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.