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ES 335 - Brand New Vs 1970s Vintage


ToddS

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Hi All,

 

I've narrowed the 2 year search and got the cash together - a 335 will be purchased (or a 345 or 355 if the right one happened along).

 

The big question now - a brand new one, off the shelf, or a second hand/vintage one.

 

There's something about the new headstock and chrome tuners (I know I can change them) that I find a little lacking in the 2008 335, but I do like the idea of knowing a guitars history from day 1, and the fact that I would be its first owner.

 

But there's a great market in Western Australia for vintage Gibsons, and there's something romantic about a look that can only come from years of (careful) ageing.

 

Any thoughts? Pros and Cons? Any known troubles (apart from authenticity) of older models?

 

Also, specifically, was the Trapeze tail piece superceded by stop-tailpiece due to a problem or malfunction, or was it a cost cutting thing? ie many of the older models have the trapeze piece.

 

Also, if I did happen upon a 345 ... common thoughts and problems on varitone?

Thanks

 

Todd

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I am somewhat leery of the Norlin era thinline guitars. My ES-335 is a 1967 model, which has a lot in common with the 70's models, including the narrow neck and the trapeze tailpiece. It is a fabulous instrument. However, starting around 1970, they really did monkey around a bit more with the 335 specs. They somehow reduced the size of an already small neck tenon to something that does not even reach the neck pickup cavity from the 19th fret. Also, at some point, they changed the center block from a single piece of maple to two separate blocks, one of mahogany and one of maple. PLus, the neck went from mahogany to maple. This doesn't mean that you cannot find a great sounding and playing 1970s ES guitar, but I would be careful with those in particular. I did have a 1970/72 ES-355 once, and although it looked fantastic, it had a very bland voice. Maybe the pickups in my '67 are just better...but there's no question it sounds 10x better than the Norlin 355 I once had.

 

As for the Varitone; I think it is a very cool feature, at least for lower volume live situations and recording. Many players believe that the Varitone constricts the tone of the guitar even when it's in the "bypass" setting, so they avoid it altogether. I personally would consider an ES-345. It could still knock your socks off. When I owned a '68 ES-345 along with my '67 ES-335, I did feel that the 335 sounded better being clear of the Varitone circuitry, but the 345 was still sweet, and I did enjoy using the Varitone. I sold the 345, but I do kind of miss it.

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I played a 1975 ES-335 for 25 years, fantastic guitar, best playing neck of any guitar I've ever owned. Since 2000 I've been playing a 2000 built Historic ES-345, and I like this guitar even more, so I sold the 335.

 

All guitars are individual, there are good ones and bad ones built all the time. You can't really rule out (or rule in) a guitar just from the year or era it was built. There is a long thread on here somewhere discussing the Norlin Era Gibsons. Very interesting read.

 

Here's what I liked best about each of the thinlines I've owned:

 

Neck - I liked the maple neck of the 335 better than the mahogany of the 345

 

Hardware - I prefer the gold of the 345 over the nickel of the 335.

 

Body - The body size and shape of the 345 is more historically accurate and just looks better than the '75 335. As Spitball said, there was some "evolution" during the Norlin years at Gibson.

 

Binding Inlays and such - The 345 is just prettier, and fancier

 

Electronics - I love the Varitone on the 345. For playing live I find only the #1 and #3 useful, in combination with the P/U switch, it still gives you a incredible array of sound and tone options. The higher numbered setting have a fairly large volume decrease, though not usable in a performance setting, they are always available and useful for recording or other "controled" settings.

 

Tailpiece - I like the stop tail over the trapeze. I think it adds sustain and tone due to body resonance, and makes it more of a blues/rock guitar versus a jazz guitar.

 

There's pros and cons to each one. I have an idea for you, buy them both.

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I would just look them all over and buy a Memphis gloss finish, re: for the money part. If money is no object, 63 Block reissue. I would be careful on an unseen order. Quality control is not real good right now, to say the least. I'd want to check it from headstock to rear strap button; this is in particular to the veneer (big problem of late), paint, binding and frets.

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Hi Guys,

 

So, I played that 1974 335 today. I expected that I would be blown away, and would fall in love instantly ... but to be honest, I was a little underwhelmed.

 

As you would expect, with a 30 year + old guitar, the back of the neck was quite worn, with lots of rough spots. There was also a chip the size of my thumbnail from a belt buckle on the back of the guitar.

 

Also, I have a 2 year old, so most of my playing is done unplugged, and this guitar just seemed a little lack luster.

 

There was a real beauty of a 1966 es330 ... but the P90s in it arent really going to give me that warm crunch, or blues bight I want.

 

So, the search continues.

 

I'm wondering how I'd go with the 1963 historic block reissue?

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There was a real beauty of a 1966 es330 ... but the P90s in it arent really going to give me that warm crunch' date=' or blues bight I want.[/quote']

 

Hey ToddS--

 

Are you sure about the P-90s? I was skeptical at first, until I started noticing how good some P-90s sound: the late-'60s Pete Townshend sound is P-90s; the Beatles' single version (the rocker) of "Revolution" was done on P-90s; and those are just two famous examples. I'd encourage you to give the P-90s a good workout. Some people say they are the best rock and blues pickup ever made. I'm still experimenting myself, but I can tell you that the ES-330 has been looking a lot more interesting lately.

