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SteveFord

ES-345s

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Educate me, please.

 

I've owned 70s 335s, 80s and 2000 something Lucilles, a 2000 something ES-335 Satin but never a 345.

 

I've always thought that a 345 was really just a 335 with parallelogram inlays and the Varitone or maybe a 355 with a rosewood fret board instead of ebony and maybe a Bigsby.

 

Is there something else that really sets these guitars apart? I've talked to owners of the 345s but never got my hands on one even for a quick try out.

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Educate me, please.

 

I've owned 70s 335s, 80s and 2000 something Lucilles, a 2000 something ES-335 Satin but never a 345.

 

I've always thought that a 345 was really just a 335 with parallelogram inlays and the Varitone or maybe a 355 with a rosewood fret board instead of ebony and maybe a Bigsby.

 

Is there something else that really sets these guitars apart? I've talked to owners of the 345s but never got my hands on one even for a quick try out.

 

Well, in one way you are right - they are 335s but different! But then you have had the experience of the principal difference which is the Varitone. Of course, the fretboard is different on a 355 but not because of the wood so much (although I prefer ebony) but the type of frets. All the 355s I've seen have the low wide and flat "fretless wonder" style frets whereas the 345 has medium, somewhat higher frets so the feel of the fretboard is very different and as per the 335. All these guitar types may or may not have Bigsby's. My Epiphone 345 came with a Bigsby whereas my Gibson 1959 reissue 345 doesn't. Personally, I don't use any kind of "bar" much anyway so out of choice I wouldn't bother with one.

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Since I bought a Memphis 2011 ES-345 a few years ago, I have been crazy about the ES-345. It really is much like you described, relative to the ES-335 and ES-355.

 

I personally think the older (say, mid 60s through early 80s) ES-345 and ES-355 instruments did sound a lot different than their ES-335 counterparts. The stereo wiring along with the Varitone kind of "smoothed out" the tone a bit, which wasn't necessarily bad in all cases, though I did not really care for the tone of the early 70s ES-355 I once had; it was rather bland. The newer ES-345 (and, I assume ES-355) made since the late 90s, seem to be "better" - though I don't really like all the internet-speak that groups models from one year or era into "better" and "worse" groups. But I like the fact that you get two jacks on the rim of the guitar, so you can play either in stereo or mono mode. Nice feature, there. (Note: This feature is not on the new '59 and '64 reissue ES-345). Also, the 2011 model I have seems to have the best tone of any Gibson I've ever had, including a couple late 60s ES models. I guess the combination of the pickups, the wood, and wiring is spot on. The bypass position sounds very full-on ES-335, and the other Varitone positions get those cool tonal effects. The darn thing just feels great in my hands too. I was a little leery of the "60s" neck these have until I actually played one. Mine is not super-thin as I'd feared. It's more like a medium profile; nicely rounded and smooth to hold.

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The main different was the maple tops compared to plywood on the some of the 335. I owned two 335s in the past. One had the plywood top and another had the solid maple top. The limited addition 335 solid maple top sound so much better. I since traded it for the CS 356 with a small bottom with solid maple top.

 

Jazz,

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All standard production ES335, 345, 355 and 330 guitars have plywood tops - the actual construction of the ply can differ in terms of what woods are used in the middle laminates, but Maple is standard for the outward and inward facing ply.

 

One difference between ES345s and 335s in addition to the varitone is that, because of the stereo function, the middle position is out of phase and produces a different tone to a 335 in that position when used with a stereo to mono lead. My '79 ES355 has the later dual outputs that allow mono or stereo operation and sounds in phase in the middle position - I believe some of the recent ES345s copy that arrangment.

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The main different was the maple tops compared to plywood on the some of the 335. I owned two 335s in the past. One had the plywood top and another had the solid maple top. The limited addition 335 solid maple top sound so much better.

I'm kind of old school, and haven't paid a lot of attention to more modern designs. Are there really limited edition 335's with solid maple tops? I can't seem to locate any evidence of this online.

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...

One difference between ES345s and 335s in addition to the varitone is that, because of the stereo function, the middle position is out of phase and produces a different tone to a 335 in that position when used with a stereo to mono lead. My '79 ES355 has the later dual outputs that allow mono or stereo operation and sounds in phase in the middle position - I believe some of the recent ES345s copy that arrangment.

