UPDATE: December 7, 2010
Gibson have done the Firebird brand even worse with the new “Flood Swirl” color scheme that looks like something you’d find at the bottom the Gibson factory floor — or an unflushed toilet.  The new colors — Redolution and Blue-volution — yes, that’s really the names of the swirls, appears to replace the previously announced orange scheme.

Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz revealed his new “revolutionary” $5,500.00USD Firebird X robot guitar guitar today in New York City — and the sound of sweat flop dripping from his brow was overwhelming.  Not since the disastrous introduction of the SG Zoot Suit in the Summer of 2009 did we have such enormous pity for what was once such a grand and innovative company.

Here’s the strangely generic Gibson PR blurp for the Firebird X:

The Firebird X Guitar takes the guitar instrument to new heights of functionality and usability for the professional player and the aspiring enthusiast. Using technologies that did not exist even a few years ago, we could enhance an already outstanding instrument to unbelievable performance and creative heights. The enhancements touch every aspect of the instrument, from using improved manufacturing technologies to the latest electronics. Firebird X is like the world’s best street legal sports car in looks, feel and performance.

Here’s Henry himself making the dreaded announcement in what has instantly become an instant classic as the worldwide example of How Not to Introduce a Revolutionary New Guitar:

What a sad, little, stage.  What an awkward performance.  Oh, the woe — it matches the aesthetic of this ugly guitar!  That video is even linked from the official Gibson.com announcement page!

Here’s the disastrous Firebird X in action from the same, sorry, stage:

Oh, my ears!

Oh, my eyes!

Do we really need a Firebird X Countdown timer on the Gibson.com website when nobody wants to buy this artificial monstrosity?

Gibson needs to stick to making the best historic Custom Shop Old World guitars in the universe — AND GET THE NECKS SET UP RIGHT FROM THE FACTORY!

Gibson!  Stop Making Robot Guitars Nobody Wants!

I will say one good thing about the new — but still awful in every way — Firebird X:  At least they got rid of the ridiculous banjo tuners.

42 Comments

  1. Nobody seems to be noticing that the pickups are programmable. That’s right, analog pickups which allow for many presets to be accessed with the touch of a button on stage. [deleted] That’s huge.

    [Name redacted and comment edited by David W. Boles to remove inappropriate and suggestive language.]

    1. We don’t allow fake names here, so if you choose to post another comment here, please use your verifiable real name and email address or we won’t publish your reply. We also don’t allow any form of cursing, even if barely self-censored.

      I see you’re coming in on a Comcast Cable IP address from Nashville, Tennessee. Do you have any personal or professionally vested interest in Gibson?

      I don’t see the advantage to preset analogue pickups on the guitar. We already have that capacity using pedal boards and equalizers. Nothing new there except changing the function from foot to finger.

  2. I agree this new revolutionary instrument is a huge flop…the Cool Firebird was the reverse model.. very few liked the “standard” version.. So what so revolutionary about the basic instruments design.. they chose a fairly unpopular .. ugly duckling and put new fangled technology in it.. Conceptually not a new idea at all.. but the reality is guitarists don’t really like to mix up Analog and Digital worlds.. the guitar is analog.. most prefer to keep the resto fo the rig that way but many do go digital for the convenience on the pedal board..
    Yes it is much more convenient to swicth sounds seperately.. then deal with tweeking knobs and switches on the instrument it’self..
    BTW – to help the guitarist they used a diffent colored and type of knob or switch for each instantiation of such.. perhaps helpful.. but visually unapealling.. (looks like crap)..

    … and sorry the original Firbird Banjo tuners.. were ergonomical and I always thought they were quite.. “revoluitionary”..

    Good Article.

    1. Welcome to Boles Blues, vito!

      I thank you for your precise and interesting comment.

