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View Full Version : Epiphone vs Gibson: ES-339 (and Midtown Custom)


Will Chen
01-13-2012, 02:42 PM
Some in this thread (http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=804165&page=17&highlight=Epiphone+ES-339) were asking about the New Epiphone ES-339 vs the real deal Gibson and I offered to do a quickie if I got to GC to get my hands on one. Finally did today. I'm only comparing fit/finish and core play-ability, didn't plug in and didn't have my Epi on me but have been playing it enough lately to be able to compare mentally.

VS Gibson ES-339

1. Finish - Gibson wins hands down. My ES-339 has some sloppiness at the neck joint and a binding finish flaw at the back. Neither major enough to call it a B-Stock, you really have to look close. But the Gibson was better...but not flawless either. There was some very minor glue bleed at the neck joint on the Gibson, otherwise no flaws.

2. Hardware (Tuners) - rather impossible to tell hardware differences without spending significant time with an instrument, but a couple things worth noting. Gibson has position markers mounted under there knobs, nice touch. A sursprise were the tuners we're just as stiff and unpleasant as the Grovers on my Epi. This was very surprising. I was surprised by the Grover's stiff action on my Epi as my other axes with Grovers as totally smooth and thought for certain the Gibson alternative would be superior, not the case.

3. Playability - The Gibson at GC had very old strings of uncertain gauge, so I can't make much of a ruling here, but the action wasn't much different than my Epiphone.

4. Resonance - Some in the other thread complained the Epi's were dead by comparison. I noticed no significant difference.

VS Gibson Midtown Custom

I know, totally different construction methodology and materials, but it was there...

1. Finish - Again, Gibson wins hands down. And again, there was some very minor glue bleed at the neck joint on the Gibson, less so than the 339 otherwise no flaws.

2. Hardware (Tuners) - Excellent smooth action on the Gibson, much better than the Epi.

3. Playability - Have to tip my hat to Gibson on this on. Extremely comfortable guitar.

4. Resonance - The guitar body was more alive when strummed versus both ES-339's, but the unplugged tone didn't have that specific semi-hollow tone the other had, likely due to the chambered construction.

So given a bit of hands on experience (though not plugging in) and taking price into consideration, I'd rank them as follows:

1. Midtown Custom - Just a sweet axe, didn't like the flat top but that's more of a cosmetic thing. Beat both the ES-339's. Pricey to me, but at just under $1,500 its affordable in the grand Gibson scheme as well as compared to the guitar demographics at TGP.

2. Epiphone ES-339 - Very nice axe at a great price. Really

3. Gibson ES-339 - Also very nice axe, but to me you get darn close with the Epiphone at less than 1/3 the price (assuming comparison with the lowest price Gibson model).

DRS
01-13-2012, 02:58 PM
Cool review. Now an all out cage match would be the Epi 339 vs the Ibanez Artcore AM93. They are about the same price. The Ibanez is the upgraded AM73 Artcore with better bling and Super58 pups.

budglo58
01-13-2012, 03:06 PM
Nice review.I checked out a Gibson es339 when I went to buy a few months ago and went home with a VS Midtown. I wanted to like the 339 , but I didnt like the upper fret access on it.The midtown had great upper fret access.All in all I thought the midtown to be a better fit for what I was looking for and a more versatile guitar. Dont regret it for one minute.

Will Chen
01-13-2012, 04:09 PM
Thanks guys! I have a full review of the Epi over at FG if your interested. That Midtown was an attractive guitar for sure and was a pleasure to play, may go back to GC and plug her up. Little pricey for my blood though.

airportbar
01-13-2012, 04:59 PM
I just got one of the new Epi Es-345s and the finish work was godawful. I kept it regardless because it sounds so sweet with the varitone.

robertkoa
01-14-2012, 02:30 AM
Thanks for the review-very clear and concise.

mfitz804
01-14-2012, 08:01 AM
I have not one complaint about my Epiphone 339 Ultra.

ked
01-15-2012, 08:32 PM
How is the upper fret access on the Epiphone? I've read a few comments from folks about not liking it. Is it awkward or difficult to play in the upper fret area?