 

My '67 ES-345 came with stereo TRS jack output and came with pickups wired out-of-phase. If you jumper the stereo hot leads together to use one channel, the middle position drops in volume and has the Peter Green trebbly sound. I understand that ES-345 originally came wired out-of-phase so that you can use one amplifier that has two channels(separate inputs) and not worry about the output being out-of-phase. The amps with one input and dual channel were designed 180 deg out-of-phase.

 

Since I gave up hauling two amps many years ago and most of my amps have single input (one or multi channels) I reversed the magnet in one of the pickups to make my ES-345 in-phase when using single input amps. That way I don't get the drop in volume when in the middle position.

 

I'm kind of old school, and haven't paid a lot of attention to more modern designs. Are there really limited edition 335's with solid maple tops? I can't seem to locate any evidence of this online.

 

I haven't heard of a solid top ES- either.

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I always felt the "Stereo" feature was the major downfall of the 345/355 back in the day.

 

My 2000 built "Historic Series" 345 is factory mono, as I believe all of that run was. There seems to be a new batch of ES-345 "reissues" coming out, I wonder if they are mono or stereo. Didn't someone around here buy one?

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I always felt the "Stereo" feature was the major downfall of the 345/355 back in the day.

 

My 2000 built "Historic Series" 345 is factory mono, as I believe all of that run was. There seems to be a new batch of ES-345 "reissues" coming out, I wonder if they are mono or stereo. Didn't someone around here buy one?

 

Yes, they seem to be wired mono Larry. At least mine seems to be and I use a mono jack to a one input amp and all seems fine. I agree with you about the stereo - totally irrelevant. When I had my '64 I never once used it as a stereo.

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I've had a look at (I think its' called...) a Gibson 2013 or 2014 1964 ES-345TD, which has a mono output.

 

Can someone advise; what was the purpose of stereo outputs on older / previous models?

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I've had a look at (I think its' called...) a Gibson 2013 or 2014 1964 ES-345TD, which has a mono output.

 

Can someone advise; what was the purpose of stereo outputs on older / previous models?

 

If you think about it in the context of music more generally, stereo was an exciting concept going into the 60s and Gibson were trying to exploit the technology to improve the potential of their higher end guitars. Unfortunately, whilst stereo offered a big step forward in presenting recorded music, on a guitar your options were limited to sending one pickup to one amp and one to another (or treble strings to one amp, bass strings to another as I think Gretsch experimented with) which has pretty limited creative potential. It's interesting that stereo survived on the ES345 and a majority of ES355s right up until they were discontinued in 1981, so presumably there was some level of demand for the stereo function over the years.

 

I've tried using the stereo function on my 355 and there are things you can do with it, for example using the neck pickup into a Vox for midrange and the bridge pickup into a Fender for sparkle and spacing them apart from each other so that the tibre changes as you move about the room ("Ok folks, for this number we're going to do something a bit different! Everyone form a prison yard circle in front of the stage and start pacing - the subtle effect you'll hear out of the guitarist's two amps will, er, blow your mind!), but nothing that has really left an impression on me, certainly to the extent of carrying two amps around. Doesn't exactly endear you to the sound engineer either...

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I think that's a good answer Jayyj. The stereo was an "innovation" of the early 1960s and Gibson ran with it. The best option was the dual output jacks on the rim of the second series of 345s rather than the original split lead which my 1964 had.

 

My recent Epiphone ES345 has the dual jacks and I have plugged that into two amps and yes, it can be interesting but not so much that it is worth the bother and I would never bother with it playing live to an audience.

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Does anyone know how often Gibson reissue 345's? I saw some stereo ones around 2010 and now they have just done some mono 60's reissues, but I have been after a trans brown / stereo one for ages and can't find one anywhere new or used. Have they done many brown stereo ones off and on in the past?

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I have been after a trans brown / stereo one for ages

 

I'm not sure what the "trans brown" color is you're referring to, but original brown color was simply called "walnut". Maybe a search for a "walnut" 345 might turn up more hits.

