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Thinline Semi Shootout: Gibson ES-335 alternatives from Fret-King, LTD, Comins and PRS

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New pretenders compared to the archetype Gear demos playlist: http://goo.gl/30cAf Subscribe for more from Guitarist: http://goo.gl/2PRXE Gibson’s ES-335 is 56 years old and is one of the great classic electric guitar designs. Its merging of the traditional larger-bodied archtop with the solid centre block of the then-new solidbody captured a perfect blend of old and new. For many players - in virtually any style, including metal - the 335 is the definitive electric guitar. The influence of the 335 is everywhere. While numerous brands are happy to copy the ES-335, many other more creative minds have forged their own semi-hollow designs, both double- and single-cuts: we could have filled this round-up over and over with them. Our foursome on review reflect the diversity of modern semi designs, and they all fall way below the price of a pukka Gibson. Put it another way: if you don’t already own a proper semi, these might tempt you to augment your solidbody guitars. Guitarist's Jamie Dickson and Mick Taylor put the following guitars through their paces, using a Gibson Custom 1963 ES-335 Block Reissue as a benchmark: Fret-King Elise JE LTD Xtone PC-1V Comins GCS-1 PRS SE Zach Myers Buy Guitarist magazine in print and digital forms: http://www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk/content/lp/digitalbundles/mm-guitarist/ Visit our website: http://www.guitarist.co.uk Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/guitaristmagazine Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Guitarist_Mag
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Text Comments (161)
Kurt Noble (2 days ago)
My 80s ibazez jsm10 blows all these guitars away. And 2K cheaper than most of them. These guys are such corporate shills. Their pedal shootouts are so incomplete as well. Do you homework and do your bank account a favor and pick up a JSM 10 and enjoy knowing that you 800.00 to 1K guitar sounds way better than the fools on stage who squandered 3K to have a weaker guitar.
Mark Jurado (7 days ago)
Nicely done! Enjoyed the comparison, nice playing, good description of the tones, and I liked seeing instruments that are outside of the lines people normally color in for these shootout videos. Good job by Guitarist by not creating another Gibson vs other high priced marques but giving people some really usable information. Also enjoyed the fact that you have comparable tones and pieces being played, and none of it was buried in distortion so we can actually hear the instruments. Fine job.
Tanrichguy (8 days ago)
I always knew you were a closeted American, Mick. You no longer say “3-3-5”. Cheers!
Serge Ceyral (15 days ago)
Why don't you speak about the Gibson ES135, much cheaper than the 335 ? Same PUs and feeling at half the price ! I once owned one, that I later traded for a '52 Tele, because I disliked the thick sticky neck finish, but it was a pretty good instrument (though it was impossible to get a real clear sound out of it, the second reason for my change)...
David Bennett (18 days ago)
Would rather have a Guild Starfire IV Natural finish.
sgntbilco (19 days ago)
They all sound Good, I'll take one of each, that solves the GAS problem.
Antoine A.N (22 days ago)
for me the SE is the only one that's worth looking into
Scott T (24 days ago)
Ben Hackett (25 days ago)
I have an Epi 339 & Squier 72 Thinline Tele. I'd never trade either of them for any of these guitars. Great tone, comfortable to play & not so expensive that you're too scared of dings. That said the Zac sounds & looks great.
DevilsInkpot (27 days ago)
I love what you play at 1:30 – 1:47 … but I don't get it completely by watching. Could you help out?
Castro's Son (28 days ago)
Ibanez As200 ('81 to '83), the 335 killer.
Lé Polisher (28 days ago)
Hollowbody kings who rock... Ted Nugent, Steve Howe George Thorogood, Chuck Berry (obviously), Keith Richards, Clapton, Brian Setzer, Neil Young , Mike Campbell. Trey Anastasio
anticala (1 month ago)
Nice guitars but not one has the sound of a good Gibson 335. And thats the sound I like and we are used to by all great blues, jazz and rock recordings.
