The SUPERBIRD! Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” First Review!

The Epiphone Joe Bonamassa “Treasure” Firebird First Impressions Review!
Buy one if you can find one! You’ll be GLAD you did!

Some of my very first words to you are to get one if you have ever wanted a Firebird I at a price that’s much less than the beautiful Gibson Custom Shop Firebird 1s. Snag it NOW.

The Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Body Front

The Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Body Front

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.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Headstock Back

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Headstock Back

Quick Opinion:
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…

JIm Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Heastock Front

JIm Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Headstock Front

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!

Features:
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!

JIm Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" FB720 Pickup Back

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” FB720 Pickup Back

I want to store my Treasure Firebird I with other guitars in hard cases, so I went ahead and bought an Epiphone case for it. (Opens a new window.))

I have the traditional brown sunburst finish on my Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird. As of this writing, zZounds has them in stock! Snag one before they are gone. Really!

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!

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Body Back

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Body Back

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.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Control Cavity Shot

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Control Cavity Shot

If you buy your Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird I through this link, I get a small amount of funding to help me run and maintain this FREE to the public guitar review site!

Playability
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.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Control Cavity Shot With Body

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Control Cavity Shot With Body

Sound
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.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" FB720 Pickup Front

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” FB720 Pickup Front

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.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Full Body Front Shot

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Full Body Front Shot

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!

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" 9-ply Neck Detail

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” 9-ply Neck Detail

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.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Neck-Thru Neck Joint

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Neck-Thru Neck Joint

Over all, Id say that the Quality is easily among the best Epiphone guitar I’ve ever had in my hands.

The interesting poly mist finish available on the Joe Bonamassa Treasure Firebird. As of this writing, zZounds has them in stock! Snag one before they are gone. Really!

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.

Jim Pearson's Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I "Treasure" Control Knobs and Pointers

Jim Pearson’s Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Firebird I “Treasure” Control Knobs and Pointers

The Charvel Desolation DC-2 ST – A bargain for a lightweight neck-through active HOT ROD!

The Charvel Desolation DC-2 ST – An Experienced Review – Two in the house, one gigged and one pristine!

My son talked to me about the new Charvel Desolation series of neck-through guitars. Some are hard-tail, some are Floyd-rose enabled, some are double cutaway, and some are single… (Charvel has just introduced a Star-like version. Can’t wait to play it!)
CharvelDesolationDC2STTunerDetailJimPearson
I listened long enough that I decided to get one for myself when we ordered his. I like neck-through guitars for their sustain. I’ve got a few different ones, including my Gibson Firebird. I do think the neck-through thing is definitely worth the design. They sound great, tend to be very resonant, and actually play in a more lively way!

I am always on a budget (well, except when someone is generous with me!). So, I tend to think in terms of finding the best value for my money. I buy and sell a lot of gear, so cash flow is always tight when it comes to non-essential funds. These Charvel Desolation guitars are feature-for-cost heroes! They’re low priced and play like a guitar that’s much more expensive.

You can read more and get awesome pricing at zZounds.com here with this link. Please visit my sponsor. It helps me do more gear stuff!
CharvelDesolationDC2STTunerDetailJimPearson

Quick Opinion: I give the Charvel Desolation a strong B or B+. I like the guitar a lot. If I wasn’t in a budget crunch, I’d keep mine for a very long time. It’s one of the few low-cost guitars that I’ve not been driven to mod! It’s well-appointed and has great features. It looks and plays wonderful, too.

Playability: For the most part, the Charvel Desolation DC-2 ST is a very playable guitar. It is easy on the shoulder, easy to play, and doesn’t get in the way of your music. I think this is the strongest part of this guitar’s overall value. Playability is king with this type of Charvel.

CharvelDesolationDS2STFretboardDteail2JimPearson
The neck back is raw mahogany that has been oiled. There is no grabby finish, nor is their the nice satiny feel of a matte-finish neck, either. The feel is visceral and simple. It feels like smooth wood. The tight-mahogany-grained neck feels nice when you keep it oiled. My son gigs his black-transparent one quite a bit – he loves the feel of the neck even when he’s sweat all over it for three hours straight.

I think the double-cutaway design is nice. As much as I love Les Paul guitars and other single-cutaway designs, this simple double-cutaway makes it easy to get ANYWHERE on ANY fret of the neck. NICE! The cutaway design is reminiscent of a PRS double cutaway, but with smaller horns and similar edge design.

The guitar is amazingly light! When you first pick it up, you think that it might be a 13/16 size guitar. But it isn’t! It’s a full-size guitar that just feels light as a feather and easy to play! I was truly impressed. This is on par with the new lightweight re-issued Gibson SG Special HH guitar. Resonant, light, easy on the strap, effortless to play!

CharvelDesolationDS2STNeckBodyFrontJointDetailJimPearson
Sound: There are many components to sound quality in an instrument. Like the many of my more recent reviews, the “sound” portion of this review deserves a little more depth than usual. Overall, the Charvel Desolation DC-2 ST is a HOT ROD with sound. No clean stuff or Kenny G here! Just outright ROCK, Metal, Alt Country, and Punk! You can’t get a smooth warm sound from these hot rods. Charvel has certainly earned it’s nickname with these!

Here’s a breakdown of the sound:
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Tone woods, body, neck, bridge

Pickups and Electronics: The electronics are very basic, very simple active electronics. The back of the guitar has a battery access door for a single 9V battery to help boost the low-impedance pickups and electronics. You won’t find high-end electronic components here – but they’re on par with the Japanese-made Jackson Pro series of guitars and the Fender Blacktop series guitars.

