In early 2020, Epiphone released their “Inspired by Gibson” range, and it shook up the guitar market in a big way. These new models, including the Epiphone ES-335, were designed and made to look and feel as close to a Gibson as you’ll get without actually buying one.
The lineup started with Les Pauls and SGs, but by November of 2020, Epiphone released the “Inspired by Gibson” ES-335 in a surprise product drop. The ES-335 is such an iconic model, that its release under this lineup was inevitable, but its popularity has caught many by surprise.
We had the pleasure of getting hands on with the Epiphone ES-335 in this KillerGuitarRigs Review. Keep on reading as we find out more about how this classic semi-hollow guitar feels, plays, and sounds.
Who Is This For?
We’d recommend the ES-335 for players of all abilities. It is more expensive than the average beginner guitar, but it’s not one that will need to be replaced as your skills progress. Intermediate guitarists and working professionals alike will find the build quality, playability, and tone more than suitable for their needs, too.
It’s worth nothing, however, that the Epiphone ES-335 is a big guitar, so it may not be appropriate for younger players (kids and smaller players would find the Epiphone ES-339 a better fit).
Appearance / Features / Controls
The model we received to test was, in our opinion, the best looking of all the Epiphone ES-335s. It had a AAA flamed maple top, and was finished in a Raspberry Tea Burst. It’s a visually stunning guitar that turns a lot of heads. If you’re into classic finishes, it’s also available in Vintage Sunburst, and Cherry.
It had a semi-hollow body, with the center block, top, back and sides all being made from maple, and the neck from mahogany. There was gorgeous vintage cream binding on the top and at the back of the body, and the laurel fretboard was fully bound, too. The F holes didn’t have binding, which was a little disappointing, but understandable at the price.
The hardware was all very simple – for tuners, it was equipped with Epiphone Deluxe Kluson style tuning heads, which gave it a great, aged look. It came as standard with a GraphTech Tusq XL nut, which out of the box is one of the best on the market, a great touch on a mid priced guitar.
Further down the guitar was the tune-o-matic bridge, paired with a stop bar tail piece, just as you’d find on the Gibson version of this model.
As for electronics, it had a pair of Alnico Classic Pro pickups, a 3 way selector switch, 2 tone controls, and 2 volume controls. Like all of the Inspired by Gibson models, this ES-335 left the factory with full size CTS pots, an upgrade normally found on much more expensive models, and this was something else we found to be a great touch that made a positive impact on the guitar’s performance.
Despite being a semi hollow guitar, it was similar in weight to a Les Paul. Our test model was just a hair over 9lb, but this makes sense when you consider the overall size coupled with the maple body construction and center block.
Playability was absolutely superb on this guitar. It had Epiphone’s Rounded C profile neck, which we found to be extremely comfortable, and effortlessly playable. It was slim and fast, and we didn’t find the gloss finish on the neck to cause any hang ups whatsoever.
The laurel fretboard was one of the few areas we’d have like to have seen an upgrade on. The color was light, but we suspect it might actually have been a little dry, so it might darken up with an oiling. Despite the aesthetics of the fretboard, it still felt good under the fingers.
It had 22 medium jumbo frets, which we found to be extremely well finished. The edges were smooth and nicely beveled, and even the crowns were reasonably well polished. The bound fretboard edges really felt great, and in fact, we think a lot of people are going to love the feel that this feature provides.
Being semi hollow, it doesn’t perform quite like an acoustic guitar when played unplugged, but it was still more resonant than a solid body would be. For the rest of the test, we plugged in and played through a Boss Katana Head into a Katana 2 x 12” Cabinet.
We found it to be one of the most versatile guitars we’ve had on test in a long time. Of course it does blues, and rock and roll, but its ability to hit the clean tones needed for jazz was incredible, and most impressively, it even handles high gain and heavy distortion like nobody’s business.
In the neck position it was warm and full. The Alnico Classic Pros did a good job of creating some rich blues tones in this setup, especially with the volume rolled back to around 8 and just a hair rolled back off the tone.
In the middle position, with both pickups selected, tones were thick, and we got a surprising amount of growl. This isn’t always the most used position on a HH setup, but we would definitely find ourselves using this setting more if we had more time with the guitar.
Down in the bridge position we think we had the most fun. It was sharp, and crystal clear, while remaining fat, everything you want in a good bridge humbucker. We got some awesome searing lead tones from this setting, especially in the “Brown” voicing on the Katana.
Other Guitars to Consider
The Epiphone ES-335 really does home highly recommended, but there are a ton of other great semi hollow choices in its price range – here are a couple of our favorites for you to consider if you haven’t quite made up your mind.
As we mentioned, the ES-335 is a big old guitar, and as such might be a little unwieldy for some players. If you’re sold on the style and tones of the 335, but you’re looking for something smaller and easier to handle, the Epiphone ES-339 is the way to go. It offers practically identical specs in everything from wood selection to electronics, but in a more compact package (and more affordable than the Gibson ES-339 of course).
Another go to brand when it comes to versatile semi hollow models is Gretsch. The Gretsch G2622T Streamliner Center Block is one of the coolest looking guitars in its segment, with a range of awesome colors, high quality fit and finish, and searing rock and roll tones to top it off. This model in particular is equipped with a bigsby trem system, and a pair of hot Broad’Tron pickups.
Final Thoughts on the Epiphone ES-335
The Epiphone ES-335 is a stunning guitar that offers fantastic looks, top build quality, and awesome tones at a seriously attainable price. It’s a big upgrade from the already excellent Epiphone Dot, and provides a genuine alternative for those who would love a Gibson ES-335, but can’t necessarily part with over $2700 to get one.If you happen to see one for sale, we highly recommend snapping it up as soon as possible, as they tend to sell out almost as quickly as they come in, and have done since they launched – as good a sign as any that these really are special guitars.