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Old 12-09-2019, 08:38 AM
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RalphH RalphH is offline
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Default Gibson Customshop Hummingbird Vintage Review (quite long!)

This is quite long, but I'll try to keep it moving along.

Someone started a thread on here recently asking if all reviews are too positive. Well, this is a 100% truthful, unvarnished review of my new guitar, which I got about 2 weeks ago, but already feels like a lifetime of joy. With a few bumps in the road, like any journey

Pics are at the bottom.

-- Intro --

So then, where to start? I've always played electric. Mostly Les Pauls, starting with Epis and 'graduating' to Gibson later in life when funds allowed.

About 2 years ago I bought a GS Mini, which was my first 'serious' acoustic and I basically never looked back - not pickup up an electric since. One thing that blew me away with the Taylor after owning Gibson electrics is how its built. It's like it laser-cut from a solid block of unobtainium. Everything is perfect. There are no rough edges. Everything is straight. Nothing rattles. The finish has been sprayed neatly.. omg!

Recently I got a bit of GAS for a full-sized acoustic and started to look for a dreadnought. I fell in love (online) with the $5000 Gibson Customshop Hummingbird Vintage.

I've owned enough Gibsons electrics now to know ahead of time what I was getting into. In my experience, Gibsons generally sound great, play ok and have about the same level of QA and attention to detail as a 2am kebab. I have a bit of love-hate relationship with Gibson. All my heros played them. They are firmly cemented in my mind as the guitar brand, but they don't make a lot of 'perfect' guitars and I'm ok with that so long at it doesn't affect the functionality of the guitar, but going into this, I knew this guitar was going to have stuff that would leave a Taylor owner speechless.....

The first thing I noticed when I cracked open the case was that sweet vanilla smell of nitro lacquer. I god how I've missed that smell. My Taylor doesn't smell of anything.

The next thing I noticed is that one of the hinges on the case doesn't open properly so it's almost impossible to make it stay open to get the guitar out. Why can't Gibson put working hinges, which must only cost $0.50 each on a case for a $5000 guitar? 'Cause it's Gibson. *sigh* so here we go again...


-- Lets start with my list of "gripes" --

Finish:
There is a bit of a low spot in the top where it meets the binding in a small spot at the bottom of the body. Looks like some minor router tear in the top wood - it's not very deep and the finish goes down into it; there's no bare wood, but there's a definite 'pothole'.

Also, the same barely-trained ape that puts masking tape on Les Pauls clearly splits his time between Nashville and Montana. There is red spray up onto the fretboard binding that they couldn't be bothered to scrape off before hitting it with clear-coat. How hard can it be to get this right?? Why can't Gibson pay an intern $0.50 to run a finger down the tape to check it's stuck down properly before spraying red onto a $5000 guitar? 'Cause Gibson.

Tuners:
Gotoh did such a good job relicing these things that they are EXACTLY like knackered out 1960's tuners; the tuner posts are wobbly without strings on and yet they are so hard to turn you almost need a wrench, simulating a tuner that has both worn out gears and is full of gunk and dried out grease. I spent ages trying to find the source of an annoying buzz only to pin it down to the fact that one of the tuner buttons was actually loose on it's shaft and vibrating. A drop of superglue into it stopped that. Well done Gotoh, I honestly don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Scratch plate:
Glue poking out all around the edges. I think it was attached with adhesive sheet; what was poking out was soft and gummy and easily removed with a piece of copy paper folded into a point.. Why can't Gibson pay an intern $0.50 to clean it up on a $5000 guitar? 'Cause Gibson.

It also has a weird rough corner on it like they just snapped off a piece of flashing from the injection molding and didn't bother sanding it smooth. Why can't Gibson pay an intern $0.50 to clean it up on a $5000 guitar? 'Cause Gibson.

Strap:
There is no front strap button, but the supplied strap came without a bootlace. Yeah, thanks for that. Why can't Gibson throw a $0.50 shoelace into the box? 'Cause Gibson.

Truss rod cover:
Sharp plastic burrs poking out all round the edges. I took it off and scraped it clean with a sharp craft knife. Why can't Gibson pay an intern $0.50 to clean it up on a $5000 guitar? 'Cause Gibson.

Nut:
Corners so sharp I almost cut myself. Why can someone not just take off the sharp corners? It took me 30 seconds with a piece of self-adhesive sandpaper on an ice-lolly stick. 'Cause Gibson.

-- Interlude --
So by now you probably think I hate this guitar right? Wrong! I LOVE it. If i'd not owned a string of Les Pauls I'd probably be horrified, but somehow I can just laugh all this off. At least the neck is on straight, right? riiiight? good 'eh?? Oh god, I'm such a fan-boy

-- The good things --

Finish:
omg i LOVE Gibsons new 'thin finish'. I tried to photograph it. Up close in a photo it just looks like bad orange peel, but no, as you move it in the light it becomes apparent that it is so thin than you can actually see the texture of the torrified spruce though it. It's also been swirled ('by hand' no less - according to the website) with very fine steel wool to take most of the shine off it, giving it a really nice sheen without being glossy.

