The ES-335. The classic. The legend.
From the soul-busting blues licks of B.B. King to the grunge-rock tones of Dave Grohl and everywhere in between, the ES-335 can be found in just about every genre and style of music spanning the last 6 decades.
This line of ES-335 guitars from Epiphone replaces the old Epiphone Dot series of guitars, making some much-needed improvements that put it more in line with the Gibson version ES-335. The looks, sounds, and playability have all been kicked up a notch to get it as close to the Gibson as possible.
A few years back, if you wanted an ES-335 to add to your stable of guitars it would have been a costly proposition, but at this point it’s almost a no-brainer to pick this guitar up with all the value for money Epiphone has packed into it.
In this review we’ll do a deep dive into the Epiphone ES-335 – including the specs, hardware, sound, and playability. We’ll also do a comparison of the Epiphone and Gibson versions of the ES-335 so you can make the best decision and pick up the right axe for you.
About Epiphone Guitars
Although today Epiphone is largely known as producing great-sounding, more budget-friendly alternatives to Gibson models, the company has a unique story of its own.
The Epiphone story started all the way back in 1873, when the company was first founded in Turkey and began manufacturing fiddles and lutes. The company produced a variety of stringed instruments throughout the early 1900s, even taking the name ‘The Epiphone Banjo Company’ at one point.
Fast forward to 1928, when the company started manufacturing archtop guitars, and was in quite a rivalry with Gibson at the time to see who would come out on top with the most innovative new guitars.
In the end, Gibson’s parent company bought Epiphone which has led to them being what they are today – the only company to officially manufacture Gibson-licensed products.
Most of the Epiphone guitars that are Epiphone-only and not just budget friendly versions of Gibsons mainly fall into the hollow/semi-hollowbody category. The most famous and widely recognized of these being the Casino, played by the likes of George Harrison and John Lennon, and the Sheraton played by Noel Gallagher.
With this ES-335, you’re getting Epiphone’s decades of experience in making hollow and semi-hollowbody guitars, backed by Gibson’s quality control and electronics. It’s a win-win.
Epiphone ES-335 Review Highlights:
From its well-defined pickups to its easy playability the ES-335 is a great all-around guitar.
Let’s look at a few things that really impressed us about this guitar, and a few things we still found to be lacking.
What We Liked
- All of the updated Epiphone styling: headstock, tuners, binding, pickguard, etc.
- The Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers have a great vintage vibe
- Extraordinary versatility
- Super comfortable C shaped neck
What We Didn’t Like
- Limited range of finish options
- Craftsmanship is a bit off in some places
- Will need a set-up out of the box (common at this price point)
Epiphone ES-335 Review: Features & Specifications
- Layered maple top, back,sides, and tone block create amazing sustain and tone
- Rounded “C” neck profile for playability and comfort
- 12-inch-radius Indian laurel fingerboard
- Fingerboard binding that wasn’t present on previous Epiphone models
- Updated Epiphone headstock finally looks good!
- Epiphone deluxe tuners provide more tuning stability than previous models
Epiphone ES-335 Review: Our Insights
Alright, we told you that Epiphone took their style and electronics game to the next level. Now for the most important part: How does it play? How does it sound?
Let’s dive in and break down some of the finer details of this Epiphone ES-335.
One of the big complaints we had with Epiphone guitars in the past was with the build quality. From a distance they would look strikingly similar to the Gibson, but once up-close you could immediately spot why they were so much cheaper.
This was a big problem, in particular, with the Epiphone Dot series of guitars that this ES-335 replaces.
No binding, cheap nut and tailpiece, poor quality tuners, the list goes on. The Dot was frankly just not an enjoyable guitar to play.
Thankfully, Epiphone has fixed all of that with this ES-335 line and the difference is striking.
Picking up the Epiphone ES-335 really does feel like picking up a Gibson now, thanks in large part to the aforementioned changes in build quality that Epiphone is paying more attention to now.
Small changes like fret binding and higher quality tuners, tailpieces, and nuts are such a welcome change and really do make a world of difference in how you feel and how you’re inspired when you pick up the guitar. Which as we as guitarists all know is one of the most important aspects of choosing a new axe.
While not quite on par with the tone woods you’d get on the Gibson model, the Epiphone series does not disappoint for a guitar in this price range.
In the body you still get a maple top, back, and sides complete with a solid maple tone block that brings the sustain and tone the ES-335 is known for.
You also get the same mahogany neck that is found on the Gibson model.
On the fingerboard you’ll find Indian laurel, which many may argue does not sound as rich and harmonic as the rosewood that you would get on the Gibson line.
While that may be the case, Indian laurel is a great tone wood in its own right, and only true tone purists will be able to pick out the differences between the two woods.
Hardware and Electronics
While the tone woods used on the Epiphone share a lot of similarities with the Gibson model, that is not quite the case with some of the hardware and electronics. However, there are some welcome additions to this Epiphone ES-335 that you would not have found on previous Epiphone models.