 

I'm surprised about the neck: an older neck often feels better than a new one. It sounds like the guitar you tried was abused in its earlier life.

 

I'm glad you're trying the guitars acoustically as well. An ES-335 will never sound like a full-fledged acoustic because of the big solid block running through its middle, but still, I have heard several new and older ES-335s that sound very nice acoustically, even if quiet.

 

Keep up the search!

 

Ignatius

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Thanks Ignatious.

 

The point you make about the block in the 335 is a good one - I think it's why I prefered the 330's voice, but glad you say you can still get a nice sound from a 335 acoustically ... the search continues.

 

The 330 had bit too much 'jangle' in it for me (I'm moving from a tele sound, and really have been bugged by it's constant 'twang' so keen to get myself a double humbucker set up - to allow me not only rich blues, but some of those Wolfmother type tones.

 

Given the budget (and the family!) allows me to be only a one-guitar guy at this point, I'm starting to think that a vintage guitar ma not be the best way to go right now, so I'm going to try to get my hands on a number of new, or very near new 335s to see what I think.

 

Perhaps 'they dont make em like they used to' may not apply to me here?

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Hi ,

I owned 4 Gibson guitars : 2 Gibson's with P90's ( a 1969 Es 330 and a 1951 es 175 with a single pick-up )

and 2 Es 335 ( one of the early 70's with a tailpiece and a 1989 Dot reissue ) .

I sold the 1969 Es 330 , and the 2 Es 335 's after buying a 2006 Memphis Block Inlay with Burstbuckers .

In my opinion the new Memphis Block inlay guitar is the best sounding and easy playin' guitar i've owned .

It seems to me you have to go back to the mid or early sixties to find better quality , but for a much higher price ...

I wish i could have compared the Memphis Block inlay with the Nashville '63Historic Block reissue , but that's unpossible here in France .

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Hi ' date='

I owned 4 Gibson guitars : 2 Gibson's with P90's ( a 1969 Es 330 and a 1951 es 175 with a single pick-up )

and 2 Es 335 ( one of the early 70's with a tailpiece and a 1989 Dot reissue ) .

I sold the 1969 Es 330 , and the 2 Es 335 's after buying a 2006 Memphis Block Inlay with Burstbuckers .

In my opinion the new Memphis Block inlay guitar is the best sounding and easy playin' guitar i've owned .

It seems to me you have to go back to the mid or early sixties to find better quality , but for a much higher price ...

I wish i could have compared the Memphis Block inlay with the Nashville '63Historic Block reissue , but that's unpossible here in France .

 

 

[/quote']

 

Hey Tijllijn,.....are you referring to this bad boy???? =P~

 

http://www.sweetwater.com/guitargallery/electric/all/s00188737/

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Hi,

 

I've have a mid 70's ES345 which I really loved to play. It seemed to have a smaller neck than my 2005 ES 335. I like the gold hardware vs. the nickel hardware on my 2005 ES 335 (ebony). One thing to remember about an older ES345 in stereo, you will need a "Y" cord so both pick ups will work. A mono cord will allow only the neck pick up to work. You will also need to play it thru an amplifer that has two seperate channels, not an amp with two inputs. I have a Fender Super Reverb with two seperate channels.

 

I had a friend fix up a cord with a stereo plug, then wired it so it worked with a mono plug for the amp. You do not get the same sound. In fact, it sounds very thin. Even if you take a mono plug and pull it out half-way, so that both pick ups will work, you get a "mid-phase" sound, that is the best way I can explain it.

 

Also, the newer ES 335's have "nickel" hardware, it is wears quickly. In fact, my tuner knobs already feel tarnished, can't clean them. I replaced the solid black speed knobs with the chrome head top hat type. The bring out the knobs against the black of the guitar.

 

I enjoy my ES 335 and play it out. I sort of "retired" my 345, but get it out once in awhile to play it.

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Perhaps 'they dont make em like they used to' may not apply to me here?

 

Hey ToddS--

 

I've heard that very same comment coming from people who have owned and used Gibsons professionally for decades; many of them now say they don't see the value of the vintage market any longer, given that the new guitars from Gibson are so well made.

 

When I see that an ES-335 that is only five or six years old can be sold for as much as 80-90% of the value of a new one, I have to agree: buying new gets you a warranty and a known background to the guitar, and that is worth the difference when the price is so close. And now, when even beat-up '70s ES-335s are selling for more than new ones, well, that says it all: unless you really know vintage guitars and know what you want, it makes sense to buy new.

 

Ignatius

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I know it is a matter of taste, but I have a 1970 ES-330 and I absolutely love the sound of the P90s. The clear tone and the overtones are simply sublime and great for classic rock and blues. And if I want some crunch and distortion, my FX/Amp Simulator can provide that. In fact, I love it so much, that when I realized it was a collector's item, I bought an Epiphone Casino to bring on stage so I don't ding the 330 (I double on sax, flute, wind synthesizer, keyboard synthesizer, guitar, and vocals so there is a lot of instrument switching and opportunities for scratches on stage).

