The Thunderbird Bass Pickguard is part of Gibson’s upgraded line of instruments for the year 2015, which introduces multiple new features to many of their popular electric guitar and bass guitar models.
The most notable improvement introduced in the Gibson Thunderbird Bass 2015 is the use of Babicz Full Contact Hardware bridge, a recently developed type of bridge that lets you fully “lock down” the bridge saddles for improved tuning stability, easier adjustments and sustain.
The body of this bass is still the same, built using multi-matched mahogany wood and carved into the distinct Thunderbird shape. However, the official description speaks of improvements in wood selection called “comprehensive wood selection and grading”, where they only use wood that meet the qualities that they are looking for.
The neck receives a bulk of improvements, including a thicker rosewood fretboard and better looking pearl inlays. The playability of the mahogany/walnut neck is improved via smoother sanding and buffing, the fretboard is also oiled to give it a broken-in feel. Gibson also spoke of an updated “comprehensive setup” where they improved the Plek system to have better action and Intonation.
The pickups and electronics were also improved, with the official description saying that the 2015 Thunderbird Bass now has increased tonal Versatility, with eight distinct sounds.
This sonic versatility is made possible by the dual EB Bass Alnico pickups that feature Gibson’s novel “tuned coil tapping” design. These 8 bass tones are selectable via the three-way pickup selector and the two mini toggle switches that sit right below the three control knobs.
Unfortunately, we cannot yet see this “Tuned coil tapping” system at work, because they haven’t released a video demonstration yet. It definitely would be interesting how it applies to the bass, and also to electric guitars.
Gibson provided some details on each of the sound:
Neck pickup: Balanced tone, most bass, mids give some “bark”
Tapped neck pickup: Scoops some mids, rounder sound, retains low end
Bridge pickup: Less low end, more midrange bite
Tapped bridge pickup: Scoops mids, lighter low end, defined highs, good “pop” bass sound
Neck and bridge pickups: Retains strong low end, adds midrange but there’s an apparent slight scoop in the lower mids because the higher and lower frequencies are louder
Tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup: Major scooping around 500Hz-1kHz, good lows, a hint of brightness, lays back in a track
Tapped bridge pickup and neck pickup: Adds some upper mids back in compared to the tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup
Tapped bridge pickup and tapped neck pickup: Like the tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup sound, but adds slightly lower midrange frequencies back in.
Other notable features of the Thunderbird 2015 include the improved contact output jack, which is now more secure, as well as the cables that are now more robust for improved signal strength.