Epiphone ES335 pro and comparison to Gibson 335 review

Discussion in 'Other Epiphones' started by Ginger Beer, Nov 28, 2016.

  1. Ginger Beer

    Ginger Beer Senior Member

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    Earlier this year, I finally bought a used Gibson ES-335 and, in my cover band, it quickly became my Number 1. I was always very curious about these guitars, but being a solidbody guy for all my life, I never really gave them a chance until I got to play one at a rehearsal for the entire time. I was hooked.

    My Les Pauls (and other guitars) have been regulated to studio work and my original band. I fell in love with the versatility of the 335 in it's ability to cover everything from acoustic numbers right up through hard rock and early metal. It also sounds far more robust than any of my other guitars.

    Fast forward a few gigs / jams and practices later and I decided that I loved the 335 sound so much that I needed a backup for gigs. A few weeks ago, with money being tight, I found a used Epiphone 335 Pro on sale for $299 in "mint" condition and I thought I would give it a try and see if it could be decent enough to serve as a replacement if I broke a string or something. I read some reviews of the new pickups that these models came with as an upgrade to the ones in the regular dot and I had some replacements to try out if they were really horrible. The Gibby came with 57/57 plus pickups that really sound fantastic in this hollow body so, if worse came to worse and the guitar was decent, I could always upgrade to those in the future.

    I have played Epiphones both live and at friends houses before and a few of them were great, some were ok and some were just passable. I have never owned one so I guess you can call me a bit of a Gibson snob. I love the Gibson neck. That being said...I will try to give my honest review of the Epiphone 335 pro compared to the Gibson ES-335.

    I really don't care what anybody says, I like to try a guitar unplugged first to see how the chords feel ringing out. I have found that generally the better they ring out unplugged, the better potential they have for sounding good plugged in. I like to feel the resonance unclouded by the amp. This may be even more important in a hollow or semi-hollow body but whatever, it works for me.

    To my surprise, after tuning the Epi up, I could really feel the vibration thru the body about as much as my Gibson. That was a good sign.
    The action was high but so was my Gibson's when I bought it so I didn't worry "that much" about it as the frets felt pretty good.

    Overall, the guitar felt "cheaper" than my Gibson in that the hardware was definitely of lesser quality but it didn't feel cheap or flimsy if that makes any sense. The Epiphone didn't feel as solid but still felt very solid.

    The tuners were cheaper but the guitar stayed in tune as good as my Gibson. The neck felt surprisingly good and was about as easy to play (not quite as "professional" and smooth but still very nice)

    The big question remaining is the sound. I took the Guitar home knowing I could return it in 30 days. The following evening I took it to rehearsal to give it a baptism of fire. Here's where things got interesting...

    In short, the Epiphone's range was not quite as wide, detailed and deep as my Gibson but...that was not a bad thing. It still sounded like a 335 with that big, loud, brash semi-hollowbody sound but a little bit smeared and a little bit brighter in tone. Bear in mind that this is being really nitpicky but, as rich as the Epi was, the Gibby was just a tad richer overall.

    The reason that I said it was not necessarily a bad thing is that the epi sounded wonderful...amazingly so. Two songs in and I didn't miss the Gibby at all...I was enjoying playing the epi and could easily see it as the primary guitar. I was actually floored how close this inexpensive guitar came in sound and feel to the "real" es335. The fact that it was just a little brighter and grittier (smeared) made it just a little different flavor, not necessarily worse at all.

    The next day I took it back to the shop...for a case and a setup. She's a keeper.
    I had tentatively planned on a pickup swap but I don't feel the need to at all as the Alnico classic pro pickups sound great.

    I waited a few weeks since the purchase to try it out in different scenarios before writing a review.

    Overall..the construction is about 80% - 85% of the feel of my Gibson ES-335 and the sound is about 90-95%. On the construction side..these differences don't seem to matter as this thing really stays in tune. The pot rolloff is a little different and not quite as smooth but very manageable.
    The difference in the sound is not really a concern as well. They both sound great and both sound like a 335. Chords sound thick and massive and individual notes ring out like they should (I don't use the coil splitting but it's a nice option I guess). The epi feeds back at the same volume just a little sooner but again, not really a concern.

    The differences in performance are small. After the setup, they both play really easily. If someone was looking to get a 335 on a budget, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Epiphone 335 pro. Before this I was looking at the Hagstrom Viking (a wonderful sounding guitar) but not anymore. The Epi captures the 335 magic better.