 

I recommend you try the P90 guitar with some FX pedals (I use a Zoom G1X) and re-evaluate. Then, if you still don't like it, at least you gave it the best chance.

 

GuitarCousins2.JPG

 

Notes

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Thanks for the replies and advice guys ... and Notes, absolutely stunning guitar(s)!!

 

Will keep searching and playing ... and researching the p90s.

 

Also going to get my hands on a few brand new 335s so I can compare.

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I'm no expert but I've always been advised to play an electric unplugged to judge its quality. I did this with my Strat (pardon me) and I'm happy I made the right choice. I also attended a clinic with Larry Carlton last year and he made the same point - but what does he know mmm?

 

I play my new 335 Dot unplugged most of the time for practical reasons - kids, dogs. wife etc.. I love the guitar and the fact that it's new and I'm the first of it's owners.

 

So maybe what I'm saying is perhaps try both unplugged and make your choice and then confirm it by plugging in.

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Well, guys, I THINK I have made a decision.

 

The guitar shop I was playing the vintage 335 and 330s at is also an Official Gibson Dealer, and when I was in there said he was about to finalize a new order, and was trying to include a Vintage Sunburst 335 on it, anmd would let me know when it came in.

 

So it arrived a few days ago, and he let me know it was in his office, in the case, waiting for me - only played by him and one of his key sales guys (they weren't 100% happy with the action on it out of the box, so re-strung it and et it up).

 

I went in to have a look today. I took it out of the case. Clean, shinning, stunning. The smell of the fresh laquer is still with it. Almost virginal.

 

It plays beautifully. I'm not 100% on different gibson necks, but would say this is more like a 60s than a 50s neck. I have small hands, so anything too chunky is hard for me, but this had a nice girth to it, but quite shallow still, and easy for me to move around.

 

And tonally, the best I have played (as I have mentioned, I play most of the time unplugged at home, so I spent 20 mins on this guitar before I even plugged it in).

 

BUT - given I have been saving and researching for over 2 years, I felt really really nervous about actually making a decision ... and then I started to find faults.

 

Luckily, there is only one thing bothering me, andI think you will all easily be able to help me put it to rest. In fact the guy who owns the shop is a straight up guy, and says that he will send guitars back to Gibson if he thinks they are not up to scratch, and he definitely thinks this one is a beauty - but as he said to me, in the end, it comes down to personal preference.

 

So, here is my concern.

 

This guitar is a plain top.

 

But, on the left hand side (ie as you look at it in a stand), on the side opposite to the knobs, there is a degree of flaming, that in the right light catches your eye, but in other light cannot be seen. There is also a knot, that looks almost like a waterstain, the size of your thumb nail near the nobs.

 

I started looking at these, and I couldnt stop.

 

Now, I do a bit of woodworking, so I know - woods have grains, they have blemishes - it is a natural product, with natural imperfections.

 

If that is all it is, then I will accept that this is my guitars uniqueness, and most likely embrace it.

 

But, my concern is, what if that is not the case, what if it is indeed human error - something in the finshing process has been done a little differently on the left hand side of the guitar? Maybe it was sanded a little to hard, or not hard enough?

 

I even emailed the guy at the shop, and his reply was:

 

There is absolutely positively guaranteed whatever word you want to use no fault in the finish of this guitar This is a perfectly natural piece of flamed maple. No amount of sanding could create this effect. It all boils down to personal taste therefore all I can say is that as a player this is a lovely example of a Gibson 335, you could look forever and go crazy but at the end of the day you have to trust your own instincts. One word of advice is make up your mind before you go to bed and know that I don't have a problem either way should you change your mind.

 

Seems pretty reasonable to me ... but given I haven't seen a stack of different brand new 335s to compare (Australian guitar shops, like many things here, are just not as expansive as the US so there are never 3 or 4 of the same guitar hanging together) I just wnat to seek some advice from you folk out there who might be able to help.

 

Thanks!!

 

I'm going in tomorrow morning!!!

 

Please give me some advice.

 

Todd

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Thanks, I'm glad I didnt pass on her too - now that I have her home, and my study is rich with the smell of new maple and lacquer!

 

Plus, the feel of the neck is just perfect for my hands, and the tone she has acoustically is better than any ES I have played in Perth (and I have played 10 or 20 over the past few years).

 

Anyhow, in the end, I think it was just the long build up that was making me a little fussier than I normally am (which is fussy to begin with!).

 

Actually, the more I look at her, the more I realise its just a little lack of symmetry that I was worried about, with the maple figure being more noticeable in some lights on the left than on the right. I've taken pics with the flash on, so not the nicest pics, but highlights what I'm talking about:

 

 

DSC_0256.JPG

 

DSC_0258.JPG

 

DSC_0260.JPG

 

DSC_0261.JPG

 

DSC_0264.JPG

 

DSC_0273.JPG

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