Starting with the pickups, the Epiphone ES-335 uses Epiphone-designed Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers. These humbuckers give you a wide array of vintage tones that stay true to the original ES-335 tone that any player buying one of these guitars craves.
Some new additions in the hardware department include a Graph Tech NuBone nut and solid Epiphone Deluxe tuners. These bring a new level of tuning stability that was seriously lacking on previous Epiphone models.
Overall, we were very impressed with the hardware and electronic choices on the Epiphone ES-335. Guitars at this price point don’t always include such choices.
Coming in at a few thousand $$ cheaper than the Gibson, you may be worried that the tones aren’t up to par, right? Surely a guitar in this price range can’t sound the same … right?
Beginning with the guitar unplugged and strumming some chords gives you the wonderful, full, rich sounds that hollow and semi-hollow bodies are known for. We’re off to a great start.
Plugging in and throwing the selector into the neck position gives you a mellow tone that’s well-rounded and doesn’t bite too much. In this position with a bit of drive you can get the beautiful thick and oozy blues tones the ES-335 is known for.
Move into the bridge and you’ll find a biting, vintage tone with a touch of twang to balance out its aggressive bite. Add some gain or fuzz and you can pull some wonderful-sounding distorted lead tones in the neck pickup.
Move the selector switch to the middle setting and you’ll find the magic that really makes the ES-335 shine. In this position you can get funky tones that have a more compressed response. The middle is where you can get all of your great rhythm tones and even lead tones with the gain on.
Shimmering clean jazz tones, lightly overdriven blues, higher-gain blues, fuzz tones, high gain power chording – there truly seems to be nothing this guitar can’t handle.
One issue that comes up frequently with Epiphone guitars is the playability. They often have the same looks and similar-ish electronics as the Gibson, but when you get it in your hands it just doesn’t inspire you like a finely-crafted Gibson can.
We’re here to tell you that is NOT the case with this ES-335.
Pick this guitar up and you can’t tell you’re holding an instrument well under the $1,000 mark.
The weight distribution (also a problem on some Epiphone models) is perfect. The vintage “C” shaped neck is a delight to play on, and the overall fit and finish are wonderful.
As we’ve described, the new generation Epiphone guitars are just getting better and better. The styling, craftsmanship, looks, and tones have come so far in the last several years that these guitars are just an incredible value for the $$ you’re spending.
Add on to that this particular ES-335’s well-rounded gallery of tones that can be pulled out of it, it really is a wonder what Epiphone has been able to do with this guitar while keeping it at this price point.
For the vast majority of players out there, we honestly just can’t think of many compelling reasons to go for a Gibson over the Epiphone at this point.
Epiphone ES-335 Review: Buying Experience
The Epiphone ES-335 can be purchased in a variety of in-person shops and online stores, and of course your personal buying experience will be dependent upon which store you end up buying your guitar from.
For maximum convenience with no hassle buying, we at Guitar Advise recommend buying your guitar directly through Sweetwater.
The details below on shipping and return policy are all the case when buying through Sweetwater directly.
All guitars from Sweetwater ship for free following a thorough 55-point inspection.
Sweetwater is not only known for their great customer service, but also their attention to detail when it comes to shipping products like guitars and other gear you may need.
One important thing to note is that this guitar will ship only in the Epiphone cardboard box, so if you’re worried about protecting the guitar on its way to your door you can opt to buy a case through Sweetwater, and they will place the guitar in the case for you before it ships. (Note: The hard shell case is HIGHLY recommended, protect your investment!)
After purchasing and receiving your new Epiphone ES-335, you can register your instrument online through the company’s website.
After registering, you’re able to take advantage of the Epiphone lifetime warranty for your instrument. (subject to come conditions of course – check the official warranty after registering for up-to-date information)
If there is any sort of manufacturing defect or issue that is caused by defective materials there is no need to worry. Epiphone will replace the defective part, or even the entire guitar if deemed necessary, at no cost to you.
What happens if it turns out that the Epiphone ES-335 isn’t for you? We don’t think that’ll be the case, but in case it’s not the one for you, Sweetwater offers a great, “no hassle” return policy.
When buying online from Sweetwater you have 30 days to test out your new guitar and send it back with no questions asked, as long as it’s still in the same condition as it was when you received it.
If you want a refund, Sweetwater will deduct the actual amount to ship it back to them from that refund.
Epiphone ES-335 vs Gibson ES-335
So at this point you may be wondering – why would I fork out $2,000 more to get the Gibson version when the Epiphone seems like such a great deal?
Let’s take a quick look at how this Epiphone ES-335 stacks up against the Gibson version to see where the stark difference in price comes from.
The Gibson comes with Burstbucker 1 & 2 humbuckers, as compared to the Epiphone’s cheaper Alnico Classic humbuckers. While not only having a significant difference in tone, everything on the Gibson is connected up with higher-grade electronics and pots.
The Gibson is fitted with Grover Rotomatic tuners, among the highest-quality tuners you can get on a guitar. While it may seem like a small issue, the Grovers do hold their tune much better than the Wilkinson Vintage classic units that come on the Epiphone ES-335.
