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ES-345 Tone(s) Question


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I've just recently started playing out again and need some advice. I'd like to know what other ES-345 owners are using for amps/effects.

I know that tone is subjective but I'm finding that my high strings are very thin. My group currently plays 'classic stuff' from Neil Young/Tom Petty to Sheryl Crow/Linda Ronstadt.

As attached, I have a'65 (which I bought new while in my high school band) with a 'jumped' cable so it's coming out mono, into either a solid state 1-12 Marshall or my '73 VT-22 Ampeg.

If my 16 year-old self knew what I know now I probably would have opted for an LP, but I fell in love with the look and feel; love the '60's necks.

So, other 345 owners, what are you using/what are you playing?

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I have a 2000 built, Custom Shop, "Historic Series", Factory Mono, Stop-tail 345. This is my "go-to" guitar for pretty much anything/everything non-jazz. I play it through an early original (1974ish) Music Man "Sixty-Five" hybrid tube amp (with master volume), with NO pedals. I have tried this guitar through the Roland SS amps I use for jazz, and was not satisfied with the results.


As this is my third ES-3XX guitar (had a 320 and 335 prior to the 345), I can tell you there is no inherent design/build flaw in the 345 to make the high strings sound thin.


Here's a few things to try to see if your setup might be affecting your sound:

There have been many explanations written around the www about why you can’t just jump the signal wires together on a stereo 345. As I have never owned a “stereo” guitar, I have no personal experience with this other than reading the schematics. Comparing the Gibson wiring diagrams of the stereo vs. mono versions of the 345 (http://www.gibson.com/Support/Schematics.aspx), it shows that it’s not just the output jack that is the difference, there is a completely different signal path and wiring order. As this conversion from stereo to mono is a MAJOR re-wire, which involves gutting the guitar, let’s look at some other things first.


The first thing I would do is to run this guitar true stereo. This will require a TRS to two TS ¼” breakout cable similar to what was originally furnished with the guitar from the factory. This type cable is made by “Hosa” for TRS effects loops, and available at stores such as GC. Run this “splitter” cable to two separate amps, not different channels of the same amp, or two inputs of the same amp channel, as there are “phase” issues here, same as just jumping the wires at the guitar jack. I would also plug in each side of the splitter cable individually. Check your results to see which, if any, of these tests might solve your problem. If so, you have “phase” issues at work here. I have read that the “phase” problems of using a stereo 345 in mono can be solved by flipping one of the magnets in one of the pickups. This is way above my pay grade, but the technical info is out there if you need it.

IF… the true-stereo test does not identify the problem, I would look next at pickup height adjustment on the treble side. Too low is bad, AND too high is bad. Again technical research and trial and error is needed here.


And then there is always string gauge to consider. Of course 8’s or 9’s will sound thinner than 10’s or 11’s, but a “balanced” set should be, well, balanced. I use 11’s or 12’s on my 345, but then I like piano wires on all my guitars (14’s on my jazzboxes).


I really think the “phase” issues are going to be your problem.

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I do have a 'true' stereo cable, though not the original which disappeared sometime in the 70's. I go between 10's and 11's on strings so nothing in the Billy Gibbons range. I have run the stereo cables through both channels in the Ampeg but not through two separate amps. This I'll try in the next couple of days. Will post.

Thanks for the reply, btw.

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The 'True-Stereo Test' did indeed identify my tone issue, or the majority of it. Running stereo through two amps brought my highs much more closely to where I want them.

I have no interest in having the guitar gutted/modded to a mono system, so I'll be further investigating the possibility of flipping a magnet.

Thanks for your suggestion, which I probably should have tried by now anyway.

I'd still be interested in what amps other vintage 345 owners use.


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  • 4 weeks later...

The stock pickups on the ES-345 stereo like yours and mine were purposely out of phase. So in the middle position you'll notice a drop in volume as well as tinny sound (if you use a mono cable with the two hot points connected in the TRS plug to the guitar). You can play it in stereo with two amps. If you play with one amp, it has to be a two separate channel amp. One channel is usually 180 degree out of phase with the other channel; so with the ES-345 stereo out of phase pickups, everything comes out OK.


If you decide to use one amp as you did by connecting the two hot wires together... you can rotate the magnet of the non-standard pickup. Find out the pickup that is not the standard orientation by using a compass. The standard Gibson has the screw coil as South.


Do you have a PAF sticker under your pickups or a patent number stamped?


As far as amps, it depends on the venue you play. I use anywhere from a small 15W Blues Junior tweed, Blue Deluxe tweed, DRRI, or a Marshall DSL1000. Since I only jam in small bars (100ppl max), my Blues Jr tweed (or two) is perfect.

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  • 1 month later...

Yes, the pickups are PAF.

I had been moving towards two-channel Fenders and tried out '65 and '68 Deluxe Reissues. I was lining up a (non-Custom) Vibrolux when I got derailed by a broken wire on the Varitone.

We mic everything in the small group I'm with now so I don't need anything huge either. In fact, I've decided to sell my Ampeg VT-22 for that reason (great amp, but 90 pounds).

Thanks for the info.

post-13993-039139700 1498733630_thumb.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Thin" How? Low/weak volume output, or "shrill" treble? I don't (currently) own a 345, but I do have a Gibson "Lucille"

and I prefer it, running through a Fender amp. In my case a Blues Jr. HR Deluxe, Vibrolux Custom, or Twin Reverb,

depending on venue and volume needed. If you're mic'n everything, that will be less an issue? I start with everything

(EQ and Volume) at "noon," regardless of amp chosen. Then, adjust as needed to get my preferred tone. That, for me,

seems to work out well. I don't have one "set" parameter, except starting at that "noon" position. The adjustments

will always depend on the guitar, the room, etc. But, I try NOT to use a pedal, for "tone!" I try very hard, to get

all the "tone" I want, from just the guitar and the amp (Luddite, that I am). Then use pedals, for a boost, or more

/different distortion, or coloring, as needed. But, as always, that's just Me!


I have always felt, however, that there IS a certain Volume/Tone "sweet spot," to any amp, and to consistently get good

results, tone wise, the volume has to be pushing the tubes, at a decent amount. Hence the need for more than one wattage,

for various rooms, unless you're mic'g them. Then I'd use the smallest amp that does the job, and let the PA take care

of the room.


By the way, I used to own a VT-22, in the late '60's and it's a MONSTER amp! But, WAY TOO (ear bleeding) LOUD (IMHO) [scared] ,

at it's "sweet spot," for anything but larger venues. [biggrin]


Good Luck! [thumbup]



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  • 2 years later...

I have owned a 345 for several years now and I would say now that I have actually LEARNED how to use the Varitone I love it. In fact, it really has replaced my use of my 335 and even at times my Les Paul. I find it to be very versatile for all different tones- using differing Fender amps and a simple chain of a BB+, then Hall of Fame reverb and then an EP Boost. I rarely ever use the position 1 bypass, I stick with position 2 and position 6 almost exclusively now. Great guitar and I have the lyre tailpiece with them arm.

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