Gibson ES-339 – 2020 Review

Vlad
| Last Updated: March 12, 2021

Some guitars have written the history of music.

Gibson ES-335 was one of them. And at some point technology advanced, so we got an upgrade - a smaller, more compact body with the same features just like the original - the ES-339.

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Comes with the classic ES-335 Gibson design
  • Uses the classic 55+ humbucker pickups
  • Comes with a rounded C mahogany neck
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PROS

  • Made in the USA
  • Hard shell case included
  • That 57 Classic pickup tone
  • Semi-hollow sound in Les Paul body size

CONS

  • A bit expensive
  • Sustain length is shorter

Gibson ES-339 Specs 

  • Type of Guitar: Semi-acoustic Guitar

  • Body Size and Type: Double cutaway thinline semi-hollow with ES-339 body shape

  • Number of Strings: 6-string model

  • Tonewood: 3-ply Maple - Poplar - Maple body with Gloss finish

  • Orientation: Available only for right-hand players

  • Neck Profile: Mahogany Rounded C neck profile with 1.695 inches wide GraphTech nut

  • Fretboard: Rosewood fingerboard with 22 Medium jumbo frets

  • Scale Length: 24.75 inches

  • Bridge: ABR-1 Tune-o-matic system

  • Color: Cherry and Translucent Ebony

  • Pickup Type: Gibson Classic 57 HH pickup configuration

  • Weight: 8.25 lbs approx

Pros

Here are some of the pros:

Semi-Hollow Sound in Les Paul Body Size 

When you think about it, Gibson ES-335 is probably one of the most famous semi-hollow guitars. But it’s been so often reported as heavy and bulky and it won’t fit anyone. On the other hand, the growth of solid-body guitar players in the last 50 years made Gibson reconsider the semi-hollow body size as those players were simply not interested. 

That’s why instruments such as the Gibson ES-339 were needed so much. It shares all the features of the ES-335 but installed in a smaller body type, more close to typical Les Paul.

That 57 Classic Pickup Tone

Gibson 57 Classic is a humbucker pickup that is well-respected by guitar players. It’s quite often on the upgrade list for many players, especially those with larger playing mileage.

They are very capable of delivering that vintage tone everyone loves so it’s a perfect fit for ES-339. It does a sweet midrange emphasis with a very hot output. Combined with the punchier body response, these pickups may also sound very modern if you add some drive to it.

Made in the USA

So many guitars nowadays are made overseas. Gibson approves its price by the fact that all guitars are still made in the USA. Made in the USA is not just a fancy gimmick - it actually means that the build quality has been inspected to perfection and the craftsmanship is unprecedented since this model is being made in Gibson’s Custom Shop department.

Hard Shell Case Included

You will save a lot of time browsing for the ideal case with this purchase. Gibson is providing you with the hard shell case so you can carry your guitar anywhere. It’s firm enough so you can take it even on a plane.

Cons

Let's look at the cons:

Sustain Length is Shorter

Because of its body size, the overall resonance and sustain of the instrument is reduced. This is especially audible while you play it unplugged. It may be more comfortable, but having these aspects affected spoils the purpose of semi-hollow guitars in general.

A Bit Expensive

Today we have even professional guitars being made for under one grand. That’s why having a guitar listed at this price leaves you with a bittersweet taste. Sure, it has a bit more of everything, but we don’t blame you if you think it’s not worth the price difference.

What Recent Buyers Report

People tend to describe this guitar as a crossover between Les Paul and ES-335 and it seems to be a nice description. They love the sound it delivers and they say that the lead tones are wonderful. They are often regarded as very versatile and most of them purchased this guitar because they were looking for a smaller body than ES-335. The guys who are shorter especially liked this body size.

Experienced players comment that the clean tones sound even better than with ES-335. It is also commented to be a bit closer to a solid-body guitar tone than semi-hollow and would gladly buy it over ES-335 in general. The price seems to be more affordable and the sound is a bit more modern. It also seems to be a bit more prone to feedback issues as well.

However, they felt that strings were sort of basic for a guitar of this price range so they recommend you to change it as soon as possible. Also, they strongly advise you to go out and try it for yourself in the shop as the sound and the playability may vary based on the model that you’re about to purchase. 

What Are the Components of the Gibson ES-339? 

Gibson ES-339 semi-hollow guitars have a reduced size double-cutaway body with f-shaped holes on the top and Gloss finish. The Bridge system is equipped with a light-weight ABR-1 Tune-o-matic and stopbar tailpiece while the tuning machines are made by Grover Rotomatic with Kidney buttons.

What Materials is the Gibson ES-339 Made From?

It’s made of a 3-ply layer tonewood of Maple, Poplar, and Maple with Spruce bracing and Maple center block with single-ply cream binding.