Maraia C (1 month ago)
The closest alternative is the ES339, I have both, and " by far" I prefer the ES 339 as well with classic 57 as with BB 1 & 2. pick-ups and the price is still affordable.
George Johnston (1 month ago)
I would include the Guild Bluesbird...chambered, no F-holes..but a very warm semi-hollow tone. I love mine.
Clifton Painter (1 month ago)
The Fret King is clearly the winner. Wonderful! Thank you and blessings.
WV591 (1 month ago)
you can improve ES-335 by keeping the size and shape and making it completely solid
Mario (1 month ago)
Say cheesy!!
Mack Lack (1 month ago)
335 is King, BB, Freddy & Albert King.
Randy Roth (1 month ago)
Very informative! I'd love to see you do a part two with four other guitars like the Ibanez AS153, the Epiphone Sheraton II, a D'Angelico and an Eastman or Guild.
XLBiker13 (1 month ago)
Nice demo. Excellent playing with great tones for purposes of this exercise. Well done.
Thomas H H (1 month ago)
Heritage. Thats all you need to know.
David Bennett (1 month ago)
I will save my money and get a Guild Starfire IV. I played a Guild Starfire from the late 1960's to the mid-90's. My Starfire was actually better than any 335 including Larry Carlton's.
Lingerffxi (2 months ago)
Semi-hollow not semi-acoustic. That would be more like a t5 or similar guitar from Godin.
cabonite (3 months ago)
the camera work is so frustrating. always close ups of they guys faces and hands. barely get to see the guitars.
Josh Gibson (6 months ago)
Have you gentlemen tried the epiphone century 1966 thin line?
just Me (8 months ago)
The Fret king I've got is great ( éclat) but back in 2014 had Trev taken out a big advertising with you ?😉😉😉
matteojones (8 months ago)
would you not rate the 339 as an alternative? or would you consider it less than the guitars you've already compared?
David Burke (9 days ago)
matteojones For this comparison I think they’d consider it too expensive. Remember that the ES-335 here isn’t really part of the comparison. They introduce it at the beginning just to be the reference point for the “original” semi tone that the other guitars can then be compared and contrasted to. All of the four main guitars in the video are then much cheaper than a Gibson ES-339 (even the Comins, identified as easily the most expensive of this group is only a little over half the price of an ES-339 on current list price basis).
Dan Rose (9 months ago)
hmmm The Guild Starfire 4 was missing from this post ...
Nunyo Business (10 months ago)
Heyyyy it's Mick
Stratplayr (10 months ago)
335 still sounds best, but I like the Fret King & Ltd as well.
daniel krampf (10 months ago)
I'm happy with my $199 Cort Source with p-90 pups.
J Boughtin (1 year ago)
Paulie Boy (1 year ago)
That was a fun view. (I realize that you can't test everything, but the Eastman and Guild are well worth a look.)
MiG2880 (1 year ago)
Useful, as I like the 335 but wouldn't buy a Gibson on general principle. Any company arrogant enough to charge twice as much as a USA standard Strat for their standard model won't be winning my custom anytime soon. I might steal one though.
David Bennett (1 year ago)
If you're going tp compare guitars then use exactly the same criteria. You're "comparison" is worthless.
justrockon426 (1 year ago)
would've been nice to have the ibanez artcore in this comparison.
dimiaraujo90 (1 year ago)
What about Gretsch? Ibanez? Duesenberg? Reverend? D'angelico?
Jammy Git (1 month ago)
They didn't pay Guitarist enough money to feature (advertise) their guitars this episode. 😶
Maraia C (1 month ago)
And Herritage !
samyazza23 (1 year ago)
is it just me or are the guitar sounds drenched in reverb?
