Internet forums are a great place to learn from other players around the world with first-hand experience of all kinds of guitars and gear. Those who read forums are likely to have come across threads about a maker known as Firefly Guitars.
Many people claim to have owned a Firefly, but how did they get their hands on one? More importantly, why are they so hard to find now?
In this KillerGuitarRigs Guide, we’ll be learning a bit more about Firefly, who they are, why they’re so popular, what models they make, and much more.
- What Happened to Firefly Guitars?
- Why Are They So Popular?
- Where Are They Made?
- How Do Firefly Guitars Compare to Gibson Guitars?
- Are Firefly Guitars Good Mod Platforms?
- Which Other Models Do Firefly Make?
- Where Can I Buy a Firefly Guitar?
- Alternative Brands
- Final Thoughts
What Happened to Firefly Guitars?
While they aren’t as easy to find as they used to be, Firefly’s guitars are still available from guitarsgarden.com. Note: We haven’t purchased from this website ourselves and cannot confirm whether or not they’re reliable, so buyer beware.
Why Are They So Popular?
Firefly’s range was once widely available on Amazon, but at the time of writing, they were nowhere to be seen on the retail giant’s website. What made them so popular in the past was easy availability from a known and trusted source, and an almost legendary reputation for incredible quality and attention to detail at an impossibly low price.
The guitar that got everybody’s attention was the FF338, a copy of the Gibson ES-335 (at the price point of the Epiphone ES-335). Even the base model Gibson is priced way out of reach for the vast majority of guitarists, so when the rumor spread of a sub-$200 semi-hollow body guitar that played well, naturally, people wanted to know more.
In fact, the YouTube channel Guitar Max was one of the first to highlight the amazing quality of their guitars, and his review went viral, causing widespread interest around the world.
Where Are They Made?
These guitars are made in China, but as for which factory, very little is known. They tend to manufacture small batches of guitars rather than operate a continuous production line, which means inventory almost always sells out within a few hours of being posted online.
How Do Firefly Guitars Compare to Gibson Guitars?
As mentioned, the most popular Firefly model, the FF338 is modeled after the Gibson ES-335, but is it really as good? The short answer is no. The craftsmanship on a Gibson ES is absolutely sublime. They are some of Gibson’s flagship models and the attention to detail is insane.
So, while they aren’t up to Gibson standards, they are indeed very good for the money and still hold up against other ES-335 clones and “inspired by” models that sell for 4 or 5 times the price.
One of the biggest giveaways that a guitar was made without care is the neck and the fret finishing. Poor-quality guitars will often have warped or poorly-set necks with terrible intonation. In addition, frets will be poorly finished and suffer from “fret sprout”, where the edges of the fret protrude from the fretboard, causing discomfort and in some cases actual injuries.
The Firefly FF338, on the other hand, is a cheap guitar with a perfectly straight and well-set neck and good fretwork, making it a rare breed worth pursuing by those in search of great guitars on a tight budget.
Some of the biggest complaints about these guitars relate to pickups and tuners. The pickups are known to be thin and quite microphonic, so they tend to struggle with high gain and also lack the big bottom end and warmth that’s synonymous with blues.
Tuning stability isn’t a strong point for the range, and it’s mostly due to the Grover-clone tuning keys. Unfortunately, the gearing isn’t the strongest and this leads to the guitar falling out of tune quite regularly with the stock setup.
Are Firefly Guitars Good Mod Platforms?
Generally speaking, their guitars do make a good starting point for modification. Structurally, they are rock solid, meaning there’s nothing you need to do to support upgrades. And because their models are all clones of famous guitars, there’s tons of compatible aftermarket support available.
Pickups, as the weakest point of the guitar from the factory, are the obvious first choice for replacement. Standard humbuckers are a drop-in upgrade, size-wise, although you’ll need some soldering knowledge if you plan to do this yourself.
Tuners are another area that would benefit from modification on all Firefly models. The stock tuners can be prone to slippage and often have noticeable play in their action. Upgrading to a better set, even non-locking, would hugely improve tuning stability and overall performance. The stock tuners on the FF338 are Grover Style, and replacements of the same style should require little to no adaptation in order to fit.
Which Other Models Do Firefly Make?
We’ve talked a lot about the FF338, but Firefly doesn’t only make semi-hollow guitars – they also make clones of the Gibson Les Paul, the Gibson Flying V, the Gibson Explorer, and the Martin D-28.
Popular YouTuber Darrel Braun sang the praises of the FFLPS in a video in which he showed off Firefly’s Les Paul copy in a Blueberry Burst finish. Like the FF338, the FFLPS has a great neck, well-finished frets, and is available in a range of attractive finishes, including flamed and spalted maple. The pattern on these is a thin veneer rather than a flawed or spalted maple cap, but you can’t expect anything more for the price.
Like the Les Paul that it’s modeled on, it has a pair of humbuckers. In the case of the Firefly, the pickups are ceramic. Like the 338, this is one of the weakest points of the whole guitar.
The FFLX is the Gibson Explorer-inspired model. It’s one of the newer models and happens to be extremely hard to find. On paper, it has impressive specs, with a mahogany body, rosewood fretboard, a flamed maple top, and even a bone nut.
