Australian Guitar - - Reviews - PETER HODG­SON

The Gib­son Hummingbird square-shoul­der dread­nought, orig­i­nally re­leased in 1960, is one of those gui­tars that in­vokes all sorts of im­ages and emo­tional res­o­nances. Keith Richards and Mick Jag­ger both used them, as did Thom Yorke, John McLaugh­lin and Chris Cor­nell.

You can spy one in Al­mostFa­mous, where it pro­vides a lit­tle vis­ual in­di­ca­tor of the time­frame. They look equally at home on clas­sic rock, coun­try and al­ter­na­tive stages, and they carry a de­cently hefty price tag. Epiphone has taken the wal­let-st­ing out of this no­to­ri­ously beau­ti­ful model, and added some elec­tron­ics to make it more stage-friendly. Let’s take a peek.


The Epiphone Hummingbird PRO looks very much like the orig­i­nal Gib­son ver­sion, with the most no­tice­able dif­fer­ence be­ing the larger and more or­nate Epiphone head­stock in place of the typ­i­cal Gib­son one, or the more com­monly-seen ‘Gib­son-like, but snipped at the edges’ Epiphone de­sign. It has a solid spruce top on a se­lect mahogany back and sides, with a se­lect mahogany neck which is cut to a SlimTaper D Pro­file carve.

The fin­ger­board has 20 medium frets and a 12-inch ra­dius, and like the Gib­son ver­sion, it has pearloid par­al­lel­o­gram in­lays and, of course, the clas­sic Hummingbird pick­guard. The orig­i­nals were made of tor­toise shell, but this ver­sion is made with an im­i­ta­tion ma­te­rial. The bridge sad­dle is made of im­i­ta­tion bone, too. The hummingbird isn’t real ei­ther, ob­vi­ously, but the tuners are real Grovers with a 14:1 turn ra­tio.

The elec­tron­ics setup is built around a Shadow NanoFlex pickup and ePer­former preamp, which has con­trols for Mas­ter Vol­ume, Tre­ble and Bass, plus a Dy­nam­ics slider and a Phase but ton for help­ing to elim­i­nate feed­back.


Firstly – and most im­por­tantly – this gui­tar sounds and feels very much like a Hummingbird. Sure, it’ll feel more like a clas­sic one af­ter 50-some­thing years of throt­tling, but the broad essence of a vin­tage model is very much there, and it’ll only get bet­ter over the years as that solid spruce top set­tles in.

That’s the magic of a solid top as op­posed to a lam­i­nate one: the more you play them, the sweeter they sound, as the vi­bra­tions and the nat­u­ral dry­ing of the wood work to­gether to cre­ate some­thing truly spe­cial.

This gui­tar has the full, yet tight low end, bright up­per mids and clear highs of a clas­sic dread­nought, with enough per­son­al­ity to sound great whether you use a pick, your fin­gers or even slide. In fact, it’s a bril­liant slide gui­tar thanks to those up­per mids and breathy highs.


The plugged-in sound is very, very adapt­able. The key el­e­ment seems to be that Dy­nam­ics con­trol, which lets you find the sweet spot for

what­ever mu­si­cal sit­u­a­tion you may be in. It’ll as­sist you to make in­di­vid­ual notes ring out clearly from within a full chord, or knit them to­gether more tightly for when you need to take more of a ‘ wall of sound’ type ap­proach. And if you’re do­ing a lot of Chet-style fin­ger­pick­ing work, it’ll help you to find the per­fect bal­ance of bass, chord and melody.

Per­son­ally, I’m rarely a fan of on­board preamps un­less they bring some­thing spe­cial to the ta­ble in terms of flex­i­bil­ity, or at least cap­ture the gui­tar’s in­di­vid­ual voice. This one doesn’t pre­tend to be a multi-mic setup that re­pro­duces all the res­o­nances and re­ver­ber­a­tions in­side the body, but it does pro­vide plenty of dif­fer­ent voices across a wide spec­trum of gen­res for use both on­stage or in the stu­dio.


The playa­bil­ity of this gui­tar is great, espe­cially if you pre­fer your acous­tics a lit­tle more on the ‘neck feels like an elec­tric’ side of things. It cer­tainly feels more like a Les Paul or SG than a big and bulky acous­tic, which is prob­a­bly why this model has been so revered by rock­ers who need some­thing playable for acous­tic mo­ments in an evening’s set.

It should be noted though that up­per-fret ac­cess is pretty much re­stricted past the 15th fret, so this isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the gui­tar to swing for if you need those higher notes at the wid­dly end of the neck. A Hummingbird with a cut­away just wouldn’t be a Hummingbird though, af­ter all and this a clas­sic gui­tar for the col­lec­tion at a re­ally great price.

Ul­ti­mately, this is a re­ally well-built gui­tar that brings the key at­tributes of the Gib­son Hummingbird to every­one. The USA-made Gib­son model is still a nicer gui­tar, but some­thing tells me that own­ers of the Epiphone ver­sion will prob­a­bly bond with theirs a lit­tle quicker, since its lower price point means you won’t be as stressed about lit­tle nicks and bumps.

I’ve seen play­ers buy ex­pen­sive dream gui­tars and then be too scared of the dang things to play them any­thing but timidly. But with this gui­tar, Epiphone has re­ally cre­ated the best of both worlds: a Hummingbird that looks and sounds the part, but is player-friendly enough that you won’t hold back when you’re pour­ing your heart and soul into it.

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