Michael Gorman (1 year ago)
The 339 is an ideal development in my opinion-a real improvement
Maraia C (1 month ago)
Indeed Michael, I have 2 339's, and they are just amazing.At some points even better then my CS Nashville ES335.
aliahlianne (1 year ago)
Hollowbody i mean
aliahlianne (1 year ago)
My favrit hollybody
aliahlianne (1 year ago)
Hollowbody i mean
the prick in the glasses is really annoying. he should have stuck to selling double glazing
Lincoln Meredith (1 year ago)
plummy malignant jazz, SHITE... Blues man Blues
H J (1 year ago)
Lincoln Meredith That's barely English.
WhiteOakRidge (1 year ago)
I was looking at a 2015 $2500 Gibson ES-335. Gloss finish with with Sunset Burst. I was ON MY WAY to the guitar shop to purchase it and at the last second I noticed that Gibson puts a Richlite fingerboard on them!?!?! They were $3200 new....and Gibson puts a piece of decking material on the fretboard instead of real wood, come on man! They must have taken notice of the drop in sales because I've noticed that the 2016's now include Rosewood fingerboards. Sorry Gibson, it will be a cold day in hell before I spend $3000+ on a guitar where you cut essential components. So now, I'm looking at vintage Gibsons because they've pretty much lost my trust with that move. I can understand them doing it on a Les Paul Studio or something of that matter. However, it's a Gibson Memphis and considered to be in the private reserve selection of most shops. Nothing about a plastic fretboard screams quality.
stsgabe (1 year ago)
should have included an Ibanez, either as or am 93 at least
xMasterxRazorx (1 year ago)
That Fret-King sounds beautiful. Would have liked to hear more about the ESP, I feel like it got the least amount of time on screen.
Gerry Luby (1 year ago)
I liked the Fret King too. Seemed like the most versatile. The reviewer played it clean, no gain, I think it sounded great. I've also done a bit of research into the John Etheridge. He is an amazing player, and plays just about every style. Pretty much self taught.
김재순 (1 year ago)
I love Elise JE. cool warmer
Anthony Roach (1 year ago)
The PRS best guitar of that bunch .. Sounds beautiful..I've not really been watching it .. Just listening .. My ears pricked up with the PRS ..
Johnny Kos (2 years ago)
Gosh, am i gonna ever own a 335 ?? :P Love how it looks and the sweet sound you can have ... totally bluesy ! With p90s it would be the perfect guitar !!!!
Vincent Earl (1 year ago)
Johnny Kos get an epiphone casino :)
Lincoln Meredith (2 years ago)
Im a big lover of semi-hollows, but i "hate" jazz, to no f___ing end, it's just an insolent noise!!
Ripley (1 year ago)
Greenleaf is insolent :)
Ripley (1 year ago)
Greenleaf is insolent :)
Ripley (1 year ago)
Greenleaf is insolent :)
RobotShlomo (2 years ago)
I remember about twenty odd years ago every guitar shop I went to kept pushing PRS on me. I would say "I'm looking for a Les Paul", and the sales guy would say "no, you want a Paul Reed Smith". And no matter how many times I said I wasn't interested in them, they kept saying "Oh, but Les Pauls suck, you want a PRS". You don't how many guitar shops I had to walk out of because of that. I heard rumors later that the PRS factory made far too many, and they were having a hard time moving them. So stores were getting a lot of them at discount. More than they could move. Is there any truth to that?
WhiteOakRidge (1 year ago)
Yup, spot on. Same reason why as a young kid I would walk into Guitar Center and EVERY time they would try to sell me a Line 6 Spyder.......and at the time I was working on a farm making more money than the average adult when I was 14 years old. I had a JCM 800 2205 along with a Gibson Les Paul Classic in Wine Red......and those jokers would try to sell me a $100 solid state amp. LMAO! That's why as an adult I still won't shop there. They just push whatever gives them the most commission, and they have no ethical code to try and sucker even a young kid into buying it.
md54 (2 years ago)
You've just learnt an important lesson. Never trust anyone in a guitar shop. They are all hard sell crooks.
