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When Gibson first released their ES335 and ES355 back in late ’50s, they gave guitarists a very unique sounding guitars.
ES range of models combined all of the best qualities Les Paul was known for, with the style and acoustic properties jazz guitars had to offer.
Needless to say, the ES series became popular almost over night. The semi hollow design brought on a whole new level of tone that could bend either way.
You could achieve a great blues or rock sound, while still having a capable jazz guitar.
Today we have a large variety of electric guitars, different pickups and effects pedals. However, no matter how capable all of these are, they just can’t capture the sound of a classic semi hollow guitar.
Adding to the existing range of ES models, Gibson released ES-345 in 1959. This new addition to the ES spectrum was supposed to bring some new features that were slowly becoming the norm back in those days. Today we are going to take a closer look at this living legend, and see just what exactly makes it so amazing.
Semi hollow guitars are unique instruments to say the least. Their construction, shape, and finally tone are all slightly different from what you can experience on a regular solid body guitar.
Even if you take all the same components, such as pickups and hardware, and use them on both a solid body and a semi hollow, these two guitars won’t sound the same. ES series is a perfect example of that.
All of the ES series share a similar body shape and construction. Same goes for ES 345. The body is features archtop design, and two distinct f holes. Over the years the exact shape has changed slightly, especially the horns.
However, there weren’t any major changes that would significantly alter the sound of the guitar. Whenever someone picks up an ES series guitar, they will probably need a moment to get accustomed to the unusual body style. However, these guitars are perfectly balanced.
ES-345 comes with maple and poplar laminate body. The top is a multi ply design, while the back features a single ply. The guitar comes in two types of finish. You have what Gibson calls a historic burst which somewhat resembles their standard sun burst design, but is a bit more subtle.
The other one is the legendary cherry red finish ES series is known for. Quartered spruce braces found on new ES 345 models are there to give you the most authentic tonality possible that is nearly identical as the one you get with vintage guitars.
The neck is a mahogany piece with a rosewood fretboard and narrower binding. The binding is rounded in a way that makes this guitar very comfortable to play. What really stands out when it comes to the neck is the truss rod they have used.
It features a larger diameter and Teflon coating, which allows it to have a much better adjustability overall.
What really differentiates the ES 345 from the rest of the series is the VariTone switch. Near the end the ’50s, music industry slowly shifted towards stereophonic recording. Gibson saw this, and decided to create a stereo circuit that would meet the newly adapted requirements.
VariTone switch is the result of this effort, which allows you to choose between a variety of different tone colors. The switch worked by changing the cut-off frequencies on each position, which altered the tone slightly but noticeably. When combined with the pickup selector switch, you are left with some 18 different tonal choices to play with.
In terms of electronics, you get two ’57 classic humbuckers that are controlled by two volume, and two tone knobs. By today’s standards, you could say that these humbuckers are pretty tamed, however that is what gives them their vintage charm.
The bridge is a standard tune-o-matic design and is gold plated like the rest of the hardware.
It’s no secret that Gibson ES series are very niche guitars. The ES345 is pretty much the same. If we take ES335 as reference model, we can notice some differences in sound right away. ES345 and its stereo VariTone confutation somewhat limits the overall clarity of sound.
The tone is less dynamic, and overall feels different. With that said, the difference we just mentioned is not a bad thing. VariTone’s ability to shave off some frequencies really comes to light when you start experimenting with your tone.
With 18 different colors to choose from, this guitar really has an amazing range which makes it that much more flexible.
The tone is very warm and rich. In terms of jazz, ES345 is probably the epitome of sound. If we look at blues, you can easily get that BB King tone with a decent amp and little to no effort.
The guitar is very playable, even though it’s somewhat heavier than the rest of the ES series. The balance is there, and the neck is silky smooth.
What we like
The vintage shape, and that signature semi-hollow sound are what makes the ES345 a very unique guitar. It just plays like a dream, and with so many tone colors to choose from thanks to the VariTone switch, you can definitely get some interesting results.
What we don’t like
You can’t really complain about anything this guitar does or offers. ES series are very niche, and they definitely don’t react well to all kinds of music genres. With their intended purpose in mind, there’s really nothing we can find worthy of critique on ES345.
Gibson ES345 is an iconic guitar. It extended and improved the ES range of models with its VariTone circuitry, and brought these guitars into the new age of sound recording.
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Its vintage appearance will never go out of style, and these guitars are still in high demand even today. If you are looking for guitar that will give you that classic jazz and blues sound, look no further.