There is no mistaking a Gibson Firebird V--with its unique "reversed" zig-zag body design and equally distinct headstock, it is simply one of the most recognizable of all guitar profiles. First introduced in 1963, the Gibson Firebird was the brainchild of legendary automotive designer and visionary Ray Dietrich (Lincoln, Packard), enlisted by Gibson to bolster the guitar lines of the early '60s and help solidify the company's eminent rank among solidbody electric guitar manufacturers. Dietrich's unconventional design was based loosely on both the legendary automobile tailfins of the 1950s and the Gibson Explorer, which had been introduced several years earlier.
The Gibson Firebird V's Angled Headstock
The Gibson Firebird V's distinct headstock stays true to Gibson's industry-changing way of thinking. Like every Gibson headstock, the angled Firebird headstock is carved out of the same piece of mahogany as the neck. The angle is carefully set to 14 degrees--instead of the traditional 17 degrees--to accommodate the headstock's radical contour and to keep pressure on the strings. The headstock's form insures straight string pull, which, when combined with the increased string pressure, means there is no loss of string vibration between the nut and the tuners, equaling better sustain. Banjo-styled tuners provide the Gibson Firebird V with the necessary clearance between tuner buttons, allowing for comfortable access and uncomplicated tuning. This process takes craftsmanship, time, and effort, but the rewards are certainly worth the effort.
The Gibson Firebird V Neck Profile
No guitar neck profiles are more distinguishable than the neck profiles employed on the Gibson models of today. The more traditional '50s neck profile is the thicker, more rounded contour, emulating the neck shapes of Gibson's iconic models of the late 1950s. The '60s neck profile is considered the more modern, slim-tapered contour most commonly associated with the Gibson models of the early 1960s. The neck on Gibson's Firebird V has the best of both worlds--it is a hybrid between the '50s rounded contour and the '60s slim-taper profile. As with all Gibson necks, it is machined in Gibson's rough mill using wood shapers to make the initial cuts. Once the fingerboard gets glued on, the rest--including the final sanding--is done by hand. That means there are no two Gibson Firebird V necks with the exact same dimensions. So while it still has the basic characteristics of its respective profile, each neck will be slightly different, with a distinct but traditional feel.
High-Output, Ceramic Mini Humbuckers On the Gibson Firebird V
The introduction of the mini humbucker in the late-1960s served a growing need--the demand for a P-90-sized pickup with no hum. Gibson's world-class engineers set about creating a smaller, more compact humbucker to fit into the slot of a P-90. With its smaller size, narrow magnetic field, and unique design combination, the mini humbucker produces a bright and focused output, while still retaining Gibson's famous humbucker performance. The mini humbucker was first made available in several Gibson-made Epiphone models of the late 1960s, and the Les Paul Deluxe in the early 1970s. Today, it is best known as the pickup in the Gibson Firebird, and is a vintage replica of the original mini humbucker with bar Alnico II magnets. The Gibson mini humbucker is authentic in every detail, from its cream-colored plastic mounting and coated enamel wire, to its maple spacers and vintage braided lead wire. The tone is unmistakable Gibson.
Neck-Through-Body Construction and Solid Mahogany Body On the Gibson Firebird V
The Firebird V's multiple-wood-ply construction is as structurally and aesthetically innovative as any Gibson feature. The neck and center piece of the body are constructed from solid mahogany, as are the two wings that are glued on to each side to form the Firebird's distinct outline. Gluing all the pieces together insures maximum 'wood-to-wood' contact, and allows the neck and body to function as a single unit. This neck-through-body construction results in better tone and unsurpassed sustain, and no loose or misaligned necks. The regimen involved in selecting the Firebird V's wood and the formula to dry it out is closely controlled. First, the wood is personally inspected and qualified by Gibson's team of skilled wood experts before it enters the factories. These onsite inspectors also insure that the plain maple comes from corporations adhering to the forest-saving standards of the Rainforest Alliance, of which Gibson is a proud member and sponsor. Inside the Gibson factories, humidity is maintained at 45 percent, and the temperature at 70 degrees. This insures all woods are dried to a level of 'equilibrium,' where the moisture content does not change during the manufacturing process. This guarantees tight-fitting joints and no expansion, and controls the shrinkage and warping of the woods, in addition to reducing the weight. It also improves the woods' machinability and finishing properties, and adherence to glue. Consistent moisture content means that a Gibson guitar will respond evenly to temperature and humidity changes long after it leaves the factory.
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