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Wildkat or ES-339?


ChrisR

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Hi Everyone,

 

I'm new here. I have never owned a Epiphone. I once owned a Gibson LP Custom that I purchased new in 1988. It was terrible. Fit and finish was bad, high fret(s) etc. that really made so disgruntled, I traded it in on a set of drums.

 

I have been playing off and on for over 30 years. Never play live for anyone. This is for my enjoyment. Growing up in the 80's, I used to be heavy into bands like Dokken. I have always been a fan of Hendrix and SRV. Now that I'm in my mid 40's, I'm mellowing out and getting back to my roots and enjoying blues and maybe some rockabilly.

 

I currently have a Gretsch G5135PS that is a sweet guitar. (I hate the stupid stripes) The guitar is slick and plays very, very well. Top notch quality too. My 15yo son wants it and I'm going to give it to him for Christmas. That means I need to find a replacement. I don't have a $700 budget this time either. I'm leary about an Epiphone after my Gibson experience. And, I have heard a lot of negatives about spotty quality on Epi's.

 

There's only one dealer near me and he doesn't have a Wildkat or 339. I did get to play a Wildkat earlier this year that someone had traded in on a Gretsch. I was impressed with it at the time.

 

For blues, rockabilly and blues rock, which guitar holds it own the best? Which is the best bang for the buck? I really like the looks of the Black Royale in both versions, too. I would love to have a Swingster but they are out of my budget. BTW, I play through a VHT Special 6 Ultra.

 

Thanks in advance for all of your wisdom and willingness to share.

 

Chris

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both are essentially very similar guitars...both semi hollow body electric, both set neck, both 24.75 scale length, both bodies are larger then a les paul and smaller than a ES335.

 

and the main differences are are the pickups and the Kat has a bigsby style vibrato tail but the 339 has a fixed tail. their maybe other more subtle differences like nut width, neck thickness, and build materials.

 

I think essentially the wildkat is geared more towards rockabilly and the es339 is more geared towards rock and blues players... but hey there are no rules, I would happily play punk or metal on a Kat or french coffee house Jazz on a superstrat.

 

You simply have to try them out to see what feels and sounds right to you...which I know is a challenge because it's getting more and more difficult to find stores that stock gibby and epi products.

 

perhaps some folks could chip in and comment on neck profiles.

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the Wildkat is a curved out solidbody with a flat top

wheras the ES339 is a true semi-hollow with a arched top

 

 

Every Wildkat I've seen (including my own) has an arched top. It is much more versatile than just for rockabilly --- I'm not a rockabilly player, but I like the 'Kat for its tonal qualities that I find work really well for many other styles. Its clean tones are brighter and crisper than humbuckers, while "meatier" than Fender tones, and when overdriven its tones have more snarl and grit. I use mine for R&B, reggae, soul and funk, as well as for raw, gritty rock and blues tones.

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As explained above, the only major difference is the pickups. The 339 has humbuckers, and the Wildkat has p90s. I don't have a 339, but I do have a Dot (slightly larger version of a 339) - it feels similar to play to my Kat (though the body is bigger obviously) but the main difference is the sound of the pickups. Personally I prefer the p90s, although the humbuckers are maybe more versatile for jamming. The two guitars you're looking at a very similar, and only you can judge which tones you like best. The other considerations could be price and aesthetics I suppose, but that's it. You'd need to try them both, preferably through the same amp with the same settings.

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The problem is that there is only 1 dealer within 4 hours of me. And they don't have either. It looks like mail order or nothing!

 

Chris

 

As explained above, the only major difference is the pickups. The 339 has humbuckers, and the Wildkat has p90s. I don't have a 339, but I do have a Dot (slightly larger version of a 339) - it feels similar to play to my Kat (though the body is bigger obviously) but the main difference is the sound of the pickups. Personally I prefer the p90s, although the humbuckers are maybe more versatile for jamming. The two guitars you're looking at a very similar, and only you can judge which tones you like best. The other considerations could be price and aesthetics I suppose, but that's it. You'd need to try them both, preferably through the same amp with the same settings.

