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ES-340. Bad Idea. Good Value.

Here's the catalog page introducing the new ES-340TD

Now that I’ve covered a good bit of the details of the ES-335, I figured I’d either start getting into really tiny minutia or write about some of the ES-335 variants that showed up over the years. Since I nearly bought one of these on Ebay recently, the variant wins. Shortly after Gibson was sold to Norlin (you remember-beer and cement) they started messing with the ES line. Most of the things they did were done to save money but the ES-340 seemed to be trying to fill another niche (and save money at the same time). As players started messing with their guitars to try to extract new and exciting tones from them, the manufacturers made an effort to accommodate them. Vox went a little nuts with onboard effects like fuzz and wah wah and Gibson went along as well. While they had fuzz on the EB 3 (I think) bass, they never put it on a guitar. But they did buy into the coil tap concept and the out of phase pickup fad. The ES 340 was essentially a 335 with different wiring and, to save money a 3 piece maple neck. It was, by all accounts, a pretty wacky wiring scheme that no  one in their right mind would leave as is. the 3 way switch, instead of bridge-both-neck, was now both on-both off and both out of phase. So, the only way you could play with just the neck or just the bridge pickup was to turn down the volume of the one you weren’t using. Not exactly a quick change arrangement for those rare times you wanted to solo. What were these guys smoking? It’s an easy fix if you want to turn it back into a 335-just drop in the correct harness. I don’t think the pickups were out of magnetic phase-since a switch couldn’t change that, so you shouldn’t have to open one of the pickups to flip over the magnet like you do in a 345 that you want to make into a mono guitar in phase. The earliest 1969 340s had no volute and no made in USA stamp and most that I’ve seen have been blonde. Later, the volute and stamp showed up as did the walnut finish. Interestingly, the 1970 Gibson catalog says that the body was birch. It doesn’t mention that it is plywood but they rarely do. It could well be birch plywood-another big savings over the maple plywood used in the 50s and 60s. It also states that the board is Brazilian which I think is an outright lie. Gibson stopped using Brazilian on these guitars in 1965. Given the cost of Brazilian, I don’t think they would have used it here and none of the few that I’ve seen appear to be Brazilian. These never seem to sell for very much and can be a good deal if your budget is under $2500. A 1969 blonde, no volute model went for $2300 on Ebay and another walnut with volute went for a little less. Compare those prices to what sellers are asking for early 70’s 335s and you’ll see my point. Just remember, you’ll need to rewire or drop in a pre wired harness.

Here's a Nice 1969 in Blonde (Natural) This was on Ebay recently and is probably still for sale by the very nice folks a Southside Guitars in Brooklyn.

This shows the 3 piece neck and no volute construction. Technically, it could be a 5 piece neck if the dark lines are laminates and not paint.

25 Responses to “ES-340. Bad Idea. Good Value.”

  1. TonyF says:

    Hey:

    Another cool post. I had that spec sheet when I was kid.
    Wonder what I did with that. I played one of those back in
    the day when the Gibson dealer in my central Ill hometown
    got one in. Remember the ES150 DCW from the same time?
    Basically a full hollow body in the 335 shape w/ master vol.
    Usually in Walnut finish. Who Gibson thought this stuff up.

  2. OK Guitars says:

    While the ES-150D isn’t a thinline, I’ll still do a post about it. Also the ES 347 and eventually the modern variations ES 339 and CS 356 and ES 137. I’ll eventually do the thinline fhollow body type as well like the ES-330, 225 and 125. Then the ES Artist and the early Gibson/Epiphones (Riviera, Sheraton, Casino, Sorrento and Granada)/ Plenty on the horizon.

  3. Eric says:

    Sounds great. I’ve been watching a lot of old clips of blues musicians (such as John Lee and Otis Rush) and I’ve seen that the Riviera and Sheraton were favorites at that time. Looking forward to being educated 🙂

  4. OK Guitars says:

    I’ll probably do Gibson Epiphones in the next week or 2.

  5. RobertD says:

    I have enjoyed my ES 340 for over 35 years to date. no, it’s not wired like a 335. It does, however, have a Master Volume control and it does not lose volume when you pan from one pickup to the other. The pan control consists of two pots on one shaft. It provides a smooth transition between the pickups much as that smaller 5th knob on my Rickenbacker. That Standby feature at the bat switch always allowed me to leave my AC-30 fired up when the band would take a break,I do miss gigging. Yes it does make every sound a 335 can, plus more. I still like the out of phase sound once in while. There was a learning curve, admittedly, to become comfortable and proficient with the controls on my 340, but, it was worth the trouble.

  6. OK Guitars says:

    I could never figure out what the little knob on a Ricky actually did. I figured it only worked in “Rick-o-sound” mode which I never tried.

