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335 - Figured. Pre-purchase beginner advice please.

rob 64

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Hi all,

I am still a beginner, having started playing around 2 years ago in my late 50s. I am not a good player but enjoy it so much that I am going to over-indulge myself for my forthcoming milestone birthday with a 335, after thinking about lots of alternatives.

Having watched many online videos of demos and reviews, it really is the sound and look that I like. I play mostly 60s to current day pop, rockabilly, 70s/80s punk/new wave. I attempt blues and would love to one day be able to play some basic jazz but am a long way off that. As you'll all know, the 335 has been iconic with all these genres. I love the warm mellow tone and choosing the 335 was a close run thing with the Standard 50s Les Paul but that neck was just too thick for me and I prefer the look of the 335.

I really like the Figured Ice Tea model. In the UK, this retails at £3,700 but over the last few weeks many retailers (who hardly ever discount Gibsons here) have dropped the price to £3,200 with some going as low as £2,800. These are all ADs and I am delighted at such savings but the cynical side of me was wondering if there is a negative reason for this? The standard model in Vintage Sunburst, which was £600 cheaper is now the same price/more expensive than the figured top. Does the Figured Ice Tea model have a problem which I'm not aware of? It's a really big purchase for me and I don't want to get it wrong.

Secondly, I've read the discussions on this forum and elsewhere about the calibrated T-type humbuckers being bright. I did notice this on the models I tried compared to what I had heard online but put a lot of this down to my crappy desktop speakers and the different amps I used in 2 different shops. If, after purchase, I still find the sound too bright , would changing the pick-ups to '57 Alnico 2s or similar significantly change the sound or does the sound mostly come from the wood of the specific guitar? I have heard that 335s can vary massively model to model but form my research it's very rare in the UK to find a shop stocking more than 1 identical Gibson model so it's very unlikely I'll be able to try 2 guitars back-to-back.

Thanks for any advice.

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Hi Rob,

You are right about PC speakers not being good enough to appreciate tone. Its ok to get an broad idea of the sound but its another reason to go out and try some guitars. Even if you cant play similar models back to back. Its important to hear and feel the guitars 1st hand.

There's a lot to consider here. All the more reason to take your time over it. Using a different amp every time means you will find it difficult to compare 'like for like'.

Pickups: I would not buy a guitar I didn't like the sound of. Maybe changing PUs would solve it, but maybe it still wouldn't suit you. Not worth the risk.

I generally turn volume up full and keep treble full on using guitar controls. Then adjust amp controls to find a tone I like better. After that I might adjust guitar controls again, and I think most players would. 

Finishes: Iced Tea Burst is a favourite finish of mine (I don't have one). There should be no problem whatever with different varieties of finish. Its just down to what you like. The only exception might be satin finishes. These are less labour intensive to produce and the resulting finish will eventually appear to become glossier with age (where your body makes contact with it). 

With acoustic chambered guitars the wood used does make a difference, Its a subtle difference. PUs will have a more pronounced difference in tone. 

Bottom line: You really are the best judge of determining what guitar you like. It never hurts to take a more experienced friend along to check over things, but you are in charge. 

I realise you impending birthday may make it feel like you have money burning in your pocket, but I still advise taking your time and enjoying the search. Also, never be ashamed of your skill level, and never ever be intimidated by a salesperson. They are usually all very good, respectful and want you to leave happy (they want your continued custom). Its just a shame that they like to show of their skills so much. 

Good luck. I would love a 335 / 345 also.  


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I think they're lowering prices on certain models that don't fly out the door, I'd dismiss it's anything to do with quality.

T-type pickups are AlNiCo V, so they're kind of inherently bright. They use stronger magnets than e.g. the 50s Standard, which has AlNiCo II pickups. Unless 335s are known to be inherently bright-sounding - I'm no expert on them, but someone else could maybe chime in, I've never heard that about them though - I don't see how new pickups wouldn't change the tone.

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I just upgraded to a new ES-335 to go with  my 2010 ES-339.   The T-types in the 335 are definitely brighter than the 57's in the 339, at least to my ears.  I'm still in the honeymoon phase with the 335 so it's too soon to say better or worse.  Two things I find curious about them,  1. I didn't realize the size difference was so dramatic and   2. They both have 2 piece nuts.

I think I find  the bigger body more comfortable and balanced to hold, at least sitting down.   I guess I never thought about the synthetic nuts, they both work and sound fine, it just seems odd.  I just recently noticed the 2 piece nut on my 339 and I've owned it since 2011.  


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Santa sent 2 new Satin Vintage ES-335 around X-mas for me to try and choose from. They were pretty different (could have been sold and adjusted before).

A was strong, straight and potent - had the nicest burst-fade, but some slightly messed headstock edges.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          B was weaker thus mysterious and perhaps more soulful. Action much lower.

Was very tempted by B, but went with A. Logic was that it would be easier to weaken A than to add A-strength to B. Have not regretted that at all.

The calibrated T-type are surely brighter than fx the original old PAFs or previous humbucker variations that have seen light of day the recent 20 years. It is however a warm creamy pickup and like the strength, you can roll down the brightness if needed. To lower the pups in the treb-side is also a possiblílity - I actually experimented A LOT with the pickup-height after B was returned. And though not bein' an expert at all ended up very happy. 
Still - the new batch is NOT like the vintage ancestors (remember they have been around since 1958). The oldies could be quite muddy, which went well with jazz and some types of old school rock. This T-type incarnation clears that haze and steer free of the mud. They offer lots of possibilities, yet perhaps not the classic dampened lounge 335-voice.                                 

                                                                                                                                                          Never the less they are hereby recommended.

P.S. - both guitars had downright lousy binding-work both on the body and neck. Had to sand it down, which made the fine looker appear like something out of the Murphy Lab.                                               It's actually horrendous for a Gibson and may scratch their reputation again. Can't understand they allow it, but maybe it's part of the lower tag, , ,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    like the satin, which by the way is pretty easy to buff up. .  



                                                                                                                                                     Let's hear more about what everyone experiences. 

Edited by E-minor7
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7 hours ago, moosesyr said:

 They both have 2 piece nuts.

                            Pardon !? , , , , never seen anything like it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Mine is as normal as it can be.  

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Lovely pic Moosesyr. That's just the model I am looking at.

As I speak to more people supposedly in-the-know, it sounds like we may be in a time of big transition in the Gibson empire. To summarise, there is a school of thought saying that going forward, the Gibson brand will only be used on what is now Custom shop models and above. Epiphone will be the branding on current high-end Epiphone models up to and including the current level branded as Gibson USA/Standard and a new budget brand will appear on the space occupied by lower-end Epiphones.

Before someone accuses me of being a troll, I have absolutely no idea if this is true but heard it from some one who seemed to have the ear of all the staff at the London Gibson Garage amongst much nodding. Looking at a recent review on You Tube of the new Epiphone IBG 1959 Standard LP on the Andertons channel, I detected similar thinking. Who knows.

I am just nervous as I want to treat myself to a Gibson, albeit that I know Epiphone is of a quality more than enough for a humble player like me. A friend of a friend also looking for a 335 will be buying the Epiphone 335 and upgrading components and pick ups. I'm sure that's economically sensible but it kind of defeats the object for me, although I am more and more reaching the conclusion that the sound I really want is only to be had from a vintage  50s/60s model which would be way out of my budget...



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