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Gibson Custom Proudly Presents the ES-339

Chris Gill

In 1958, Gibson debuted a guitar that provided the perfect combination of solidbody and hollowbody features—the ES-335. With a solid maple block running down the center of its thin, hollow body, the ES-335 provides the fat, resonant tone of a hollowbody guitar while delivering the sustain and feedback resistance of a solidbody. Gibson’s hybrid design, known as a semi-hollow guitar, remains a perennial favorite of players of nearly every style of music from jazz and blues to rock and punk.

While the ES-335 is thin like a solidbody, its body width and length are similar to the large dimensions of an archtop guitar. As a result, many players accustomed to solidbody instruments often find the ES-335’s size and weight somewhat unwieldy. Now solidbody players can enjoy the distinctive tones of a semi-hollow guitar thanks to Gibson’s new ES-339 model, designed and built by the experts at the Gibson Custom Shop. The ES-339 features smaller body dimensions but sacrifices none of that huge semi-hollow tone that makes the ES-335 universally appealing. Lighter, more compact and comfortable than a traditional semi-hollow guitar, the ES-339 feels like a Les Paul but sounds like an ES-335.

Despite its smaller body dimensions, the ES-339 does not look like an awkward dwarf version of a 335. The craftsmen at Gibson managed to shave several inches off the traditional semi-hollowbody design while retaining perfect proportions that look classy and natural. You may not even notice the difference until you pick up the ES-339 and instantly realize how much lighter and more comfortable it feels.

All the features guitarists love about the ES-335 are present and accounted for on the ES-339. First, it boasts a pair of ’57 Classic Humbuckers that deliver full-bodied tone with rich midrange and singing sustain that players can’t live without. The tulip-head Kluson tuners, nickel hardware, ABR-1 bridge, stop tailpiece, dot fingerboard inlays, and lacquer finish look like they came right out of 1958. Even the craftsmanship and attention to detail is as good as it’s ever been.

However, Gibson did make a few subtle improvements based on feedback from players over the years. The output jack is mounted on the side of the guitar instead of on the top, keeping the cable out of the way. The slim 30/60 neck has the slim, wide feel of an early ’60s Gibson, with an extra .030-inches of depth—perfect for today’s faster playing styles. A heftier ’59 neck profile is also available for guitarists who prefer a chunkier neck but still enjoy fast, smooth playing action. An improved electronic wiring circuit preserves the guitar’s high frequencies no matter where you adjust the volume control. The 339 sports Gibson’s new Memphis Tone Circuit, which preserves the guitar’s high frequencies no matter where you adjust the volume control. Named in honor of the great guitar builders of Gibson Custom Memphis, where each 339 is handcrafted, the Memphis Tone Circuit gives the 339 a beautiful, open tonal spectrum at any volume.

Gibson offers the ES-339 with a choice of three vintage-style finishes—Antique Red, Antique Vintage Sunburst, and Light Carmel Burst. The lacquer finish is applied with a light, even touch, allowing the guitar’s wood to resonate naturally while providing a protective, mirror-like shine.

When plugged into to a variety of amps and A/B’d against original ’50s and early ’60s Gibsons, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between the vintage models and the new ES-339. From a playing standpoint, the ES-339 is a dreamboat. The smoothly polished frets feel especially comfortable under the fingers, making it possible to play fast and accurately with little effort. While the ES-339 features Gibson’s standard 24 ¾-inch scale, it somehow seems shorter. One can readily perform stretches spanning seven or more frets from the fifth fret.

Tonally, the ES-339 is everything a guitarist could want from a semi-hollow axe and more. The smaller body size does not decrease the guitar’s resonance, yet the ES-339 can be cranked up to even higher levels of output without feedback. In fact, guitar’s feedback resistance is right up there with Les Pauls and SGs. You can feel the punch and power of the 339 in every chord and note—the combination of the best sonic and performance qualities of Les Pauls and ES-335s gives the guitar a truly unique voice, and gives guitarists a totally new playing experience. The ’57 Classic humbuckers deliver all the warmth, sustain and clarity of original Patent Applied For pickups, and in the ES-339 they produce a stunning, expressive midrange honk that’s as fluid and assertive as a saxophone.

The tone pros at the Gibson Custom Shop have created another winner. The Gibson ES-339 is the perfect semi-hollow guitar for solidbody players. With its vintage vibe and modern performance, the ES-339 is a great all-around guitar for any style of music.

The ES-339 is only available from Musician’s Friend,, Private Reserve, Guitar Center,, and Music 123. Be sure to seek this guitar out, as it’s destined to become a desirable classic like the models that inspired it.


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