The New Gibson Firebird Zero S-Series Bargain Powerhouse Guitar Review

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The Gibson Firebird Zero S-Series: USA Goodness for an Import Price!
Perfect for Beginners, Seasoned Pros, and all the rest of us, too!
Perfect for us modders!

I like having different guitars to use for sound, playability, recording intonation, and even guitars that are expressly so I can experiment with different wiring, nut, string, bridge, and pickup combinations. My 2006 Fender American Deluxe Tele and my 2010 Gibson Les Paul Traditional are just like the day they were made: awesome, albeit with some wear now that it is years later. My 2012 Gibson Les Paul Special (Humbucker model) has been many things: it is currently factory control cavity with Seymour Duncan P-Rails mounted on Seymour Duncan Triple-Shot Miracle Trim Rings – and will be something else some day… I have Strats and Les Pauls and a few neck-through Asian guitars that are all subject to my latest sonic journeys…

I affectionately call them Mules. Somewhere in the sea of guitar cases in my life are Ash, Mahogany, Maple, Alder, and even Basswood Mules. The Force is Strong with this herd. Each of the 6 (most recent so far) albums I’ve released has a Mule or two on at least half the tracks.

What does this have to do with the awesome Gibson Firebird Zero? LOTS. It’s the perfect beginner’s humbucker guitar, the perfect quick-gig guitar, and a modder’s dream!

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Buy one before they are gone. Go ahead.

I’ll wait while you get one or two, then come back here and read the rest.

I’l wait 🙂 Click here please, buy one, and help me keep this site up and running! Visit my awesome Sponsor, zZounds.com.

Quick Opinion:
The Gibson Firebird Zero is a set-neck design for added sustain and that “feels good” sound when you play it. The finish is a gloss type of finish: it’s not as slick and hard as the finish on a Gibson Les Paul Standard – but it is definitely a long way from satin. The tuners are surprisingly good. The pickups are far nicer than any of the base model humbuckers that come with pretty much every low-priced entry-level guitar on the market. It comes with a Gig Bag(!!) that fits it nicely and does a good job of protecting the instrument. And so much more! I’ll leave the rest of the details to the review below.

In short, the Gibson Firebird Zero is a jewel, an excellent guitar, a fun design, and priced at a point where nearly any guitarist can reach out into the galaxy of set-neck USA-made guitars!

Seriously, They come in a huge array of colors. Buy one.

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Features:
The new Gibson Firebird Zero electric guitar is huge on features, is made in America, and is the absolute pinnacle of well-made entry-level guitars. You would be hard-pressed to find a nicer and better-playing guitar in this price range with a gig bag, much less one made in the USA.
– Series: S Series
– Body Style: Firebird Zero – a new take on the non-reverse Firebird! Smaller in body than the traditional Firebird, and much lighter, too!
– Back: Solid poplar
– Neck: One-piece solid maple with satin nitro finish
– Neck profile: Slim taper (this is similar to the 60s neck shape on many SGs and Firebirds – but it feels narrower in some way. Each one I’ve played is typical Gibson: hand-hewn and a little different from guitar to guitar.
– Neck width: 1.695″ (Just a tiny bit more than the traditional Gibson 1 11/16” width…)
– Heel: Short heel design – the scoops into the neck pocket are shallower, and the typical Gibson glue-in set-neck bump is there. Very comfortable
– Fingerboard: One-piece solid rosewood – this is a nice feature for this price point
– Scale length: 24.75 – just as most Gibsons are…
– Number of frets: 22
– Nut: Tektoid – mine are nicely cut and required no work. Nice job on this one Gibson!
– Inlay: Acrylic dots
– Bridge: Adjustable wraparound – this guitar’s cost has a savings by not including the stop tail and its studs.
– Knobs: Black top hats – these are the traditional “student” Gibson knobs. They’re slippery to me, so I usually replace them with knurls or speed knobs.
– Tuners: Mini-buttons – these are a surprise hit! These are a cost savings over Grovers – and the ratio is actually really nice!
– Plating: Chrome
– Neck pickup: Made in USA double slugs DS-C Rhythm
– Bridge pickup: Made in USA double slugs DS-C Lead
– Controls: 1 volume, 1 tone, 1 toggle switch (the toggle is the traditional 3-way: neck-neck and bridge-bridge)
– Case: S Series padded gig bag

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Read more details about the awesome Gibson Firebird Zero in the new S-Series Gibson Line Click here please, buy one, and help me keep this site up and running! Visit my awesome Sponsor, zZounds.com.

A couple of nice features to point out:
* The paint finish is lacquer, and has a nice smooth feel to it. It shines about halfway between satin and full-on shiny: it feels great and looks really nice. Mine is faded Pelham blue, and it glistens from a distance.
* The neck is a nice semi-satin. It doesn’t grab at the player’s skin when palms get sweaty: and it still feels much smoother than most maple necks on inexpensive guitars.
* The electronics are loosely based on the Gibson Quick Connect system. The pickups can be easily switched with others that have the five-pin Quick Connect fitting. A VERY easy upgrade if you ever want BurstBuckers, maybe some 57s, or something screamin’ like some Gibson Dirty Fingers humbuckers!
* All the non-pickup electronics are attached to the pickguard: to work with them, you don’t even have to pull the strings. The pickguard is completely unfettered when the guitar is strung.
* The controls are simple: one volume, one tone, and a three-way. The jack is front-panel, easy-to-use and will accept an L-connector guitar cable.
* The tuners! WOW. My first thought when I saw the pictures was “I’ll find some Klusons or Grovers and replace those: they look maybe too cheap.” I WAS WRONG. They’re high-ratio (maybe 18:1 or 19:1?), very smooth, and work really very well!
* It has a new unusual headstock shape. It’s like a Bat-Wing Epiphone shape merged with an Explorer shape, and a non-reverse Firebird shape… all together. I like it.
* I’ll say it again: it comes with a VERY nice gig bag.

