never disappoints! The neck finish is just right: not too slick and not too grabby.

The neck fits great, the wiring is simple and well-done, the overall finish of the bass is clean and simple, and the Aerodynes I’ve played have all been made with consistency that is enviable in the manufacturing world. The finish of my most recent Aerodyne had no orange peel, no spray knots near the neck pocket, and was hard as a rock and slick as new glass. Very nice!

A killer combination: A Fender Aerodyne Jazz playing through a genuine Fender amplifier is a lifetime of great tone and sound – bringing up the Backline for ages to ages in the future!

AerodyneFullBack
Wishes and Wants
I love the Aerodyne as it is. The only thing I’d love to see is Olympic white and a great metallic candy apple red version here in the US…
Please visit my sponsor zZounds.com for more information about the Wonderful Fender Aerodyne Jazz Bass – click here! (Visiting my sponsor helps me fund more reviews! It makes a difference when you visit my sponsor and grab some great gear.)

The Fender Fretless Standard Jazz Bass – A Review of a Timeless Sound in the Hands

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

The Fender Standard Fretless Jazz Bass Review – Warm Bassy Goodness. Can you say “MWAH?”

Into each bass player’s life a little fretless should come. For many of us, when we lay our hands on it for the first time, we never stop thinking about which tunes would sound great with the ultra-warm mwah of a fretless bass with great googly-moogly flatwound strings (tape, metal, whatever sounds best to you). I went on a journey of discovery in 2006 after playing a fretless Fender Jazz for the first time (I had been tinkering with bass playing on and off since I was a teenager.) I felt strongly enough about the importance of a fretless in my sound library that I went to great lengths to order a special one from Fender. My Fender was special in that it was a 2006 diamond anniversary edition, and that they put together one with the color I liked (none of the online dealers offered Oly white at the time – although Olympic white has been offered off-and-on over the years prior and since). I received my new, freshly-assembled Jazz pretty quickly and took it home to play.

FenderFretlessJazzBassFretlessDetailByJimPearson

What followed was nothing short of revolutionary and enlightening.

My Fender Fretless MIM Jazz came with a lovely buffed and polished flat rosewood fretboard, a slick and (really) perfect Olympic white poly candy shell, great basic MIM electronics, and those heavenly Fender flatwound Jazz strings. zZounds offers the Fender Fretless Jazz at a competitive price. Read here for more details and specs. Shameless plug alert… The gig bag was thin and light, but it got the bass to my house in the factory box OK. If you’re not worried about the finish of your Jazz, the gig bag makes an excellent strong carry bag. NOTE: Some current models may not come with a Fender gig bag. I was happy enough with my Jazz that I went out and bought a Fender plastic hard shell case for it. The setup was pretty impressive, the intonation was decent and the string height was about where I’ve kept it in the years since.

The Fender Fretless Jazz bass is a bargain, an excellent player, and a permanent fixture in my sonic library. Here’s why:

Quick Opinion: The Fender Fretless Jazz bass is an extremely well-made instrument with a great sound for everyday playing and recording. The body is that excellent rounded-corner easy-on-the-body-and-arm shape, with a standard long-scale reach and traditional old-school Jazz controls. It plays effortlessly, sounds great, and is a bargain in the grander scheme of basses.
FenderFretlessJazzBassBodyBackByJimPearson

There aren’t a lot of low-to-mid cost fretless basses out there in the new-instrument market… so the market is a bit limited for profitability’s sake. With that said, I think it is important that quality instruments remain in the retail stream with an on-going view into the market. Bass players will often (at least) try fretless basses during the maturation of their skills. With some, fretless guitars and basses are a curiosity, with others, there is a need to get that “upright bass fiddle” sound in some situations. Still, with others, a fretless is the only way to go! (Jaco Pastorius, anyone?) I am glad Fender continues to produce MIM- and USA-made Fretless Jazz basses. I know I will be holding on to “Polar” as long as I have hands to hold it.

Here’s a quick breakdown of this particular guitar’s features:
* Rosewood fretboard
* Thin light-colored strips in the fret locations for those of us who still have to look at the fretboard (;-))
* Everyday Jazz MIM electronics and pickups
* Poly paint offered in several opaque colors (varies from year to year)
* Reliable open-gear butterbean large-button tuners
* Factory-issued Fender Flatwound strings

zZounds has satisfaction guarantees – I have received excellent sales and service from them for my own guitars. I’ve bought a lot of my gear from them. Shameless plug to help me keep the site going: if you buy stuff from them, it helps me write more reviews!

FenderFretlessJazzBassBodyFrontByJimPearson

Sound: Part of the Fender Fretless Jazz sound is its strings and fretless-ness, part of the sound is the guitar’s materials and workmanship. You can put cheap round-wound strings on your fretless and get cheap sounds with an ability to play glissandos and scoops – and the guitar will do its best to sound like a traditional Fender jazz. You can put high-end tape-based flatwounds on the fretless and it will sound like a million bucks. The pickups are “vintage” strength and sound as they should, if a little quiet for low-powered solid-state amps and DI applications.
On the whole, the Fender Fretless Jazz sounds great. Here is more detail…

Here are some of the components of the Fretless Jazz sound:
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Tone woods, neck woods
3) Strings and fretboard/fingerboard

Pickups and Electronics: Opening the Fretless Jazz’s cavity shows a pair of ceramic-magnet single-coil Fender Jazz pickups, standard CTS-type potentiometers, a basic burgundy-colored chicklet tone capacitor, and a Switchcraft jack. The pickups are wired in parallel, and each has its own volume control. There is a master tone control on the circuit.

The pickups are low-output vintage-sounding pickups. The Jazz allows you to blend the sound of the pickups by turning one and/or the other down/up with its individual volume control. There is no pickup-selector switch – the volume control gives you flexibility and dial-in sound. I played my Fretless Jazz with wiring as-is for the first 5 years I owned it. I’ve used it for countless recordings and small gigs, so I can attest that it really sounds like a nice traditional Jazz sound. I have found that great 15″ speaker cabinet(s) and a tube pre-amp REALLY bring this bass to life. If you’d like to record with it, I recommend finding a nice tube pre-amp to put in between your bass and the DI or computer recording interface. My recordings are so much warmer with tubes in-line.

As a side note, after 5 years, I did decide to do a little upgrading… I wired in a series/parallel switch and installed a factory pair of genuine Fender “Original Jazz Bass” Alnico pickups. The factory sound of my Jazz was awesome. My re-worked Jazz is now a real tour-de-force for rock, funk, jazz, classical, and new age.

FenderFretlessJazzBassHeadstockBackByJimPearson

Tone and Neck woods: Here’s a bit of something that most bass players might find interesting: Fender doesn’t list the body tonewood for its MIM Jazz basses in its on-site specs any more. I am not an authority on this, but I suspect that this gives Fender the flexibility to use the tonewoods it chooses (without having to update specs or guarantee content). Most Jazzes I’ve seen with materials listed were either alder or basswood. (Note that many special edition or FSR Jazz basses will state explicitly that they have ash bodies – my favorite.)

For the Fender Fretless Jazz bass, I think that either the alder or basswood body types sound great. I don’t actually know what wood my Oly White Fretless Jazz has as its body. I just know that I like the sound of it. I have known and heard of Fretless Jazz players who buy a bass with the neck they like and search out a specific body wood and color, then put the two together in a sort of a FrankenJazz (JazzenStein?). I can understand doing this… but know that if you “just want to have a great sounding bass that’s fretless”, the factory Fender Jazz bass is awesome.

The neck: The neck is a nice hard maple one-piece chunk of wood with that awesome narrow Jazz nut width. It feels great, it transfers string sound great, and is a pleasure to play. Fender takes care to create a great 9.5″ radius rosewood fretboard for the player. The surface is buffed to an almost shiny extent on most of these I’ve played. Mine looks as though it has been coated (although it hasn’t). It feels awesome, is pleasing to the touch, and is a real joy to play.

Strings and Fretboard/Fingerboard Most (not ALL) manufacturers ship their fretless basses with flatwound stainless or nickel strings – Fender is no exception. There are two primary reasons for using flatwounds (or tape-wounds) on a fretless.
1) The sound: the sound is the reason for the season, the color of the sky, the raison d’ etre. Flatwounds lend themselves to bass sounds in general, but really make the sound of a fretless Jazz.
2) Fingerboard life: On fretted basses, round-wound strings are pretty rough on the steel/nickel frets. Active bass players who use round-wounds on their basses will always see divots in their fret wires after a time – it is a fact of life in the life of most basses. Fret metal is pretty tough stuff: imagine what it would do to the much softer wood of a fingerboard. Using round-wounds on a fretless bass might give you a sound you are after, but doing so will definitely carve grooves in your fretboard. If you choose to go with cheap round-wounds to save money, you will end up with a chewed-up fingerboard.

The rosewood fingerboard offers a rich feel and sound experience that most players find enjoyable. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, the excellent fingerboard is an integral part of the experience and sound.

Fender Fretless Jazz Headstock frontby Jim Pearson

Playability I’ve played many different manufacturers’ fretless basses, both acoustic and electric. I must say that my experience with my Jazz is the most enjoyable and memorable. It’s predictable, easy-to play for anyone that can reach a 34″ scale bass neck, and even works with those with small hands. The neck is just right. The body is just right. The fretboard is invisible to my hands – I just let the music flow from my soul to my ears through this bass.

For those of us (like me) who still feel insecure when we play a fretless – and want to nail the intonation of a note from the finger attack, the lines for the fret markers are awesome. They take the crazy out of “where is C#?”. On one hand, the lines are a crutch – I encourage you to learn to play the neck without looking at it – on the other hand, the lines are comforting. I’d rather have them there than not – but if I played every day for a living, I’d learn the fretboard without my eyes. Let the music flow from your mind and soul and build up muscle and music memory…

zZounds has a good selection of fretless Jazz basses, including the Standard (MIM) Fretless Jazz.

Quality: My Fender Jazz Fretless Bass was made extremely well. The neck pocket is pretty decent, the finish of all the items is flawless, the components feel and sound good. What’s not to like?

I have found the tuners to be reliable and solid. The finish on the neck and body are both excellent. The fretboard is awesome. The wiring was clean and well-done. The bridge placement was nearly spot-on. The pickups sounded just as they should. Over all, I have not found an issue with my bass in 6 years.
FenderFretlessJazzBassPickupBridgeDetailByJimPearson

Value: Fender’s Fretless Standard MIM Jazz bass is underpriced. The street price of the Fender Fretless Standard Jazz is less than East-Asian-made fretted basses from a variety of manufacturers. The quality, however, is well above those same basses. The MIM Standard Jazz Fretless is comparable to something that would be like an American Special in overall quality – but at a price that is actually pretty low. Whether you buy a new Fender fretless or buy one on the used market, they are a bargain. Really.

If I were blind-pricing Fender’s Standard Jazz Fretless compared to $799 Chinese basses from some of the popular mass-market makers, I’d say this bass should street-price at the same level or a little more.

Fender Fretless Jazz Fretboard by Jim Pearson

Wishes: I wish there was a maple fretboard version – I have no idea if it would sound different, but when I see Fender, I think maple fretboard. It would be nice to continue to offer traditional colors such as Olympic White, Black, and Wine.

Epiphone Thunderbird IV Reverse Bass Guitar Review – The Thunder continues!

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

I first wrote this review on February 14, 2007… I have had one or two since then and now play the neck-through “Pro” version. Someday maybe there will be a budget for a Gibson ?

Epiphone Thunderbird IV Reverse Bass Guitar Review

I’m lucky enough to have a couple of basses at my disposal for recording or playing. I enjoy my Jazz Standard and fretless – they’re flexible and timeless.

But, sometimes you need the noiseless, punchy, crunch of a bass guitar with a big body and humbucking pickups. I went in search of just that very thing over the past year. I played tons of different instruments from several well-known (and a few unknown) manufacturers. I started out looking exclusively at 5-string humbucking basses. I had trouble finding a 5-string in my price range – in a bass that also had good sound and playability. I couldn’t find a bass in my target price range (sub-$400) that had sound and playability and humbuckers and five strings…

I had to open my search to four-string basses – which brought several great instruments into my price range. One of my long-time favorites has been the Thunderbird. The Gibson 4- and 5-string Thunderbirds are fabulous neck-through instruments. However, most musicians I know are on budgets, and/or need to have more than one bass at their disposal.

The Epiphone Thunderbird IV Reverse offers a fantastic balance among cost, function, and sound.

Free Shipping and more information on the Epiphone Thunderbird IV here at zZounds.com. I’m not only a customer of theirs, I’m a fan!

Quick Opinion: The Epiphone Thunderbird IV Reverse bass guitar is cool-looking, medium-weight, low-cost, and sounds fantastic. A bass player gets a ton of guitar for her/his money with the Thunderbird.

Interestingly enough, you don’t see Thunderbirds flying around on the stages of music acts very often. Part of the allure of the Thunderbird is its “different-ness.” Each and every time someone (even non-musicians) sees my Thunderbird, they remark that they really like its looks. When they hear the bass, they are struck by its flexibility and depth of sound. Part of the mystique is furthered by the fact that you don’t often see Thunderbirds in local guitar stores. The few that arrive in stock generally sell quickly enough that the floor is clear of them during most of the year.

Snag a Thunderbird. You’ll be glad you did. If you can afford the Gibson issues, get your paws on one. If your budget is tighter, you won’t be doing yourself a disservice with the Epiphone.

Playability: The Epiphone Firebird IV Reverse plays like the Les Paul of basses. The neck is wide enough to be comfortable in string-width, but is slim and tapered enough to make it easy to navigate the full range of the neck. The slick finish of the neck and the neck’s shape make playing up and down the neck a breeze. I tend to treat my bass parts as a melodic element, so I spend time on nearly all the regions of the neck – my Thunderbird’s neck really makes my bass playing more enjoyable. The neck isn’t as narrow as my Jazz, but is very similar to my Fender Precision bass… I guess it feels something a little wider when you’re playing it for hours on end. I like my Jazz and the narrow nut, but sometimes you just need to get your paws on a big hunk of wood and play BASS!

The frets are nicely done, although they weren’t polished and tipped like a Gibson. The overall effort needed to press a note to the frets is a great balance between buzz-elimination and strength required. It’s easier to get a clean note from this guitar’s neck than with many other basses.

The body weight is just right. It isn’t too light (it has miles of sustain in sound as a result of the body mass), but isn’t so heavy that it makes your shoulder sore after only a half-hour of jamming. I find that my Thunderbird is as comfortable as my Standard Jazz from a weight point of view. It lacks the body contours of the Fender basses, so it’s a bit hard-edged (like most Gibson electric guitar and bass products).

The balance is slightly biased towards the neck. As with most basses, the Thunderbird can neck-dive when you take your hands off the neck. The simplest solution is to grab a wide suede leather strap (or a good strong fabric, non-nylon weave) to do a better job of holding position on your shoulder. Some players relocate the neck-side strap button further forward or even on the back of the body to help compensate. I like to be sure my guitar mods are reversible, so, I went the wide strap route. Bear something in mind here: my Jazz neck-dives about the same amount…

Features: The Epiphone Thunderbird IV Reverse bass is standard with what you would expect with most basses. It has decent sound control and tuners. The Thunderbird has a fabulous neck and excellent pickups.