Thanks,
Ken

EvanPC
01-15-2012, 08:54 PM
I don't know much about Epi's, but by chance, is there a neck option on the Epi 339? Or, rather, if there's only one neck type, what is it similar to?

I've been really wanting a Gibson 339, but after playing an Epi Dot Studio 335, I was blown away by the quality at that price. So...it's got me thinking I should look hard at the Epiphone 339.

Lucky one
01-15-2012, 09:23 PM
I have not one complaint about my Epiphone 339 Ultra.

Me either, sure is versatile. Perfect fit and finish. Love the neck. Mine feels like a 50's Gibson neck. Love the nanomag acoustic P/U and all the combinations. Hard to match at that price point.

Drew47
01-15-2012, 10:20 PM
Can any of you give more details about the acoustic tone of the nanomag?

jamdogg
01-16-2012, 01:11 AM
3. Playability - The Gibson at GC had very old strings of uncertain gauge, so I can't make much of a ruling here, but the action wasn't much different than my Epi..

Strings can be a gamechanger.

Will Chen
01-16-2012, 01:13 PM
How is the upper fret access on the Epiphone? I've read a few comments from folks about not liking it. Is it awkward or difficult to play in the upper fret area?

Thanks,
Ken

Its OK. Honestly, the ES style in general don't offer great upper fret access. Really, most traditional guitars don't (ie heel gets in the way on Fenders). The best upper fret access is on more modern instruments from a design perspective who really put a lot of thought into efficiency and ergonomics.


Strings can be a gamechanger.

You are absolutely correct. However, been playing for 26 years and can see potential in a guitar past bad strings and poor setups in a store. Don't get me wrong, the Gibson was a better instrument in many areas. If it was closer to the $1000 mark, I might have opted to go for it rather than the Epi. Just IMHO, the cost wasn't justified by the diminished returns. I mean, I would never buy a $2000 guitar and expect a need to change out the tuners. Insane. Epi also has decent pickups (though again, didn't get a chance to plug up the Gibson) with a useable split tone in the neck, a feature not offered on the Gibson. I'll have to add treble bleeds or 50's wiring to the Epi eventually, small price to pay on an affordable guitar. The Midtown being $500 (or more) less than the Gibson 339 pushed it to the top of the list as the finish was the best of the 3, the neck felt the best (though apples and organges as all 3 have different specs), and it felt the most alive of the 3 (I know this doesn't guarantee a better guitar plugged in, but its always something I like to check out).

Koop
01-16-2012, 01:48 PM
Those Grovers have a screw in the end of the tuning key. If that screw is snugged down too tight it will make the tuner hard to turn and feel gritty. It sets the backlash of the gears.

mfitz804
01-16-2012, 03:13 PM
I don't know much about Epi's, but by chance, is there a neck option on the Epi 339? Or, rather, if there's only one neck type, what is it similar to?.

In my estimation, the neck on my 339 Ultra is somewhere between the two neck options on the Gibson 339. Its not as thin as the 30/60, but not quite as fat as the '59 neck or whatever they call it.

YMMV

Will Chen
01-17-2012, 09:52 AM
Those Grovers have a screw in the end of the tuning key. If that screw is snugged down too tight it will make the tuner hard to turn and feel gritty. It sets the backlash of the gears.

Where? Mine look just like this, from the Grover site. No screw visible.

http://www.grotro.com/vintage3.jpg

jamdogg
01-17-2012, 05:35 PM
No affiliation just a heads up these cases are hard to find. Only 2 left....

http://www.zzounds.com/item--EPI940E399

rschleicher
01-17-2012, 06:20 PM
I was also pretty impressed with the Gibson Midtown Custom, although I only played with it briefly at a local GC store.