Additionally, the nut, bridge, and tailpiece are all higher-quality (and more expensive) on the Gibson model as compared to the Epiphone.
Gibson guitars get more individual attention paid to them in manufacturing – that’s just a fact. Because of this, a lot more attention to detail goes into Gibson’s, so there tend to be fewer blemishes coming out of production.
They’re also set up much better out of the box, as there has been someone paying attention to every detail in the factory. This is apparent in the feel of the frets, binding on the neck, overall setup, etc.
Epiphones will occasionally have binding issues, fret issues, and other small defects because they are being mass-produced and nobody is checking on each one as they come out.
Still as always, we recommend getting your guitar set up by a professional to make sure it fits your needs.
Here is where a big part of the Gibson’s price tag comes from – the nitrocellulose finish and pearloid inlays.
Giving a guitar a nitrocellulose finish is a time and labor-intensive process, and as such that cost gets passed on to you as the buyer.
Same with the inlays. While the Epiphone gets the standard dot inlays, the Gibsons get pearloid inlays which are more costly.
So with the Epiphone you get slightly lower quality tuners and hardware (that still work just fine), a finish that is not nitrocellulose (but still looks great), and cheaper pickups (that still give you the tones you want).
While the Gibson is certainly higher quality, it does become hard to justify the high price tag for the majority of players out there.
Should You Buy the Epiphone ES-335?
The answer is a resounding YES from us. The looks, tones, and feel – this guitar has it all at a price point everyone can handle.
You might want to stay away from the ES-335 if you’re primarily a metal/shred player and need a guitar that can handle higher-gain playing with a fast neck.
Epiphone ES-335 Alternatives
Maybe you’re thinking, “Hmmm… the ES-335 sounds great, but what else could I get that’s similar and might fit me better?”
Glad you asked!
Let’s take a look at a few similar offerings out there.
Epiphone ES-335 vs Epiphone ES-339
Coming in at a slightly lower price point is the Epiphone ES-339.
These two guitars look almost identical at a glance, and have the same pickups and most of the same hardware choices, but there are a few differences to note.
The 339’s body is two inches smaller. (the ES-335 measures 16 inches across while the ES-339 measures 14 inches)
In addition to the smaller body of the ES-339, a few differences between the two models include vintage Kluson-style Epiphone Deluxe tuners on the ES-335 while the ES-339 has Grover Rotomatic tuners.
A few differences on the body include a top-mounted output jack on the ES-335 while the ES-339’s jack is side-mounted; and an adjustable pickguard mounting bracket on the ES-335 while the ES-339 features an L-shaped bracket.
Also, the ES-335 is only available with a Cherry or Vintage Sunburst finish, while the ES-339 provides both of those plus Pelham Blue or Natural options.
Epiphone ES-335 vs. Epiphone Sheraton II Pro
Coming in just a touch more expensive than the ES-335 is the Epiphone Sheraton II Pro.
Starting with the looks, the Sheraton II pro is much more striking than the ES-335. It features unique fret and headstock inlays, and gold hardware that will really turn heads.
Tone wise, the Sheraton II pro has some tricks up its sleeve that the ES-335 doesn’t.
The Sheraton gets Epiphone’s Probucker humbuckers, as compared to the Alnico Classic Pros on the 335. The Probuckers have a hotter, more vintage sound, and are incredibly sonically diverse.
The Sheraton also gets a coil tap, an option that the ES-335 doesn’t get.
The tonewoods used are mostly the same on the two guitars, except the rosewood fingerboard on the Sheraton, compared to the Indian laurel on the ES-335.
Overall, the Sheraton II Pro gets you a lot of extra features for only a bit of extra cash invested, while also giving you the great semi-hollow body tones that the ES-335 delivers.
Epiphone ES-335 vs Gretsch G2622 Streamliner
Coming in at a price point just a tad under the Epiphone ES-335 is the G2622 Streamliner from Gretsch.
These two guitars are both made from maple – with the exception being that the center block on the Gretsch is made from spruce instead of maple like on the ES-335. The spruce center block gives the Gretsch a snappier tone.
The necks of these two guitars are also quite different. While the Epiphone ES-335 has the rounded “C” shaped neck, the Gretsch comes with a “U” shaped neck. Whether that is a plus or minus is up to you and how you feel with your hands on the neck.
Finally, the Gretsch has more tonal control with the way its volume and tone knobs are wired. Each pickup gets its own separate volume knob, and a master tone knob lets you dial tones in even further. This gives the Gretsch a slight edge over the Epiphone from a versatility perspective.
The Bottom Line
The Epiphone ES-335 gives you wonderful semi-hollow body tone and looks at a killer price point. For thousands less than the Gibson version you get:
- Alnico Classic Pro pickups for a great vintage sound
- A well-rounded, versatile instrument that can handle any genre you throw at it
- Higher-quality craftsmanship than the Epiphone has ever offered before
If you’re in the market for a semi-hollow body axe, the Epiphone ES-335 might just be perfect for you.