Epiphone Jim James ES-335 review

Another example of ’70s chic, this walnut-coloured Epiphone aims to clone the Gibson version for considerably less cash

Epiphone Jim James ES-335
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Guitar World Verdict

The Epiphone translation of Jim James’ signature ES-335 is a good all-rounder with an impressive build, a wide range of tones, and a classy yet muted workingman aesthetic.

Pros

  • +

    Very tidy build.

  • +

    Good weight.

  • +

    Versatile voices.

  • +

    Workingman vibe.

Cons

  • -

    It’s quite an upcharge from the standard Epi ES-335.

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Just over a year ago, we looked at Jim James’s signature Gibson ES-335. With its calibrated T-Type pickups and light weight, it proved to be one of the most playable and vibrant-sounding 335s we’d encountered for a while. 

The signature guitar for My Morning Jacket’s frontman came across as a real journeyman ES thinline, a guitar that sits comfortably in pretty much any musical genre. And if this new Epiphone version comes anywhere near close, it’s game on.

Lifting it out of its large, owl logo’d hard case it’s an encouraging start. Like the Gibson it’s inspired by, which weighed a trim 3.55kg (7.81lb), our Epi JJ tips the scales at a very close and still light-for-the-style 3.62kg (7.96lb). 

Of course, it’s a nitro-free zone here, but the dark brown, almost black gloss poly finish is typically well done. The body is all laminate (or ‘layered’ as Epiphone prefers) maple, with a maple centre block, and internally it’s very clean with tidy kerfed linings and neatly painted edges to the classic f-holes.

Epiphone Jim James ES-335

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

The neck is pretty close to the USA model, too, and virtually identical in width: 43.5mm at the nut, 53.6mm at the 12th fret. It’s very slightly thinner in depth, measuring 20mm at the 1st fret and 22.7mm by the 12th, with that typical SlimTaper profile – which can polarise opinion but is very successfully used on numerous mainstream Gibsons, such as the Standard ’60s and Classic Les Pauls. 

Rosewood is switched to laurel for the fingerboard, which does look a little pale and dry, but the fretting is very good from a medium-gauge wire, just like the recent Epiphone Joe Bonamassa ’62 ES-335 we looked at. It really plays well, tuning stability is very good and unplugged it’s lively, responsive and quite loud, like a noisy youngster.

Epiphone Jim James ES-335

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Plugged in, though, it sounds considerably more mature and is quite the all-rounder, equally at home for your retro jazz-funk as it is with pretty gainy alt-rock and beyond, not to mention janglier styles, old and new. 

There’s a crisp attack at the bridge with a slightly relaxed midrange and good clarity at the neck, although the volume pot tapers are quite quick, which won’t suit everyone, and the modern wiring means we lose a little high-end as they’re rolled back. 

It’s a little generic-sounding, perhaps with less character than you might hear with Gibson Burstbuckers, but if we’re honest that probably adds to its broad stylistic appeal, which is always a part of the ES-335 proposition and very evident here. 

Specs

Epiphone Jim James ES-335

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • PRICE: $/£899 (inc case)
  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: Double-cutaway, semi-solid thinline electric
  • BODY: Laminated maple (5-ply) with f-holes and solid maple centre block
  • NECK: Mahogany, Jim James Custom Profile Slim Taper C, glued-in
  • SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: Graph Tech/43.5mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Bound Indian laurel, dot inlays, 305mm (12”) radius
  • FRETS: 22, medium/jumbo
  • HARDWARE: Epiphone LockTone tune-o-matic bridge and stud tailpiece, Kluson Waffleback – nickel-plated
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 51.5mm
  • ELECTRICS: Epiphone Alnico Classic Pro covered humbuckers, 3-way toggle pickup selector, individual volume and tone controls for each pickup
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.62/7.96
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No
  • FINISH: Walnut (as reviewed)
  • CONTACT: Epiphone

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Dave Burrluck
Gear Reviews Editor, Guitarist

Dave Burrluck is one of the world’s most experienced guitar journalists, who started writing back in the '80s for International Musician and Recording World, co-founded The Guitar Magazine and has been the Gear Reviews Editor of Guitarist magazine for the past two decades. Along the way, Dave has been the sole author of The PRS Guitar Book and The Player's Guide to Guitar Maintenance as well as contributing to numerous other books on the electric guitar. Dave is an active gigging and recording musician and still finds time to make, repair and mod guitars, not least for Guitarist’s The Mod Squad.