Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

Gibson G-Bird Review

Subdued style takes nothing away from the feel and function of this future-leaning, performance-oriented flattop.

Excellent build quality. Player port provides an intimate playing experience. Super-smooth and inviting playability.

Some traditionalists may find the midrange-forward voice brash. Player port will be one style compromise too many for some.

$1,799

Gibson G-Bird
gibson.com

4
4.5
4.5
4

Gibson’s reputation as a builder of iconic electric guitars sometimes obscures its reputation as a builder of iconic flattops. But even among an acoustic lineup stacked with legends, including the J-45, L-00, and J-200, Gibson’s Hummingbird is an instrument with pop-culture star power. And even music fans that don’t know a Gibson from a Goya recognize and are attracted to its extroverted beauty.


Lacking the Hummingbird’s striking cherry sunburst finish and pickguard etched with flora and namesake avian adornment, the G-Bird, from Gibson’s Generation Series, is unlikely to spur the same sense of recognition among more casual guitar spotters. But it’s a well-made, walnut-and-spruce-bodied guitar made entirely in the company’s Bozeman, Montana, facility. It’s the first dreadnought from the Generation line I’ve played. (I didn’t get to play the G-45 or G-Writer cutaway when I reviewed the smaller G-00 and larger G-200.) But it is certainly the most balanced and satisfying of the Generation series I’ve encountered.

Mr. Fancy Sheds Its Frills

Gibson’s introduction of the Hummingbird in 1960 was almost certainly a response by Gibson to Martin’s reliably successful dreadnoughts. And though the round-shouldered J-45 dreadnought that preceded it was an unqualified success, Gibson must have felt the square-shoulder profile was a key to chipping away at Nazareth’s domination of the dread market. Clearly, Gibson also felt that a little flash would go a long way in distinguishing their own square shoulder, and the Hummingbird was born.

If you’ve spent years longing to cradle the Hummingbird in its showiest guise, I suppose the G-Bird could be something of a letdown. But if you’re into the purely functional end of guitar design, the G-Bird’s virtues are apparent from the start. The satin finish feels inviting rather than a concession to a more accessible price. The neck, which is fashioned from utile, an African mahogany alternative, is textured in a very noticeable way. It’s not rough exactly, but it’s not satin-smooth either. It can take a minute to get used to, but in the end it tends to feel welcomely worn-in rather than unfinished. All the same, curious shoppers used to flawlessly smooth necks should spend some time with the guitar to see if it is a bother. Texture preferences aside, the advanced profile neck feels great in hand. It’s thicker than Gibson’s slim-taper profile—most noticeably toward the nut. But it is hardly chunky, and the soft U shape of the profile feels like a great compromise between some of Gibson’s fatter vintage shapes and the slim profile, which can feel a little slender.

The fretboard, with its comfortably rounded edges, uses a flatter 16" radius rather than Gibson’s standard 12" radius. I suppose the flatter radius leaves room for lower action, which will be nice for players more inclined to a softer touch. The action felt great as it came from the shop floor, however, and it left a lot of room for digging in and strumming with a vengeance without inducing fret buzz. The striped ebony fretboard also looks great, and the Generation Collection’s signature single-bar inlays are a cool touch of modernity that zest up the instrument’s otherwise austere aura. Construction details, by the way, reveal close attention to detail. And where I saw less-than-perfect kerfing and glue work on the earlier Generation Collection guitars I reviewed (bracing, kerfing, and other internal construction are easy to see through the player port), the build quality is close to immaculate here.

A Provocative Port Promotes Play

Gibson could have made the Generation Collection of guitars satin-finished, no-frills takes on their classic shapes and been assured of some degree of marketplace success. But the design and marketing of the G-Collection, as it also known, focused to a significant extent on the player port, a bass-side, player-facing second soundhole that Gibson says was considered as far back as 1964. Upper-bout soundholes are common in small-batch, high-end acoustic circles. They are less common among large-scale production acoustics. In pure style terms, they are a polarizing element. And I’m inclined to agree with those purists that like to look down and see a pretty expanse of uninterrupted wood grain on the upper bout. But while the rubber-ringed port (and the constant peek at the guitar’s innards that it affords) can be jarring, there is no doubt that it makes for a more immersive playing experience.

If you’re strictly old-school and accustomed to a single soundhole, the effects of a first, forceful strum can be a touch disorienting. The G-Bird, by virtue of its spruce top and walnut back and sides, already has a midrange-leaning voice that can, at times, sound almost brash compared to the combatively mellow, strong-in-the-fundamentals sound of a mahogany-backed Hummingbird or J-45. The player port emphasizes that mid-forward tone signature, and if it’s not your cup of tea, you could end up put off in the space of a few strums. But time spent with the G-Bird reveals much about the player port’s upside. Light, even tentative play—the kind that often goes with the songwriting process—feels more immediate and alive. And in a related way, fingerstyle dynamics are enhanced in a manner that encourages focus on technique and harmonic nuance. Interestingly, the player port can also teach a performer a lot about what an engineer hears and what might sound good in front of a microphone. And the way the port gives immediate feedback about your dynamic touch reinforces lessons about how to approach a recording situation.

The Verdict

At nearly $1,800, the G-Bird is not a bad deal for a U.S.-made flattop that reveals a careful eye for quality and detail. It’s a super-smooth player. The L.R. Baggs Element Bronze electronics are simple and elegant in sound and function. The walnut-and-spruce tonewood recipe is balanced, but very midrange heavy. This makes the guitar a nice fit for many contemporary recording settings and methodologies, but it might sound a bit bright for those who associate the Hummingbird with earthier mahogany tones. Finding out how the G-Bird fits into your musical universe really demands a trip to a shop where you can play one. But players less bound by tradition—on both the sound and style front—may well revel in the tone alternatives the G-Bird puts at one’s fingertips.

Gibson G-Bird Demo | First Look


The Return of Johnny Cash—John Carter Cash Interview
The Return of Johnny Cash—John Carter Cash Interview on Johnny’s New Songwriter Album

The Man in Black returns with the unreleased Songwriter album. John Carter Cash tells us the story.

Read MoreShow less

The GibsonES Supreme Collection (L-R) in Seafoam Green, Bourbon Burst, and Blueberry Burst.

The new Gibson ES Supreme offers AAA-grade figured maple tops, Super Split Block inlays, push/pull volume controls, and Burstbucker pickups.

Read MoreShow less

Mdou Moctar has led his Tuareg crew around the world, but their hometown performances in Agadez, Niger, last year were their most treasured.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

On the Tuareg band’s Funeral for Justice, they light a fiery, mournful pyre of razor-sharp desert-blues riffs and political calls to arms.

Mdou Moctar, the performing moniker of Tuareg guitar icon Mahamadou “Mdou” Souleymane, has played some pretty big gigs. Alongside guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane, drummer Souleymane Ibrahim, and bassist Mikey Coltun, Moctar has led his band’s kinetic blend of rock, psych, and Tuareg cultural traditions like assouf and takamba to Newport Folk Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival, and, just this past April, to the luxe fields of Indio, California, for Coachella. Off-kilter indie-rock darlings Parquet Courts brought them across the United States in 2022, after which they hit Europe for a run of headline dates.

Read MoreShow less

How do you capture what is so special about Bill Frisell’s guitar playing in one episode? Is it his melodies, his unique chord voicings, his rhythmic concept, his revolutionary approach to pedals and sounds…? It’s all of that and much more.

Read MoreShow less