While the aesthetic qualities of the Gibson and Epiphone Hummingbirds are similar, the two models are quite different. The dividing factor is the materials and craftsmanship used in the production process. Based on the Gibson Hummingbird, the Epiphone model offers the same classic look but at a more affordable price.
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Epiphone and Gibson Merge
Before the merge of Epiphone and Gibson in 1957, the two companies were key rivals. Now, like Squier is to Fender, Epiphone is a subsidiary of Gibson and produces quality, yet affordable replicas of renown Gibson guitars.
Introduced in 1960, the Hummingbird was Gibson's first square-shoulder dreadnought-style guitar. Its warm tone coupled with a cherry sunburst finish made the Hummingbird an instant icon within Gibson's acoustic line, and it quickly became a favourite amongst country-tinged artists like Gram Parsons and Keith Richards. Behind the J-200, the Hummingbird was Gibson's most expensive flat-top guitar when it was first released.
Like Gibson's Hummingbird, Epiphone uses Grover tuners and employs mahogany-based back and sides, but doesn't boast the same high-quality wood selection. According to Gibson, the fingerboard of its Hummingbird is crafted from the highest-grade rosewood on earth, and its body's top is made from AAA-grade Sitka spruce. Gibson also uses nitrocellulose finish, which allows the wood to age and resonate more effectively. Epiphone uses a polyurethane finish that is durable, but inhibits a more natural tone and appearance.
Made in the U.S.A.
The Gibson Hummingbird is hand crafted in the United States, whereas the Epiphone version is mass-produced in a foreign factory. Because of the rapid nature of factory production, the Epiphone version is produced in a setting that may focus on quantity more than quality. The immaculate set-up of Gibson's Hummingbird is achieved through keen attention to detail, an attribute that is less relevant in Epiphone's assembly process.
Pay for What you Get
As of 2010, the average price of the Gibson Hummingbird was £1,300 and the Epiphone replication was £227. The thorough production of Gibson's Hummingbird results in a guitar with better projection, tone and playability, but don't call off Epiphone's version. Depending on the guitarist's budget and level of playing, the Epiphone may be a great alternative to the classic Gibson model.
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