Ahead Of Its Time: The Gibson Victory

By Peter Hodgson


The other day I had a great chat with Zakk Wylde – look for it here soon – and we got to talking about unusual Gibson models from back in the day. We talked about stuff like the Moderne and RD. But one that we didn’t touch on and that I wish we did was the Victory. This was a very cool guitar and bass line available beginning in 1981, and the ad for the guitar version back in the day pretty much nails its appeal: “Ten different sounds from one great new guitar” and “Sounds like… all of ‘em.” This is the first guitar I can think of that really attempts to combine two distinct guitar schools of thought – basically the Gibson school and the Fender school – into one instrument. There’s the H-S-H pickup layout which beats companies like Ibanez to the punch by several years, as does the off-set dot fretboard inlay style (actually it sort of looks a little bit like an Ibanez Fireman as well, if you turn your head and squint just right). It has a traditionally Gibson 24.75” scale length but the slightly-Gibson/slightly-Fender design pre-dates similar guitars by Paul Reed Smith too. The designs look kinda similar to some guitars by Knaggs too, in a subtle way.


The Victory MV-10 and MV-X models featured two zebra-coil humbucking pickups and one stacked-coil humbucking pickup (middle position), two knobs, master coil-tap switch, 5-position slide switch with bound ebony fingerboard, available in antique cherry sunburst, candy apple red or twilight blue finish. The Magna Plus humbuckers designed by Tim Shaw are particularly interesting because they combine one magnet-loaded coil and one iron-loaded coil. The magnet coils are the ones used when you engage the coil split switch (ditto the top coil of the Super Stack humbucker).

And that’s what’s really notable about these guitars: they seemed rather ahead of their time, combining the best of both worlds in terms of Gibson and Fender qualities, but the timing just wasn’t right and they were discontinued in 1984. These guitars arrived at a time when the prevailing trend in guitar was the single-humbucker Floyd Rose shred stick. I guess the weird headstock design is a concession to the shred axes of the era, but to be honest I think the headstock looks kinda goofy. I think there’d definitely be a place for a guitar like this in Gibson’s current line-up, but maybe with a Firebird headstock instead of the original one. A little body binding wouldn’t hurt either.

victory guitar and bass

The Gibson Victory bass is also pretty cool, and its sweeping diagonal lines are almost – not quite but almost – reminiscent of modern basses like the Dingwall Combustion. Interstingly, the bass version’s pickups use an ‘end-to-end’ coil placement design: each string passes over only one coil of the pickup, and they’re wired in humbucking configuration. It stayed in the catalog until 1986.

The 1983 Gibson Catalog describes this line thusly:

Victory bass

Victory Series represents Gibson’s total commitment to the total player. These multi-voiced instruments combine sophisticated electronics with Gibson’s proven neck designs to produce a myriad of percussive, harmonically complex sounds – the kind of biting presence required to make the grade in today’s music. The Victory Series represents a choice – not a compromise.

Consider the Victory MV X. This multi-voiced guitar utilises a special three-pickup configuration with newly designed Humbuckers in the neck and bridge positions and a stacked Humbucker in the centre. This centre position pickup duplicates the tight, focused sound of a single coil – but it is, in fact, a Humbucker. The coils have been stacked vertically, giving the player the smooth noiseless performance of a Gibson humbucking pickup, plus the enhanced attack and harmonic detail of a single coil.

fyagqe54kdtxswFor four-string players, the Victory Bass is one of the most versatile, functional electric basses Gibson has ever made. A full size, long scale instrument which offers today’s growing legion of bass players a realistic alternative. The Victory Bass offers a carefully-crafted fretted or fretless neck with a smooth rosewood fingerboard that is free of the dead spots found in other electric basses.

On the Victory Artist Bass, Gibson’s active circuitry provides 15 dB of cut or boost for bass and treble colourations. Equipped with the new 3-way adjustable Wedge bass bridge, the Artist model provides clean response and true intonation.

It’s hard to know if the Victory was actually an inspiration to folks like Paul Reed Smith and Joe Knaggs – more likely the designs of those guys and the Victory are representative of where guitar was heading anyway, especially at a time when players like Eddie Van Halen were making players think “What if I had a guitar that looked like a Strat and sounded like a Gibson?” It really does seem to be the logical progression of where the guitar was going to go.

Read more from the source: http://iheartguitarblog.com/2014/04/ahead-of-its-time-the-gibson-victory.html

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