Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gibson Hummingbird Pro EC Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar Review


For years I have been very disappointed with the playability of new Gibson electric guitars, but have never really used any of their acoustic guitars. But, I recently had the opportunity to play a Gibson Hummingbird Pro EC acoustic-electric guitar for a few weeks, and thought I would share my thoughts on it, because it is a pretty neat guitar.

Introduced in 1960, the Hummingbird was Gibson’s first square-shouldered dreadnought, and is an iconic guitar that has been played by oodles of popular artists over the years. The American-made Pro EC model we are looking at here is exclusively sold through Guitar Center and their Musician’s Friend website.

These guitars are different than the traditional Hummingbird guitars. The Pro EC is a cutaway guitar (a non-cutaway version is also available), and the body shape falls somewhere between a square-shoulder dreadnought (like the Hummingbird Modern Classic) and a round-shoulder dreadnought (think J-45). There is also no signature Hummingbird pickguard, so I am not even sure why they continue to call it one. The Pro EC comes in about $950 cheaper than the standard models.

The body has a Sitka spruce top with solid mahogany sides and back and the whole thing is sprayed with a thin nitrocellulose vintage sunburst finish. The builders did a fantastic job on the rosette inlay, white must be made of 10 concentric pieces. Like their other models, the Pro EC has scalloped and radiused top bracing. And like the original Hummingbird (and the original J-30), this model has an X brace to provide a balanced tone. As I said before it is a cutaway so there is really nice access to the frets that I never use.

The neck is the best part of this guitar, and it plays better than any new Les Paul I have tried -- they got the frets level on this one and it is super comfortable and beefy. It has a glued dovetail joint with the body, so there are no bolts involved and it has a solid feel to it. There is a 1.68-inch wide nut and a 12-inch fretboard radius with a nicely-rounded profile to the back. It has a 25 ½-inch scale and 20 frets sunk into its rosewood fretboard, along with the ever-popular mother of pearl split-parallelogram inlays. The neck is bound, with the binding extending over the fret ends.

The headstock has the crown inlay that Gibson has been using since the 1940s. The back of the headstock looks exactly like the ones on other Gibson models that break if you look at them funny. Well, a quick search on the internet showed that almost every used Hummingbird Pro that is up for sale has a repaired headstock joint. Hmmmm. The factory installed Grover Rotomatic tuners, which are a nice choice. They have a 14:1 ratio so they are very precise, and they really hold nicely. A helpful extra is that these tuners have user-adjustable tension, using a countersunk screw.

And there is a great electronics package too. The Hummingbird Pro with the cutaway body comes with the Fishman Prefix Plus-T preamp system. This system has volume, Bass, treble and semi-parametric contour controls, as well as a brilliance control, a Phase switch and a notch filter. Oh, and an on-board chromatic tuner too. By the way, the non-cutaway model gets the L.R. Baggs Element Active pickup system, which I have not had the opportunity to try out.

These things all combine together to make a very good guitar that plays well and sounds great. The thick neck might not be for everyone, but it is smooth and there is not fret buzz. The tone is well balanced with a bit of a bias towards the low end, making this a very full-sounding instrument with a high end that can still ring like a bell. The electronics sound very natural with no added noise, and there enough adjustments available to really dial in the tone. This guitar sounds great when played through an amplifier or directly into a PA. It is a viable alternative to a Martin dreadnought, for sure, and it is easy on the eyes too.

Though it is cheaper than the standard models, the Hummingbird Pro EC cutaway is still pretty spendy with a list price of $3599, and a street price of $2299, which includes a nice TKL/Gibson hardshell case. As I said, these guitars are only available through Guitar Center or Musician’s Friend and they both have good return policies, so it might be worth trying one of these out and comparing it to a Martin before making your final decision.



  1. Hi I enjoyed reading your review I am considering buying either the gibson or the similarly priced martin DC-160GTE I am unable to find any UK stockists of the gibson(its available online through thomann uk)I am going to audition the martin in September so may buy then any thoughts appreciated regards Rob

  2. Hey I have been considering this guitar for sometime now and I like your review but the part that concerned me was the head stock repair issue. You kind of skipped over that comment like it should not be an issue with someone. The question is would that issue keep you from purchasing this guitar ? Thanks for your opinion, Chuck

    1. I have the exact guitar 2011 and the headstock broke. I sent it to an excellent repair guy in New Jersey that my professional friends suggested and it's better than ever. Great guitar! I am selling all my guitar except two so this one is for sale also for $1500.

  3. Sorry to say, this guitar is a turd. I am on my fourth one, new from Gibson, and all of them have had truss rod failures. The truss rod either strips at the nut or at the base of the neck, and is located in the neck such that it is ineffective in maintaining string profile. Craftsmanship has declined over the course of this ordeal to the point that the latest failure even comes with the pick guard peeling off. If you are looking for a quality guitar, definitely look elsewhere.