      I do not have a Firebird — but I want one! I prefer the Johnny Winter version. I played that style a few times and I felt the banjo tuners were really heavy. The headstock was way out of balance with the rest of the guitar. You spent all your time holding up the head of the guitar instead of focusing on playing the neck.

      Why do you think people prefer the reverse Firebird over the standard?

      The #1 worst thing about the new Firebird X is they killed the classic profile of the guitar on stage. Why change that iconic headstock just so you can use RoboHead-tuners?

      1. what are gibson thinking– this is way over the top i am in the market but this is @%#$$ so my only advice is shoot whoever thought of killing off a master piece iff gibson dont like the guitar stop making them-and
        dont turn them into a joke

    1. I agree with you — but there’s a huge push in Gibson resellers all over the country right now to sell that piece of junk as it arrives in stores. It’s unimaginable that the Firebird X will sell in large enough quantities to justify its development costs.

  3. The hype leading up to the launch was exciting – I was eager with anticipation! I have an Ebony Gibson Les Paul Supreme and a Cherry Mahogany Gibson Les Paul Special, with Bigsby. I love them both…..so with eager eyes I watched the launch of the Firebird X.

    What a shocker!! – On my very first glimpse of it I thought “Nope!” I think it is ugly, garish and looks like a guitar for 11 year olds wanting to play Guitar Hero. OK, I thought, maybe I should check the features – But I found they don’t appeal either. They will date quickly or will be problematical, of that I have no doubt. Then I heard the likely price – and that killed it stone dead. One for the collectors maybe, but not for me. If they had to name it after a car a DeLorean would have been more appropriate.

    I have zero interest in the Firebird X now. I find that I don’t even want to try on out of curiosity….and for a traditional Gibson lover that it quite sad.

    The Firebird X is obviously a guitar that was built by techies because they COULD not because they SHOULD. OK, put it up as a ‘design exercise’ – but to launch it as a ‘revolutionary new model’ only to receive such a backlash of negative opinion shows they didn’t do sufficient market research (if any) and therefore relied on management judgement and that, frankly, reeks of amateurism – as did the actual launch itself. However, have you seen the new 50th Anniversary Epiphone Les Pauls? Those guys are making the very best of their market position, despite being in Gibson’s (shaky) shadow.

    1. Hi Ken, and welcome to Boles Blues!

      I love your website. You have some neat guitars there.

      I agree the Firebird X is such a strange thing — is it a toy or is it a real musical instrument? Will the electronics and other doodads last, and are they replaceable?

      I haven’t seen the new Epiphones. I will have to search them out!

  4. Man, what a tragedy of a guitar. I love overcomplicated, flashy messes of guitars, I mean, I play a jaguar that I’ve put even more switches on, and that’s not enough, so I’m in the mid-stages of building myself an even more ostentatious chrome mess of a guitar, but this poor thing. It’s got that “designed by committee” feel. The modifications they made to the firebird body make it look less Johnny Winter and more George Jetson, while the myriad knobs and switches have a cold war vibe, and the most boring headstock of all time. It just comes together as a Frankenstein’s Monster of ideas that might have been good independently (except that ghastly headstock) but come together like a church bus crashing into an orphan bus.

    I’m not going to judge on the sound, because I refuse to make any assumptions on sound quality until I see something live, but that entire presentation is incredibly underwhelming. I’m absolutely the target demographic for this guitar, but everything about it turns me off.

    Gibson! If you want to revolutionize the guitar, revolutionize the guitar! Don’t just jam a bunch of nifty widgets in an existing guitar and call it the future. Hell, dig out the futura, cover it in chrome, add all the features and then shove on some new ones, put a pickup below the bridge, mount the other pickups on sliders, make the body out of a ceramic composite, jam a korg mini-kp in it. If you’re gonna declare something a “revolution”, there’s no room for subtlety, shame, or humility, so go whole hog, and give me the guitar that david bowie would play if The Goblin King from labyrinth were transported to the world of Tron.

