Yeah.....I own a ES-333 (a 335 w/o inlay in the Headstock/satin finish/rear electronics cover) with Coil Taps (Lollar Imperial's)....and it beats my LP's for versatility. My band-mates...and audience member's often comment on how good that thing sounds....
Not trying to 'Cop' the Thread...But, being an OLD Gibson guy back in the day and jumping ship a couple of decades ago to mostly a Fender Fella'...I see the 339 being a GREAT alternative to a 335 (which still holds a place in my Heart)...and a LP., and not just by 'Being a jack of all trades and a Master of none'...I played a couple in some recent trips to the Music shops and I think they are excellent 'gits....I do know the first time I touched one it was marked @ $1999. Map...and in 2 weeks the same guitar had a $2299. tag on it, None the less, This and a great Strat. could get a musician along way...just my $0.02 worth. Tom
(raising hand) Umm... ...everyone's talking as if they have a common definition of "versatile". I'm gonna call y'all out on that one.
What, exactly, do you mean by "versatile"? I think this discussion is kinda pointless unless that's out there on the table.
Personally, I'm with the poster who said versatility is most often a quality of guitar PLAYERS, not guitars.
But OK, I'll answer the question I just raised and then play along with the OP. For me, for a guitar to be versatile, it should do all of the following:
1. be happy at a wide range of volume and gain levels, both from the amp and from the vol knob on the guitar
2. ditto the tone settings
3. be something I can make work in a lot of different musical settings. (this is where a good player can overcome what people might think of as a "wrong" guitar; for example I happily use a vintage Les Paul Junior for jamming on jazz standards)
What I really DON'T care about, in terms of thinking about versatility of a guitar, is the number of pickups or pickup settings. I'd always rather have 1, or 3 GREAT sounds than a whole bunch of OKAY sounds. As long as I can get the variation I need from the vol and tone knobs (see 1 & 2 above) lots of different pickup combinations are more of a distraction than anything else. And, at least to my ears, they NEVER all sound great.
So, OK, with respect to the Les Paul vs. 335 conundrum, well, a great vintage Les Paul with PAFs is a whole different animal than any modern LPs. Much better according to my criteria. But, for that matter, so is a great vintage 335. To me those are just two different flavors of great, but I wouldn't say either is "more versatile" than the other. To be honest, neither of them is a great fit for the jazz thing -- I'd rather have a 330 or a Tele by far. (or, funny enough, even the Junior -- which does this super-cool tenor sax kind of thing if you dial in the amp right)
I recently bought my first ES335 (black/dot RI) for a steal from a local GC. I'm a Tele guy mainly and have owned many LP's (don't currently own one though). I can't believe I missed out on the 335 for so long. I freaking love that guitar! It's so comfortable and sounds just awesome with the stock pickups (57 classics, I think). I'll never be 335-less again. Not sure if I'll get another LP...don't currently have GAS for one in the least.
My vote is 335. Rock/blues/jazz...covers them all really well and has it's own thing going on. LP's are great too, of course.