Ever since its debut at the tail end of the 50s, the ES-335 has wowed guitar players and gig-goers alike with its singing sustain and harmonically complex tone. Beloved by blues-loving, retro-tone chasers, as well as modern riff rock aficionados, the ES-335 delivers a bell-like chime that other guitars simply can’t replicate. There is one pretty sizeable downside, though – a Gibson will set you back a pretty penny!
Luckily, Gibson’s sibling brand has our back with the Inspired By Gibson Epiphone ES-335, which brings the effortless elegance of Gibson’s golden boy to the masses with this extremely affordable semi-hollow axe.
Sticking to the blueprints of the original, the Epiphone utilizes a layered maple top, back, and sides, while the solid maple tone block at its heart generates the crying sustain you’ve come to expect from this style of guitar. Despite its modest price tag, this Epiphone feels as solid as a rock, with our review example sitting right in the Goldilocks zone of not feeling too heavy or too light.
The aptly named rounded C-neck profile may feel slightly thicker than previous 335 models, but this puts it more in line with its Gibson counterpart. In fact, when put head-to-head with our own 2021 Gibson ES-335, the Epiphone stands its ground pretty well. The shape and size of the neck are very similar and would certainly satisfy the most discerning Gibson fan. Of course, it does help that the model we were sent was very well set up and a total breeze to play – seriously, we couldn’t put it down!
Now, we have to mention the overall finishing of the Inspired By Gibson ES-335. Our model arrived with a rather striking sunburst finish, which opts for a thinner black border and a faint hint of red that reminds us of a true vintage finish. Okay, it may not be nitrocellulose, but at this price point, we’ll happily take a pretty-looking poly finish any day of the week.
Being the king of the semi-hollow world, this guitar is rightfully crowned with the original ‘60s style Kalamazoo headstock. For us, this is a nice touch and something we absolutely love about the new era of Epiphone instruments. Not only does it complete the look, but we feel it adds an extra dimension of class to this already stunning electric guitar.
Helping deliver the rich, warm tone to our amplifier is a dual set of Epiphone Classic Pro humbuckers, which have been specifically designed to recreate the retro sounds of the golden age of guitars – and we must say, these Alnico pickups do a pretty great job at nailing that coveted PAF sound on a budget.
Our neck pickup was considerably louder when compared to the bright and spanky bridge humbucker, but after a small adjustment, we managed to even out the sound somewhat. That said, we did find ourselves gravitating towards the tone of the neck pickup, which is dark and rounded – even with the tone at 10, it brings to mind the iconic Woman Tone we all love!
The example we were sent was shipped in an Epiphone EpiLite Case, which is somewhere between a gig bag and a hardshell case. Emblazoned with the Epi branding, this case feels very sturdy and is the perfect companion for your new pride and joy to keep it safe on the road. That said, this case is an optional extra. Now, these cases do come in under $100, so it won’t break the bank if you fancy one with your new guitar, but we would love to see it thrown in, or if not this case, a basic bag would certainly add extra value.
We have to say just how impressed we were with the Inspired By Gibson Epiphone ES-335 – and all of the modern Epiphone guitars, for that matter. This instrument is well finished, sounds fantastic, and is brimming with style.
At this price point, this is not only one of the best electric guitars for beginners looking to cut their teeth, learning the blues, but it’s of a high enough standard that it could be a professional musician’s main gigging axe.
Frankly put, if you are longing for the bell-like chime of this famous semi-hollow, but you’d rather not sell all your belongings to get it, this Epiphone variation is the guitar for you.
- Body Styles: ES
- Top: Layered Maple
- Back & Sides: Layered Maple
- Neck: Mahogany
- Profile: Rounded-C
- Fingerboard Material: Indian Laurel
- Frets: 22, Medium Jumbo
- Bridge: LockTone Tune-O-Matic
- Pickups: 2 x Alnico Classic PRO
- Controls: 2 Volume, 2 Tone, CTS potentiometers
- Contact: Epiphone