Patterned on a rare, single-pickup Firebird from 1963 that a fan gifted to Bonamassa—and which he nicknamed “Treasure”—this latest signature model from Epiphone replicates the mahogany/walnut neck-through construction of the original model, and features the classic beveled headstock and in-line set of Kluson Banjo tuners. Available in Tobacco Sunburst or Polymist Gold, the Treasure Firebird-I also features a ProBucker FB720 humbucker with Alnico II bar magnets that function as blades in the coils, along with a steel reflector plate to help achieve authentic ’60s Firebird tone. “Top hat” knobs with metal inserts and pointers, a three-layer pickguard with a vintage-style Firebird logo, a certificate of authenticity hand signed by Bonamassa, and a Custom Deluxe gig bag complete the “Outfit.”
Workmanship is excellent throughout, and the polished frets and the smoothly finished, precise-fitting nut particularly impressed me. The neck’s rounded shape is inviting, and the factory setup feels great and yields tuneful intonation in all reaches of the fretboard. The tulip-shaped metal tuner buttons aren’t the most comfortable to grip, but kudos to Epiphone for having these impressive machines replicated for the sake of authenticity.
Compared to a Telecaster or Les Paul, Firebirds can seem a bit unwieldy at first (they’re a good fit for tall, lanky people), but the multi-ply neck/body and those large, glued-on mahogany “wings” are definitely resonance enhancers. Mounted on two height-adjustable studs with a hex-screw at each end for intonation tweaks, the wrap-around “lightning bar” bridge/tailpiece also transfers string vibration into the body very efficiently. It all combines to give this guitar plenty of liveliness and sustain, and with a fairly low-wind pickup (DC resistance is specified at 7.85kΩ) transmitting the electrons, there’s good clarity, dynamic responsiveness, and low-end warmth when amplified. I like the Tone control’s voicing too, as it never gets muddy or indistinct when you’re dialing down for browner textures. Tested with a Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb reissue (with hand-wired circuitry by George Alessandro) and a new Carr Mercury V combo, the Treasure delivered a crisp, complex sound, and its singing qualities made it a blast to play when given some OD juice from a pedal or a cranked-up amp. Either way, the Treasure proved to be surprisingly versatile for a single-pickup guitar; it sounds cool for funk, it can steer into Tele-like sounds, and it’s a thing of beauty for blues and rock.
All told, the Treasure Firebird-I strikes me as one of the best ways to drop $799 on a guitar—especially one that replicates the specs of a prized instrument in Bonamassa’s bountiful vintage-guitar collection. Even without that pedigree, however, the Treasure’s hip look, solid tones, and slick playability would earn it an Editors’ Pick Award.
LTD. ED. JOE BONAMASSA “TREASURE” FIREBIRD-I OUTFIT
PRICE $799 street; custom gig bag included
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16", ivory PVC
NECK Mahogany/walnut 9-piece laminated with ’60s rounded C shape
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 24.75"-scale, 12" radius
FRETS 22 medium jumbo
TUNERS Kluson reissue Firebird/Banjo machines
BODY Mahogany wings (neck runs through the center)
BRIDGE Adjustable wrap-around “Lightning Bar”
PICKUPS Epiphone ProBucker FB720
CONTROLS Volume, Tone
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.2 lbs
KUDOS Awesome look. Excellent sound and playability. Amazing bang for the buck.
CONCERNS High-E tuner had excessive backlash in the detune direction.