As with the FFLPS, the flamed maple top is an extremely thin veneer, but it’s still attractive. It’s loaded with the same pair of low-end ceramic humbucking pickups as the other models they sell, so expect similar tones.
This model is cloned from one of the most recognizable guitars ever made, the Gibson Flying V. If you aren’t familiar, the body is literally shaped like a V! Again, the spec sheet is very similar to their other models, although the FFLV doesn’t have the chrome covers over the twin humbuckers, leaving them exposed.
It has a single volume and 2-tone control, as well as a 3-way selector switch allowing players to switch between neck, middle position, and bridge pickups. The block inlay on the neck is a nice touch, but isn’t always executed well, with some buyers reporting poorly-aligned markers.
Firefly makes a few acoustic models, all drawing inspiration from the Martin D-28. Their DA01 is made with a solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides. They also offer the DA01-E, which is the same as the DA01, but with Fishman Presys electronics.
There’s also the DA02 series, starting with the DA02 itself, which also features a solid spruce top, but offers rosewood back and sides. There’s the DA02-F1, which has the same spruce top and rosewood back and sides, but with a flamed maple stripe down the center of the back. Finally, the DA02-F2 replaces the flamed maple stripe of the F1 with a quiet maple stripe.
Firefly claims that their spruce tops are all AAA, and that the binding is abalone. The spec sheets also list rosewood bridges, fretboards, and headstocks.
Where Can I Buy a Firefly Guitar?
It’s no secret that these guitars are hard to find. But if you know where to look, you might just find exactly what you wanted.
Amazon tends to list very small batches that sell out quickly, but if you’re determined to buy from there and you keep a regular eye on their site, you may well find a Firefly for sale there.
Guitars Garden is a website that seemingly only lists guitars made by Firefly. There’s no specific mention of an affiliation on the website, so it isn’t possible to say for certain that it’s their official page, but to a casual observer, it would appear to be the case. They list all the different models of Firefly, including multiple finish options, and offer what seems like a simple checkout for purchasing.
Popular auction website eBay has a lot of guitars listed and Firefly models often come up for sale there. eBay offers traditional auction listings as well as Buy It Now sales offers, and can be a good way to get a great deal on a Firefly guitar.
Reverb is probably the most reliable way to quickly get your hands on a Firefly guitar. It’s a marketplace where sellers from all over the world can list their guitars and gear, new and used, for sale.
Because of the almost cult-like status and overall scarcity of Firefly’s guitars, you will often see them listed at or even above MSRP on Reverb. If you’re in a hurry to get yours and are prepared to pay a markup, Reverb is worth checking out.
While Guitar Center isn’t a Firefly Retailer, if someone trades in their Firefly at a store, it will eventually be listed for sale on their website in their Used Guitars section. Again, if you’re happy to buy used, this is a good way to get a Firefly from a known and trusted retailer.
In the event that you’re not quite sure about Firefly and you’d like to check out alternatives, we’ve gathered some great options for you below.
Like Firefly, Grote makes an imported clone of the ES-335, amongst other models. Like Firefly, they tend to make their guitars in small batches and list them on Amazon, where they sell out quickly.
They’re usually a little less expensive than Firefly, and it shows in their overall quality. However, if you’re looking for a rock-bottom price and a solid platform to modify, Grote Guitars are a good deal. Their website www.grotechina.com lists all the models they currently make.
Eart is another brand that gained notoriety thanks to high praise from YouTube reviewers. They’re notably more expensive than the likes of Grote and Firefly, but they’re easily on par with, or in some cases better than their Epiphone Equivalent models.
The neck feel and fret finish are what people tend to rave about most with Eart Guitars. And because they’re almost always available on Amazon, they’re easy to get your hands on.
Squier Affinity Starcaster
If you’re not feeling adventurous enough to buy a semi-hollow body guitar made by a little known brand from a website you’ve never heard of, we’d recommend taking a look at the Squier Affinity Starcaster. This isn’t an ES-335 clone, but rather a licensed copy of Fender’s semi-hollow model, the Fender Starcaster.
It’s a little more contemporary looking, which isn’t to everyone’s taste. But quality is much more consistent from one guitar to the next, so buyers aren’t worrying as much about how their guitar will be as they wait for it to be delivered.
Ibanez is, of course, a well-known brand in the guitar world. So just like with the Squier, when you buy an Ibanez Artcore, you’re getting a guitar that’s been made with a good QA procedure in place, leading to consistency between guitars.
Aesthetically, they’re closer to an ES-335 than the Squier is, but they’re absolutely not clones. They come in a range of great finishes to suit every taste and while they start out quite basic, Ibanez also makes some high-end versions of the Artcore that don’t come cheap.
If you’ve been GASsing for an ES-335, a Les Paul, a Flying V, or an Explorer, but you can’t bear the thought of parting with thousands of dollars, budget guitars like those from Firefly bring something interesting to the table. They’re reliable guitars with the looks you’re after, decent build quality, and components that are compatible with many aftermarket parts.
These guitars aren’t perfect, but they’re certainly passable. At the price, they absolutely merit consideration.