MrMjp58 (2 years ago)
I really like this review. No 'humour'/nonsense, good sense, articulate and clear explanations/demos.
Jevrem Ćosić (2 years ago)
dostacos (2 years ago)
No Duesy?
Carls Lobato (2 years ago)
More playin' less talkin'
stratosergio59 (2 years ago)
why you not showing the guitars from other perspective than the side,?
Andrew Hayes (6 months ago)
the binding on the fretking has paint blotches on it
orriol bohigas (8 months ago)
because you cannot see the design of the instrument or the headstock.
Guitar Man (1 year ago)
stratosergio59 why does that bother you?
Isaac Wimmer (2 years ago)
That LTD is gorgeous.
olifilipe (3 years ago)
I don't quite understand the shootout here. All the compared guitars have smaller bodies than the 335. Why not the 339 to start with? It fits much better alongside the other guitars.
David Burke (8 days ago)
Maraia C Ok then. Here’s the answer. In this video the ES-335 is not actually part of the comparison / shoot-out. The comparison is between the other four guitars, which despite the £500 premium for the Comins, are in a much more similar price bracket than any Gibson ES-335 or ES-339 would be (hence why Gibson is not part of the shoot-out). As such the ES-335 is there as a tonal reference point for the industry standard guitar of this basic design type and for that reason and in that context the ES-339 would have made much less sense. Hope that suffices as a fuller answer? PS. I also own an ES-339 so no slight is intended on the model from my comments, it’s just a fact that the ES-335 is the industry benchmark in this sector and as the originator of this type of design it always will be.
Maraia C (8 days ago)
Hey David, You did not respond on olifipe's question. He did NOT say that the ES 339 is THE reference, but when you compare other "335 like" guitars to the 335, why then not comparing the ES339 with the ES335 ,THAT was his question. I have 2 x ES339, one stock model from 2013 and one CS ES 339 also from 2013 , also I have the Gibson Nashville CS ES335, and believe me or not, although the 335 is a very very good guitar ,playability, soundwise, finishing etc...But when I only may keep 1 guitar, I will ABSOLUTELY keep the ES 339. The ES339 is very under estimated instrument. Unknown is unloved. +David Burke
David Burke (9 days ago)
olifilipe I guess that the ES-335 will always be the reference tone for any guitar of this type. Whether it’s a more similar size to these other guitars or not the ES-339 is just not THE tonal reference in this market segment... there are actually many ES-339 compared to ES-335 videos on YouTube for exactly this reason.
Maraia C (1 month ago)
I agree. I have 2 339's and it are amazing guitars. You have still the 335 like tone,but also a slightly LP tone. The size is very nice,plays smooth and sound just great. From jazz till rock,no problems.Both are from 2013,one is a CS and the other a stock model, but I do not notice any difference between both. and both have classic 57 pick-ups which sound very good in the 339.
West Pro Gamer (3 years ago)
Dont say the PRS looks a great deal more expensive than it is, PRS might get the idea and raise the price.. I think PRS makes the best value for money guitar out there.. Among the 4 you reviewed I think the comins and the fret king are the best alternative to the 335s both in sound and looks.
Thingum Bob (2 years ago)
The SE Starla is probably one of the best guitars you can buy for under $1000.
ozbizbozzle (3 years ago)
Godin Montreal?
Terrance Hill (3 years ago)
The PRS SE Zach Myers signature model very quickly took off as an alternative to Gibson's 335 legacy in the semi-hollow-body category. Amazingly, the PRS SE ZM out performs legacy models.... Professional musicians and side man players potentially will replace their Gibsons with more quality oriented PRS's...
W B (3 years ago)
what's the jam at the conclusion of the video?? That's tasty as shit
stsgabe (3 years ago)
Ibanez AS153? Fits right in the price range
Ronnie Williams (3 years ago)
At first I did not like the PRS SE ZM... however, when it was released I picked bought one from Sweetwater. It's the first and only PRS I've owned and honestly that was the first PRS I had ever played. For the money, I was shocked at what I got. Truly an amazing instrument! I had planned on swapping the pickups figuring they would be lacking. However, I wouldn't touch em', they're perfect.  Another good alternative to the ES-335 is The Heritage H535. They are cheaper and if you search and keep a good eye out, you can get a great deal. I have played one and would love to have one!