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If you’re thinking about hard shell cases (I did), it needs a wide-body electric guitar case that fits things like Jags, Jazzmasters, PRS S2 Velas, or similar. It doesn’t fit in a Gibson Reverse Firebird case or Non-reverse Firebird case (the form-fitting ones): the body shape isn’t the same.

This case looks to be about right. Honestly, I would ask the sales rep before I bought the case… There’s always a chance that the case dimensions change from year to year. I bought a generic one with almost the same dimensions… Click here please, buy one, and help me keep this site up and running! Visit my awesome Sponsor, zZounds.com.

Playability
The Gibson Firebird Zero is a breeze to play! When someone who’s never held a guitar asks me, “What’s a great first guitar?” I almost always answer, “Buy a Telecaster that’s in your price range. They’re simple, light(ish), and the play action on the strings are EASY.”. Now? I recommend the new player to buy a Gibson Firebird Zero if their budget permits! It’s not just a simple beginner’s guitar. It is a USA-Made guitar that can suit almost any Gibson-style playing need.

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It’s light on the shoulder, it balances pretty well for a non-reverse “z” shape, the neck is effortless, and the controls are a breeze. The fit and finish on mine are just perfect for a $499-ish guitar. It tunes very easily, and needs very little re-tuning after you get things cranked up a time or two when it’s new. This is really a great guitar for the money.

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I like the middle-gloss finish. I like it better than the recent Gibson “Vintage Gloss,” as it is smoother and shinier without being too expensive to make. It feels good when you’re playing the guitar. Honestly, for me, it is really important to have four pleasing factors with an instrument:
1) Sound
2) Feel of the instrument and its parts where contact is made with my body and hands
3) (Believe it or not) Aroma/scent
4) Looks – for example: I really am tired of flat black guitars and I can’t seem to get enough of wood-colored guitars 🙂

I love the picking-arm sloping surface shape. It reminds me mildly of the Fender arm-fits – just not quite as big.

They’ve just released a whole bunch of new colors for zZounds with the Gibson Firebird Zero! Click here please, buy one, and help me keep this site up and running! Visit my awesome Sponsor, zZounds.com.

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Sound
I’ve played (literally) thousands of 2-humbucker electric guitars in my 5+ decade life. Some were $100 new, some were $7000 new. Lots in between. The sound of an electric guitar is partly subjective and partly objective. “How you play it and through what device(s) you play it really change things.”

For me, the best two measures are: Absolutely clean straight circuit with no effects and no pushing the pre-amp; and a good tube pre-amp running just hard enough to make the sound just a touch growly or fat-jazzy to really feel the body of the sound. Of course, other types of play are important, such as rock, jazz, metal, new age, pedals and such, but the first two of these are the most telling of all.

A good pickup is what you need it to be. Need that SRV sound? Scooped pickup EQ and overdrive is the best way to see if you like the pickups. Need that Tony Iommi sound? Good balance with very clean highs and crushing miss with balanced lows… Need that Dwayne Allman or Derek Trucks sound? Good balance on the three main EQs with emphasis on tight highs and very tight lows…

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Me? I like a balanced pickup with all three main EQs about equal. I want the pickup to clean up for jazzy or mellow passages, and I want it to have crystal clarity when I overdrive it or run it through several effects pedals. I also want the bass sounds to be very present and clean: no mud. Miss? I like them to be present in the harmonics and not scooped out or enhanced.

So, what about the new Gibson DS-C double-slugs in the Gibson Firebird Zero? Compared to really nice Gibson 57s or even Gibson Burstbucker Pro (Alnico V) pups, it’s not quite there. If you overdrive the sound, some clarity is lost… Picking lots of notes or even fanning a chord loses definition of the different frequencies when the pups are overdriven or distorted.

However: Compared to pretty much every bargain pickup on the market in sub-$500 guitars, these are awesome. They do clean up pretty well and can do good old heavy metal just fine. If you want to chug-a-lug some grinding country or throw down on some hard rock, they do a decent job. They’re head and shoulders above almost everything in their price/type class. I like them much better than the low-quality humbucker pups in pretty much every intro-level HH guitar I’ve owned or played.

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Besides, they are fun and easy to replace if you just want to get your Nickelback to clean up and sound sonorous :-).

Fit and Finish
My Gibson Firebird Zero came well-painted, nicely strung, and almost ready to go. I liked the new plastic fret protector that’s inserted between the frets and the strings for shipment – it’s a great and inexpensive way to prevent shipping crushes causing string indents. It’s nice enough to keep and put back every time you put your guitar in the gig bag or case.

My only issue with the way my Gibson Firebird Zero was shipped to me was that its wrap-around bridge wasn’t intonated. I”m not being picky. Most strings were more than 25 cents off, except for the lowest two strings. I had to use the pole-distance adjusters to push the bridge out as far as it would go before the saddle adjustments began to make a difference. For me, this was no big deal. For a beginner, this is a hard concept with which to deal. To be fair, though, almost every entry-level guitar I’ve played from Asia was as bad or worse, often with the fretboard too short – this Zero’s nut is a perfect distance.

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My favorite part of the Gibson Firebird Zero is the awesome body shape. Click here please, buy one, and help me keep this site up and running! Visit my awesome Sponsor, zZounds.com.

 

Wishes and Wants
Actually, I think there’s little to want or wish! This guitar is OUTSTANDING for the price point and made in America.

Perhaps the bridge should be adjusted better. It would feel better if the Firebird Zero had a belly/tummy cut on the back top of the body.

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