Gibson Dove vs Hummingbird – A Head-to-Head Comparison

If you're in the market for an iconic acoustic guitar, Gibson is probably the brand to look to first. Their legendary acoustics have been used by world-renowned musicians across virtually all genres. However, few of their guitars (except for the J45) have reached the same acclaim as the Gibson Dove and the Gibson Hummingbird.

Today, we'll be doing a head-to-head comparison of these two incredible guitars. Not sure which one is right for you? We can help.

The Gibson Dove was first made in the 1960s, and Gibson has been making it ever since. This beautiful guitar is graced with a dove pickguard, and its Sitka spruce top with maple back and sides produces a sound that's bright, clear, and articulate. If you want to hear what it sounds like, here's a demo. 

Here are some of its pros and cons:

Pros & Cons of Gibson Dove

Pros

  • All-solid construction produces a great tone that only improves with age
  • L.R. Baggs VTC pickup gives you rich, nuanced live sound
  • Bone nut and saddle, pickguard with mother-of-pearl dove inlay, and other details are true to the original Dove design
  • The handcrafted design is made with the utmost attention to detail

Cons

  • Maple isn't a common tonewood on acoustic guitars, and not everyone likes it
  • This is a very expensive guitar, so it may be out of reach for some players

Introducing the Gibson Hummingbird

The Gibson Hummingbird was made slightly before the Dove, but it's equally iconic, if not more so. This one has a more traditional tonewood configuration -- the Sitka spruce top is combined with a mahogany back and sides for a darker, warmer tone. (You can hear that tone for yourself in this video demo below) The signature hummingbird pickguard makes it easily recognizable, too. Here are some pros and cons:

Pros & Cons of Gibson Hummingbird

Pros

  • Traditional tonewood combination gives you a warm tone with a defined high end
  • L.R. Baggs VTC pickup makes it a great guitar to play live
  • Mother of pearl inlays and cherry sunburst finish makes it a visual standout
  • Like the Dove, the Hummingbird also has a longer scale of 25.5" for improved versatility

Cons

  • Some players may find the square-shouldered dreadnought shape to be too bulky
  • Like the Gibson Dove, this is a fairly pricey guitar that may be too expensive for some

Features Face to Face

When you're evaluating the Gibson Dove vs Hummingbird, you probably want to look at how they differ before you pick one. In this section, we'll take a closer look at important features:

Tonewoods and Build Quality

Both the Gibson Dove and the Gibson Hummingbird are made in the square-shouldered dreadnought shape, which helps produce an enhanced bass response. However, while the body shape and the bracing (both have hand-scalloped X bracing) may be the same, the tonewood configuration of the two is a lot different.

Each guitar has a solid Sitka spruce top. However, the Dove has solid maple back and sides, which creates a brighter tone that's more focused. It also has a well-defined high end and a great bass response, but there isn't a whole lot of midrange focus. As a side note, the back and sides aren't your regular maple. They're flamed maple, which is especially visually stunning.

On the other hand, the Hummingbird has a solid mahogany back and sides. Mahogany creates a warmer tone that has more midrange focus than maple does. The sound of mahogany is often considered to be somewhat "darker" than that of maple. It's also a much more common choice of tonewood for the back and sides of a guitar, so the Hummingbird's sound is a little more classic.

The Winner: We think this one is largely up to personal preference, but the midrange-heavy sound of the Hummingbird works well across most genres. We'll say the Hummingbird wins this one.

Scale Length

The scale length of a guitar might not seem like a big deal when you're choosing a guitar. However, scale length has a significant impact on the sound. Longer scales space out harmonics and add some additional shimmer or chime to your tone. Shorter scales tend to produce a warmer, thicker tone.

When comparing the Gibson Dove vs Hummingbird, you may be surprised to find that these guitars have slightly different scale lengths. The Dove has a longer scale at 25.5", and the Hummingbird's is a little shorter at 24.75"

The Winner: This category is also up to personal preference, but we think the longer scale length of the Dove gives its tone more presence and character.

Appointments and Finish Options

We think it's a good idea to compare the appointments on the Gibson Dove vs Hummingbird, largely because both have especially eye-catching appointments. There are a lot of similarities between the two: both have the mother of pearl parallelogram fretboard inlays, and both have a rosewood bridge and fingerboard (the Dove's bridge has wing inlays, making it a little more ornate). However, the Gibson Hummingbird has Gotoh Keystone tuners, while the Dove has Grover Keystone tuners.

A notable difference between the two is in their pickguard designs -- if you don't want a guitar that stands out, you probably won't like either of these options. The Dove has a pickguard with a beautifully inlaid mother of pearl dove. The Hummingbird's pickguard is etched with a hummingbird and flower design.

These guitars are a little different in terms of finishes, too, but each one comes in multiple options. The Dove comes in both vintage cherry sunburst (which looks a lot like the heritage cherry sunburst often found on the Hummingbird) and antique natural. However, Gibson periodically releases limited-edition Dove finishes, including both ebony and white.

The Hummingbird's most famous finish is heritage cherry sunburst, but like the Dove, it also comes in antique nature. There are several versions of the Hummingbird, though, and different versions sometimes come in different finishes.

The Winner: The appointment differences in these guitars are minimal, and both come in high-quality finishes. We'll call this one a tie.

Electronics

If you're looking to buy a Gibson Hummingbird or a Dove, chances are good that you want to perform at least occasionally. And if you want to do that, you likely know that you need high-quality electronics to plug in.

Fortunately, Gibson acoustic guitars almost always come with high-quality electronics. Both of these come with the L.R. Baggs VTC pickup and preamp, a system that is designed to produce an incredibly natural amplified sound. The VTC has an excellent dynamic range, and it adds a distinctive analog warmth to the sound it captures.

The Winner: Since both the Gibson Hummingbird and the Gibson Dove have the same great pickup system, we'll call this one a tie, too.

Final Thoughts

Like we mentioned earlier, we think that both the Gibson Dove and the Gibson Hummingbird are excellent guitars. However, depending on the style of music you play and your own tonal preferences, you may find that one is better for you than the other.

We think the Gibson Dove is best for:

  • Players who want a longer scale
  • Players who like a guitar with bright, focused sound
  • Players who really like the look of mother of pearl
  • Players who have a little more to spend

We think the Gibson Hummingbird is best for:

  • Players who like flashy, eye-catching designs
  • Players who prefer a warmer tone with more midrange focus
  • Players who are looking for a versatile instrument
  • Players who like the idea of having a guitar with historical significance

Of course, these are both great guitars, and we don't think you can go wrong with either. Take your time, listen to sound demos (or try them out if possible) and you'll surely find the right one for you.

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