It's designed to look like a 60 year old guitar and it really does. It really looks like nitro that has sunk into the wood with age. I showed it to a friend who works for Atkins Guitars here in Canterbury and he was impressed with the finish. Said it'd be very hard to get right and accounts for much of the >$1000 price hike over the standard version.

Gibson have done a really, really good job of making it look old and worn-in, not worn-out; aged but not "relic'd". Nice work Gibson. Looks like someone has looked after it like their life depended on it for 60 years, not used it for target practice then thrown it down a flight of concrete stairs, like a lot of these 'new vintage' efforts. If I had to compare it to jeans it'd be a pair of stone-washed jeans, not fake-ripped jeans.

You can really feel the grain of the spruce and the mahogany through it. Niiice. Cream multi-ply binding looks great too.

The bone bridge pins are polished to a high gloss and look stunning.

It actually has binding nibs! I love binding nibs! They don't do that on Les Pauls anymore.

Did I mention that I love the finish?

Stratch Plate:
The hummingbird scratchplate is arguably the models' most defining visual feature. The modern ones are printed. This, being 'vintage' is engraved and filled with paint by hand like they used to be, and it's lovely. It's not super neat of course ('cause Gibon, remember) but I love it!

Sound:
It's just glorious. It's like harps and pianos and I think maybe even angles come down and hum along when I strum it. It is beautifully balanced, without favoring bass, mids or treble, and it is smooth and mellow, without ever lacking in clarity or sparkle. It's a pleasure to sing over (badly im my case) and doesn't seem to be trying to fight its way to the front of the mix constantly to steal the limelight like my Taylor. It is very responsive to both hard and soft strumming and sounds different, but fantastic either way. I don't think you'd necessarily love it to bits for solo fingerstyle (there's just better options at this price point), but to flat-pick / strum and sing, I can't imagine better. I really can't emphasize enough how much nicer it is to sing over than my Taylor when strumming. When fingerpicking it is much, much closer and I'd even give the edge to the Taylor, which is pretty good going for a guitar 1/5th the price.

Neck
Love it! It feels like a Les Paul neck! I could almost believe that they just took a Les Paul neck and put it on an acoustic in 1960. I think it's actually a tad wider, but it just felt like an old friend the first time I held it.

Setup:
Someone in the customshop realy knows how to set up a guitar. This is the ONLY guitar I have ever bought with perfectly cut nut. And by perfectly I mean about 1 nano-meter higher than the first fret. Playing a 1st fret bar chord feels about the same as playing a 2nd fret bar chord with a capo on the first fret and yet there is no buzz anywhere. Well done Gibson, have a scooby-snack. Also, please send the man who does these over to the Nashville factory to show them how to do it properly on a Les Paul.

The saddle height produces an action that is about 2.25mm on the bass side and 1.75mm on the treble. It's not super low, but certainly in the range of very comfortable and as I don't play up the neck much I see no reason to try lowering it, esp given it's a strummer not a picker. It came in a factory-sealed box so no-one has set it up after it left the factory.

Overall then, a definite keeper. Forever. It has lots of ahem "character" and I absolutely love it, warts and all.

p.s. if you ever see me selling this guitar on the classifieds here, all the above is lies and the photos below are faked and everything is perfect

here she is:


Red on the fret-board binding:


Router tear-out? *full disclosure: I have made this look as bad as I possibly can. It is invisible unless the light catches it right.


Rough Corner:


thin finish:


guitar porn...
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Last edited by RalphH; 02-12-2020 at 10:24 AM. Reason: spelling mistakes
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Old 12-09-2019, 08:57 AM
paulzoom paulzoom is offline
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Nice review. Sorry about the fit and finish issues but it looks like the tone makes up for it. I probably would have demanded a bit of a discount for those things you mentioned.
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Old 12-09-2019, 09:03 AM
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RalphH RalphH is offline
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Bought it from an online-only retailer at £250 less that RRP. I'm good with it. It was either going back or staying, a few £ extra discount isn't particularly important to me.

Like I said, to me, its Gibson fit and finish standards all over and I knew I'd probably have to make peace with something, even before it arrived. Most of them I can fix myself. Many I already have. The few I can't I'll live with. I love it anyway
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Old 12-09-2019, 11:47 AM
Veeing Fly Veeing Fly is offline
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Ooh la la! I love my 2011 Bird, I can only imagine how good a Custom Shop model would be.
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Old 12-09-2019, 12:07 PM
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Congrats on your new Hummingbird! I have always loved the look of the Hummingbird and if I had it in my meager budget I would strongly consider adding one to my meager arsenal. And you love it's sound, so great!
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Old 12-09-2019, 12:23 PM
Ncbandit Ncbandit is offline
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A very entertaining review and I'm glad you love it. How it sounds is the most important thing anyway.

