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In-Depth & Hands-On

REVIEW: Gibson’s Classic ES-335 Hollowbody

Disclosure Policy | Tue, Jun 6, 2006 | 184 |
Truly ‘Singing’ Tone & Sustain

Gibson’s incredible ES-335 was first introduced to the world in 1958 as a guitar to bridge the gap between the popular hollowbody instruments of the day, and the newer, more streamlined solidbody models.

It was apparently a stroke of genius on Gibson’s part, because the ES-335 has gone on to become one of the most popular hollowbody guitars in history.

And for good reason – I can tell you from my own experience that the ES-335, while quite costly, is worth every penny to the guitarist who’s interested in producing big, fat, truly authentic blues and R&B tones.

I was lucky enough to play this guitar on stage for a number of years, and matched with a good tube amp, well, it’s an unbeatable combination.

What We Liked

Straight out of the case you know this is a quality instrument. It sports a gorgeous figured laminated maple body that really does have to be seen to be appreciated (mine was Cherry Red.) The fine grain of the wood creates beautifully subtle color shifts, and off-white binding on the top, back, and neck adds to the instrument’s elegance.

Of course, playability & tone are where the ES-335 really shines: a slim, 1960’s style neck-profile and rosewood fretboard make for buttery smooth fretting and surprisingly low action – without any obvious fret-buzz. It’s a dreamy set-up for anyone wanting to pull long, bluesy string bends and solos.

The Gibson ES-335 also boasts a pair of ’57 Classic humbuckers with 3-way pickup switching. Tone-wise it excels at warm, almost bell-like chords in the neck position, crunchy blues comping in the middle position, and creamy, high-sustain, truly harmonic leads in the bridge position.

It’s a veritable monster of old-school tone.

Of course, a double-cutaway design allows for easy access to the upper register (for you lead freaks,) and the shallow hollowbody build is comfortable and fairly light-weight, which makes it a pleasure for long nights on stage. It also stays surprisingly free of painful feedback, even in the noisiest of situations.

True to form, Gibson includes a sturdy black levant hard-shell case in the price – so you’ve got your sizable investment protected when from the moment you walk out the door.

What We Didn’t Like

My only gripe – albeit a small one – is that the nickel hardware on my guitar tarnished fairly easy, and I was never able to find an easy way to clean it up. It’s a minor problem, but one that’s a bit aggravating for an instrument in this price range.

Specifications

Figured laminated maple body, one-piece mahogany neck, bound rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets and dot inlays, single-ply top & back binding, two ’57 Classic humbucker pickups, 3-way pickup switching, dual volume & tone controls, nickel or gold grover tuners and other hardware.

Final Word

If you’re into that retro hollowbody tone, and you’ve got the kind of scratch needed to own the very best, Gibson’s ES-335 reissue (in any of its manifestations) won’t let you down – it’s good looking, easy playing, light in the hands, and powerful. What more can you ask for?