    1. Love the comment, Asher, thanks! You make an excellent point the Firebird is Johnny Winters’ guitar. To mar that guitar brand is to insult Johnny and his famous guitar of choice.

      I just updated this article to demonstrate the “new color scheme” for the new Firebird X — Gibson have upped themselves and outdone their previously ugly new guitar. Incredible!

  5. The new Firebird X colours?
    Even worse than the original “Day-glo burst” – if that was possible.
    How can Gibson get it SO wrong initially and then make it even worse like this?
    There is a certain fascination about the Firebird X, its concept, launch and public reaction – a disbelieving, head shaking fascination……. it is also rather sad

  6. I’ve been playing Gibson Firebirds since I bought my first
    one in 1963, a Firebird III. I have always took great pride in the
    Firebird guitar designed by auto designer Ray Dietrich. But I must
    say the new Firebird X is a sad disappointment. It really isn’t a
    firebird at all. It is a marketing stunt. In the early 80s Gibson
    came out with a update on the Firebird that made some sense but it
    was a flop like this one will be. The Firebird 2 had a Moog board
    inside it for a large variety of sounds but it was too complicated
    and buyers rejected it. Not many were made. But it still had the
    classic reverse Firebird shape more or less. This X guitar doesn’t
    really look like any Firebird except for a faint resemblence in the
    body design to a non reverse Firebird from the late 60s. I had one
    of those when they were new because I ordered it by mistake and
    never found the non reverse to have any of the feel or charm of the
    reverse. Sorry, I’m afraid any Gibson Firebird that is going to be
    accepted will have to retain the reverse body shape or else Gibson
    should call it something else, maybe turkey is a good name.
    LH

    1. Thank you for your excellent, outstanding, and prescient comment, Larry.

      If there’s one standard guitar missing from my collection — it is the original, righteous, Firebird you so eloquently defend. I need to get on getting one before Gibson decides “newer is more better” and discontinues their historic line of reverse Firebirds forever!

  7. I noticed this guitar on engadge and thought it was conceptually exciting. I have a Variax and will be getting the new James Tyler Variax. My first thought was good thing I saw this. I also write software and love gadgets. This looked intriguing. So I read about the features. Some interesting ideas. Then I started reading how it all worked. Funny thing. There is a reason us old guys didn’t like the transister amps that replaced tube amps in the 60s and 70s. The harmonics were wrong. However tansisters and digital weren’t the problem. First there were FET transisters and then DSPs. The new Variax looks great and sounds amazing… and they can be had for a lot less. The Firbird X looks confusing as hell! When I started looking at how to manage the sounds it went from intriguing to mind numbing. So I searched and found this and listened to the guy playing in the video. This seems less like a guitar of many sounds and more like a guitar that doesn’t know what it wants to sound like. The demo was a few “not bad” sounds in the midst of horrible tone. One moment was a mix of the worst of acoustic and electic, then muddy, then too much of the tone that never ever got through a guitar rig. It is not how many tones you have that matters, it’s how many usable musical tones. I can’t see adjusting this in real time in a performance or sorting through the horrible tones in a studio. Besides I have outboard gear that I like, and yeah it’s modeling and it sounds really good.

    I agree with the comments that this is doing what could be done, not what should be done and design by committee. For my versatile guitar sound I’m trading in my old Variax for a new one. I can understand the contrls, I like the way it sounds and it doesn’t look like vomit on an acid trip for a paint job. Gibson forgot the first rule of designing a guitar here… it is used to make music.

    1. I think your historical analysis is spot-on, Eric.

      Gibson has a spotty track record when it comes to these Robot (Auto-Tuning) guitars. The tend to break or short out or the battery dies — and people have had a hard time getting software updates for their guitars and also buying replacement batteries and such.

