Sixx is most often seen playing Gibson Thunderbird basses. Between 2000 and 2003 Gibson produced the Nikki Sixx Signature Blackbird. The Gibson Blackbird was for all intents and purposes a standard Thunderbird bass, but with a satin black finish, Iron Crosses on the fretboard instead of dots, an Iron Cross behind the classic Thunderbird logo, and Nikki Sixx's 'opti-grab' (a metal loop installed behind the bridge for hooking the little finger onto while playing). What also made this bass interesting was the lack of volume or tone controls, being replaced by a single on/off switch. Although subtle, this helped give this Blackbird more tone and a higher output. This model was discontinued in 2003, but has recently been put back in production as the Epiphone Nikki Sixx Blackbird. Cosmetically the Epiphone Blackbird is identical to the Gibson original, but with a bolt-on single ply neck, solid mahogany body, different pickups and lower grade parts and manufacturing. The Epiphone model still kept the 'opti-grab,' designed and made first by his bass technician Tim Luzzi, and single on/off switch of the Gibson original. In 2008, Gibson announced a 'limited run' new Nikki Sixx signature bass. Like the original it features a neck through design made of mahogany and walnut, with maple 'wings' to form the body. Unlike the original 'Blackbird' bass, a clear 'satin black cherry' finish is given to the instrument, with red 'slash' X's on the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 12th frets. A mirror pickguard is also applied, with a red signature and two X's (6 x's on the whole bass) is also a new addition. Unlike the Gibson Blackbird, the new signature featured volume and tone controls, the 'opti-grab', and an on/off switch.