It has a volume knob for each pickup and a single tone to control the sound of both pickups. The knob closest to the neck controls the volume of the mid pickup. The knob in the middle controls the volume of the bridge pickup, and the knob closest to the instrument’s tail controls the tone-shaping pot (potentiometer). If you want warmer and rounder sound, turn up middle pickup’s volume and the bridge’s volume down. To make a more growly, biting sound, do the opposite. To get the big wide sound at full throttle, turn both the volume knobs all the way up.

For a time, the guitar sales sites indicated that the Thunderbird IV comes with EMG humbucking bass pickups – I do not know if this has ever been true. The pickups work like EMGs, but sound a lot like Asian-made Gibson TB ceramic pickups. The pickups are one of the key reasons I settled on a Thunderbird. These pickups are no slouch, and are phenomenal as a feature for a bass in this price range.

The tuners and neck are extremely well-done and function superbly. The tuners are stabile throughout a gig or recording session. The bridge mechanism is very versatile and has an overall height adjustment that doesn’t require tinkering with the saddles – I really like this bridge.

Quality: The finish is bar-none just about perfect. It looks great, the finish feels great, and there are no bugs or flaws anywhere.

The pickup and wiring system are well above-par for Epiphones in this price range. Generally, I have to tinker with electric bits on my Epis to get what I want. With this Thunderbird, it was great – right out of the box.

The set-up of the neck and the bridge adjustments were just right when I got my bass home. I didn’t have to tune or intonate the bass at all.

Overall, this is one of the highest quality electric basses I’ve ever played in any price range.

Sound: The Thunderbird has earned its name. It sounds wonderful. What humbuckers do for the Les Paul or SG sound, the EMG humbuckers do for this Thunderbird. This bass sings, crunches, growls, and thunders.

With many basses, the sound comes through in a way that “reds-out” the VU meters/recording meters when you crank them up enough to punch through the sound of the band. This is a fairly common problem. I often play my basses through a nice tube preamp (before pedals, amp, and/or recording interface). I get lots of nice sound this way – especially more punch. However, I need the preamp much less with the Thunderbird. It has respectable output power, and is harmonically more rich than it’s near-the-same-price competitors.

In particular, you can dial in a sound that works very well with acoustic guitar sounds – with the mid pickup and a little tone-down. But, the same instrument can be dialed up to rock hard with even the most demanding of musical varieties.

I prefer my fretless Jazz for the ultra-mellow sounds – but the Thunderbird can be really smooth and inviting as well if lightly plucked and not overblown with the preamp section on the amplifier.

You can punch, crunch, and growl with this bass. It also lends itself very well to effects such as reverb, chorus, flange, and even compression or gain distortion. The breadth of its harmonics makes it very flexible and versatile.

Value:This is an extremely excellent value bass. It is worth more than its street price, probably in the $400 to $425 range in actual value. You get a lot for your money. The Thunderbird has been offered in some neat colors, too (alas, no white this time around!). You have been able to purchase blue, traditional brown sunburst, gloss black, and a metallic red. I chose to purchase the sunburst – it was too wonderful to put down.

You get lots of sound and great electronics in this bass. I’ve not seen this level of sonic capability in any bass under $550. Only the bolt-on neck aspect separates the Thunderbird from the more costly instruments.

Wishes: I really can’t complain about anything with this bass at this price… really. If I were to offer a custom model, I’d want a few things different – even if it meant going back to the previous street price ($399).

My little wish list:
White (please!);
At least a glued-in neck (if the neck-through-body construction of the Gibson is too costly to mass-produce);
The very same bridge, but with lots more mass;
Schaller strap lock buttons! (OK, so I’m a fanboy. Sue me :-));
Would love to have two tone controls in addition to the two volume controls… Or, just maybe a switch instead of knobs somehow on volume or tone…