      I think the idea of an auto-vari-tuned guitar is pretty neat: Just hit a button and re-tune in drop D or Open E and you’re set — but the foolproof technology is just not there yet, and Gibson shouldn’t be cannibalizing their most famous guitars to robotics just yet. I understand if you want to start something new, you feed the familiar, but you also unnecessarily risk tainting a hundred year old brand with this techno foolishness.

  8. someone at Gibson seriously fucked up. I thought I’d only see a guitar this ugly coming down the Peavey assembly line.

    I have always had the most respect for Gibson in terms of design and quality and always believed thats what justified their substantial difference in price from their competitors.

    not anymore!

    Gibson, drop this awful project immediately before more people find out and DROP YOU!

    1. Hi Tavis —

      We usually don’t allow the use of the “f-word” in our comments stream — but in your case, the sensibility, tone and the effectiveness of that work is just so precisely right for the topic of the “new” Gibson Firebird X — I’m making an exception!

      The Peavey association you make is so clever and right on and damning. Well done!

  9. Looks like the answer to my dreams I have to take alest 5 guitars with me when I gig cause I play open tuning slide. My go to and take every were guitar is a gibson LGO with the action just high enough to play slide and stil play standerd tuning

    so being able to tune to one of my many different slide tunings and to have a acoustic sound too would make it a dream come true when going to jams not sure if it can handle flat wounds but I can’t wait to try one out

    might hahve a lot of axes for sale lol

      1. Ken!

        I love the Fret King Supermatic! I want one. The price is right. The value seems solid.

        Do you think it would reliably take 11-50 strings?

        I also don’t understand about the strings “Capstan windings” on the bridge– is that done by the user, or by the guitar itself during re-stringing?

  10. First, instead of smashing a guitar to make a point, Henry should have donated it to some poor kid who is learning to play guitar but will probably never have the means to buy a costly guitar. Not only would this have been smarter news wise, but this act of generosity may have possibly planted the seeds for the next Jimi Hendrix – instead of leaving wood shrapnel on the floor.

    Other than someone like Meatloaf who will buy one to hang on his wall (for bragging rights) I don’t see many practical guitarists spending over $5,000 for an instrument that has negligible value. These are hard times, with everyone struggling for shrinking gigs, lower pay rates and fewer recording contracts.

    If they want to salvage this PR nightmare, they should contact the folks at awesome-guitars.com about licensing their patented Hyper-Mod switching system. Gibson will immediately make the guitar simpler, less costly and will still have a grand canyon range of 35 unique pickup sounds.

    1. You make an excellent point, Bob, thank you. Yes, why destroy something that is perfectly good? It makes you look mean and stingy.

      The Gibson robot guitars have promise, but the execution is just strange. They should be SIMPLER to use than a standard guitar, not more complicated. Isn’t that the point of “Going Robot” in the first place?

  11. I have no problem with guitar manufacturers pushing the boundaries using technology – without technical advances we’d all still be playing big jazz-boxes with single-coil pickups. However, do they have to make it a) so complex and b) so butt-ugly?! Anyone who’s going to spend $5000 on a guitar is going to go for a vintage reissue R9 over this, surely?

    1. It looks like Gibson are now calling this “Firebird X” a “Limited Edition” — so it won’t be the new standard — and that’s a good thing. Traditionalists can breathe easier and collectors can buy the monstrosity as a token of Gibson’s misaligned design in bad taste.

  12. This guitar is a huge mistake. Henry must have been off his rocker when he thought this would ever come within a light year of being a “revolution.”

    It’s bothersome, tacky, and just unpleasant to see him destroying an SG, and it’s rather unsettling to see the CEO of any company damaging one of their biggest hits.

    The tones produced by this thing are hideous, bland, and questionable. If you claim to be able to emulate the tone of any guitar, then get a side-by-side comparison and prove it, don’t just make that claim and expect everyone to accept it. It’s as if this guitar is trying to produce all of those tones from its various configurations, but just doesn’t seem to know what it wants.