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I guess that on-line reviews are your best friend for now then. Make sure you buy from some one with a decent returns policy just in case. And remember online bought guitars don't get a set up set up at the store, so be prepared to take it to a tech' or to do your own set up.

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In that (unfortunate) case, the only way to go about it would be to try and listen to as many Epi p90 demos and as many Epi humbucker demos on youtube as you can and see how you find them. That's really not ideal because they'll be using different amps, different recording equipment etc, but you might be able to get an idea.

 

You could also weigh up the other factors eg aesthetics. Depending on where you are, there may be limited finishes available in each guitar - would that bother you? Neither the 339 nor the Wildkat are particularly popular guitars (compared to LPs, Dots etc) so either one will be a little out of the ordinary, but the Wildkat look is the more 'unusual' since the 339 is just a smaller version of the Dot, which is very popular and well known (not that that's a bad thing).

 

And how do you feel about a Bigsby? I don't use mine very often, but when I do use it I really enjoy it, and it does give you extra tools in your kit.

 

It could be said that the Wildkat has more jazz ability with the p90s, and the 339 has more of a leaning to rock and blues with the humbuckers, but there really isn't much in that (in my opinion). I use my Wildkat more for blues than anything else.

 

You mentioned bang-for-your-buck too. That really depends on prices in your area. Where I am the 339 is a little cheaper, but that's not the case in many places. Official Gibson prices I think has the Epi 339 Pro at the same rrp as the Wildkat. In that case, you'd have to say that with the coil tapping etc in the Pro, it's a better buy (as much as I personally prefer the Wildkat).

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As a point of info concerning your problem of no dealers close by and having to deal with mail. My experience with Sweetwater have been nothing but good. They do an extensive inspection on every Guitar before shipping http://www.sweetwate...re/buy_guitars/ check it out. If you like PM me an I can give you Tel # Ext # and name of one of their sales people.Return policy is very accommodating,take a look and form your own opinion.

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I have both and I can tell that they are both very nice guitars. While they are indeed very similar, they are also very distinctly different in sound and playability - both to the good.

 

From the Wildkat, I get a raspy raw kinda sound with a certain degree of "honk." While the neck is listed as slim taper (Gibson 60's) it is actually round and fat but not as much as the Gibson 50's profiles. For me, this is comfortable to play where I can't even begin to play the Gibson 50's.

 

My 339 came with Alnico Classic Pups which I didn't like at all, they were muddy as all get out. So I replaced them with Seymour Duncan P-Rails; the single coils are a bit mild but the it makes a great Humbucker. I get a real good clean crisp brighty sound from this guitar.

 

I love both of these guitars and IMO, you can't go wrong with either one. Your playing style and sound perferences may dictate the choice. But also IMO, either can do most of what the other does. I guess maybe tremolo or no tremolo? Humbucker or P-93?

 

Another recommendation, if you can swing it, get both! Both of them had a $100 price drop awhile back. Not sure if that is still in effect though.

 

Good luck!

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Thanks for the feedback. I did get to play a used Wildkat a few months ago at the local gretsch dealer. It wasn't bad but I had my heart set on a Gretsch Corvette. The Vette's neck isn't super thin, very similar to the Wildkat. I really like the looks of the Royale versions in Black. I like the Gretsch G5120 and G5122DC, so I'm familiar with what a 339 body should feel like though I think the 339 is a little smaller. In my mind, I would like to purchase a guitar that has a lot of acoustic character. Something that resonates in hand more. I know neither are jazz boxes. The G5135PS has great tone but is dead in the hands, if you know what I mean.

 

Is the Pelham Blue a stain or paint? My budget is tight, so I'm thinking about Zzounds since they have a 4 pay plan. The local Gretsch offered me my choice of G5120 or G5122 for $700 out the door, no case and I could lay away for up to 6 months. The Gretsch Electromatics are very nice and high quality but I could get 2 WildKats for that! Have any of you found that dealers, local or online will move off the advertised standard price?

 

Thanks,

 

Chris

 

I have both and I can tell that they are both very nice guitars. While they are indeed very similar, they are also very distinctly different in sound and playability - both to the good.

