The Epiphone Joe Bonamassa “Treasure” Firebird First Impressions Review!
Buy one if you can find one! You’ll be GLAD you did!
I am a big “z-shape” guitar player. I love my Strats, Teles, LPs, SGs, and Vs, but my heart has a special BRIGHT AND LOUD place for Explorers and Firebirds! (Well, and offset Fenders, too, folks 🙂 ) It’s no surprise to those who know me that I’m constantly looking for a different sound, a different feel, a different tonal diversity. The first place I look is with Explorers and Firebirds. This past 7 years, Firebirds tend to not get sold after a while, unlike so many of my other much-loved-but-sacrificed-to-recording-pursuit guitars. In other words, when I get my hands on a great Firebird, I KEEP it for a long time. I still have quite a few very different Firebirds.
If this review seems to be a great gush of wonder over this guitar, you’re reading it right. Only a few guitars or basses have made me this happy in the decades I’ve been making music. So, take a deep breath and read on. there’s SO much to say that I might have to write a second review down the road after I’ve had “Joe’s Treasure” for a good while.
My Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird I is a keeper. It is extremely well made, it is super sonorous, and is a real pleasure with which to play or record or jam.
I’ve written a LOT of reviews. I have played and/or recorded with literally thousands of instruments over the past 4 1/2 decades (used to be a Band Director \m/ !) Once in a while I come across a guitar that makes me wish I could stand on a stage somewhere and show it to the world with great enthusiasm – even though I’m not currently an endorsed artist or an instrument-brand affiliate or dealer. I just get pumped when I find something awesome!
The Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird I is just such a guitar. Let’s look at why I am so happy with mine that I might actually buy a second one such as the Polymist version. Let’s look at features, quality, sound and more…
As I said a bit before. If you want a simple and awesome Firebird I, you currently have to buy a vintage one or a multi-thousand-dollar Gibson Custom Shop Firebird I. I’d love one, but honestly it is pretty far out of my budget. Now? I’ve got a GREAT Firebird I guitar at a very small price!
Here’s the quick-and-dirty feature list (with notes from me about my particular EJBTFI).
* Neck Joint: Thru-Neck (not the faux neck through that were actually glued in on the old Epi Firebird VII guitars)
* Neck Material: Mahogany/Walnut; 9-piece laminated (I counted. Yep!)
* Body Wing Material: Mahogany (both my Treasure Firebird I’s wings are one piece of mahogany, no glue hogs)
* Body Shape: Reverse Firebird
* Neck Shape: 1960’s Rounded-C (this is a delightful neck! If you like Firebird necks, this is a little plumper, but easier to grip for bends! It’s delicious for those that love a gentle round shape on the back of the neck. Mine has no flat areas or flat spots.)
* Truss Rod: Adjustable; Dual-Action (You adjust it behind the truss rod cover.)
* Truss Rod Cover: 1-layer; Black; Epiphone logo in Gold
* Scale Length: 24.75″
* Fingerboard Material: Rosewood with Dot Inlays (My rosewood fingerboard is shiny and nicely polished or buffed. It feels heavenly like a nice Rickenbacker fingerboard, without the lacquer… NICE)
* Nut: Ivory PVC (yes, plastic)
* Headstock: Original Firebird beveled (This looks great – black and brown, on the sunburst. The Polymist is all one color except the truss rod cover.)
* Bridge Pickup: Epiphone ProBucker FB720 (WOWWOWWOWWOWWOW More on this later in the review.)
* Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone (two knobs, no switch of any kind)
* Knobs: Gold Top Hats with metal inserts and pointers (I generally like speed knobs, but these are easy to turn)
* Fingerboard Radius: 14″ (nice and curvy for those who run up and down the neck a lot)
* Pickguard (3-Layer); White/Black/White with Vintage Firebird logo (my logo feels painted on. My Gibson Firebirds tend to be hot-stamped with the Firebird Logo.)
* Frets: 22 medium-jumbo (Just right. easy to bend, easy to fret, NICELY polished on my Joe Treasure.)
* Bridge/Tailpiece: Adjustable Wrap-around Lightning Bar (Mine needed adjustment, but is better than my Gibson M2’s wrap-around… These let you adjust the whole bar back and forth at each end… Makes intonating easier.)
* Nut Width: 1-11/16″
* Hardware: Nickel (I like chrome too and gold, but my heart belongs to old-fashioned wear-showing nickel.)
* Output Jack: Epiphone Heavy-Duty 1/4″
* Machine Heads: Kluson Reissue Firebird/Banjo Tuners; 12:1 ratio (14.6:1 wind rate) (YES! This was a HUGE thing for me. I really LIKE Steinbergers, but LOVE the new renditions of the Kluson brand Banjo Tuners! I bought a couple of sets and back-graded a couple of my Steinberger-tuner Firebirds to have the big Klusons! Just like the Firebirds I got to play in the 70s.)
* Strap Buttons: These are big buttons to hold on to a strap very nicely. The upper strap button is on the back of the neck/body area instead of on the upper bout as some Epiphone Firebirds have had.)
* Includes: Hand-Signed Certificate of Authenticity, Custom Deluxe Gig bag with JB artwork (I LOVE the Joe Bonamassa gig bag Firebird logo!
So the features are awesome compared to many $799 (Street) guitars. That said, I see LOTS of $799 guitars that not only don’t have gig bags, but they don’t have NICE gig bags and hand-signed certificates in them!
Let’s look at a few of my favorite features:
* I love the Kluson Banjo Tuners. These look like perfect reissues – and tune and feel JUST like my Gibson Firebird V’s tuners. These were a MAJOR selling point for me, as I like the way the feel, the way they look and the fact that they bring back awesome memories from my childhood when I got to play priceless Firebirds back in the 70s.