I wish it didn't have the flat top (versus the 339), but the Custom headstock logo and block inlays look quite nice.

I liked the feel of the artificial "pseudo-ebony" material used for the fret board, although probably some people will avoid the model entirely since it isn't real wood (or at least not 100%!). But it seems like a decent deal at its price point.

Will Chen
01-18-2012, 03:00 PM
No affiliation just a heads up these cases are hard to find. Only 2 left....

http://www.zzounds.com/item--EPI940E399

Fortunately, I have a gig bag which fits my 339. Not ideal, but it will suffice for the short term. Eventually, I'll pickup one of those cases second hand...

Lucky one
01-18-2012, 05:56 PM
I just got my backordered 339 case from zzounds and the guitar doesn't fit !
Epiphone apparently packed the wrong case because the # was right but the case is 1 1/2"" to short at the waist and ears.

jamdogg
01-18-2012, 06:07 PM
I just got my backordered 339 case from zzounds and the guitar doesn't fit !
Epiphone apparently packed the wrong case because the # was right but the case is 1 1/2"" to short at the waist and ears.

Can you post pics please? I got the case today too, but the guitar is still backordered!

Lucky one
01-18-2012, 06:32 PM
I already packed it up to ship back, sorry !

jamdogg
01-18-2012, 06:35 PM
What color is the interior?

Lucky one
01-18-2012, 06:47 PM
Grey. The box was marked 339 but the case was too short. If you want to call me, I can measure my 339 and you can measure your case to see if they did the same thing to you. Or PM me with the dimensions of the case that you got and I'll measure the guitar.

mfitz804
01-18-2012, 06:54 PM
My 339 case came weeks ago, and fits my 339 Ultra perfectly.

jamdogg
01-18-2012, 06:54 PM
Thanks for the offer, but my case is wrong too. Looks to be a LP/SG case (same size when compared to my existing LP case). Also marked with the correct part #.

no worries, human error. Thought it was strange they were the only folks to have them in stock.

Lucky one
01-18-2012, 07:01 PM
Just a bump in the road. Stuff like this must cost them a bundle in shipping and returns.

airportbar
01-18-2012, 10:06 PM
My 339 case came weeks ago, and fits my 339 Ultra perfectly.

Where did you order it from?

Hopefully, zZounds/Samedaymusic/American Musical Supply doesn't pull a Musicians Friend and re-sell them as blemished 339 cases.

airportbar
01-18-2012, 10:07 PM
Thanks for the offer, but my case is wrong too. Looks to be a LP/SG case (same size when compared to my existing LP case). Also marked with the correct part #.

no worries, human error. Thought it was strange they were the only folks to have them in stock.

When did you guys order them? I just received notice yesterday that they were back in stock and got one. Wondering now if it's part of the "bad batch" or a new, hopefully correct one?

jamdogg
01-19-2012, 03:12 AM
When did you guys order them? I just received notice yesterday that they were back in stock and got one. Wondering now if it's part of the "bad batch" or a new, hopefully correct one?

I ordered mine just before Christmas.

Lucky one
01-19-2012, 06:29 AM
I ordered mine just before Christmas.

Me too.

airportbar
01-19-2012, 09:53 AM
Ok. Then maybe I should ask when did they ship?

My guess is the same batch of cases. Oh well.

airportbar
01-24-2012, 10:11 PM
My 339 and case came. The guitar fits in the case and I am in love.:drool

jman
01-24-2012, 10:34 PM
just noticed on AMS that the price of the Epi 339 Pro went down 100 bucks(but not the red one? maybe a typo)...mine was around $360 with discounts,etc,so i can't really complain-still would like a case sometime,but the gig bag i had that fit is working out OK.

airportbar,you got the pro? what color?

airportbar
01-24-2012, 10:39 PM
Natural. I saw the price drop (looks to only apply to the Natural and Ebony), but I can't get mad. I used the 20% code and spent $470 shipped with the case, and considering the lack of flaws I'm totally happy. Start the honeymoon.

