Epiphone Limited Edition Slash Firebird
By Phil O'Keefe |
Limited edition, unlimited fun
One of the coolest perks of being a rock star is being able to partner with builders on custom signature models, and being able to have something made with your input, preferences and specifications all taken into consideration. But not just anyone gets their own sig models - you need to be well-known. When it comes to being world-famous, there's the average rock star, and then there's Slash. No last name needed - mention his name and everyone knows who you're talking about. From Guns N' Roses to Velvet Revolver, Slash's Snakepit and now partnering with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, he's had the kind of successful career that most musicians only dream about. And as the first-ever Global Brand Ambassador for Gibson, Slash is in a position to have significant input on the design of his signature guitars, and he's just released a new one. This latest model was done in collaboration with Epiphone (which, like Harmony Central, is a Gibson Brand) and surprisingly, it isn't a Les Paul - which has long been Slash's favored guitar model. No, this time Slash went with something a bit different, yet still very rock 'n' roll…
What You Need To Know
- Produced in cooperation with Slash, the Epiphone Limited Edition Slash Firebird is indeed a limited run - only 900 of them are being produced; an additional 100 will be hand-signed and numbered by Slash and offered in a premium edition, which unlike the other 900, these will also include a custom case and strap.
- The three-piece mahogany body on the Slash Firebird is contoured by machining to give it the classic lines of a vintage neck-through Firebird, but the neck itself is actually glued in using a long, deep-set tenon; it's not a neck-through guitar.
- The entire top is capped with a .25" thick piece of maple, and a AAA flame maple veneer is added to the top of that. The guitar is finished in Trans Black. It looks like it's solid black at a distance, but it's not entirely opaque - you can see the flame maple through the top's poly finish when you're up-close. It's very under-stated, kind of hard to photograph (it shows up much better in person) yet it's also undeniably cool looking.
- The rear of the body has a slight tummy cut for comfort, and a non-see-through black poly finish that also covers the back of the neck.
- The 24.75" scale neck is mahogany and is capped with a pau ferro fingerboard. Pau ferro looks and sounds similar to rosewood, but it's a touch harder and a bit smoother in overall feel.
- The neck measures 1.68" wide at the ivory-colored PVC nut and is 0.94" thick at the first fret (according to my digital calipers), with stout shoulders giving a slight D shape to the rounded "custom Slash" profile.
- The headstock has the classic reverse shape of vintage Firebirds, and the traditional single layer black truss rod cover is emblazoned with a gold Epiphone logo.
- The tuners are classic "banjo style" models that are made by Kluson. They have a 12:1 ratio. If you're used to other in-line style tuners, it may take a bit to adjust to these since their order is "reversed" (with the low E string tuner being furthest away from the guitar's body), but you'll quickly acclimate to the arrangement.
- The fingerboard has a single layer cream binding with dot position markers on the bass side, while the pau ferro fretboard features classy-looking pearl trapezoid position marker inlays. There's a bit of filler evident around a few of the position markers, but nothing too egregious or obvious.
- There are a total of 22 frets, and they're fairly large medium-jumbos. The frets on the review model are well dressed. This, along with the 12" fingerboard radius makes for a fairly effortless playing feel, especially when it comes to string bends.
- The electronics of the Slash Firebird are fairly traditional yet not fully true to vintage Firebird specs. Instead of a pair of smaller-sized traditional Firebird humbuckers, the Slash Firebird comes equipped with a pair of full-sized Seymour Duncan custom Slash humbuckers - an APH-1 in the neck and an APH-2 in the bridge. These have open-coils and black bobbins, and come without pickup covers. The pickups use AlNiCo II magnets.
- There are individual volume and tone controls for each pickup, and these are equipped with black top hat (what else?) knobs with metal knob inserts and position pointers. Unlike vintage pointers, these are nicely rounded, so you won't accidentally cut your fingers on them.
- The sound is a bit beefier and warmer than the typically brighter-sounding vintage Firebirds. The pickups have plenty of output but are not excessively hot; they're well-suited for blues, rock and metal.
- Jin Sung Korea 500k pots are used throughout for the controls, along with two 0.022uF, 600V, 5% Sprague orange drop capacitors - one for each tone control.
