Finding a good, reliable and affordable semi-hollow body guitar seems like a real challenge, but I think I found “the one” – Epiphone ES-335! I recently added it to my collection and it quickly became one of my absolute favorites.
I think that ES-335 by Epiphone is an incredibly well-made guitar. It has everything – the looks, the feel and the sound. And I’d actually say that the difference between this model and the way more expensive Gibson isn’t that huge. So overpaying just to get the Gibson logo on the headstock isn’t worth it.
I’ll try to make this review as unbiased as possible, but you have to be aware that I’m a big fan of that guitar. It’s not perfect though – I’ll cover the disadvantages too. So grab yourself a cup of coffee (or whatever you like to drink) and find out why I think that this guitar is so good.
About My Epiphone ES-335
As you can see on the photos, it’s a truly beautiful guitar. That cherry red finish looks awesome in real life! I found it on the second-hand market and I just had to buy it.
The fact that it was slightly modified (the stock neck pickup was replaced with the Seymour Duncan humbucker) makes it even better.
I adore how it sounds with overdrive, but I also have to say that the clean tones with that axe are awesome as well. They’re warm and balanced at the same time, so they’re ideal for jazz and blues.
The Newest ES-335 (Inspired By Gibson)
There are A LOT of different ES-335 models out there, so it’s important to know which one you’re getting.
The old Epiphone Dot is a very popular one, but it was discontinued in 2019 and it was replaced by Epiphone ‘Inspired By Gibson’ ES-335.
You can still find the older models on the second-hand market, but today we’re going to focus mostly on the newest one, as it’s the only brand new 335 that you can get in music stores.
Body & Neck
The guitar features a maple body and a mahogany neck with an Indian Laurel fretboard. Some people think that semi-hollow guitars are lightweight, but my model is actually quite heavy. And for me, that’s a plus!
I also have to mention that the ES-335 has a very nice neck shape – it’s the rounded C profile. It makes bending very easy and it’s great for players with larger hands and longer fingers. But even if you have small hands, you’ll find it comfortable too.
The Inspired by Gibson ES-335 has a LockTone Tune-o-matic bridge which offers a fantastic tuning stability. The Epiphone Deluxe machine heads aren’t ideal, but they work very well and they do not need to be replaced.
Generally, the hardware won’t cause you any trouble. Some guitarists may prefer to replace these tuners with some vintage gibson machine heads, but let’s be honest, is it really that necessary? Probably not.
Epiphone decided to equip their newest model with the Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers which sound awesome! Maybe not as full and warm as the ones used in Gibson, but you can’t say that they sound bad.
And since it’s a classic ES-335, it also has four controls – two for each pickup. It’s awesome that you can control the tone and volume of each humbucker, because it really increases the overall versatility of that axe. Personally, I love that!
I know that a lot of people buy Epiphones and then they immediately replace the pickups, but in my opinion it won’t be necessary in this case. The stock ones sound good too, so I’m sure that the vast majority of players won’t even consider that.
When it comes to the build quality, you don’t have to worry about it too much – it’s very unlikely that you’ll experience any factory flaws. Generally, ES-335 from the newest series feature really good factory setups.
And it seems that most of people who bought this guitar think the same as me. I was looking for some bad reviews of the build quality of that axe and I simply couldn’t find it. Trust me, if there would be something wrong with that, the internet would be full of angry customers with bad reviews.
That being said, it’s not impossible – there’s always a risk that you’ll get a problematic axe. But most likely it won’t happen anyway.
I took some time and I recorded a full video review of that guitar for you, so if you have a few spare minutes, I encourage you to check out the video below.
Why I Love My ES-335?
The reasons why I love this guitar are pretty clear:
- awesome tone (ideal for jazz, blues and rock)
- stunning look (everyone I meet says that they love that red finish)
- very comfortable neck (it feels good and it makes you want to play more)
- low price in comparison to Gibson (who doesn’t want to save up a bit of money?)
- you can practice on it even when it’s unplugged (that saves a lot of effort)
So honestly, it’s difficult not to fall in love with that guitar. I also like the fact that bodies of these models are large, so they’re significantly bigger than a regular Stratocaster or Tele for example. I don’t really know how to explain it – you just feel that you’re holding something cool.
I’m sure that anyone who’s looking for a versatile, beautiful and comfortable semi-hollow body guitar will be very happy after getting this Epiphone.
I know what you’re thinking – where’s the catch? How is it even possible that this axe offers such a good quality? Is there something wrong with the setup?
Obviously, if you’re getting your ES-335 from the second-hand market, there’s a high chance that it won’t have any setup issues (most likely the previous owner already sorted it all out).
As far as I’m aware, the factory setups of brand new Inspired by Gibson 335s tend to be really good, so you shouldn’t worry about it. But there’s one thing that you have to be aware of – this guitar usually comes without a gig bag.
Gibsons usually come with hardshell cases and that’s totally fair – when you pay a few thousand of dollars, you expect a high quality case as well. But Epiphone guitars come with no cases at all, which can be annoying.
In my opinion, it’s not a huge problem, but you just have to be aware that if you decide to get this affordable axe, you’ll have to spend some extra money to get a case. And honestly, don’t buy the cheapest gig bag out there – spending a bit more to get a quality gig bag is a very good idea.
So funny enough, although it’s a red guitar, it doesn’t have any major red flags. It may be hard to believe, but it’s true!
