Hands-On Review:Gibson's DOMESTICATED ANIMAL

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Gibson Firebird Studio Electric

By Chris Gill


Gibson Firebird Studio Guitar Conceived by automotive designer Ray Dietrich—the mastermind behind the Chrysler Imperial and Lincoln Continental— the Firebird sports one of Gibson's coolest electric guitar body shapes ever. Yet the model has never enjoyed the success of the Les Paul, SG, Flying V or Explorer. Perhaps that's because some features found on the original early Sixties "reverse" Firebird, such as its perpendicular banjo-style tuners, neck-through-body construction, Vibrola tailpiece and mini-humbuckers, were too radical for most players.


If you've always loved the reverse Firebird's curvy, sexy asymmetrical shape but were put off by its somewhat loony features, Gibson USA's new Firebird Studio may be the ax for you. Rather than painstakingly reproduce the original, Gibson has designed the Firebird Studio as a hybrid of the company's successful designs. To that end, the Firebird Studio has a body shape that is similar to the original model, but it features a set neck, full-sized humbuckers, mini Grover tuners and a stop tailpiece, making it look like a cross between an SG Standard and a Firebird.


Like an SG, the Firebird Studio has a mahogany neck and body, and is available in a Transparent Cherry finish, as well as Black. But thanks to its thicker, therefore heavier, body and an additional two inches of wood between the stop tailpiece and endpin, the Firebird Studio has a fatter, warmer tone and more sustain than a typical SG. With its Gibson 490R (neck) and 498T (bridge) Alnico humbucking pickups, the guitar delivers an ample midrange punch that places it tonally in the territory between an SG and Les Paul, which is not a bad place to be.


The hybrid ideals that informed th Firebird Studio's design also apply to how it plays. The neck feels similar to an SG's, except its taper is flatter and thinner. The frets are thin but tall, providing plenty of "meat" to dig into for string bends and offering minimal resistance for shredding.


The Bottom Line
The Firebird Studio is the perfect guitar for players who want a more radical look than a Les Paul or SG deliver, yet desire an approximation of the sound and feel of those classics. Whether you are a longtime Gibson fan or just want to make a switch, the Firebird Studio is a new sensation with a familiar feel.


LIST PRICE: $$1,698.00

MANUFACTURER: Gibson, 641 Massman Dr., Nashville, TN 37210; (800) 444-2766;