Javig * (3 years ago)
Nice comparison, thanks! What's the amp used? Sounds very nice.
Bram Claes (3 years ago)
0:55 All what he says is true, but you can to exactly the same thing with almost any guitar that isn't too hot on the pickups department...
SpezlvomAnneNr1 (3 years ago)
CentaurusRelax314 (11 months ago)
If YOU have soul when you play it, it has soul. If you don't (and no one who calls himself "SpezlvomAnneNr1" could possibly know fuck all about soul), then the guitar doesn't have it. You can't buy it. If you're paying three grand for "soul," you prolly shoulda saved a quarter for the Clue you're also missing.
H J (1 year ago)
Define soul because that seems completely subjective and irrelevant.
Arlo (2 years ago)
Right? the Gibson has a much more chilled vibe to it, i feel like the other ones are great for the money. But if you can afford an es-335 standard, i would spring the extra cash.
DMSProduktions (2 years ago)
Are soul?
DMSProduktions (2 years ago)
His point IS valid!
LJG781 (3 years ago)
If you ever get a chance try a Taylor T3.... has coil splitting capabilities, you can get a lot of great sounds... plus it plays like a dream....
Kerry Prochaska (3 years ago)
I rather wish this comparison vid had featured guitars that are more similar to the ES-335 like my Eastman T186MXLTD, a Washburn HB35, a Guild Starfire series, etcetera. Good vid overall, mind you.
Sean Marshall (3 years ago)
What amp is being used?
StickmanH (3 years ago)
Too many talking heads - the shots of the guitars are too few, with awkward camera angles
jaegeren wordpass (3 years ago)
No Sir!!! it may copy the sound just a bit but it doesn't nail the exact sound like Gibson 335...
Mr. Meems (3 years ago)
It's nice to see the XTone Paramount get some publicity. It's an underrated guitar.
Kristofer (1 year ago)
Shoes man i accidentally grabbed one paramount X TONE PC-2V made in Korea, (never played another xtome MIK) IT WAS JUST TOO GOOD TO MISS. not purely hollow sounding but think it's like Les Paul with focused mid range and es 339 with less boomy bass end. it plays jazz, blues, rock and roll and even high gain pretty well. love to buy another one with the same quality of mine any chance!
Jimmy Parris (3 years ago)
+Shoes I've never had the chance to play one but it certainly looks cool. It sounds good with this fellow playing it.
Gregory Kerian (3 years ago)
What about the Godin Montreal Premiere?
pinner94 (3 years ago)
Doing an es335 alts, why don't use use examples that have similar construction methods (ie laminated woods)? A lot of solid woods here. Should compare a Collings i35lc, Heritage 535 and es339. Just an idea. 
Maraia C (1 month ago)
Boony Tooty (3 years ago)
The Gibson 335 still rules......
Chandler Crane (3 years ago)
a reverend could crush any of these imo
raytheprinter (3 years ago)
+Chandler Crane IYO(In Your Opinion)
tusharistherails (3 years ago)
M Stratocaster (3 years ago)
Nothing beats the 335.
rhykko77 (3 years ago)
I own PRS's and love em but although this PRS is certainly a well made and very cool  guitar, I do not see it as really belong in a 335 comparison, except for contrast of course. 
Andrea Sabino (3 years ago)
what are you playing at 1:30?
jonthorsigmunds (4 years ago)
I'm very interested in the Zach Myers model, do you have any other videos of it? Any plan of making a proper gear demo of it as it has been one of the best selling guitars of the year? :)
nicholas peter gagg (4 years ago)
Ibanez and Yamaha make the best 335 style in finish ,woods and sound  and blow this lot away and are actually made by hand.
anak baru (4 years ago)
what the themes song this video? &what the chord play in part 8:08-8:16....i like this sound...
