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Getting Better, Part 2

This late 2014 ES-345 looks pretty authentic and plays pretty well too. There's still little nitpicky stuff wrong but overall, it's a very nice guitar. It is over $4000 if you're buying from the usual discounters. Gibson stickers it over $6000. You would think they could get the pickup covers right.

This late 2014 ES-345 looks pretty authentic and plays pretty well too. There’s still little nitpicky stuff wrong but overall, it’s a very nice guitar. It is over $4000 if you’re buying from the usual discounters. Gibson stickers it over $6000. You would think they could get the pickup covers right.

Having gone through the well regarded Warren Haynes 61 reissue, I was anxious to get my mitts on a non artist Memphis reissue. The first one to walk in the door happened to be a 2014 ES-345. Not an inexpensive guitar either. These list for over $6000 and sell for over $4000. The blondes are $4299 at the usual discounters. I’ll start with the nitpicky stuff.

The pickguard bracket is wrong as are the pickup covers. The Varitone ring has gold numbers and they should be silver, I think. I’ve actually never had a blonde 345 with a black ring but I’ve seen a couple and the numbers are silver. Easy fix Mr. Gibson. I do think they should know that 345’s didn’t come with plastic strap buttons. 335’s did until 61 but not 345’s or 355’s. That’s a pretty glaring oversight, not that it makes any tonal difference. None of this stuff is a big deal because this isn’t a vintage guitar and even though it aspires to be a reissue, it’s just a facsimile. They could get all of this stuff right but either they just don’t pay attention or they actually don’t do enough research (or they’re too cheap). The switch tip isn’t catalin nor do I expect it to be. It’s amber plastic and it’s inferior to most of the repros out there because it has a big ol’ seam (mold mark). Too much work to smooth it off.

They have gotten some big stuff right, however. The body shape is pretty darn good and the 59 neck profile is closer than ever. Still too much shoulder compared to a real early 59 but closer than ever. I would have been surprised if they had done a vintage Varitone and they didn’t. The technology of a 59 VT is clunky and probably too labor intensive to try to duplicate. It is approximately 20 separate components soldered to that 6 way switch. To Gibson’s credit, the tone is right and it looks like they’ve saved some weight by making the chokes much smaller. It’s also mono which will make most folks happy. That earlier version with the two jacks on the rim seemed to make nobody happy. The bindings are finally correct looking after years of getting them wrong. Kudos. And the guitar feels right. I still hate the VOS finish and the really bad aging on the gold hardware. Why is the neck pickup shiny and the bridge pickup dull? Because somebody sweat on the bridge and not the neck pickup? I’ve seen an awful lot of vintage 345’s with all kinds of pickup cover wear but never one that looked like this one.

Vintage details aside, it plays extremely well and feels very much like a vintage 345. Tone-wise, the neck pickup really sings but the bridge is a little dull. This may be the guitar and not the pickup. This one is brand new and needs a bit of playing time before I can make a fair assessment. At $4000, it had better be a very good guitar. I’ve bought a few mid 60’s 345’s at around that price and once the reissues start creeping into vintage territory price-wise, it’s time to seriously consider vintage. In fact, if you don’t mind the narrow nut, I’d be buying a 66-68 345 before I shelled out $4K+ for a reissue. Of course, you’re out of luck if you want a blonde one. One last complaint. Look at the photo below. That’s some pretty shoddy workmanship. You would think they would take the time to clean up those edges on the guard.

This is simply a lack of attention to detail. Unforgivable on a guitar with a $6000 sticker price.

This is simply a lack of attention to detail. Unforgivable on a guitar with a $6000 sticker price.

9 Responses to “Getting Better, Part 2”

  1. Nick says:

    Good stuff,as usual. I bought one of these new in the box back in October. Didn’t care too much about brackets,covers,etc as far as nailing vintage correctness but more concerned with tone and playability. And Gibson hit it out of the park with those parameters on mine. Both of my pickup covers show about equal wear,one is not a lot shinier than the other. Also,the bridge pickup sounds anything but dull…full of bite,chime,bristlleing harmonics. Gibson claims these MHS (Memphis historic spec) pickups are scatter wound,a first for their PAF style reissue pickups as far as I know. The guitar is very resonant,really chimes clean and screams with a bit of overdrive. The neck is as you describe,big with lot of shoulder. The frets seem a bit tall to me compared with vintage originals and maybe a bit narrow too. Took some getting used to,just personal preference. They are however nice and level thanks to PLEK and the nylon nut slots are well cut. Hide glue at the neck joint,and according to Gibson they used longer vintage correct tailpiece anchor studs. I don’t know if all that stuff makes the tone what it is,but I can say this 345 is much livelier sounding than my 2010 Memphis 1960 335 anniversary dot neck. So yeah,I guess Gibson is getting closer all the time to that vintage magic. I agree with you they are too much $$$, but if you’re patient you can save some bucks….I got mine for under $3,000 ! Happy New Year and keep pickin’!

  2. tjb0274 says:

    Good to see that the modern 335s/345s are getting better. I bought my first vintage 3×5 about eight years ago because the quality on the new ones seemed pretty poor for the asking price – badly finished joints, rough fret edges, etc. I’m not particularly concerned about vintage correctness in a modern guitar, as long as it plays well, sounds good and is well enough made. Fender seem to have been doing a better job of that, but then their iconic guitars were designed for mass production, whereas guitars like the 335 were really designed to be assembled by someone with some luthier skills.

  3. RAB says:

    Nice to hear Gibson is getting closer on the aspects that affect playability and tone! And, like I did on a R9 Burst reissue years ago, one can source and install selected original 50s parts for more mojo!

  4. louis says:

    Hi,

    you didn’t the fact that those modern split parallelogram inlays are too close to each other, on vintage stuff, there is more space between them. This subtle, but that’s why i love vintage 345 so much

  5. louis says:

    I forgot this easy fixable ugly crown inlay :/

  6. cgelber says:

    Good eye. I never noticed that but you are absolutely right. I will post a photo showing the difference.

  7. Eduardo says:

    Also, is it just my impression or the VariTone on this reissue only has five positions?

    On the first picture I thought the knob could be covering it up, but on the second picture, with this angle, it shouldn’t be, but I still only count five little shiny “blurs”…

    Is it just bad lighting/angle or did Gibson really forget about that tiny little “6” (and possibly the actual position on the switch)?

  8. cgelber says:

    No, it has six. The switch is hiding the last number.

  9. Steve says:

    I have one of the 2006 ES-345 reissues, and I like having the stereo jacks on the rim–they’re out of the way, you can use a regular straight-connector cable and you can have mono or stereo. My biggest regret is that Gibson doesn’t make the pickups magnetically out-of-phase on their 345 reissues, as far as I’ve seen.

    If a player wants the commonplace dual-pickup sound, s/he can turn down one of the volumes on an OOP setup, or just use any of the many guitars with a conventional setup. It would be nice if Gibson gave us the historically accurate and interesting tonal option of the OOP pickups.

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