- A three-way pickup selector switch is mounted in the traditional location on the lower horn, and on the three-layer (w/b/w) pickguard where you'd normally expect to see the Firebird logo, instead there's a Slash skull & top hat logo in red. It's a small custom touch that's appropriate for a Slash signature model, but that doesn't stray too far from the traditional design either.
- The Slash Firebird is equipped with a nickel ABR Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece. Intonation and action on the review unit were well adjusted from the factory.
- The Epiphone Limited Edition Slash Firebird comes with a user's manual, truss rod adjustment wrench, Epiphone poster, Epiphone bumper sticker, a pair of Epiphone StrapLocks and a certificate of authenticity.
- The Ltd. Ed. Slash Firebird is covered by Epiphone's limited lifetime warranty.
- There is a small spot or two on the internal wiring where the insulation was slightly melted in the soldering process.
- There are a couple of small dark spots on the binding at the end of the neck. The rest of the finish is very well done on the review unit, with no visible rough spots, dimples or blemishes.
- The neck profile and depth make it somewhat challenging for those with smaller hands or who prefer a Slim Taper profile. If you like a beefier neck profile that's more along the lines of a Rounded 50's shape, you'll love the Slash Firebird's ample proportions.
- It's a Firebird - while it's generally a very comfortable design to play, the neck will tend to drop when you wear it on a strap. Although the way your right arm sits on the body of the guitar tends to keep it in a more horizontal position, some neck drop is to be expected and is part of the nature of the Firebird design in general. On the bright side, unfettered access to the entire length of the neck is about as good as it gets with a Firebird.
- Unless you opt for one of the 100 premium versions, you'll need to also budget for a case or gig bag since one is not included.
This is a really fun guitar from several perspectives - it's fun to play, fun to look at, and it sounds great too, and will bring big grins to anyone who owns one. Slash's preferred neck profile is unapologetically big and rounded - and while it might not be ideal for everyone, fans of late 50s era Gibson Les Pauls will feel right at home on it. If you prefer rounded neck profiles and want something substantial to grab ahold of, you're going to love it too.
The build quality of the made in China Epiphone Ltd. Ed. Slash Firebird is quite good overall. While I was able to spot a couple of small dark blemishes on the binding, and a bit of filler around a couple of the trapezoid neck inlays, and a couple of spots on the internal wiring where it looks like the needle nose pliers got a bit too hot and semi-melted the insulation near the solder joints, these were the only minor blemishes I could find in the course of a very detailed inspection. While it's not a true neck-through body design like many Firebirds, the Epiphone Limited Edition Slash Firebird does use a set-neck, with a long neck tenon that is expertly glued into position, with no slop or excessive glue ooze at the very smooth neck / body joint. The resulting stability and sustain is impressive. Kudos to Epiphone and Slash for opting for the original "banjo style" Kluson tuning machines too - it's a classic design touch that is unique to some Firebirds, and I was happy to see they decided to use them on this model.
The sound of the Ltd. Ed. Slash Firebird is somewhere between a Firebird and a Les Paul, with a warmer and somewhat less piercing tone than you'll get from most vintage Firebirds. The Slash Firebird provides a more modern sound that many players will find more familiar and useful. It's lively and responsive and well-suited to rock, metal and blues music. Coupled with the classic visual appeal of the iconic Firebird body shape, this guitar practically screams ROCK! Like the flame maple subtly visible through the top's finish, the custom appointments of this signature model are tasteful and not ostentatious - with the Slash skull and top hat logo in place of the usual red Firebird logo being the main easily identifiable visual difference; Firebird experts will also notice the full-sized Seymour Duncan humbuckers in place of the traditional small-sized Firebird pickups, but while they're different than what you'll see on most other 'birds, they don't look out of place here either.
With only 1,000 of these instruments (including the 100 hand-signed premium models) being built, if you're interested in owning one you probably shouldn't put it off for too long, or they could be gone and you'll miss out on this really cool version of the classic Firebird - it may have taken a rock star to help design it, but with its very reasonable price, if you hurry, you don't have to be a rock star to own one. -HC-
Want to discuss the Epiphone Limited Edition Slash Firebird or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Electric Guitar forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Epiphone Limited Edition Slash Firebird ($1,499.00 MSRP, $899.00 "street")
Epiphone's product web page
Premium Outfit product web page
You can purchase the Epiphone Ltd. Ed. Slash Firebird from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.