Gibson Firebird X Delivery Date Delayed - Something Good Could Be Happening Here

Back in October I did a less than flattering piece on the Firebird X by Gibson.

Update: Firebird X Sells Out

Gibson Firebird X

I didn't mind the technology so much - but the thing looked awful to my eye.

Now I've just received news that Gibson are delaying the delivery date - the count-down counters on their website have been turned off.

It seems Gibson may have been listening and are taking some suggestions into account. So far the little bit of information I've been able to dig up, including these pictures, suggest the Firebird X is getting better - and I'm starting to think the new color scheme looks pretty good too.

The story of how they happened upon the new finish is quite surprising. It turns out that back when the Gibson factory got flooded, the receding waters left some rather interesting patterns on the floor.

So 'artistic' were these that the Gibson workers preserved the markings on the floor, and perhaps in response to this suggestion on their CEOs forum at 4henry.gibson.com/index.php?/topic/585-new-les-paul-finish, they decided to use these flood markings as the basis for the new finish on the Firebird X!

Here are some of the floor flood damage pictures in the Gibson factory:

Gibson factory floor

Gibson factory floor

Gibson factory floor

Officially Gibson don't seem to be saying that the delay has anything at all to do with the massive amounts of feedback they've received - that's just my opinion of what's going on. Here is the official statment...

"Once our R&D team truly delved into the seven microprocessors and three operating systems onboard this monster, they just couldn’t help themselves. Over the past few months, they’ve found even more ways to improve the guitar, with more features than we ever expected. And that got our Nashville division folks thinking about things like new finishing processes to give the guitar a radical new look to match the insane things going on inside this beast. The result is an even more innovative Firebird X than we presented to the press and fans just a few weeks ago."

It's also true that I made a bit of a joke about Gibson's CEO's employment prospects in my Jonas Brothers Melody Maker article last month, but now I'm prepared to say that I think Gibson, and their CEO, have made a great move here (guess I'll have to put that half written Gibson CEO application letter back in the drawer now :))

Sure, Henry J may not be Steve J, but listening and responding the way they have may yet allow the Firebird X to be as an important step for Gibson in the future as was hooking up with that guitarist Les P all those years ago.

Flames, comments, and anything else are welcome in the comments below.

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You're kidding, right?

A swirly paint job and elimination of the special fretboard wood and everything's now hunky-dory with this guitar and the whole concept behind it? WHAT? And now you think those changes "may yet allow the Firebird X to be as an important step for Gibson in the future as was hooking up with that guitarist Les P all those years ago?" Jason. Dude. Go get some coffee.

As I said - it wasn't the

As I said - it wasn't the concept of the technology that bothered me with the first version of Firebird X.

The main problems I had were that the finish was awful, and the launch was ridiculously over-hyped - I wish they would stop using the word "Revolution", at least they seem to have stopped comparing it to a Ferrari.

I can see how you could read what I said as making a direct comparisson between a Firebird X and a Les Paul. It terms of this being an important change - I guess I was a little vague on that - I'm referring more to the fact that Gibson have listened and are making changes, and that they are prepared to try new things with technology, rather than the importance of the Firebird X.

But there's more...

I'm not sure that a bowling-ball finish is, exactly, progress. Have they not seen bowling balls in Nashville?

As for trying "new things with technology," please reflect on the fact that there have been built-in effects on various guitars for the last 40 years or so (current example: the Alesis X guitar, which will run you about $219 at Zzounds). Nothing new there. Automatic tuning technology first showed up on the Gibson TransPerformance guitar about fifteen years ago. Nothing new there, either. Gibson didn't invent any of it; the current power tune technology showed up fully blown (including Fender options) and Gibson took out an exclusive on it and renamed it Robot.

Here's a comparison: a $1200 Tyler/Variax guitar gives you, in addition to traditional magnetic pickups and all their options, a built-in 25 different easily identifiable instrument models (including 12-strings, acoustics, resonators, etc.). You're also able to select a huge range of alternate tunings (with a much wider available range than the Robot tuners), none of which need to change the tension or tuning of the strings on the guitar. Add to that any of the Pod family (an HD500, for example) which offers amps, cabinets, mike placement and a wider range of effects than that available on the Firebird X for another $599. All of these, including the Variax options, foot switchable with a single stomp. The only thing missing is the ability of the rig to tune your guitar to standard pitch while you strum for a few seconds. The total cost of Line 6's new technology rig: $1800 all up. Digital wireless technology within the same band as Gibson's bluetooth? Just a few hundred more.

Gibson's "new technology" is little more than a rehash of old stuff in a bowling-ball-finish container with a very high pricetag (or has that changed, too?). They don't get out much in Nashville.

I agree to some extent

I agree with the general idea that modelling technology is not a Gibson invention, and that you can replicate everything the Firebird X does with a combination of modelling effects and/or guitars from other companies like Line 6 (I can't speak to the performance comparison - I'm still waiting to hear high quality recordings).

But putting all of the technology into the guitar itself I think is a useful step, if only a relatively small evolutionary step rather that the 'revolutionary leap' being promoted by Gibson.

I did chuckle when you asked "Have they not seen bowling balls in Nashville?" :)

Not modeling. Not Analog, either.

Gibson's made a big deal about their assertion that their "technology" is NOT modeling, but analog. Hard to defend when you're using a DSP. But their switching on the DarkFire, for example, is exactly that; switching. They didn't actually come close to a 335 (as they claimed); they simply tweaked the combinations that we've all been able to do with humbuckers (and a single coil) and some EQ. The Firebird X isn't claiming to do anything more in that department; they've just got three separate humbuckers to work with. The FX are just...FX. They've been put ON the guitar before (for about 40 years now), but that hasn't been a popular location for them. It's traditionally been a case of "not enough hands", especially if you want to activate and/or tweak several effects at once. Gibson quietly announced that they also have footpedals to activate them, and if you're using a footpedal, then what's the difference whether the electronics themselves are in the guitar, in the footpedal, or in the backline on a rack? And why so expensive? Once again, combinations of effects with presets built in are a feature of a $200 guitar, not something costing $6000. Go find that Alesis X. It was there first.

I haven't got a Firebird X in hand, so I can't take it much further when discussing quality of sound. I do have a pair of Line 6's Variax guitars from the original run (2004 till recently), and I've got first-hand experience with the new versions (like the Firebird X, they're delayed, but there have been examples at various stores and at the LA Amp Show, etc, and I live near Line 6), both Korean and American. The most obvious difference will be in the quality and design of the guitars *as* guitars. The new ones have familiar shapes and real magnetic pickups (very good ones) and they have outstanding playability. If there were no Variax components built in, these would still be worth consideration as traditional guitars. But the Variax modeling technology and piezos take this all to a whole different place. The old "models" are excellent. In fact, some guitarists have transplanted the electronics from the Variax guitars to hand-built or hand-modified guitars to give them the additional playability they want. Jeff Miller is well known for having done this with guitars he's built. While I don't espouse YouTube as a repository of "high quality recordings," a set of headphones and this video will allow you to better hear some of what the Variax can do. Chances are you've heard a lot of high quality Variax recordings and aren't aware of it; they show up in studios regularly. Note that Jeff switches to the magnetic pickups only once in this video; to give you a comparison of how it sounds with Bareknuckle pickups compared to the Les Paul models in the Variax: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tXbj7XTYcc

The new Variax guitars have the same models, for now, but a 4X more powerful DSP takes them a loooong way. And the alternate tuning abiity far exceeds that of the Robot tuners on Gibsons...

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