Epiphone ES-335 PRO Review
Budget Gibson ES-335?
So what do we have here? a guitar with the exact same construction as the real deal (a 2015 Gibson Memphis ES 335). Or in other words, a laminated hollow body, with solid center block and glued in mahogany neck, bound rosewood fingerboard and block inlays. What you are getting here is the same as a Gibson for all intents and purposes, for a fraction of the price (£299 compared to at least £1899).
So why go for the Gibson?
Hardware, pickups, electronics and finishing,
The Gibson is fitted with Grover Rotomatic tuners which people will tell you top trump the Wilkinson Vintage classic units on the Epiphone ES335 PRO You will also hear that the nut, bridge, tailpiece and all the hardware are of better quality.
The Gibson comes with Burstbucker 1 & 2 compared to the Epiphone’s cheaper Alnico Classic Units, and the consensus is that this is all connected up with higher grade electronics and pots.
A nitrocellulose finish is very labour intensive and one of the main reasons for the Gibson’s higher price tag, along with the proper pearloid inlays.
Gibson employ’s a ‘Plek’ machine to make sure the frets are perfectly level, given the current state of the fingerboard. For more info, take a look at the vid.
Below is a table of the main differences between the two guitars. Thank you to all the contributors of http://www.thegearpage.net/ for this information, I hope this has made the hub more informative and balanced.
Gibson Memphis ES 335 / Epiphone ES 335 Pro differences
Gibson ES 335
Epiphone ES 335 PRO
Body: Top and Back
3ply – Maple/Poplar/Maple
5-ply laminated Maple/Birch
3ply – Maple/Poplar/Maple
3-ply laminated Maple/Birch Sides
Headstock: Pitch angle
Headstock: Scarf Jointed
Maple with kerfed spruce spacers
Gibson Burstbucker 1+2
2 Epiphone Alnico V Classic PRO humbuckers
LockTone™ Tune-o-matic + Stopbar
Grover Milk Bottle Rotomatic tuners
14:1 ratio Vintage Wilkinson Classic tuners
‘mother-of-pearl’ small block inlays
Country of Manufacter
End of the Story?
This Epiphone ES335 PRO has a few tricks up it’s sleeve. The most useful of which are the Alnico Classic Humbuckers, not only are these upgraded from the Epiphone ES 335 DOT but they’re splittable via the volume pots, unlike the Gibson’s Burstbuckers (although you or your guitar-tech can carry out this mod later if you want to). A semi-acoustic is already a very versatile instrument and adding coil-taps just adds to this. It’s also is a very ‘full’ sounding guitar, so having the coil-taps available to clean things up on the Epiphone is a major plus.
The Epiphone’s Wilkinson tuners are smooth and keep the guitar in tune. So there’s no need to replace them. Also on the hardware front, Epiphone have always been a bit clever in this area. The bridge and tailpiece lock to the body so they don’t fall off when you remove the strings. Gibson are missing a trick here.
Electronics wise, all the pots taper nicely and there’s no crackling sounds. What more do you want?
The below video is a comparison of The Epiphone ES 335 DOT vs a Gibson ES 335. Don’t forget that the Epiphone ES 335 PRO has upgraded pickups so will be even closer to the Gibson.
The Sounds of the Epiphone ES 335 PRO
My last guitar, a Gibson Les Paul Studio, was predicable, nothing special clean and 90% of my time was spent on the bridge humbucker when overdriven. Of course it was a great tone, but I wanted more….. versatility, responsiveness, unpredictability and character. My guitar hero, Brian May of Queen, often talked about his Red Special being ‘designed to feedback’, and the guitar came ‘alive’, ‘singing’ when gain was applied….
… And that’s what you get with the Epiphone ES 335 PRO.
Starting with overdrive on the bridge pickup, the Epiphone doesn’t have the immediate power of the Les Paul. The response is slower, with a softer attack, so it’ll take a while to get used to tight riffing and sharp chord stabs, but the pay-off is a wider, more expansive sound, and a better balance between the individual notes, making chords sounds massive, open and clear. The Epiphone is more responsive than the Les Paul in that backing off your picking attack makes a bigger difference to attack/sustain of the notes played.
There seems to be larger differentiation of tone between the bridge and neck pickups on the Epiphone than on the Les Paul. The bridge is spikier compared to the much fuller neck, but again I have found more use for the neck pickup on the Epiphone, the Gibson’s always being too indistinct for anything other than a full blown delayed ballad solo.
If it all gets too much, the coil-taps can turn a mildly driven tone back to clean, and add some welcome snap into the proceedings (particularly good if you have a few retro/lo-fi numbers in your set for example). Whilst maxing the gain can get you from full-solo, back down to clean(ish) using the coil-taps and backing off the guitar volume. The range of this guitar is phenomenal.
Of course the semi-hollow nature adds yet another layer of sophistication to the proceedings, meaning that notes bloom with a bit of controlled vibrato, into singing feedback, but in a sometimes unexpected way, which all adds to the fun. You can actually feel the body vibrate and the air coming out of the f-holes.
Clean is where the neck and middle positions really come into play, with full-bodied jazz tones the Epiphone’s forte. Manipulation of the tones,volumes and coil-taps can take you anywhere you want, from funk with coil-tapped middle and a phaser, to even a bit of country on the bridge. In fact, I’ve often quite happily strummed away for hours with the Epiphone ES-335 PRO clean, there’s an inspiring range of tones here that are a great tool for songwriting.
I realise now what they say about the versatility of the 335, It’s range of sounds is huge, they all have character, and you can use them all.
Deal of the century then?
Well, yes. At the end of the day the Epiphone ES 335 PRO is less then a SIXTH of the price of a Gibson ES 335
You wont get the nitrocellulose finish. But you’ll get a harder wearing one, and can you really tell the tone difference anyway?
You’ll get inferior pickups and electronics. But you will have upgraded pickups from the Epiphone ES 335 DOT, coil-taps (for the same price), and electronics that work.
You won’t get Grover Rotomatics. But you’ll get tuners that work.
You get inferior hardware but again will you be able to tell the difference?
You won’t get ‘Gibson’ on the headstock. Do you care ?
You won’t get any Pearloid. But you will get blocks. And still get a classy playing experience.
You’ll need to spend some time setting it up, polishing up the frets maybe, getting it just so. That’s par for the course and is something you should enjoy doing anyway.
Oh, and you won’t worry so much about damaging it or having it stolen.