Gibson has produced many models that can be considered timeless, and the ES-335 is certainly one of those guitars that have resonated with countless players over the years. It’s the guitar that tends to come to mind as a prime example of all that a good semi-hollowbody guitar can be.
The foundation of the ES-335’s design is pretty much unchanged from its introduction in 1958. The double cutaway body has a thin profile, making it extremely comfortable to play without the boxy feel that thicker guitars tend to have. A high quality 3 ply laminate (using maple, poplar, and maple) is used for the entire body construction, and it’s impeccably trimmed with a cream binding.
Mahogany is used for the neck, and the real rosewood fretboard has a cream binding as well to avoid sharp edges and provide a very smooth feel. All 22 of the medium jumbo frets are easily accessible thanks to the body cutaway, and the fret inlays are the traditional dot markers to keep with the original classic design.
Both the neck and bridge pickups are Gibson T-type, and they are calibrated to provide the best frequency response possible. Each has their own volume and tone control knobs, and a three-way selector switch lets you generate a wide range of tones. As a testament to Gibson’s legendary quality, the ES-335 is completely hand wired, and they use only top-of-the-line electrical components such as 500k pots with orange drop tone capacitors.
As with many Gibson models, the ES-335 features a Tune-O-Matic style bridge, which is a time tested design that gives a total range of adjustments for string action and individual intonation. The stopbar tailpiece is rock solid, and tuning is extremely stable thanks to the Vintage Deluxe tuners that also feature period-correct keystone plastic buttons. Topping off the classic look is an attractive 5-ply pickguard that is anchored off the body.
Icing on the cake is the quality hard shell case that’s included, which is a ‘must have’ for a guitar at this end of the market.
The ES-335 may have a reputation for being a smooth jazz guitar – which it certainly is – but don’t let perception fool you. The combination of the semi-hollowbody design and the T-type pickups provide a warm and rich tone that is a perfect match for blues and rock as well.
Playability is nothing short of exceptional. The factory setup is spot on, with very minimal – if any fret buzz, and that’s hard to pull off with low string action. Factors that add to the playing comfort include the rounded ‘C’ neck profile and the 12” fretboard radius, which is great for soaring single note lines and easy chord fingering.
The Gibson ES-335 may be one of the most classic semi-hollow body guitars that has ever been produced. Many (if not all) of the features it offers can be considered the gold standard for the countless similar models produced by other manufacturers. It’s an almost perfect mashup of impressive build quality, classic tone, and vintage mojo that has to be experienced to be appreciated.