    Do I regret buying my Gibson ES-335? No, not at all as it's a beautiful looking, feeling and playing guitar. If I had bought the Epiphone first, would I have still bought the Gibson? That I can't say for sure but maybe not. The Epi is really that good.
     
  2. cybermgk

    cybermgk Singin' the body lectric Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    Fair and honest review.

    I do wonder, how the minor differences in tone would change, just putting in quality pots. or a non pot metal stop piece and bridge.
     
  3. mdubya

    mdubya Senior Member

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    Excellent review! :thumb:

    I have a 2014 ES 335. I had wished for a '59 RI, but the standard model is all I was willing to shell out for. It has impressed me to no end, could easily be my only guitar if that was ever somehow necessary.

    I also have a 1997 Epi Sheraton, since new. 2009 or so, I added 57 classic/57 Classic + and 500k CTS pots and switchcraft jack and switch plus a bunch of other "upgrades" to the guitar. Not only is the Sheraton a tonal match for the Gibby 335 (57/57, Memphis tone circuit, whatever that is...maybe 550k pots?), it actually sounds a little better. The 57/57 + are better balanced and the possibly lower value pots make them sound better, fuller, richer. The Gibson plays better and smells better. But the Epi is a great guitar.

    I am ultimately going to add a 57 + to the 335 and change the volume pots to improve the sound of the 57 Classics.
     
  4. Ginger Beer

    Ginger Beer Senior Member

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    Thank you and that's a good question. I'm going to leave it stock for now just because
    #1) It really does sound good. Way too good for the price I paid and..
    #2) I enjoy having it have a very similar, yet ever so slightly distinct, sound from my Gibson 335.

    Honestly, with these new epiphone pickups and the quality build, I just don't "feel" it "needs" anything changed, even if that was the original plan.
    It sounds great, it feels great (the epi neck is a little fatter than my 335 but once again, not in a bad way as it actually feels great).
    Even with the cheaper hardware, it stayed in tune way better than most of my guitars.

    It's perfectly gigable as is. In fact, after 2 solid full band rehearsals and 2 jam sessions with friends, it will see the stage this weekend.
     
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  5. Ginger Beer

    Ginger Beer Senior Member

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    Fantastic! ...and thank you. I have 6 Gibsons currently so you might say I have a bias towards them. That being said, this relatively inexpensive Epiphone really knocked my socks off. If my new number 1 is the Gibson es 335, then I'm having a really hard time admitting that this epi may have moved into the No 2 spot and at any given time it's giving my No. 1 a serious run for the money...stock! I felt I had to give credit where credit is due.
    It's an absolute joy to play and, at the end of the day, isn't that what it's all about?
     
  6. mdubya

    mdubya Senior Member

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    Indeed. :thumb:
     
  7. jerry47

    jerry47 Premium Member

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    I think this speaks to the Gibson 335/ Epi 335 question pretty well.



    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3cRHg-xH48[/ame]
     
  8. Victek

    Victek Senior Member

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    Agreed. I used to have a Gibson ES345 (pretty much a 335 with a varitone switch) and although I can't do a proper side-by-side with my Epi ES335 Pro I don't perceive a loss of quality or playability. The only work I had done on the Gibson was a pro fret leveling/neck setup. The neck on my Epi is quite good out of the box and I think if I had a pro setup done it would be essentially as good as the 345 was. Frankly I think the big price difference between the Gibson and Epiphone is largely due to global trade imbalances and not indicative of quality.
     
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  9. ssmorga78

    ssmorga78 Senior Member

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    Well, I have been having the 335 itch for a bit now and just can't afford the Gibson I want right now. I am, however, saving up for it..... but in the meantime I found this jewel on sale so I ordered it. Just received it in last night, did a quick string change and setup on it..... and I am blown away as well!!! The stock pickups are not bad at all for them to be chinese Epi pickups. I am considering changing the electronics out though and throwing a set of Rewind Creme Brulee pups in with a proper CTS/PIO harness. I will also probably have a bone nut installed on it as well, just as that is the material that I prefer...but nothing is wrong with what's there from the factory.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    I really want the Rich Robinson signature 335, so I made this one the Epi version. I used the Vibramate to mount the Bigsby so I didn't have to drill any holes in the top though. I love the way you can see the grain through the finish as well!
     
  10. mdubya

    mdubya Senior Member

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    You can't beat these for the price. Incredible value. The recent demos I have heard say the newer Epi pickups sound really good, too. Very impressive.
     