* The Neck-through construction. SOUNDS fantastic! It has sustain for days and feels ALIVE in your hands compared to my older glued-in Epiphone Firebird necks or Gibson Firebird Studio necks. It just feels like a zillion (yes, folks, that’s $1,000,000+googleplex of zeroes!) bucks! Honestly. The neck is one of the MAIN features of this guitar. Looks and sound aside.
* The quality is fabulous. I like nitrocellulose lacquer better than poly paint: that said, this finish feels fabulous. It’s nice and smooth and looks like a perfect job was done at the factory.
* The pickup is old-school wired. it has a braided two-conductor wire just like my old Gibson Firebirds. The wiring is super-simple, and there’s not a lot to get in the way of this very special FB720 pickup’s sound.
* The gig bag is really nice: It’s a real plus and I’m keeping mine as long as I own this Firebird.
* I’m impressed with the signed certificate. I can’t tell if it is signed with ink by the two folks on the card, but it looks quite real to me.
* One more feature that really tipped me over the edge: the headstock construction looks JUST LIKE my Gibson Firebird V.
This is the easiest-to-play Epiphone Firebird I’ve ever owned (I’ve owned LOTS). The neck is a nice balance between a Firebird 60s neck and an Explorer 70s neck. Just enough round, just thick enough, just slippery enough to make me forget about the neck (a VERY good thing). The weight is bit lighter than my neck-through Gibson Firebirds, and is actually a little better balanced than my Firebird V, Firebird 7, and Firebird VII. With the BIG headstock and the Klusons, it does lean towards the neck a bit: with that said, it IS a Firebird!
The way the pickup sits and the controls are located are just fine. I don’t end up picking on top of the pickup so much as I do with my Firebird VII and my Firebird 7. The volume control and tone are just where they are supposed to be, but require a big hand move to do a volume swell or adjustment. Bear in mind, though, that this is not different than old Firebird I guitars. So this isn’t a problem per-SE… I’m just indicating that it feels a bit far. However, since I’ve started using a Morley volume pedal, this isn’t much of a problem any more on my far-control guitars.
The tummy-cut is awesome and feels just like it is supposed to. The body rests nicely on me whether I am standing with a strap or sitting without a strap. The rest of the guitar feels just like a Firebird. If you close your eyes, it would be largely hard to tell it is not one of my Gibsons.
I love the fingerboard radius (14”) and the smooth and shiny genuine rosewood fingerboard. Overall, when I’m fretting or bending strings, the fingerboard feels non-existent (a good thing).
Overall, I’d say that it’s EXTREMELY hard to put down and stop playing. Playability? Superb.
One of the strong points of the Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird I is its sound. It sounds SUPERB. If you’d like to get an idea what it sounds like before you buy one, listen to Joe play one here (opens a new window). You can read more factory specs on the Epiphone JB Treasure page, too.
The single-pickup configuration, the simple controls and big potentiometers are awesome. The neck-through sustain and body’s sympathetic vibe are superb. I can’t say enough about this new pickup. I LOVE it! And paired with the body and neck-through, the sound just makes you giddy through a Fender amp, a VOX, a Marshall or even a small solid-state beginner’s amp.
Quality, Fit and Finish
I’ve owned a great many Epiphone guitars and basses over the years since Gibson bought Epi’s company and started making clones of the Gibson USA greats. When I first started recording, the only LPs, SGs, Explorers or Firebirds I could afford were used Epiphones.
That said, of all the Epiphones I have ever owned or played, my sunburst Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird I is the best-built, best-finished, and best overall Epiphone I have EVER owned or played. Bar none.
The paint finish is smooth and doesn’t have any smudges or spooges anywhere. The wood joints are perfect and the paint on the joints is nicely finished. The edge of the fingerboard is nicely clear-coated with the neck and the fingers don’t detect any line between the two. Like my non-bound Gibson Explorer fingerboards, the feel is completely smooth and easy.
The soldering is quite well done, and there’s even a little slack in the capacitor’s wiring. If you want a professional to change the capacitor, it can be done very easily without actually damaging much of the potentiometer solder joints, if any. The jack is solid, and has a nice positive feel to it.
The tuners and hardware are nicely applied and are quite straight. The bridge is not adjusted like I would want, and the guitar came from the factory with some mild intonation problems: but these problems were easily resolved with the included allen wrench and a nice Peterson strobe tuner (you can buy one on your phone or desktop, too!). I really haven’t found too many guitars that come from the factory already intonated. I don’t know why this is so common, but there it is. My Firebird I wasn’t an exception. That’s pretty much the only issue I had.
The sunburst paint is remarkably nicely done. On many Asian guitars, sunbursts tend to have a very “spray can hard edge” look to them. In my case, my Firebird I is very nicely faded from black to clear. Nice!
The 9-ply composition of the neck is extremely well done. The thicknesses of the woods is very consistent and very nicely paired. The look and grain of the mahogany is nice looking, if a little less dense than I’m used to on my Gibson USA guitars – but FAR better than most Asian-built mahogany guitars I’ve owned and/or played.
Over all, Id say that the Quality is easily among the best Epiphone guitar I’ve ever had in my hands.
Wishes and Wants
Honestly, just a couple.
* Dear Epiphone, PLEASE make a Firebird V variant constructed JUST like this, but with four controls, a stop bar + TOM bridge, and two of these FB720 pickups. PLEASE!
* For all the wonderful components in this great guitar, the cap is a little disappointing. Please consider an Orange Drop Sprague capacitor: the included film-based capacitor is OK, but ODs aren’t that much more in bulk… this would actually be a good selling feature.