The Epiphone 335 Pro thin-line, semi-hollow body electric guitar is one of the best bargains available in this style of instrument. The guitar is essentially an upgraded Epiphone Dot with both cosmetic and functional upgrades. Of course the true bargain comparison is to the Gibson ES-335 models.
Epiphone has been offering the 335 Pro for several years to select dealers. To further differentiate these as “custom” and “exclusive” products, the colors available are often different from the different dealers who carry them. Last year I could have selected from Cherry, Natural or Sunburst if I wanted to purchase a 335 Pro from The Guitar Center or Musician’s Friend. Last year I wasn’t in the market for a new guitar — I was still downsizing my collection in preparation for my move South.
But after moving to North Carolina I found myself missing the Epiphone Casino I had sold up north. I had been thinking about replacing the Casino with a 335 style guitar for some time and started looking at the 335 Pro again. As Christmas 2015 approached I discovered Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend carried the Epiphone 335 Pro only in Ebony. It’s fine with me if you want an Ebony guitar. Many iconic guitars have been black. But I will never own a painted guitar. It’s a personal preference and mine is to be able to see the woodgrain.
I found the 335 Pro in an Iced Tea Sunburst from American Musical Supply. Even better, after the holidays it was put on clearance so I could buy it new at a discount.
The first noticeable cosmetic difference between the 335 Pro and the Dot is that the 335 Pro doesn’t have ‘dots’ but instead has small block inlays on the fingerboard. This makes it resemble the Gibson 335 models from 1963. In fact, Gibson is currently selling a Custom Shop Historic Reissue 1963 model. The Gibson Larry Carlton model is also similar. Although blocks instead of dots are merely cosmetic, I’ve always preferred Gibson electric guitars that had block inlays.
The iced tea sunburst finish is gorgeous. However, as with any guitar in this price range, the finish is high gloss urethane, not thin nitrocellulose as you would get on the Gibsons.
The pickups on the 335 Pro are Alnico humbuckers with coil splitting. I had loved the clean single coil sound of the P90s on my Casino but I also missed the warmer humbucker sound and was sometimes frustrated by P90 hum (noise) which humbuckers defeat. Now with the 335 Pro I get to choose which sound I want. The single coil sound isn’t the same as a P90 but it does have that chime.
Another minor cosmetic irritation was solved when I discovered the Epiphone “E” logo on the pickguard easily pealed off. I really hate that logo, particularly when plastered on their products. The guitar looks much more elegant with a plain pickguard.
I purchased the genuine Epiphone case designed to fit Dots, 335-Pros, Rivieras and Casinos. My old Casino had a genuine Epiphone case. But I was pleasantly surprised that the new case is an improved design. The old case on my Casino had a flat top. The top on the case is arched which is better protection for your guitar.
I often encounter people who want to argue that an Epiphone, or any inexpensive guitar designed to resemble a more expensive Gibson model, just isn’t as good. They want to argue that the Gibson is so much better than the Epiphone. The problem is I don’t know anyone who would disagree. I wouldn’t.
Of course the $4000 to $5500 Gibson is better than the $400 Epiphone. If you’re a professional or have the money, get the Gibson. The question isn’t whether the Gibson is better — it is. The question is two-fold actually. First, is the Epiphone good enough for your needs? Second, could you do something better with money you saved by buying the Epiphone. Let me use some approximate dollar amounts to illustrate. Epiphone with case is about $500 while the Gibson is about $5000. So, would you rather have an Epiphone 335 Pro plus $4500 available for anything else (presuming you could afford either), let’s say an amplifier and other gear — or would you rather have only the Gibson. Like I said, the Gibson is a great guitar. But for me, the Epiphone 335 Pro meets — exceeds, my needs and desires. I am completely happy with my choice.
There’s a range of 335 style choices between the Epiphone Dot or the 335 Pro and a genuine Gibson ES-335. I’ve discussed these previously, for example in a blog post titled “The Gibson ES-335 and Competitors.” The simple summary of why I chose the Epiphone 335 Pro over the alternatives is that it was the best looking, least expensive model with better features than the alternatives. None of the other choices had coil splitting. Although some had flamed maple finishes, they also tended to have gold hardware. Gold tends to not age well and I try to avoid it on guitars. It’s a flashy cosmetic option which to me says, “look, I’ve got a cheap guitar but it’s got gold pickups so, whoopee.” Of those I reviewed previously, I would have been most interested in the Eastmans. They have the 1.75 inch nut width I prefer and nickel hardware. But they are also in the $1000+ price range. Excellent instruments but as I’ve said, the Epiphone at about $400 suits me just fine.
I just checked the Musician’s Friend and Guitar Center websites and neither list the Epiphone 335 Pro anymore. American Musical Supply still lists the guitar but the warning “limited quantities” and “while supply lasts” may finally be true. It’s a shame if these great affordable reproductions are taken off the market. You really can’t find a better bargain for this style guitar.
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This is a really nice review. I own an Epiphone Sheraton II which costs close to $600. For an extra $400, I had the pickups replaced with higher end Seymour-Duncan pickups and all of the wiring and pots changed. I liked the feel of the guitar as much the Gibsons I played in the store that cost ~$3K. What I thought was lacking was the electronics. For about $1K I was really happy with the outcome.