NGD: 2019 (2018) Memphis ES-335 DOT - A Journey

MiniB

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This is a long one, so sorry in advance but hopefully it will help those also looking into 335's...

So decided to take the plunge....again...on an ES-335. I've had 6 before...in order - a 1990 USA, a Memphis Fat Neck, a 1982 USA, a Rusty Anderson and two different Nashville '59 Reissues.

My first was a nice guitar but the neck was just too thin. The Fat neck was just too big, same with the '59 RI's. The other two had pretty medium-profile necks, but the guitars just didn't do much for me. So it's been hard to find the right in-between neck size on an ES335...that was until 2016 when the Memphis model came out with that medium 'Rounded C' profile. I tried one in a Sam Ash back then, but the guitar itself didn't really floor me. I've been without an ES-335 for about 4 years or so now and decided to take a chance on a 2019 (2018 serial #) DOT neck. Did a lot of searching, and decided on one from Wildwood because I've gotten good guitars from them before, they seem to select good ones and set them up nicely. And of course, there's an approval period, but unlike the GC's and other big stores, you don't have an endless flow of guitars being bought and returned with who knows what going on with them.

She came in on Friday. Right off the bat, at .86" 1st fret to .99" 12th fret, the neck is by no means ruler thin, pretty much a '64 profile that so many like. But since I haven't had a 335 for like 4 years now, I got so used to my R8's neck which is ginormous in comparison at .93" -1.01" with big shoulders, the shoulders I think being the key. So with that combined with the slightly narrower nut (1.687" on 335, 1.7 or so on R8) as well as much less shoulder and rolled binding, it makes the neck feel much smaller. Almost too small for my liking. I also tried a current USA Les Paul Standard the other day that had a 50's neck, and it felt much smaller too so yeah that log of an R8 neck has become a 'training scar', if you will.

So I had a 48-hr approval period, and normally I'd consider sending it back.....EXCEPT that this guitar plays so effortlessly and sounds EXACTLY like what I always wanted an ES335 to sound. It's something that was missing from all but one of the previously mentioned ES's I've owned, with that one having just too big of a neck....probably same as my R8 maybe a hair smaller, but that just didn't work for me on an ES. There's a lot of warmth in the mids, the low strings have piano-like definition, and there's plenty of treble and chime on tap, but AT YOUR COMMAND and not just there and hard which makes you avoid it and lay back. It has that hollowbody 'bounce' and elasticity, but then you dig in and it can grind. Notes seem to just jump out with very little effort on your part. It's both quite empowering and liberating when you've formerly felt like you had to work hard to milk things out. Has that sweet/warm, jangly quality when clean, almost like a Gretsch or Rickenbacker.

Great thing is that I don't feel like I want to change a thing. Pickups sound great (MHS II's I think), and the 'Memphis Tone Circuit' works great for me...they keep their definition and character all the way down the volume sweep. Even with 50's wiring and RS Superpots/caps on my R8, I lose some definition as I roll down the volume, especially on neck pickup. Get none of that here. Now I can finally do more leads on the neck pickup as it's not woof city anymore. Only thing is I don't know if they incorporated a treble bleed or what have you, but the sweep of the pots are much longer than the RS pots. Like my rhythm level is 7.5-8 on the RS pots, I have to turn down to 5 or even less on the ES to get the same. But that's not a huge deal because even though longer it still achieves the same and I can get that great 'fat lead' with neck volume on 5 and bridge volume on 8, as it's still 50's wiring. The guitar's output volume is also much more than my R8 for some reason, again maybe because of the sweep of those pots.

As for the nut width, even though it feels narrower, I have no problem chording like I would on the 1-9/16" ones from the 60's which to me are unplayable. Construction-wise, it doesn't feel quite as 'robust' as some earlier ones I had, but maybe because it is so light (7.8 lbs) and the actual body thickness is on the thin side. Fit and finish seem fine. Is it a $3000 guitar? I find most Gibson's mildly overpriced, let's just leave it at that.

So have I finally found my ideal ES-335? In terms of sound/tone and ease of play? Absolutely...again, this is how I always imagined a good ES-335 sounding. The Neck definitely feels on the small side for now, but again I've been playing a gigantisaurus exclusively for some years now.....I've owned USA LP Stds. in the past with 50's necks and been fine with them. And even though the neck feels 'small', the sound makes up for it as there's no 'struggle' to get it out that would otherwise be exacerbated by a smaller neck. And that's the hardest things to get 'right' as far as I'm concerned....I feel that I can get used to this neck, but if it doesn't sound right or is a chore to play, that will never change. So she's a keeper. I'm sure I'll get used to the neck size as time goes by. It doesn't hurt or cramp...if anything, I have to get used to squeezing less since the notes come out so easily. I find myself attacking 'harder' on my R8. And its a REAL relief that I don't have to change out pickups or pots. Also really like the Grover tuners on this, so those are staying as well.

Been contemplating a neck recarve and 'standard' package from Historic Makeovers on my R8 for a while anyway. Might do it now to bring the two more in line with neck size. Will also put aged Throbak covers on the 335, and may add a little aging to the bridge/tailpiece.





It's actually a more medium cherry indoors, photoshopped some lightly aged hardware.....