jamdogg
01-26-2012, 09:22 PM
I just received the natural ES-339 Pro ($350 w/codes shipped from MF, new). Very nice guitar! Fit, finish and frets are very good. Rosewood board is nice, not light and no weird streaks or goop, but very dry. Tuners are good. Switch tip is black, not white like the stock photos. Electronics are complete garbage on mine (loose switch, neck push/pull cuts out) - but the pickups sound surprisingly good. Coil-split tones are useable and useful. The nut is cut a little high. Its light, comfy, and resonant - and beautiful IMHO. I like the neck on it, but i dont find the "slimtaper D" to be a very accurate description. Its very "medium" feeling to me.

Overall, a very good guitar with disposable electronics IMHO.

The Mono M-80 case fits this guitar perfect. If you dont want to wait for the cheapie backordered Epi case, get the M-80. I'm cancelling my order at zzounds.

Will post pics at some point.

icarusi
03-14-2012, 09:46 PM
I tried a few of the Gibson ES339 while they were around last year and didn't like any. Came with high set actions, heavy strings, stiff pot spindles and chunky necks. I did find one with the thinner neck which had been set up by the distributer at a show but it still didn't really sing.

Tried one Epi 339 Ultra and 3 Epi 339 (inc. mine) and they all played and sounded well, apart from the 'both' pickup switch position on the Ultra which sounded OOP.

Tried the Midtown and it played and sounded well, better than any of the Gibson 339s I tried. It's not much smaller or lighter than a 335 and more plain with the flat front. Probably good if you like it's looks/sound/price/size compared to a 335 or 339.

My Epi339 with 9s on the top 3 strings:-

http://soundcloud.com/nobutsithee/339-1

Seegs
03-15-2012, 01:36 AM
I played 7-8 ES 339s before I found one...I chose it over a Chambered R8 listed at 4K euros and it wasn't because of the price.

Then I did some mods to it to get it just right...

New tuners > Tonepros Klusons...no slop and just feel better
New wiring > had a BCS harness in it but it broke when I pulled it out so I made my own with specailly made by crazy parts CTS pots with the NOS green russan caps in it and wired it 50s style...hate that stock wiring scheme
New Studs and tailpiece>Gibson Historic steel studs and lightweight aluminum tailpiece...opened the guitar right up
New Bridge>Montreux Retrovibe Series LP ABR-1...highly recommended
New Pickups> Zhangbuckers A5 Woodbucker neck and an A2 wide-slugbucker bridge...woody warm yet articulate...amazing...

Chow,
Seegs

steveHOC
08-29-2012, 09:59 PM
This is an old thread, but I wanted to address a post regarding the Epiphone 339 VS the Ibanez AM93, since I own both:

I'll make it quick and do my comparisons in the same fashion as the original post -

Appearance: The AM93 is much better looking than my 339 - the headstock on the AM93 is a bit larger, which isn't so great, but it's a better overall appearance.

Hardward: The AM93 tuners are overly sensitive right out of the box, and seem a little cheesy compared to the 339. Though stiff, the 339 tuners seem more trustworthy for some reason.

Playability: This one is close, but the 339 wins out. I've honestly never played a guitar that feels as fast as the 339, and that says a lot as I'm a fan of the Telecaster Maple Neck.

Resonance: The AM93 wins out here, it does have a slightly larger body, which may be why.

Overall, the Epiphone is the winner for me. I waited for this guitar to come off back order for a long time, and ended up getting a brand new one for pretty cheap, so I went into it smiling. They're close on paper, but honestly don't feel close as instruments as far as playing is concerned. The AM93 feels... somehow... nicer maybe. It may just be all the gold hardware, but it feels classier or something. The 339 is going to be fun to beat the heck out of, but only because I know I will end up owning more than one - I really dig it!