The neck on ES-339 is made of Mahogany and has a Rounded C profile shape and acrylic dots inlay. The scale is set to the standard 24.75” length and 22 medium jumbo frets on the Rosewood fingerboard. The neck width is around 1.7 inches at the nut position and at the end, it’s 2.26 inches wide.

What Pickups Does a Gibson ES-339 Have?

Gibson ES-339 has dual humbucker 57 Classic setup with dedicated pots for individual tone and volume pickup control along with a 3-way switch selector placed next to a 5-ply black pickguard.

What Strings Does Gibson ES-339 Put on Epiphone Casino?

Gibson provides you with a D'Addario string set at .010-.046 string gauge for all their guitars.

What Types of Music is the Gibson ES-339 Best For?

Gibson ES-339 is an incredibly versatile semi-hollow guitar. It can deliver you a tone of both hollow body and solid body instruments so it may work with many music genres. It’s still faithful to its legacy and works great for jazz, blues, country, and ‘50s rock music, though.

But, a semi-hollow body allows you to stack at least some distortion on it and use it for modern music as well so it can go well for rock, punk, pop, modern country, and indie genres as well. After all, its versatility leaves you to experiment with all genres without specific limitations.

What Ages and Skill Levels is the Gibson ES-339 Suitable For?

This guitar is intended for professional players. It doesn’t mean that newbies couldn’t handle it well, it’s more of a price-related issue. It would be overkill to buy such an instrument for someone who is just starting out.

Anyway, pro players will definitely notice the small but important differences this guitar has when compared to the others and they will be grateful for the smaller body factor as it will drop some weight along and allow them to grab higher frets easier. Such size will be suitable for both youngsters and people who are not so tall.

Where is the Gibson ES-339 Made?

Gibson ES-339 is made in Gibson’s Custom Shop in Memphis, Tennessee.

When Did Production Start on the ES-339?

First ES-339 was made in 2007. It inherited the look of CS-336 that was in production from 2001.

Why Did Gibson Stop Making the ES-339?

Perhaps there were some rumors around bankruptcy, but ES-339 appears in production from time to time. The last one was made in 2018.

What Makes the Gibson ES-339 Stand Out From the Competition?

If you want a guitar that says premium all over it, go get a Gibson for yourself. 

It’s hard to find a Gibson that doesn’t fit in this sentence. Everything about this guitar is top-notch - finish, build quality, pickups, neck playability, fine polishing works. Nothing is left to be flawed or desired. Simply, Gibson did everything to convince you that you’ll get the best quality for this price which includes no import parts and made in the USA label.

Simply put, this guitar stands out as it might be the only semi-hollow guitar that you’ll ever buy.

Comparison Overview 

Let’s compare ES-339 with the other similar models and see how it stands against them. We’re going to review it with some older models, so we could notice the real difference and if you should consider buying it:

Gibson ES-335 Dot vs Gibson ES-339

Those two guitars share the same concept, except for the fact that ES-339 has a smaller, reduced body, more close to Les Paul size. And because of this body size difference, ES-335 will have much more sustain and resonance. However, its tone will lack a bit of edginess when you compare it with ES-339. It seems like ES-339 might be a bit more tuned for modern music as it delivered a bit more presence and punch in its sound.

But, to make it short, picking one or another will be a very subjective decision. Perhaps the price may cut it for you as ES-339 is a bit cheaper. But, except for body size, there is no significant reason to tell you why you should buy one or another guitar. 

ES-339 is more suitable for players who are smaller, but on the other hand, so many guitar legends have played ES-335 without any hassle.

Also, don’t let the Dot or Figured suffix for ES-335 confuse you - those instruments are pretty much the same and the only thing that is different is how they look. Of course, every guitar is different because the wood piece is never the same so it may happen that some model sounds better than the other, but it doesn’t have to do anything with the series name.

Gibson ES-336 vs Gibson ES-339

ES-336 was the pioneer of this body shape and it was announced in 1996. Then it got replaced by CS-336 back in 2001 and finally, ES-339 made a debut in 2007.

ES-336 is no longer in production so you can only find it on the used market for a price that is almost like the new ES-339 guitar. It had a solid top instead of laminated and Schaller tuning machines while the rest of the specs were about the same.

Gibson ES-339 vs Epiphone ES-339 Pro

This may not be a fair contest because the price difference will definitely tell you that Epiphone guitar is oriented towards semi-pro and newbie tiers. But we also must say that Epiphone may give you more bang for the buck than Gibson.

If you just take a look at the coil-splitting option that Gibson doesn’t have you may ask yourself why a $2,000+ guitar doesn’t have such an option that a $500 guitar has. And it’s not some minor option we’re talking about, it’s a feature that significantly improves the tone variety.