    If anything, this is a sad, sad moment in Gibson history…

  13. As much as digital technology has “revolutionized” music, I still say down with digital. “Pure Analog” —>TM <—- : its just a name. It should be called "Pure Digital".

    Anyone who actually listens to music knows that old school analogue sound is better in every way.

    "Gibson needs to stick to making the best historic Custom Shop Old World guitars in the universe — AND GET THE NECKS SET UP RIGHT FROM THE FACTORY!"

    I agree. When I bought my $2800 guitar new from the store I was surprised to hear that they had to send it away to get the setup configured, and I would have to wait, A WEEK, while they got some local guy to do the job. Maybe there are reasons I don't know about, but it just seemed weird to me. Never mind the fact that I wanted to play my guitar right after I bought it.

    1. I agree! The setup of a guitar is the most important price point for me. If Gibson won’t do it right, then it falls to the reseller who must do an expert job in a reasonable amount of time to make sure it’s just right for you.

  14. Really!!!!! What nonsense! It’s not a guitar beyond the fact it has strings and pickups, if you need all that to make music maybe one should rethink one’s vocation! Build guitars not toys! Oh, and by the way I am not a Luddite.

  15. Hi, just found this site and I was looking to comment on the Firebird X having just recently played one of the first to arrive in the UK. First off, I’m a lover of technology, a total nerd, I do however love classic guitars and effects. I have no problems with using digital technology where it meets or exceeds the capabilities of analog, but there are some areas digital is 20 years off reproducing and some areas digital will likely never succeed (eventually your modelling becomes so complex it’s just easier to use the real thing – think of CG-generated actors, these get more and more complex in the graphics business, but eventually you’ll find it’s cheaper just to stick a real human in the frame).

    The Firebird X appeals to me inherently as I like onboard technology. I have several custom modded hand made guitars with midi-pickups, inbuilt effects (mainly analog to be fair), sustainers, switchable pickup mods, onboard tuners etc. I like the ability to wander while playing and don’t always want to be tied to my pedalboard.

    This said, the Firebird X just seems pointless. Midi control rigs can handle analog effects or digital racks (or both combined) and Midi isn’t going anywhere. If I want a great tweakable effect on a guitar I build one in (I have fuzzes, phasers, ring mods, sustainers, etc). Unless Gibson achieves Line 6 level sales for this thing, the ‘apps’ will not achieve critical mass support and will die off. The support for the custom pieces will be limited and I’d predict dead within 3 years. The whole system relies on wireless pedals anyway! Which as I use a wireless transmitter means I’d still be relying on floor-fitted pedals to switch most of the controls.

    Playing the Firebird X I quite enjoyed the build and action (I won’t comment on the pure aesthetics as some of my own chrome plated guitars may not be to anyone elses taste) but I found the placement of the controls to be rather awkward and not particularly intuitive. I was also surprised by how little onboard control there actually is. The tweaking is done via the software and then modulated with footpedals. I asked the sales rep how this differed from my midi rig and he was a little stumped and had the decency to shrug. I tried tweaking the onboard effects – the modulations are interesting but there was no pure analog sound (I’m not an audio engineer but my ears are quite good for a purely player type). It’s very easy to achieve glitches and the distortion controls are frankly sterile to the point of depressing. The robot tuning I *do* like, but the guitar I tested went out within 10 minutes (that could just be a one-off though).

    For the cost of this guitar I could buy another iPad 2, fit it to my mic stand, interface it wirelessly with a brand new rig and controller, buy a couple of great guitars, mod them and be sure that the parts support would continue and that Apple iPads and midi aren’t going to vanish overnight in a cloud of failure.

    I applaud any company trying new things – but this guitar is simply aimed wrong. It’s a desperate attempt to enter an area Gibson don’t do well, aren’t known for, don’t have the staff to support and won’t have the customer base to build up.

    Apologies for the long post anyway! Short version = Nice theory, a few neat tricks, overall terrible execution and planning.