 

There's an early 70's walnut on e-bay right now:

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Original-1971-Gibson-ES-345-Stereo-Electric-Guitar-Walnut-w-Case-Clean-/281430322768?pt=Guitar&hash=item41868dee50

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I'm not what the "trans brown" color is you're referring to, but original brown color was simply called "walnut". Maybe a search for a "walnut" 345 might turn up more hits.

 

There's an early 70's walnut on e-bay right now:

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Original-1971-Gibson-ES-345-Stereo-Electric-Guitar-Walnut-w-Case-Clean-/281430322768?pt=Guitar&hash=item41868dee50

 

 

Many thanks l5larry, the trans brown was a deeper/ darker brown they used on the last bunch of reissues around 2010...I do very much like the old walnut ones though and that one on ebay sure is nice and a good price [thumbup] I will keep having a search and use walnut as well. Thanks again

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I bought a 2009 ES-345 in the brown color your looking for. It is a Memphis built and has both output jacks on the side so it is stereo/mono with the varitone. The guitar I bought was new still hanging in a shop so I was able to wheel and deal with the owner and ended up buying it for $2300.00 with the full warranty, so they are still out there. I have heard of 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 models so I think they made a batch or two each year but probably not to many. Being a ES-345 and in trans-brown or walnut, not the most popular model or color, I think made it possible for me to get a good deal from my point of view. I have always wanted a Gibson ES-3xx style guitar and I am quite happy with it. It will not replace my Guild Starfire IV or VI but it is one sweet guitar.

Thanks John

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I have been watching these re-issue ES-345 for a couple years while I was dealing with the shop I found mine in. You don't see many of them come up for sale used so people must be hanging on to them.

Thanks John

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I have been watching these re-issue ES-345 for a couple years while I was dealing with the shop I found mine in. You don't see many of them come up for sale used so people must be hanging on to them.

Thanks John

 

 

Thanks for the insight...yes, your model/ colour is the one I've been looking for. I've been keeping an eye out for them the last couple of years too, but have so far only seen a used Tri-burst one. Btw, you sure did get a great deal on yours, as the last time I saw one listed over here in the UK it was £2799 (about $4500 I think at the current exchange rate). That was back in 2011 and I'm still rather annoyed I didn't grab that one back then!

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I think the stereo option is more useful in a studio setting, similar to the varitone.

Thanks John

 

I would disagree with you there John. The stereo for me is just not relevant at all but the Varitone is what makes the 345 (or 355 if it has one) and I use it extensively.

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the Varitone is what makes the 345 (or 355 if it has one) and I use it extensively.

 

I recently did an outdoor park concert with a traditional country band (tunes by Merle, Willie, Waylon, George Strait, etc) where I was able to push my old Music Man 210-65 to it's optimum performance level. I'd almost forgotten how good that amp sounds cranked.

 

The volume levels were sufficient to use the Varitone switch for the change in volume and tone between rhythm and lead. The Varitone circuitry, and the extra "bling", is why I "upgraded" to a 345 when I needed to replace my old 335.

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I do have agree in that I use the varitone way more than I have used the stereo, which is just a couple times. I was watching some Freddy King videos and it looked like he was using the second or third varitone settings with the treble pick only on some. Cody, my guitar was priced much higher, that is why it took me 2 years to get a good deal. Whenever I played it in the shop I always put it up high back in the corner hoping no one would see it back there. I know the owner pretty well as I bought my L-4CES from him and he would just laugh. I didn't really need another guitar so I could afford to wait. He had a new ES-355 in red with all kinds of flame I could have bought for $3000.00. It was a beautiful guitar but seamed heaver to me and I just fell in love with the neck on the 2009 ES-345 which is very similar to my L-4's. I finally got my ES-345 in late June so I am still basking in it's glory as you probably can tell. Good luck on your hunt Cody, it will be worth it.

Thanks John

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I'm not sure what the "trans brown" color is you're referring to, but original brown color was simply called "walnut". Maybe a search for a "walnut" 345 might turn up more hits.

 

There's an early 70's walnut on e-bay right now:

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Original-1971-Gibson-ES-345-Stereo-Electric-Guitar-Walnut-w-Case-Clean-/281430322768?pt=Guitar&hash=item41868dee50

 

I have a 2010 Trans Brown ES345 and it's great!