  7. RonR says:

    A five piece maple-walnut neck is always an upscale option. Much more stable. The master volume wiring setup is much better on stage. Been using mine since 1970. Fantastic sustain.

  8. riffstar says:

    So I guess I’m not in my right mind, because I love my 340 just the way it came from the factory, and I’m not sure the author was even dealing with a factory-spec model because my switch is strictly an in-out phase—and he didn’t mention the pan knob like his respondent did. I too have had numerous ES models over the last 40 years, and outside of my ’64 355 the 340 is my fave.

  9. OK Guitars says:

    Don’t take offense. It was a poorly conceived circuit-otherwise it would have been around longer. They can be wonderful guitars-I especially like the first year but I can’t deal with the circuit. The one I played was a three way-in phase/out of phase/standby (useless). The controls were a master volume and a “pan” control. I don’t remember what the other controls were-at least one was a tone control. This was quite a few years ago and I remember it being kind of an unwieldy process. My opinion is simply that. If it works for you, knock yourself out.

  10. Michael says:

    I have owned and still own several guitars of various styles and uses. My 340 is still one of my favorite guitars for it’s versatility and sound. It SCREAMS when playing fat distorted leads and the sustain. I have recently had it re-fretted (as i had a bad experience 3 years ago with a bad re-fret job) and it’s now stainless steel with a new precision nut. It’s truly amazing. The author understandably didn’t spend the time it takes to get ALL of the combinations that are possible with the wiring scheme. I admit it was not like the normal wire harness setup, but it gives you uncanny sound capabilities. I LOVE my 340!!!. Original one owner,bought in 1971….

  11. #$0 owner for 40 years says:

    Not everything said in this post is quite right (this is a nice way of saying BS). Since you almost bought an ES-340 I would assume that you actually never owned one otherwise you would know that you do not turn the volume down to get either treble or bass pickup. one of the pots manages the how much of either pickup is used. In other words at 0 it is full treble at 5 it is evenly split and at 10 it is the bass pickup. This allows for a blending of the pickups. You can only get the phase difference when both pickups are equal (i.e., pot is in the 5 position) because there is no coil tap. I do agree that the wiring scheme is overly complicated and not well thought out but for the time it was innovative. My 340 is as beautiful as the day I bought it so I would have to say that it is a quality piece of craftsmanship. Sure beats the crap that has been coming out in recent years,

  12. cgelber says:

    Thanks for the correction. I have never owned a 340 but only played one at a show a few years ago. It still seems ill conceived especially in a live application.

  13. Mike says:

    I’ve owned one before, and the board is indeed Brazilian. You seem to have this concept that this guitar was a money-saver – it was not. It was supposed to be an upgrade. Examine the L5 and you’ll see the same neck – it’s more costly to build a multi-piece neck, and more stable too. Everything on this guitar was supposed to be an upgrade. It’s ironic because now mahogany is more expensive than maple – but this simply wasn’t the case back when the rain-forests were being cleared for Brazilian beef industry. At that time rain-forest woods were among the cheapest used. In any case, everything about this guitar was intended to be upscale from the ES-335. Was that itself ill-conceived? Sure it was, it showed how little Gibson understood its market. But that doesn’t mean the Guitar was a cheaper version, it was actually more expensive and even cost more for them to build. Thanks!

  14. David says:

    I got a Gibson ES-340TDW (Walnut) back in 1970 and still have it. I used it for my primary live performance guitar for ten years and loved it. The neck is the most playable of any of my guitars and the sound is versatile and smooth for blues, rock…pretty much anything. Regarding the wiring…it was a great option for the way I was playing. In the early ’70s, I bought an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi (much better than the ones they make now, by the way), and when I used it, I would dial the pickup balance knob to 3 and 3/4 and flip down the out of phase toggle switch. It gave me this amazing tight, tubular overdrive with overtones that clearly defined the notes well through all the distortion. Without the distortion, the out of phase gave it a Strat-like sound. It’s nice to read about others who’ve owned this somewhat rare bird.

  15. JOHNNY GURU says:

    I OWN A ORANGE LABEL GIBSON ES-340TDW ELECTRIC SIMILAR
    TO THE ONE ON YOUR SITE. PRETTY MUCH USED IT IN RECORDING
    SITUATIONS ONLY FOR THE VERY SAME WIRING PROBLEMS YOU
    MENTIONED. I HAVE SEARCHED FOR PRE WIRED HARNESSES TO
    THIS GUITAR . Do YOU KNOW OF A SOURCE . THE OLD POTS ARE
    SHOT AND BEEN CLEANED MANY TIMES. I INTEND ON KEEPING
    IT SO I DON’T CARE ABOUT ‘DE VALUE’ jOHNNY GURU

  16. cgelber says:

    Try Mojotone. They are well priced and quite good. They can be a little fragile but once installed, there should be no problem. Have a pro do the install. It is no fun if you don’t know the tricks. It’s no fun even if you do.

