Gibson ES 3X5 vs. ES Les Paul vs. es 137 vs.?

GibsonLives

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2,777
I currently have a 1981 Gibson ES 347 (basically a mono 355 without the spkit-diamond inlay, and a toil-tap insteam of Varitone), which I absolutely love. So much so, in fact, that I'm now trying to figure out exactly what else is out there, and what the tonal differences are.

Specifically, what I dig about the 347 is its bold midrange growl. Even clean through my Goodsell Super 17 MkIV, it's got attitude, and when the volume is cranked and the gain is maxed, I get snarly, edgy classic rock tones with minimal howl or squeal. It's also probably my most versatIle guitar. A Bigsby might be nice, but I don't want to mess with it.

Anyway, here's what I've heard about a few other models:

The 137 is widely regarded as sounding closer to a solid LP than a 335, and I've read some folks claim that the only noticeable difference between an ES-Les Paul and the solid body version is weight - the tonality is strikingly similar.

Do all Gibson semis sound fairly similar? I've toyed with the idea of going fully hollow, but I like volume and gain too much, and I fear it would end up howling like a banshee.

Seems I want it all - big, airy hollow body clean/edge of breakup tone, and the ability to resist feedback when it's time to rock. Is there anything, from Gibson or others, I should be looking at, or do I want something that doesnt/can't exist?

Steve
 

Jayyj

Silver Supporting Member
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12,771
3*5s can vary dramatically according to spec. One factor that I think makes a significant difference is neck material, which is probably three piece maple on your 347. My feeling is the maple necked 3*5s have a little more snap and clarity at the expense of sweetness and warmth, which is the same thing some people say about ebony boards (I must admit I can't hear this comparing mahogany necked 355s with the equivalent 345s and 335s but I'm sure some have better ears than me), so maple necked 355s and 347s are at the extreme of this. Aside from the oddball 340 from the late 60s, maple was only used on the 335 family from '75 to the early 80s. I'd maybe try a few Dot Reissues and see how they compare to your 347 - you might find it's a big enough difference to justify both.

The 137 sounds different to my ears than a 335, although I wouldn't say more like a Les Paul. It has a mahogany centreblock and a different neck join, both of which potentially effect the tone compared to a 335. There's also the older 135 that has a chromite (balsa wood) centreblock - of all the centreblocked Gibsons that's the one that sounds closest to a fully hollow body.

My favourite guitar to contrast with a 335 is the 330. They do feed back more than 335s but I don't find it hard to control mine at high gain, and some people who do fit soundposts to reduce the issue.
 

Chicago Slim

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5,052
I used to be an ES335 and Heritage H535 guy. I found that the single cut guitars hang much more comfortably, from a guitar strap. This past year I picked up a couple of PRS Semi-hollows. The Zach Myers has a thick top, more like a chambered Les Paul, with an f-hole. My S2 Singlecut semi-hollow looks similar, but has a much thinner top, more like a Gibson semi. It even seems more lively and airy than the Gibsons. It only weighs 6.8 lbs. It feels more like a full hollow body, even though it's a semi with a wrap-around bridge.

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GibsonLives

Member
Messages
2,777
OP here - thanks, all.

I'll go ahead and muddy the waters further now by bringing in another brand I'm looking at: Gretsch. Obviously far away from Gibson territority...but maybe that's the best way to wind up with a different tone.

I've never owned a Gretsch, but I've played a few, and they're a lot of fun. I also own this... ...which is not a Gretsch, but a CS Tele with a Bigsby, TV Jones PowerTrons, and an ebony board. It's amazing, but it's also solid-bodied and rather heavy (I'd say pushing 9lbs.). Maybe something more along the lines of a semihollow Gretsch?

Steve
 

Chicago Slim

Member
Messages
5,052
I've owned several Gretsch guitars and liked them all. I would recommend a mahogany guitar, since you have an alder Tele. The cheap Pro Jet I owned was a lot of fun. But it weighed 9 lbs, My wife and I both tore something in our shoulders, picking it up. I would buy another one, if it was lighter.

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The PRS Starla's are my main guitars. They typically weigh between 6 to 7 lbs. The Starla pickups are like a slightly hotter, TV Jones Classic. The S2 Starla's and Vela's are worth checking out.

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Don't discount the Slivertone and Danelectro's. This one is a Samick built Silvertone, mahogany with Strat type saddles. Weighs about 6 lbs.
It actually plays as good as my PRSi.

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