 

From the Wildkat, I get a raspy raw kinda sound with a certain degree of "honk." While the neck is listed as slim taper (Gibson 60's) it is actually round and fat but not as much as the Gibson 50's profiles. For me, this is comfortable to play where I can't even begin to play the Gibson 50's.

 

My 339 came with Alnico Classic Pups which I didn't like at all, they were muddy as all get out. So I replaced them with Seymour Duncan P-Rails; the single coils are a bit mild but the it makes a great Humbucker. I get a real good clean crisp brighty sound from this guitar.

 

I love both of these guitars and IMO, you can't go wrong with either one. Your playing style and sound perferences may dictate the choice. But also IMO, either can do most of what the other does. I guess maybe tremolo or no tremolo? Humbucker or P-93?

 

Another recommendation, if you can swing it, get both! Both of them had a $100 price drop awhile back. Not sure if that is still in effect though.

 

Good luck!

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Have any of you found that dealers, local or online will move off the advertised standard price?

Yes yes yes! Everything is negotiable. In Aus the rrp for the Wildkat is $999 (which is absolutely ridiculous). I paid nowhere near that. I shopped around and every dealer I spoke to was happy to 'do a deal' with reduced price, case, extra strings, set up etc etc. Shop around, it's well worth it.

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My experience is with the Gibson ES-339, not the Epi, but I do have a Wildkat, too. If I were to put them on a scale with a Casino on one side, and a Les Paul on the other, the Wilkat would lean toward the Casino, and the 339 toward the LP (though it's airy-er). I know that's kind of a generic comment to make, based on their pick ups, but I say it as the owner of various Gibson and Epiphone Les Pauls, ES-335's, 339's, and Epi Casinos, etc.

 

I haven't played the Epi version of the ES-339, so can't comment on its quality, but I can tell you that Wildkats (the Korean ones, at least) are really well-made and playing guitars for the money.

 

Good luck!

 

Red 333

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I have never played a Wildkat, but bought an ES-339 pro sight unseen after playing an Es-339 Ultra at GC. Got it for $340 after a 15% coupon. The guitar looks awesome and plays really well. I really like the humbuckers with coil tapping for versatility. Also like the neck on it. Most LP necks I have tried I have not liked.

 

Only problem I had were frets aren't super even so you cant go real low on the action. I didnt want to spend additional $100 for a fret level. Love the sound of it through my modeler of a JCM800 and tube screamer. If it was stolen, I would get another one.

 

-Chris

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I got in touch with the shop with the Sheraton. They said it was in Level 1 condition and had the HSC. They want $425. I'm going to go take a look at it on Saturday. Anything I should look out for on this model? Is $425 with case a fair price? When was the last time the white option was offered?

 

Chris

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That Sheraton looks like it has a Gibson TRC, which, if I recall correctly, makes it an older model, probably made in Korea. (Don't take my word as gospel, there are others around here who can tell you for sure.)

 

If that IS correct, however, that makes it somewhat more desirable - IF what it is you desire is a Sheraton.

 

Lot of "if's" in there.

 

 

Make sure you play it before you make up your mind.

 

 

For what it's worth, I own a WildKat and think it's great (2007, MIK). Neck pup is a little dark, I tend to use the middle position the most. The neck profile is fairly beefy, which I like. Can't compare it to the -339, though, as I've never touched one.

 

 

Let us know how this all ends~

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My experience is with the Gibson ES-339, not the Epi, but I do have a Wildkat, too. If I were to put them on a scale with a Casino on one side, and a Les Paul on the other, the Wilkat would lean toward the Casino, and the 339 toward the LP (though it's airy-er). I know that's kind of a generic comment to make, based on their pick ups, but I say it as the owner of various Gibson and Epiphone Les Pauls, ES-335's, 339's, and Epi Casinos, etc.

 

I haven't played the Epi version of the ES-339, so can't comment on its quality, but I can tell you that Wildkats (the Korean ones, at least) are really well-made and playing guitars for the money.

 

Good luck!