Ismael Flores (4 years ago)
What about the Telecaster thinline?
TJ&JM Brooks (2 months ago)
I flippin’ love mine.
laurens b (3 years ago)
I think the comparison is wrong on this point. Thinline's are solid body guitars, with routed out blocks and semi hollows are built like a hollow body with the addition of a centreblock. So it's two different beasts altogether
Infidel14? (3 years ago)
I like Tele Thinlines too. But IMO they don't really sound akin to your prototypical semi-hollow; they have their own voice.
telecasterbear (4 years ago)
I agree.  I love the 69 tele thinline style.
The Clouds Have Eyes (4 years ago)
I like that backing track you guys played over! Great comparison review!
Astma Grooved (4 years ago)
But, basically the 335 is unsurpassed ... Looks, style, image, sound, heritage, pedigree, feel, ownership pride, relevance, value keeping. There's only one real winner here; amazing, really.  It's like all the youngster failin' to be like grandpa.
Karl-Henrik Arendt (4 years ago)
Another awesome and cosy video!
leavemealoneyouprick (4 years ago)
The Dillinger Escape plan mate. 
Hollowbody has been my guitar of choice ever since my teacher introduced me to my 1962 Hofner Verithin back in those heady days.  Today I play Thinline Telecasters, but you need two since the humbucker-equipped ’72 pattern can’t be coil-tapped; you end up buying a single-coil ’68 as well.  Still, if you buy Mexican you can have both for £1,200 and it’s useful to be able to swap guitars on a gig instead of boring audiences while you fiddle with controls and tuning.  But for an all-singing-all-dancing Jack-of-all-trades (leaving out £5,000 Collings, Knaggs and Taylor – too valuable/vulnerable for hard knocks on the road), how about a Fano?  You can choose your hardware and control configuration and hae your very own signature instrument with that indefinable hand-made feel for an outlay of around £2,500.
Bradley Stroup (4 years ago)
Does that 335 have all nylon saddles?
tibonev (4 years ago)
The video could use a bit more playing, perhaps post a small 1 minute vdeo with each guitar, to acompany this one, would be great. Of what we could hear, that Fret-King really tops it, it matches the vintage benchmark very well, without breaking the bank. Really cool guitar.
Bill Rand (4 years ago)
i wish you wouild show thw settings on the ac15 on these demo vids
Henri Flame (4 years ago)
LTD Xtone looks the best from all! Very sexy looks! ;)
Kaelan66 (4 years ago)
Surprisingly liked the PRS the second best, behind the vintage 335 of course
David Burke (9 days ago)
Kaelan66 That’s not a vintage ES-335 by the way. It’s a current production vintage reissue instrument from Gibson’s Custom Shop. Obviously it’s still a more expensive guitar than the other four but still a fraction of the cost of a true vintage ES-335.
lowvolume funk (3 years ago)
I liked that one and the one before
Duke Duke (4 years ago)
nothing can beat the 58-64 style 330 neck
Arlo (2 years ago)
it got thinner in the 60's though right?
SKYWORLD (4 years ago)
10:55 GRRrrrr
John Marquez (4 years ago)
The Fret King sounds gorgeous!
Stephen Harrison (1 year ago)
I would like to hear the JSM 10 Ibanez against the fret king. I think I will be buying the fret king JE I love that sound. I might also try to get another JSM10. I am using the VOX AC30 VR as I couldn't aford the ac30 valve amp.
Doug J (4 years ago)
Wich amp did you use and was any pedals used in the making of the video ? many thanks
Guitarist (4 years ago)
Hi Doug, It was a Vox AC15C1 combo and a Free The Tone Red Jasper overdrive. Thanks!
Jesse Juup (4 years ago)
Great review, thank you very much!

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