Ah yes, the Gibson Firebird X. This is the epitome of the robot guitars. The cream of the crop, most well-known “Super Robot” that Gibson produced in 2011-2012 and that just about everyone hates.
First, let’s talk about “Super Robots.” This is a term that I have made up that helps differentiate between a regular Robot Guitar such as the 2007 Gibson Les Paul Studio that can tune itself and a guitar such as the Firebird X or LPX that also has built-in effects.
These instruments originally retailed at $4,000 and were offered in two different colors – Red and Blue “Bowling Ball” Swirl. The official titles were “Redolution” and “Bluevolution” – yes, they seriously named them that.
Along with the instrument, you got a specially designed case and a pedal board-like set up.
The case these came with is rather interesting. It reads Gibson + Firebird X -Limited Edition- on the outside with a leather-like and cloth exterior. It is opened and closed with the usage of a zipper. It also has attachments for shoulder straps. Neat!
It is essentially like a gig bag, but made with super sturdy foam. It reminds me of the hard Taylor Gig Cases that I love a lot! Gibson claims this will protect the guitar from a 6-story fall and that it can be used for checked baggage on an airplane. I wouldn’t want to test either of those claims with my Firebird X! The exterior’s appearance would definitely be tarnished by the airlines.
Next is the pedals that are included. If set up properly, you can use these to help modify the tones of your instrument as well as use the foot rocker as a volume or wah pedal. Unfortunately, I did not have the “bone” to link these together so I didn’t get to fully experience what the Firebird X was capable of.
This super robot has so many different sounds to choose from. In order to turn it on, you must lift up on the “Gear Shift” knob. This is the plastic knob furthest down the body. After about 5 seconds it should then power on. If you want a technical explanation of what all this instrument can do – I would suggest reading the owners manual here: http://media.gibson.com.s3.amazonaws.com/Manuals/FBX-Owners-Manual-1.3h.pdf
However, to put it briefly, there are 11 preset tones that you can select with the Gear Shift knob. With each of those presets, you can select a different ‘sound’ within that category using the 5-way blade selector switch. The first metal knob is your volume control and the black one of the “Digital Varitone” which acts as your tone knob and can also alter the sound in other ways too depending on your selection.
The “mini-humbuckers” in the guitar will do essentially every tone ever thought of. It will even do acoustic sounds thanks to the Piezo pickup in the bridge.
From there, you can modify these effects with the use of the 3 toggle switches on the guitar. The toggle switches also function as regular pots and can be turned from 0-10 to change the effect level. The Blue Toggle is for controlling Modulation, Echo and Reverb. the Red Toggle does compression, Distortion and EQ settings. These two setting also have a slider on the side of the guitar to further modify the effects. Finally, the gray controls the PU/Prog, Piezo and Tuning mode. If you’ve created a mess of sounds, you can restore the settings to default by tapping the Digital Varitone knob 3 times.
This might all seem rather complicated, but once you understand what is going on, it really is quite an innovative guitar! It is essentially just like having a bunch of pedals built into your instrument.
This was the first robot guitar that I really enjoyed the robot tuners on. There are 11 different presets for tuning – to get to standard, simply select Tuning mode on the gray toggle switch and pull up on the Gear Shift (if not up already) and turn it all the way counter-clockwise. From there, you just have to simply strum it. I’ve found if your robot tuners are not tuning a specific note correctly – simply fret a note and that will cause the tuner to think the string is too sharp and it will detune it. Then on the next open strum it will usually get it right!
This covers all of the basic presets and functions of the Firebird X. You can also plug this into additional Gibson software to tweak and download over 2,000 different sounds. The built in distortion is pretty nice and I was surprised by the looper/repeater settings.
EVERYONE talks and shows the features, but they forget to talk about how it PLAYS!
I LOVE THE FIREBIRD X
This guitar was well-designed. It might be an ugly, misshapen, non-reverse Firebird, but it plays well. It features (strangely enough) a SWAMP ASH body with a MAPLE NECK and FLAMED MAPLE FRETBOARD.
That flamed fretboard was the first thing that made me like this guitar. I can’t think of another Gibson that comes stock with a mandatory flamed fretboard. Most Fender guitars don’t either. Being a Norlin Era Gibson fan, seeing a maple neck with a volute was also a pleasant surprise. It sports a round 60s styled neck, but what impressed me the most is the neck joint to the body
It’s not quite an axcess heel joint, but it is slightly shaved away to make reaching the upper frets easier.
The fat, Firebird body rests well against your body and the guitar is not overly heavy. Mine weighs a little more than 7.5lbs. Compared to the average weight of a Les Paul being 9lbs – this is certainly a comfortable guitar.
In the end, I used to be a hater of Robot guitars. I purchased the Firebird X and LPX simply to review for my show, but I didn’t expect to like them as much as I did. You do NOT HAVE to have all the pedals for these instruments to operate. In fact, these make great recording guitars that you can plug directly into your audio interface and have tons of built in effects at your disposal. As long as they function properly, they can be good fun. If they don’t work right, they can be a real pain as replacement parts are nearly impossible to find!
If you REALLY hate all the robot stuff – these would make a cool ‘conversion’ project to turn into a standard guitar. It would be super lightweight then!