"Also, the same barely-trained ape that puts masking tape on Les Pauls clearly splits his time between Nashville and Montana."

LOL!! One of the funnier lines I have read in awhile!!
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Old 12-09-2019, 12:25 PM
Lkristians Lkristians is online now
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Stunning! Congrats.
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Old 12-09-2019, 12:37 PM
jklotz jklotz is offline
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Nice! Those flaws are just character man! Nothing you mentioned would keep me from that. If it sounds good, and it sure looks good, I'd be all over that.
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Old 12-09-2019, 12:40 PM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RalphH View Post
Finish:
... I showed it to a friend who works for Atkins Guitars here in Canterbury where I live and he was impressed with the finish. Said it'd be very hard to get right and accounts for much of the >$1000 price hike over the standard version.
The pictures you recently posted are the first that I'd heard of Gibson's "Thin Finish".

Do you know why your friend though that it would be hard to get that finish right or why he thought that it would add cost, rather than reduce cost? I'm just curious.
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Old 12-09-2019, 01:03 PM
jspe jspe is offline
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Default Well said!

Well done and congrats on a super guitar. No question in my mind Gibson continues to take the cake in the character and tone department.
You've got to give the Montana boys some leeway on all that stuff you mentioned. Man its a tough business to compete in, and the labor situation is so dicey.
And you're right about loving it in spite of the warts! I've been really lucky and able to get together a"family" of 3 Montana Gibsons ('12 J-45, '05 AJ, and '08 Dove...one bought new and 2 rescues), all with little twiggles, and they run the show...I just try to spoil them and enjoy the ride!
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Old 12-09-2019, 01:11 PM
Goodallboy Goodallboy is offline
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Congrats on staying focused on what really counts. Too often it's the other way around.
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Old 12-09-2019, 01:22 PM
H165 H165 is offline
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Quote:
You've got to give the Montana boys some leeway
No kidding...and the girls too. Here's a likely reason:

"The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport shattered a record for the lowest temperature in March, said Dave Bernhardt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Bernhardt said the airport’s Monday low was recorded at minus 39, breaking the previous March record of 32 below zero, set in 1955. The all-time low at the airport is minus 46, and Bernhardt said that has happened several times — Feb. 7, 1936, Jan. 26, 1957, and Dec. 24, 1983."

Luckily, they have some wonderful Montana partners to warm them up
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Old 12-09-2019, 01:38 PM
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RalphH RalphH is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
The pictures you recently posted are the first that I'd heard of Gibson's "Thin Finish".

Do you know why your friend though that it would be hard to get that finish right or why he thought that it would add cost, rather than reduce cost? I'm just curious.
He said it would be hard to get right because you can't put it on thick and sand it back like you do with a glossy finish. It has to go on ultra-thin and be just right. It's not so much that it increases costs in terms of materials, but you have to have someone who is really good at it really paying attention and getting it right first time. You pay more for a more highly skilled job.
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Old 12-09-2019, 01:47 PM
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RalphH RalphH is offline
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Thanks for all the replies guys. Glad you found it entertaining - makes it worth the writing.

I love it how us Gibson owners just 'get it' when it comes to these things not mattering, or even increases the appeal of these guitars. Gibson say they are 'hand made' and while I'm sure there are plenty of automated processes in the production and that in reality that is probably stretching the truth quite a bit, they produce guitars that genuinely do feel hand made, flaws and all, and each has a character all of its own. Taylors for example are far too perfect to ever be mistaken as hand made. Not that that is a bad thing at all, I love my Taylor, it's just a different thing.

I bought an Epiphone Masterbilt just before the Gibson and bizarrely my wife then told me to go buy a Gibson (see here for full story: https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/...d.php?t=563823). Looking it all over, there is not a flaw i can find anywhere on it. It is perfect down the the smallest detail. But it just doesn't have the mojo that the Humminbird has. Or sound as good.
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Last edited by RalphH; 12-09-2019 at 02:31 PM.
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Old 12-09-2019, 04:23 PM
archerscreek archerscreek is offline
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Yeah, thin finish options always seemed to come with an upcharge when I looked into them. For example, Martin charged $575 retail in 2017 for their thin finish package through the custom shop.

I think the guitar looks good. The finish "flaw" by the binding wouldn't bother me in the least. In fact I'd see it as a positive. I'm not a big fan of thickly finished pretty instruments that sound like they're confined in a straight jacket. And maybe Gibson was being period correct with the sharp nut and overspray on the fretboard binding. Haha
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