Who Is It For?
There are a lot of guitarists who will benefit from getting this axe. I think that it will work particularly well for:
- amateurs who’re looking for a high quality guitar to practice with
- a bit more experienced players who are tired of playing on budget guitars
- intermediate guitarists who play live (it will work well for both solo artists and guitarists who play in bands)
- all lovers of jazz, blues and rock music
- anyone who’s looking for a superb semi-hollow body guitar!
So honestly, there are no limits when it comes to ES-335. It doesn’t really matter whether you like clean jazzy tones or a bit more distorted sounds – the 335 will be perfect for that.
It is also appealing for all-level players, so your experience doesn’t matter either. You can be a complete guitar noob or a professional player and you’ll still be happy with this axe in your hands.
Overall, I’m convinced that this axe will be a good fit for the vast majority of guitar players.
Perhaps it’s not the best choice for metal music (semi-hollow body guitars are usually prone to feedback), but it doesn’t mean that you can’t use it with a lot of high gain.
Maintenance of ES-335
If you decide to get this model for yourself, here’s a few tips on what you can do to keep in mint condition. Generally, you have to:
- wash your hands before playing
- clean all the dirt from the body of the guitar
- clean the neck from time to time as well (it has a gloss finish, so it tends to get sticky if you have sweaty hands – that’s why it’s important to keep it nice and clean)
- change the strings every couple of months (I highly recommend using Elixirs)
- use a high quality case while moving from point A to point B (just to keep it safe from all the potential damage)
- don’t throw it walls (or don’t destroy it on stage during live performances) and you’ll be fine!
Generally, maintenance of ES-335 is pretty much the same as with any other electric guitar. Just make sure to keep it nice and tidy, change the strings and if needed, visit your local luthier every couple of years to sort out any potential issues.
Do all of that stuff regularly and trust me, your ES-335 will last you for years to come. Who knows, maybe you’ll even give it to your grandchildren at some point in the future!
Gibson ES-335 vs Epiphone ES-335
There are a few great comparison videos available on youtube that directly compare the Epiphone ES-335 with Gibson ES-335. I had the pleasure to compare these axes too and the results were crazy.
Both of these ES-335s sound awesome and the difference between them isn’t that huge. I’m sure that some people may actually prefer the sound of cheaper Epiphone pickups rather than the sound of the humbuckers used in the Gibson.
In my opinion, amateur guitarists (or people who don’t play guitar at all) won’t even recognize that difference. But if you have some experience, you will probably notice that Gibsons usually sound a bit warmer and fuller.
The difference in build quality may also differ, because Gibsons are made in the United States while Epiphones are usually made in China.
However, it seems that everyone who compares these guitars is very surprised that the overall quality of the cheaper Epiphone is not bad at all. So by looking at these reviews and comments, I’m convinced that it’s not only my opinion.
Overall, it’s tough to say which one of these guitars will be better for you. If you’re a pro and you want an instrument from the highest shelf – choose Gibson. But if you want to get an axe on a similar level which is significantly more affordable – choose Epiphone.
Here’s a great comparison.
Cheaper Alternative Options
The market of affordable electric guitars is very saturated – especially when you’re looking for a solid body guitar. But what about the semi-hollow body models? You probably wonder whether there are any alternative options out there.
The truth may surprise you! There are quite a few really cool guitars of this type available at a similar price range, but to be honest, it’s debatable whether they can compete with the Epiphone ES-335 from today’s post.
However, I can definitely say that Ibanez AS-53 is a very cool axe. I had it a few years ago and it was awesome! I absolutely loved the satin finish on that neck. This model is slightly more affordable than any ES-335, so it maybe a good option for those with a bit tighter budget.
Alternatively, choosing the Harley Benton HB-35 may also be a good idea. This is a budget Chinese-made guitar, so you can’t expect it to be awesome, but overall, it offers a great value for the money.
It’s a way more affordable guitar and I actually recorded a sound demo of that model too, so if you have a minute – check out the video below.
In my opinion, both Ibanez AS-53 and Harley Benton HB-35 will work well as alternative options for those who can’t afford getting the Epiphone ES-335.
If you’re not necessarily looking for a semi-hollow body axe, check out my article about 6 Best Squier Guitars. All of these guitars are awesome!
But honestly, it may be a really good idea to save up a bit more to eventually get that model. In the end, it’s very similar to the original Gibson. And that says a lot about that guitar!
Undoubtedly, the ES-335 is a very special guitar. I’m not only talking about this exact Epiphone model – the 335s in all settings are just awesome. Yeah, Strats, Teles and other guitars are awesome, but none of them are like the 335s.
So summing up, I’m sure that anyone who will decide to get this model will be very happy with it. I mean, it offers an unreal value for the money. Considering the fact that it’s a few times more affordable than Gibson, it just seems to be a very good deal.
I’m very happy that I added this one to my collection and I’m sure that I’ll try some other 335s in the future too. I’ll probably get the ES-339 as well and I’ll directly compare these guitars, so if you’re reading this in 2024, there’s a high chance that this comparison is already available on my YouTube channel.
If you end up with getting this Epiphone for yourself, feel free to leave a comment under this article and share your thoughts with me and my readers. I wonder if you’re as happy with that guitar as I’m. Or maybe your experience was completely different? Anyway, let me know in the comments!