Epiphone’s ES-339 PRO
Price: $400 street
The Gibson ES-335 quickly revealed its versatility and tone following its introduction in 1958 – all warm ’n’ woody like a jazz archtop, or nasty and rude for blues and rock. The design got an added shot years later when Gibson scaled the 335 into a more manageable solidbody-sized axe. Now Epiphone has grabbed the scaled-down concept, offering the ES-339 PRO.
The China-made Epiphone ES-339 PRO features classic ES-335 body lines at about three-quarters the size. It has a laminated maple body and top, like most every other guitar in the 335 universe, and a mahogany SlimTaper D-profile neck with a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard. Hardware includes a LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop tailpiece, and Wilkinson TM 14:1 vintage-style tuners. Controls include the expected Tone and Volume for each humbucker, plus a three-way toggle. The addition of Alnico Classic PRO humbuckers with push/pull coil splitting for single-coil tones is a nice tweak (see below). The test guitar came in a sweet retro Vintage Sunburst, though it’s also available in Ebony, Natural, Cherry, and Black (the latter with a white pickguard).
In hand, the ES-339 PRO’s neck is slim, but substantial – not like those super-skinny vintage Gibson 335 necks. Though neither is it one of Epiphone’s occasionally chunkier necks. The guitar also has more heft than might be expected, but then again, the ES-339 PRO does have a solid center block to control feedback.
Plugged into a 1×12″ combo, this semi-hollowbody covered a lot of territory. Starting clean, it readily offered blues, country, and jazz. The push/pull knobs proved useful and fun. Use the bridge humbucker for clean blues or rock, then pull the volume knob for P-90 twang. Do the same on the neck pickup and go into single-coil mode. Now dial back the tone knob for pre-humbucker ’40s jazz and blues – wicked tones reminiscent of cats like Charlie Christian, T-Bone Walker, and Tal Farlow.
Of course, the amp’s overdrive can be ramped up to make the Epiphone work for a living – try some gritty blues soloing or British Invasion chime. Stoke it up even more – the 339 proved reasonably feedback-resistant and rolled into AC/DC and Bad Company territory with plenty of big, clean overdrive tones perfect for old-school hard rock. Add in the coil taps for favorite Southern rock licks.
The Epiphone ES-339 PRO is a mighty fine axe for only four bills. It’s classy, delivers sweet semi-hollowbody tones and good playability, and has the added benefit of split-coil pickups. That’s a great value.
This article originally appeared in VG December 2013 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.