 

Red 333

+1. I also own a Gibby 339, Wildkat, Gibby LP and Elitist Casino and I understand exactly what Red's saying. FWIW, I go to the EC, WK and LP before I head for the 339. YMMV. And just to add, the bang for the buck on the Wildkat just can't be beat IMHO.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I visited the local Epi dealer Friday afternoon. They had a few Dots and a Es-175. The quality on the Dots were consistently terrible. The white Dot Royale was disappointing at best. The sparkle was inconsistent across the face. There was no paint on the inside edges of the f-holes. Just sticky white primer and it stood out badly. There were places where the finish felt soft. I did feel that the gold flake edging was well done. The jack was ready to fall into the body too. It was obvious the dealer unboxed it and threw it up on the wall because the action was poor too.

 

The es175 was much better. I didn't like the neck but finish quality was better.

 

All n all, a very disappointing experience. I was surprised that the shop didn't stock the Wildkat. They would only order them. Said they didn't sell. So, now I'm real wary about ordering a Wildkat.

 

Chris

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Well, what you say seems real to me. There is variety with the Dots (my older Korean one is better built that the last few Chinese ones I've played) and there's no shame in walking away from any guitar that doesn't cut it. As well as that, the Artcore series are great guitars, and (at least from the couple I've seen in the flesh) they seem to have consistent build quality.

 

On the other hand, the Wildkats are just great. I've only ever played two of them - one that I originally saw and played in a store when I was deciding what I wanted, and the other being the one I bought after I decided on the Wildkat. I had mine shipped to a closer store of the same chain so that I could walk away if it was no good (I'm no risk-taker when it comes to guitars). So from my experience, every single Wildkat I've played has been great! Even on mine though I have to admit it wasn't 100% when I went to pick it up. The binding on one side of the neck, up around the 12th fret, was rough, and some of the wiring had come loose and was visible through one of the f-holes. Both issues were easily fixed, fortunately (or I would have walked away).

 

The Wildkat is a special guitar (in my view), I just love them. I had never appreciated p90s before the Wildkat, but now I much prefer them over (Epi) humbuckers, and I never thought I'd say that. If there's any way you can check one in the flesh, try and do it. At the very least it'll help you firm up your decision, even if you ended up going for an Artcore. If you didn't try a Wildkat, you'd never know, and that could haunt you!

 

On the other hand, I really don't think anyone could regret buying an Artcore, they are lovely (though a different beast altogether).

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I think on Ibanez vs. Epi it's not entirely the same sorta thing. I had a choice between the ibanez version of the Dot or the Dot. The Ibanez was prettier in most ways, but somehow... didn't feel right. Don't ask why. More "toy like?" I dunno.

 

All kidding aside, though, I look at what we have today and compare to when I started playing. A $300 Wildcat? Good grief, that'd be the equivalent of less than $100 in the '60s? No way for that quality at that price then.

 

m

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Yep, that's a quandry. On the other hand, $300 is amazingly cheap for a Wildkat - they're three times that here in Aus. Much less of a risk for $300...

 

Have you checked what the returns policy is given there's no close dealer? How much would freight cost for a return? And what are the warranty conditions regarding paying for the freight?

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I got to thinking that everyone will think I'm trolling but this was an honest description. I have looked at 2 Ibanez Artcores in the same price range and they were clearly better built.

 

I really had my heart set on an Epi too.

 

Chris

I am in a similar quandary. I've been gassing for a Joe Pass for quite some time--hoping to find a used one ~$350--that used to happen not too long ago! Methinks those days are (mostly) gone! Meanwhile, Ibanez comes out with their AF55, a bargain model w/"worn" finish & uncovered pups. To me, sounds and feels (neck) better than other Ibbies I've played--and they're going new for, like, $329! And now all this talk of $300. Wildkats make me want to check them out further (some well-stocked Epi dealers in my area). What to do, what to do!

Well, plenty of advice here on the JP and the 'Kat. Anyone else here see these Ib. 55's?

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On that White Sheraton, those aren't stock pickups either...They look like "Filter-Trons"...I don't know if they're Gretcsh's or knock-offs (If they're TV Jones, they're probably worth close to what the rest of the guitar is worth money wise) but they're definitely not Gibson/Epiphone humbuckers.

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