NGD: Tokai Firebird

Discussion in 'Other Guitars' started by plankton, May 23, 2019.

  1. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

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    I've been after a Firebird for awhile, but even though I've gotten close a couple times it has eluded me, till now!

    I had certain requirements that were difficult to fill. Firstly anything from Gibson was going to be too expensive. Second it needed to be a "proper" Firebird with a set neck and mini humbuckers. It's just not something that comes up very often, especially down here.

    I was having a look around on ebay, not really expecting to buy anything, and suddenly there it was. An auction for a new Tokai FB-53, the starting price was $299 AUD and there were no bids, and only an hour left. I quickly set to researching. It's a MIC Tokai and new ones usually go for $800-1,000 down here. I suspected a scam, but the seller had great feedback. I found that it appeared to be an older model, so I assumed it was NOS. I was still unsure, but with the protections ebay and paypal have in place I figured I'd go for it. I waited til the last few minutes, put in a bid and watched. I was the only bidder and got it for $334 shipped. Still a bit unsure though.

    That was last Friday, it got here on Tuesday, and as soon as I opened the box all my fears melted away. It was gorgeous! Up on the knee immediately and the set up is pretty good, and it practically plays itself. Having a couple SGs, the feel is similar, and acoustically it sounds amazing, which is always a good sign.

    I had to wait a bit to plug her in, and in the meantime I tweaked the setup a bit to match my tastes. Through the amp it just screams bluesy rock n roll. The pickups are great, definitely got their own thing going on, which is partly why I wanted one. And it just looks so good!

    One minor issue is the balance on a strap. If people think an SG is prone to neck dive you haven't really experienced it until you try one of these. Looking into the issue it seems that where the top strap button is located on mine, on the upper part of the body, is the culprit. Most Gibsons have it on the neck heel like an SG and according to many on the interweb that position isn't as much of a problem. So I think I'll get a pair of those new D'Addario strap locks and install them in the new position.

    Also, the tuning keys can be a bit hard to get a good grip on in certain positions, but I expect that's something I'll just get used to.

    Once I've had a chance to really play it for a month or so I might add to this post. But for now I am really pleased. I got a guitar I've been chasing for awhile for what seems to be a steal, and it's everything I was hoping for and more. Just need to track down a case for it now.

    20190522_215710 (800x389).jpg
     
  2. Chubbles

    Chubbles Well-Known Member

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    Congrats!!!
     
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  3. HackeIommi

    HackeIommi Active Member

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    Gorgeous guitar! Tokais are worth to trust.
     
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  4. SG standard

    SG standard Well-Known Member

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    Very cool - I've prefer firebirds in solid colours like black or red. :)

    When it comes to balance, you might want to look at the rear strap button location. On most guitars the front button needs to be close to the 12th fret for balance (as on a Strat), but if there's no body there, the simple solution it to raise the location of the rear button. Gibson certainly did this on some models in the 50s. I just did an image search for 'vintage Firebird' and found these examples - not sure if they're original locations, or modifications to improve balance!

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    This is the mod that really sorted out the neck dive on one of my SGs.
     
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  5. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

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    Thanks SG standard, that's a really good idea. I'll try to get a feel for what's going to work best before I put an extra hole or two in the guitar.
     
  6. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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  7. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

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    I had a look in the control cavity. Mini Alpha pots, all 500k, linear for the volume and audio for tone. 22nF caps on the tone pots, plenty of extra wire and a nice shielded cavity. It's the same value components that came in my Tokai Love Rock Special with P90s.

    I'm happy with the way everything sounds, especially after messing around with the pickup height. I will be adding a couple treble bleed circuits though so I can roll down the volume without cutting the top end.

    20190524_182338 (1024x731).jpg
     
  8. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

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    I moved the rear strap button and it's balancing better, still could be better. I need to get a nice wide leather strap and see how it goes. I may still relocate the upper button to the heel but I'm going to play it a bit before I decide.

    I'm really loving the pickups. All the best parts of humbuckers and P90s, seemingly without any of the drawbacks. They've got the bite and snarl of P90s but with low noise and some of the girth of a humbucker. The neck pickup is quickly becoming my favourite of any I own, great warm neck HB tones with no muddiness at all. I was starting to think that a guitar with a full size humbucker in the bridge and a P90 or Strat pickup at the neck would be the ultimate, but now I think this one beats them both. I'm not sure if they're proper Firebird style pickups or just mini-hums, but what ever they are they're working.
     
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  9. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    Do the pickups have exposed pole pieces that you can adjust? if the covers are totally smooth I think they are firebird style. In the end, you love the sound so either way it's good! Congrats on finding a great deal on a guitar you are loving!
     
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  10. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

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    No, they're smooth covers like you would expect to find on Firebird pickups, but that doesn't necessarily relate to what's inside. When I change the strings I'll pull them out and see if I can figure it out just out of curiosity. If I ever want to put the same thing into another guitar it would be good to know what it is that I'm liking so much.

    It's one of the better middle position sounds I've heard too. You get a bit of that quack that positions 2 and 4 are famous for on a Strat.
     
  11. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

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    Got a wide, single ply leather strap so the back side has a nice bit of grip. That combined with moving the lower button has pretty much solved the diving. I added some strap locks as well just for added security.

    I added Kinman treble bleeds to each volume pot and it will be the last mod I'll need to do. They just make every guitar so much more versatile, I don't know why they're not standard practice on everything.

    I also tracked down a case. I wasn't going to pay the hefty price that Epiphone wants down here for their Firebird case. As luck would have it, a ESP case popped up on a local secondhand site. It was the right dimensions and fit the guitar pretty well, but I decided to go the extra mile. I got some stiff foam, pulled up the existing plush lining, traced the guitar and cut some pieces to fit. I glued everything back down with some spray contact adhesive and I've got a custom fit case now, all for under $100 AUD.

    Taking her to band practice for the first time tonight and gonna rock the crap out of the thing!
     

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