The ES-335 is one of the most iconic semi-hollow electric guitars of all time. If you want to get your hands on one you have the choice of going for the ultimate Gibson ES-335, or the more affordable Epiphone alternative. So what actually are the differences between them?
The Gibson ES-335 is made in the USA and costs $3500 whereas the Epiphone ES-335 is made in China and costs $600. Both guitars do look, sound and feel similar, however the Gibson has some more premium features such as nitro finish, rosewood fingerboard and a hardshell case.
Here is a table highlighting the specification differences between the Gibson (Original) ES-335 and Epiphone (inspired by Gibson) ES-335. There is also a Modern series version of the Gibson ES-335 which has some minor specification differences such as a satin body and neck finish.
|Feature||Gibson ES-335||Epiphone ES-335|
|Top and Back||Maple/ Poplar/ Maple||Maple|
|Body Finish||Gloss Nitro||Gloss Poly|
|Fingerboard Material||Rosewood||Indian Laurel|
|End of Fretboard Width||2.26”||2.239”|
|Bridge||ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic||LockTone Tune-O-Matic|
|Tuning Machines||Vintage Deluxe (Keystone)||Epiphone Deluxe|
|Pickups||Calibrated T-Type||Alnico Classic Pro|
|Pots||500k pots and orange drop capacitors||500k pots and CTS potentiometers|
Although these guitars use different humbucker pickups, they do sound very similar.
To my ears, the Gibson ES-335 pickups sound a bit brighter and hotter compared to the Epiphone ES-335 which sounds a bit warmer and tamer. However, I do think they sound incredibly similar and it’s very hard to tell them apart.
Both these guitars have full-size pots and the same controls (two tone, two volume and a 3-way pickup selector).
Check out this YouTube video comparing the Epiphone and Gibson ES-335.
Feel and Playability
These two guitars also feel quite similar to one another.
Both the Gibson and Epiphone ES-335 has a “rounded C” shape neck which feels quite chunky and might be hard to manage if you have smaller hands. It measures roughly 0.88″ thick at the 1st fret and 0.98″ thick at the 12th fret. They also both have a 12″ fingerboard radius.
The Gibson ES-335 has a rosewood fretboard which feels rougher compared to the smoother feeling Indian laurel fretboard on the Epiphone. Rosewood fretboards require less maintenance and are slightly less prone to warping in comparison to laurel fretboards. Check out my comparison between rosewood and Indian laurel fretboards to learn more.
Interestingly, these two guitars have some slightly different specifications:
- The Epiphone ES-335 has a slightly shorter scale (24.724″) compared to the Gibson ES-335
- The Epiphone ES-335 has a narrower fretboard (1.692″ at the nut) compared to the Gibson ES-335 (1.695″ at the nut)
These specifications are very similar though so don’t make any real impact on the feel or playability of the instrument.
Being semi-hollow guitars, neither of these two instruments are very heavy and both weigh in at around 7.5-8.0 lbs on average.
Although they have slightly different bridges and tuning machines, I personally haven’t noticed any issues with either of the designs.
The Gibson does usually feel a bit nicer than the Epiphone as it benefits from the better quality control as it is made in the USA rather than China. You can expect the fretwork for example to be neater on the Gibson, and for the setup out of the box to be better too.
The main cosmetic difference between these two guitars is that the Gibson ES-335 has a glosss nitrocellulose finish and the Epiphone ES-335 has a gloss polyurethane finish.
Polyurethane guitar finishes are more durable and less susceptible to fading, chips and scratches compared to nitrocellulose finishes. Nitro finishes are typically seen on older or high-end guitars Check out my comparison between nitro and poly finishes to learn more.
Again, there are several cosmetic similarities between these guitars though including the dot inlays, nickel hardware finish, pickguard and controls.
Both guitars are also available in the vintage sunburst, and cherry finishes. However, the Gibson ES-335 is also available in ebony.
- Single-ply cream binding on the body and neck
- Rounded C neck profile
- 12″ fingerboard radius
- 22 medium jumbo frets
- Graph Tech nut
- Dot inlays
- Nickel hardware finish
- 5-ply black pickguard
- Black top-hat controls with silver inserts
- Cream switch-tip
- 0.01-0.046 gauge strings
Which Should You Choose?
I’d highly recommend you try both guitars in your local store to decide for yourself which you prefer. However, in my honest opinion, I think the Epiphone is actually the better choice.
Not only is it almost $3000 cheaper than the Gibson, but it also feels pretty much identical and sounds incredibly similar as well. The only real benefits you get with the Gibson, are the fact it’s made in the USA, the headstock logo, nitrocellulose finish and rosewood fretboard.
Here are links to both guitars on Guitar Center so you can check the current prices: