Never knew what I was missing!
I purchased this guitar on a total whim, admittedly, as I wasn't shopping for a new guitar, and had never even played one of these in my 40 years of guitar love, and I've owned dozens. I thought I'd take a total shot in the dark and check this new, improved model with the Steinberger tuners. Ordered it on a Monday, received it on a Wednesday (kudos to Ian Roegels and all the fantastic Sweetwaterians!!). It was very well packed--Gibson factory box inside of the Sweetwater larger guitar box. Opened up the case and beheld an absolutely factory fresh, gorgeous and timeless 'Bird (btw, the case is huge! That said, it offers great protection and the accessory compartment is huge as well so I can put all kinds of straps and tools, etc. inside). Plugged it in to my Supro Coronado and oh my my, what a wonderful sound! The guitar was well set up, felt wonderful, and the mini humbuckers have a bit more treble bite than my Les Paul with '57 Classics but still nicely full--sort of between P-90s and full-size humbuckers. The neck shape is great, not too thin, not too chunky. The finish is absolutely perfect. The tuners seem very well made--I think the guitar came with .009-.046s, so I did put my preferred D'Addario .010-.046s on the next day. The re-stringing, while unusual compared to standard capstan-wrapping tuners, was really pretty easy after I figured out the process, and was just as fast to restring as standard tuners. I really love their look, too.
Like I said, I don't know why I'd never tried a Firebird before. I suppose they are a lot less common, and I'm sure their unusual design puts off some folks, but I'm now a firm believer in these beauties. The neck does extend out considerably compared to Les Pauls and SGs, and the upper fret access is fantastic. The overall balance is really remarkable--no neck dip when strapped on--so it feels great to wear, and the lower 'bout' wing under the right arm feels great and supportive, which also adds to the balance. Definitely a lot of sustain, due to the neck-through design. I cannot recommend this guitar enough if you're looking for a well-designed, comfortable, timeless-design rockin' axe.