 

The Trans Brown colour is quite variable (I tried at a few before buying and the shade varied a lot between different instruments) It's a shade or 2 darker than the 60s/70s "walnut" colour. Walnut shows a fair bit of grain whereas Trans Brown is darker, running from showing very little grain at all through to a darker walnut type, if that makes sense. Binding is totally white, whereas walnuts had a more creamy shade. Having said that, the finish is now lightening up a little after a few years, and the binding is toning down, so I guess it's getting more walnut-y! The gold hardware seems to be holding up really well so far, despite me having fairly caustic paws that call for a lot of string changes!

 

The neck is great, kinda medium, certainly not skinny but not too much of a handful either. It invites you to dart all over but never feels cramped. frets are not as flat and wide as I've seen on 355s and some 335s, again good for me.

 

Output is stereo with 2 edge mounted sockets, so no need for any splitter lead shennanigans. Or you can have mono out by just using one socket. Stereo is great for recording, but more limited in a live playing situation, although if you can be bothered to play out with 2 amps, you can get a huge stage sound with both pickups blasting. Middle position puts pickups out of phase.

 

Varitone is very useful to me. a great range of sounds - superb for recording. Downside is that it as it's a notch filter output level drops progressively as you move from one setting to another. Thankfully I use a volume pedal most of the time anyway and always have done, so I'm used to riding that to even things out a bit without having to use the volume knobs, which would affect the tone.

 

Comparison with a 335? well, it's a little heavier. My 335 (70s) has a skinny neck which 20 years ago I loved but now sometimes seems a little cramped to my older fatter fingers. I can run around for sure on the 335, but for intricate voicings and especially when hybrid picking, prefer the fuller neck of the 345.

 

Issues: well there had to be some! The guitar needed a bit of work on the nut at first, but then I did move up from the factory strings (10s or 11s?) to 12-52s so that was kinda to be expected. The one I ended up buying had a small imperfection (a chip or poor scrape job) in the binding, others I looked at were spot on, but this one seemed for some reason to play and sound better for me, so I lived with it. It's a tiny fault anyway.

 

Overall, I find it a hugely versatile beast that encourages me to play with a greater sense adventure than some other guitars. To me, although it doesn't have quite the individual personality of some of my other guitars such as a 175 or a Tele, but neither does it have the quirks and foibles that they do. It's even response over a huge range of different tones is a major asset.

 

If I had to save either the 345 or the 335 from a burning building it would be a tough decision. Maybe that's because I have a lot of personal history with the 335 though as I've had it a much longer time. I certainly play the 345 more nowadays...

 

a couple of poor quality pics - it looks much nicer, and a bit lighter shade, than these would have you believe..

 

post-4075-055461300 1423690875_thumb.jpg

 

post-4075-048291200 1423690855_thumb.jpg

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Nice guitar Ian, it looks just like my 2009 ES-345. I had the nut and the saddles in the bridge replaced to even out the string spacing and bring the strings closer to the edge of the fretboard. Gibson replaced the trusrod cover because the word STEREO was at an angle. Other than these items the guitar is a real gem. My color is the same with plain maple on the outside and flames on the inside. I find the neck perfect and playability is now perfect. I use the varitone quite often and the stereo occasionally. I like the white binding on the ES-345 and never cared for the pinkish binding Gibson used on so many of their guitars. I put more importance into playability and tone than into appearance but to me the ES-345 in brown and gold is a real looker and a guitar you don't see often. I wonder if more care was put into building the ES-345's but then again they are all assembly line guitars so maybe not.

 

Recently I was at a guitar store and played a couple new 335's and thought the necks were too wide for me and the binding nibs on a 2014 was so sharp that I told the tech that I thought you could cut a 2X4 with the neck. The 2015 ES-335 and ES Les Paul I played had no nibs and was a bit better feeling but I am one of few who is used to a narrower fretboard. My first good electric was a 1969 SG Std. which I still have. Enjoy your ES-345, you know it's a keeper!

 

Thanks John

 

 

 

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The 70s walnuts varied a lot too - mine is a gorgeous dark chocolate colour with golden grain lines, but they vary between that and a rather less lovely shade of sun-dried cow dung (I'd like to see that one listed in the Gibson catalogue!). The yellowing to the binding is just age.

 

That said, the Trans Brown ES345s look great!

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