But, even though, Gibson ES-339 is the undisputed king of this clash. People are buying this guitar for that particular tone it has. The pickups are way better, craftsmanship and overall build quality are close to perfection.

But, when the time comes to pay from a wallet, you will start reminding yourself of the Epiphone guitar and ask yourself is the Gibson that necessary? 

We can say both yes and no - it depends only on your needs and playing experience.

How to Spot a Fake ES-339

It’s getting harder to spot a fake ES-339 these days as they are getting better with the copies, so here are some spots to tips what to check if possible:

  • Bindings on the neck

  • Thin pickguard

  • Headstock angle

  • Additional holes beneath the truss rod cover (should be only one)

  • No visible truss rod nut

  • How clean the interior is beneath truss rod and pickups

  • Mixed chrome and gold material on hardware parts

  • Smaller caps on the pots

  • Studs coming off easily

  • Serial number or “made in USA” missing

  • Wrong Gibson font on the orange label inside

  • Curved edge of the cavity

What Should the Action Be For ES-339?

The recommended setup is checked by taking the next procedures:

  1. Fret low E at 1st fret and measure the distance from the bottom to the top of the 15th fret. It should be 5/64". 

  2. Repeat the procedure for high E - it should say 3/64".

Next, measure the string height at the nut from the underside of the string to the top of the fret.

  1. Low E and A should be 2/64"

  2. D and G 1.5/64”

  3. B and high E: 1/64”

Then, recheck string height at 12th fret with strings open. Measurement should be the same as those taken at the 15th.

Conclusion 

Gibson ES-339 is a premium guitar. It was definitely made for pro players who asks a bit more from their guitars. So if you’re into this sound and want exactly that tone, don’t fool yourself with the second-best options. Take a deep breath and just go for it.

People Also Ask

Let’s cover some of the most usual questions asked about Gibson ES-339. We will mention some famous artists who have used this guitar, recommend you the optimal string set, and also provide you with a thing or two about how to properly maintain your instrument.

Is the Gibson ES-339 Hard to Play?

Not at all. Gibson guitars are known for exceptional build quality so everything will be tuned to perfection. The neck action, string tension, everything will be a bit better when compared to the semi-pro models. And that small difference is why the price is so high. 

How to Care for a Gibson ES-339 Guitar

Taking care of Gibson ES-339 is not such hard work. A plain clean dry cloth applied after every use, and storing it into a case after you’re done with your playing should be more than enough. Watch for the dust as it can get into the f-shaped holes easily. 

Fret polishing should be done once you start to feel your strings a bit different.

How to Date a Gibson ES-339

You can tell the date of the Gibson guitar by looking at a serial number on the back of the headstock. The easiest way would be to check it on this website.

If there is no serial number, you can tell the approximate age by checking the potentiometers here.

Who Plays the Gibson ES-339?

Gibson ES-339 is not so popular among professional users like ES-335, but here’s the list of the players who are noticed to use it at some point:

  • Slash

  • Noel Galagher (Oasis)

  • Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day)

  • Kelly Johnson (Stereophonics)

  • Alana Haim (Haim)

  • Matthew Mayfield (Moses Mayfield)

How Good is the Gibson ES-339 Studio?

Gibson ES-339 Studio is a wonderful guitar that shares all the tone qualities of the standard ES-339 but, without that premium finishing appearance. With ES-339 Studio you will only trade some visual aspects for a more affordable price which won’t be a bad idea in general.

What Size Strings Should I Use On an ES-339?

String sound is a very subjective category. While all players agree that the stock strings should be changed as soon as possible, the rest depends on your preference. If you like a warmer tone, you should pick nickel strings. Otherwise, steel strings may be better for you.

Why Do Some Gibson ES-339 Guitars Come With 57 Humbucker and Some With Different Pickups?

Gibson 57 Classic pickups are factory pickups for the ES-339 guitar. If you have encountered other pickups you can be sure that those were changed by the owner or music shop to get a different sound. In general, most users feel that 57 Humbuckers are the best option for ES-339.

Vlad

I'm a 35-year-old rock-oriented professional musician from Belgrade, Serbia with 20 years of field experience in various areas of the music industry. After graduating from elementary music school I joined my first band Alogia in 2001 which had incredible initial success with the debut album and became one of the greatest Balkan heavy metal acts ever. We have recorded several studio and live albums and played as an opening act for Whitesnake, Apocalyptica, and Paul Di’Anno. Meanwhile, I got a chance to collaborate with Roland Planet shop and get familiar with various music equipment for more than a decade. For the last eight years, I have done live audio mixing for numerous bands and other live and studio events, including some TV audio mixing for national television broadcast as well. Currently, I’m playing keyboards for one of the most authentic Serbian music rock legends - Dr. Nele Karajlić, also known for his work with Zabranjeno Pušenje and No Smoking Orchestra.