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

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Will Chen, Jan 13, 2012.

  1. Will Chen

    Will Chen Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    5,214
    Location:
    Allen, TX
    Some in this thread 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).
     
  2. DRS

    DRS Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2011
    Messages:
    6,007
    Location:
    British Columbia
    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.
     
  3. budglo58

    budglo58 Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2009
    Messages:
    705
    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.
     
  4. Will Chen

    Will Chen Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    5,214
    Location:
    Allen, TX
    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.
     
  5. airportbar

    airportbar Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2009
    Messages:
    3,001
    Location:
    CA
    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.
     
  6. robertkoa

    robertkoa Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2009
    Messages:
    3,626
    Thanks for the review-very clear and concise.
     
  7. mfitz804

    mfitz804 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2007
    Messages:
    899
    I have not one complaint about my Epiphone 339 Ultra.
     
  8. ked

    ked Member

    Joined:
    May 18, 2006
    Messages:
    664
    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
     
  9. EvanPC

    EvanPC Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Messages:
    34
    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.
     
  10. Lucky one

    Lucky one Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2009
    Messages:
    231
    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.
     
  11. Drew47

    Drew47 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2010
    Messages:
    253
    Location:
    South Florida
    Can any of you give more details about the acoustic tone of the nanomag?
     
  12. jamdogg

    jamdogg Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2008
    Messages:
    1,396
    Location:
    New England
    Strings can be a gamechanger.
     
  13. Will Chen

    Will Chen Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    5,214
    Location:
    Allen, TX
    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.


    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).
     
  14. Koop

    Koop Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2010
    Messages:
    320
    Location:
    Shelby Twp, MI
    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.
     
  15. mfitz804

    mfitz804 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2007
    Messages:
    899
    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
     
  16. Will Chen

    Will Chen Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    5,214
    Location:
    Allen, TX
    Where? Mine look just like this, from the Grover site. No screw visible.

    [​IMG]
     
  17. jamdogg

    jamdogg Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2008
    Messages:
    1,396
    Location:
    New England
  18. rschleicher

    rschleicher Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2011
    Messages:
    38
    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.
     
  19. Will Chen

    Will Chen Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    5,214
    Location:
    Allen, TX
    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...
     
  20. Lucky one

    Lucky one Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2009
    Messages:
    231
    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.
     

Share This Page