Gibson ES 333--A good budget alternative to an ES 335?

John Carson

Silver Supporting Member
I have never been able to bond with an ES 335 for long but I have been thinking of trying again. For about 1/2-2/3 price of a used one I can pick up a decent ES 333 on the bay. I like the slimmer neck and the fact you can change the pickups.

I though about the 339 but would prefer the full size I think.

Any ES 333 owners out there who could offer opinions either way?



If you get a good one and you like the neck shape, they're great. I have one that I "335ed," and it's not my favorite neck shape, but it sounds good, and I like the satin finish much better than the glossy flametop that Gibson insisted on putting on the standard 335 at the time.


Silver Supporting Member
They are a great deal, and if you're one to be swapping out the pickups, you'll really appreciate the control cavity access. I installed a pair of Seth Lovers in mine, polished the finish, installed a guard, and it looked everybit as nice as a 335 for about a $1000 investment. I sold it after I bought a vintage 335, but I regret doing so and I wish I had it back.




I think they are. With the back access plate you can easily get in there and swap the pickups to something better than what comes in an ES335 (like WCR Crossroad pickups).

The main difference is finish (the 333 is satin), electronics, and that they cut a back plate in the back of the guitar to expedite manufacturing.

With the 333 the pickups are not great and need to be swapped if you want a nice PAF semihollow sound.

The most important thing is to find a good one because with Gibson (especially with something involving the craftsmanship of a semi-hollow) you have to watch for consistency/quality issues. There are probably 333's that sound/play better than 335s and vica-versa - the main thing is the 333 has an inferior pickup IMO. The finish is probably more aesthetics.

You could get a 333 for about 1G and swap the pickups - then you have a killer 335 for ~ $1200.00
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Gold Supporting Member
Absolutely. The 333 is a killer version of the 335 and if I had to choose between the two I would pick my 333. I changed the pickups to 57 classics and had a 335 pickguard put on. Other than that its stock. I found a NOS tobacco burst and paid 900 bucks for it. I thought that was a steal. The panel in the back makes working on the electronics easy, the satin finish is very vintage like, the slim neck is perfect for me. What else can I say, they are a killer value even at $2000.
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Jan Folkson

I really like mine and only paid $700 for it 2 years ago. Got a set of 57's in there now and I'm much happier :) Still need to buff out the 3t burst though.

What did you use Dan?


Gold Supporting Member
I was also looking for a 335 style guitar around the $1K price point. I got down to 3 choices: the Gibson ES-333, the Heritage 535, and the Edwards 335 copy. I went with the Gibson. I upgraded pickups to Dimarzio Virtual PAF's, added a pickguard, and polished the finish. I absolutely love this guitar. It is very resonant, plays like butter, and I just love the way it looks.

If you get a good example, I am sure you will be thrilled.

By the way, the other two options I explored were very good too. I don't think you could go wrong with Heritage or Edwards either, I just preferred the Gibson....maybe just because it said "Gibson" on it?


Chupacabra Psychiatrist and Meme Thief
Silver Supporting Member
Doesn't resonate quite as much but who cares, I can't hear the difference. I think they're an under valued guitar and really a steal. I've debated grapping one and throwing on a Bigsby to fill that role as I'll not do this to my vintage 335, but I'm on the hunt for a Casino or 330 right now so...

So just how thin are the modern necks on these, it has been a while since I've played one?? 60's slim, more narrow nut width or??

Good luck and Happy Playing!

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