CharvelDesolationDC2STBodyFrontDetailJimPearson

The electronics components make the sound simple and strong. There’s not much variance in the control, though. They go from loud to quiet with not much in between, and from bright to dark with very little smooth transition. I do wish these were more precise. The components are recognizable brands, but they aren’t very subtle. Of course, if you’re playing metal or Alt, you don’t do subtle, do you? 🙂

I do need to spend a paragraph or so on the pickups. These are definitely NOT smooth AlNiCo 8 kOhm PAFs. These are more in line with the Seymour Duncan Blackouts: aggressive, high-gain, very easy to produce pinch harmonics, and LOUD. These pickups are the kind you would probably just leave in the guitar and not upgrade as you grow used to the guitar – except for one thing: The neck pickup is muddy. The bridge pickup is all rock, alt, and punk – I love it. But if you throw the switch to the neck and start to do some “b” section work with chords or subtle overtones, you can’t get there. The chords and fast-speed finger plucking detail gets lost.CharvelDesolationDC2STBodyFrontJimPearson

Before I placed mine on the market, I found an old first-generation Seymour Duncan Blackout – I was going to replace the neck pickup… Honestly, if you just do rhythm guitar, you’ll not notice the neck pickup. But if you get into a lead where you want the darker sound of the neck pickup – you’re going to lose detail.

Tone woods: Tone woods make this a guitar that has more value than its price. The wood of the neck is very resonant, and the body wood is thin and simple enough to sound good. Note this, though: The body is made of lots of pieces of wood that are glued together. It’s not junk wood, but there are a bunch of pieces for a guitar with a body this small…

In general, the mahogany body rings and vibrates in a pleasing way against my chest. I like the way it keeps singing long after a note is plucked or strummed.

Quality: OK Charvel, I have loved your guitars for decades. They’ve been fun, interesting, and a rock-star friend. But these Desolation guitars left me wanting when it came to quality. Some are As in quality, and others are downright C-minuses in quality. I had to go through one or two until I got one with which I was satisfied. My current DC-2 is excellent. My first one broke my heart!

CharvelDesolationDS2STNeckFinishUnfinishDetailJimPearson
The back of the neck is unfinished and is just oiled wood. The candy-coating red color of the body is beautiful, hard, and thick. But… where the two meet isn’t very nice. The paint stops abruptly and is actually so thick that it feels like a rubber band is around the base of the neck. When you’re playing in the high registers, your hand objects to the sharp, sudden transition from raw wood to paint. Charvel, this wouldn’t have been hard to feather! I wish the neck was either finished or that the unfinished wood was smoothly tapered under the painted part of the body.

The fret ends on both guitars were sharp enough to scrape skin. Since I have a guitar tool or three, I had the patience and time to dress the ends of the frets and made them fit just right. I must say, it took an hour to get them nice and smooth. The factory could do a better job clipping the ends on these. Really.

The tuners are great! The locking tuners in black nickel are a NICE touch. They do their job great, and they are VERY stable in their tuning capabilities.CharvelDesolationDC2STHeadstockFrontJimPearson

Other than the neck-to-body joint, the paint is flawless! I’ll give it an “A.” The headstock finish, the body and binding finish – all are exceptional. This is a DOWNRIGHT BEAUTIFUL guitar. I love the binding all around the body and headstock. Charvel out-did itself on the way the lower horn cuts away so nicely without binding, then the binding subtly picks up and runs around the front. The flamed top looks like great stuff, and the rich color of the paint is awesome!

CharvelDesolationDC2STBodyBackJimPearson

Inexpensive guitars with lots of inlay do tend to have lots of little black putty fill-ins. This guitar is right on the money. The fretboard inlays are sharp and well-done! I love the way these guitars look!

My second Charvel DC-2 ST is good with quality in most aspects, but with some issues here and there. My son’s DC2 (the third one we purchased) had lots of little foibles, too. His needed many different adjustments, truss rod adjustments, fret end dressing, and some steel wool on the neck to take out spots that were downright rough.

I LOVE Charvels! I just wanted to be honest: Please make the guitars better with fit-and-finish and use fewer pieces of wood in the body!CharvelDesolationDC2STBaseHornDetailJimPearson

Value: These guitars are a STRONG value. They’re worth more than $425 (Street) when they’re new-in-the-box, and are (as of this writing) $349 for flat black and $399 for gloss finishes. They have LOTS of features, LOTS of mojo, and drive my Windsor 120w head to screams!CharvelDesolationDC2STNeckInlaysJimPearson

Features: Charvel Desolation guitars are feature rich. They have more general features than most guitars in their price range. One could even argue that they’re the most feature-rich guitars in their price range!

These guitars have impressive feature sets:
* Neck through!
* Lots of Mahogany and dark wood fretboards!
* Great inlays. Nice touches!
* Active electronics
* Light weight
* Easy upper-fret access

CharvelDesolationDC2STFrontJimPearson

Wishes: I wish the neck finish was silky and smooth. More steel wool or polishing pads would have made all the difference in the world.

I wish the neck pickup could play in a more articulate way. The fun low-cost Dragonfire pickups have more definition in chording and complex sounds… Maybe hook up with their manufacturer? You can see what I mean by visiting their website here…

My Other wish? Get those Star Desolation guitars to more outlets! They’re nowhere in my local area!