  11. Family Man

    Family Man Senior Member

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    I've got an Eastman T386 (335 copy). They're much less known than Epiphones, but they have a circle of loyal followers. Even though the Eastman is more expensive and some regard it as a higher-level guitar, I find myself yearning for a 335 Pro in the Iced Tea finish.

    Would I be crazy to sell the Eastman and buy the Epiphone? I may have a chance to play one at a shop an hour from me, but it'll be a week or two before I can get there. Just wondering if there will be a quality drop from the Eastman to the Epiphone that'll make me regret my decision...
     
  12. Victek

    Victek Senior Member

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    Agreed. I bought a new Dot and an ES335 Pro online and they were both setup well from the factory; even the intonation was good. All I needed to do was replace the strings with 9s (they come from the factory with 10s) and lower the action a bit. Guitars hanging on the wall in music shops are another matter. It's not uncommon for them to have high action, corroded strings, etc. You can't evaluate a guitar well in that state.
     
  13. Ginger Beer

    Ginger Beer Senior Member

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    I have never been a follower or even a fan of Epiphones. I can say that they really knocked one out of the park with the 335 pro. I took it to my gig Saturday as a backup to my Gibson ES-335 and played it for a few numbers at the end "just because..."

    I could have easily done the whole show with it.

    I never played an Eastman so I can't comment on those.
     
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  14. mdubya

    mdubya Senior Member

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    FWIW- I have owned my Sheraton since 1997. I thought it was an awesome guitar when I bought it new and never thought of it as a low end or cheap guitar.

    Reading online for years, it has been almost universal the praise heaped on the Epiphone Hollow and Semi-Hollow line of guitars. So I don't think it is a fluke that anyone is impressed by them.

    Yes, mine is MIK, and yes I would love to own an MIJ Sheraton, or an Elitist (any model). But if I were going to gig, I wouldn't hesitate to find a couple of Dot 335's (my preference) and set them up the same and not worry about them getting beat up or stolen (too much). I also know they would deliver, performance wise, without compromise.

    I have also considered getting a natural Dot 335 and making it a Custom Shop 1958 RI killer, just for fun.

    Epi

    [​IMG]

    Gibby

    [​IMG]

    There is only about a $4k difference in price between the two. :dunno:
     
  15. Norton

    Norton Senior Member

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    Generally speaking. The Eastman guitars are an order of magnitude nicer and tighter on the fit and finish (fretwork etc) than the epiphones.

    I like epiphone guitars plenty....but I've never met one that didn't need and fret level, new nut and a more refined bridge saddle slot situation.

    The newer pro pickups are a huge step up, the tuners can be nice.
     
  16. 1all's Pub

    1all's Pub Senior Member

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    I've been researching the Epi ES-335 PRO recently and this thread is a great resource... great review, thanks! :)

    And it convinced me to go ahead and snag a used Iced Tea version I ran across online... should be here in a few days... will post a NGD thread when it arrives. :D Thanks again for the great, informed, and unbiased review Ginger Beer! :cheers:
     
  17. Ginger Beer

    Ginger Beer Senior Member

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    Glad I could help and I'd be interested in your take on the guitar when it arrives.
    Right now, my Epi 335 pro is getting equal playing time with my Gibson 335. It's just that good.
     
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  18. 1all's Pub

    1all's Pub Senior Member

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    Got my Epi ES-335 PRO... fantastic. NGD thread posted. :)
     
  19. MusicLaw

    MusicLaw Senior Member

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    The updated Sheraton II Pro Epiphone released in Summer 2015 is a dressed up 335. It has been upgraded with Epiphone coil splitable ProBucker pickups and a GraphTec NuBone Nut. It has been a gem! It plays great and has a great feel and sound. Even unplugged it is a joy to play. The fit and finish has been exceptional and it is rarely stored in the case. No pitting nor wear of the gold metallic hardware. A contemporary Epi ES 335 with ProBuckers is just as good, and has fret markers above the 15th fret.
     
  20. 1all's Pub

    1all's Pub Senior Member

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    Just wanted to report back after having mine for a week or so now. Have had time to put her through the passes and all I can say is WOW!! What a great playing and sounding guitar. What has really surprised me a lot his how good it "feels" and how well it's made. Not that some of my other Epis don't feel good, they do (particularly my Epi LPC... but this 335 might feel even better. And the rosewood on it is a thing of beauty... really a nice board. Two big thumbs up from me.
     

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