 
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mdubya

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Beautiful report and guitar! :applause:

My two ES 335's are like night and day, totally different feeling and sounding and playing; a 2018 '59 RI with a borderline huge neck (still comfortable to play though), and a 2014 Dot Reissue with the slimmest neck of any of my guitars at .8 - .88, full width at the nut though and plenty meaty feeling aside from the depth - I love it. Just between my 335's it is like having Betty AND Veronica, Ginger AND Maryanne. Sometimes I can't believe how good a couple of decent guitars can be. :cheers:
 

JMP

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I only have experience with an Epiphone Dot and a 1960 Gibson ES 355, so I won’t pretend to be an expert in 335s. Great post! I’m glad you’ve found a guitar that “ does it” for you. It’s certainly a looker! Congrats.
 

MiniB

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I think my 'ideal' neck would probably be something like a soft V with a first fret depth of around .90. But I've had tons of guitars with smaller necks than this over the years...especially Fenders...and I found a way to play those just fine when the guitars sounded good, so it's not like I haven't adapted before.
 
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Midnight Blues

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Very nice! Congrats, HNGD :jam: and play her in good health!
 

budg

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Vey nice. I have had 3 335s so far and presently have a 2016 Figured. I like the neck alot. These guitars can take some tweaking to get that balance between playability and tone. Glad its working for you.
 

MiniB

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Thanks. It came with Ernie Ball Slinky .010's, which feel really light on this guitar...almost like .009's. And the action is really low (Wildwood did a nice setup). A little buzzing when played unplugged but not when plugged in. I might go with the D'Adarrio .0105's. Also this guitar stays in tune really well with the Grovers compared to my R8 with Klusons....prrobably has to do with string angle behind the nut.

As for the neck size, I find that I'm appreciating its smaller size compared to my R8 when playing it standing/strapped. My hand gets around it better.
 
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Death Incarnate

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Looks beautiful. :applause:
The reflector knobs compliment the red and black so well. I love it.
HNGD!
 

MiniB

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Yeah reflectors are the classic 335 knobs. I prefer the look of Klusons, but these Grovers work really well, and they're classic replacements which many did back in the old days too. Thankfully the guitar doesn't feel neck-heavy.

Also, this guitar came with an aluminum tailpiece. In the past I've preferred the heavier zinc tailpieces on 335's as it gave a bit more focused of a tone. But this thing has such a sweet voice I may not want to mess with it.
 

JMP

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Thanks. It came with Ernie Ball Slinky .010's, which feel really light on this guitar...almost like .009's. And the action is really low (Wildwood did a nice setup). A little buzzing when played unplugged but not when plugged in. I might go with the D'Adarrio .015's. Also this guitar stays in tune really well with the Grovers compared to my R8 with Klusons....prrobably has to do with string angle behind the nut.

As for the neck size, I find that I'm appreciating its smaller size compared to my R8 when playing it standing/strapped. My hand gets around it better.
15’s? That’s real heavy for an acoustic. Typo?
 

MiniB

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Ouch, I meant .0105" as in 10-1/2....haha! Corrected, thanks.
 

wmachine

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...........A little buzzing when played unplugged but not when plugged in. ................
While we're at it, I'm having a little trouble understanding your evaluation here. Solution being to play unplugged like you do plugged in?
 

MiniB

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While we're at it, I'm having a little trouble understanding your evaluation here. Solution being to play unplugged like you do plugged in?
Since the action is so low, there's a little fret buzz when I dig in, but only noticeable when playing unplugged, it doesn't seem to choke things out or even be detectable when plugged in. Will maybe raise action a tad.
 

mdubya

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Some of my guitars that were dead perfect this winter are buzzing and rattling now that there is oppressive heat outside causing the a/c to make it like an ice box inside.
 

wmachine

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Some of my guitars that were dead perfect this winter are buzzing and rattling now that there is oppressive heat outside causing the a/c to make it like an ice box inside.
Good point. Temp and humidity changes can physically change the setup. And multiple swings in temp and humidity can compound that. Simple physics.
 

MiniB

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Some of my guitars that were dead perfect this winter are buzzing and rattling now that there is oppressive heat outside causing the a/c to make it like an ice box inside.
Yeah I've gotten that before...not drastic but sometimes just enough to need a truss rod adjustment.


So I've been playing this pretty exclusively for about a week and the neck feels much more natural now. I actually feel just the right amount of girth, and I also switched to .0105"-guage D'Adarrio's, and it feels perfect for this guitar. It took away that slight buzzing with the same bridge height, maybe because it pulls the neck up slightly.

Next step will be replacing the pickup covers for aged ones...have some extra ThroBak ones laying around. Will probably want to slightly age the pole screws to match, maybe a little vinegar/water solution on a Q-tip. I could just switch them out with the screws from other extra pickups I have laying around the already have some age on them, but don't want to mess with that.
 
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Christosterone

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Love that performance. One of the things I'm really glad about is being able to watch BB back in '90.
where did u see him?
i never got the pleasure....
love his phrasing and style...

-Chris
 

MiniB

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where did u see him?
i never got the pleasure....
love his phrasing and style...

-Chris
Part of a Newport Jazz Festival series up at Saratoga Springs, NY.

Also during that day got to see Jimmy McGriff, Neville Bros., Tower Of Power, and John Schofield. For some reason, BB was turned up pretty loud that day and was absolutely ripping.
 


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