  17. Sam Vuchinich says:

    I have an ES-340 as shown in your post. Got it in 1970. I have had numerous other electric guitars over the years, but I keep coming back to that one when I want rich tones and versatility on stage. You have a lot of nerve to make comments on that model when you don’t even know how the controls work, as has been pointed out by previous comments. With tone control for each pick-up, and a knob that controls exactly how much each pick-up contributes to the sound, the ES-340 provides unique tone options. Yes, the out-of-phase switch was copied with more efficient pick-up technological designs later. There is a reason why it was copied- it sounded good. And yes, it is an exceptionally good deal if you can get one for $2300. I won’t be selling mine for any price. It has become part of me.

    Sam

  18. timd says:

    I have had a 340 for the last 30 years. I think it’s a 1970. The frets are shot and I need to get them redone but one thing I have to say – whether in phase or out, this thing snarls. There is nothing that snarls like my ES. I have played them all but when this pig is dialed in, when it talks, people listen. I was thinking of sending the pickups off to see if somebody could replicate them so I can put them in my SG and my other ES and made some inquiries but didn’t take the leap yet. These are holy grail pickups IMHO.

  19. Bill Seper says:

    I think you’re wrong about when they started making them. I’m fairly positive that mine was a ’68 model–not a ’69. I had a blonde one with no volute. The guy who owned it before me had already switched the electronics over to that of a standard 335. I replaced the trapeze tailpiece with a stop tailpiece. I always thought the wood was maple, but I could be wrong. Anyhow, I played it as my only electric guitar for over ten year during the 80’s to early 90’s. By then I had literally worn ruts in the fretboard and decided it was time to sell. The only complaint I have is that the neck was too thin at the nut. After that I went to a brand new Yamaha SA-2000, which was a better sounding and playing guitar in my opinion. Wish I still had that Yamaha. I’ll attach the only pic I have of the Gibson. It’s a clipping from a magazine review of a record I did way back when….

  20. cgelber says:

    I had a blonde 68 with the maple neck and no volute (and the original tags) but it wasn’t a 340-it was labelled a 335 and had the 335 electronics. I have a 69 now that has no volute as well but has the 340 electronics. While its possible some were made in 68, they didn’t hit the catalog until 69. There are plenty of 69’s with no volute but I’ve never seen a 68 ES-340. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the photo that reveals the year. It is entirely possible that some left the factory in 68.

  21. Bill Seper says:

    I think it was a confusing time for Gibson. I know they also made some 335’s with 3-piece necks (i don’t know what years though) because I recall Larry Carlton once saying that he preferred his 335’s to have 1-piece necks. Personally I don’t think 3-piece or 1-piece makes any difference in sound or playability, but far be it for me to argue with Larry on anything more complex than the infield fly rule.

  22. Little Leroy says:

    I’ll wait to chime in on the ES-340 until after you’ve shipped it to me and I’ve had time to put her through her paces on stage and off. But I would like to suggest a post about the strings that were being used on the 335 and her variants. What gauges was Gibson putting on at the factory from 1958 to 1969? Did they all get wound G strings up til…?
    Thanks and Happy New Year!
    ~ LL ~

  23. Chris says:

    Why is this model being compared with a #ES 335 ? It has a tail piece which should mean entirely hollow bodied – much richer sound.
    The 335 has 2 chambers with a solid block center hence no tail piece.
    I’m looking for a post 1968 ES330 which shifts the neck out to fret 21 at the cutaway. The ES 340 has similar look to a 330 70-72 with P- 90’s not Humbuckers. I f the 340 is really a 330 with the goofy harness and a 3 piece neck then I would look at it, I’m not interested in the 335 sound I’d just get a completely solid guitar for that purpose.

  24. Chris says:

    Hey just checked original spec sheet which says it has center block and humbuckers. ??? why the tail piece then if they are trying to save money. I just want the 330 with the P-90s and the long neck period.

  25. cgelber says:

    An ES-340 has a center block like a 335. It is a 335 with a goofy harness. Why would the tailpiece dictate the body construction? All 335’s from early 65 until 1981 had a trapeze tailpiece-same as most full hollow bodies. You might want to read a few more posts and get a bit more familiar with the mindset of Gibson in the 60’s. I agree a trapeze tailpiece doesn’t really make sense on a 335 but it was cheaper and much easier to install than a stop tail. Gibson was more interested in making more money than making great guitars by the mid 60’s. It took a few years but by 1970, they had pretty much ruined the 335 and sold the company to an Ecuadorean beer and cement company (Norlin).

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