I became aware of this model guitar a few months ago...back in the spring sometime. The moment it entered my orbit of awareness, I knew I had to have it.
Those that know me know that I'm a child of the 80s. Yes, there are gaps in my knowledge of pop culture that get filled in occasionally (like it was the mid-90s before I saw Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller), but I was culturally aware enough to know generally what was going on. That included fashion. And one of my favorite fashions from like 85 through the end of the decade were the bright, neon colors. Bright yellow will always be my favorite color. Right behind it is hot pink. My wife knows that, these days, I tend to wear conservative, dark blues and greys and blacks and things that don't stand out. Back in those days, however, my favorite pair of jams were black with bright yellow and hot pink flowers all over them. Most of my other clothes had bright yellow and hot pink in them somewhere. My favorite car color ( and one of my favorite cars, although I never owned one) will that 1988 Honda Prelude that I believe they called canary yellow. That part of the 80s definitely influenced the colors I like best.
When I saw this specific guitar model for the first time, I thought there was no question, I had to get one. So I began trolling online and, especially, Reverb in hopes to find a good deal on one. Visited a couple of guitar shops, and they either had them regular price or didn't carry the specific model. Finally it happened. I saw 2 of them pop up on my Reverb feed for cheaper than I had seen any yet. In fact, they were both advertised as brand new, but their price was less than the vast majority of the used ones I was seeing. I messaged the seller to be sure that it was brand new. When they replied that the ad was correct, I pulled the trigger on a PRS SE Custom 24 in Bonnie Pink.
I've now had it for a month. And I can honestly say that I'm still as happy with it as I was on the day it came in. It's, also, the first PRS I've ever had. It's an SE, so it's part of their more affordable, import line. Thinking of it being in their import line, the most recent Squiers I've bought new have caused me to say I won't buy another Squier (they were that bad), but the most recent Epiphones and now this PRS have been excellent guitars and make me wonder why folks bad mouth import guitars.
As soon as this one came in, I did my usual "clean-up" routine on it that I do with every guitar when I first get it home. My little routine allows me to go over the whole guitar and be sure that there's nothing major wrong with it. And this guitar's fit and finish out of the box was top notch. For a "budget" guitar, I was super impressed with its out of the box playability.
I pulled the strings off of it, kind of buffed it out a bit just to get anybody else's funk that might be on it off, oiled the fretboard, bumped all the screws with a screwdriver just to be sure that none were falling out, and then restrung it. Carried it into my little music room, kicked on an amp, plugged it in, and played a few chords. Sonically, it didn't do much for me. It's kind of like my Parker; it sounded like a humbucker guitar, but doesn't really stand out to my ear. I grade all my 'bucker guitars against my LP with Burstbuckers in it, and this one, although it sounded ok, didn't quite have that whatever-it-is I like about those BBs coupled with the LP.
But, the more I played around with it, I was really impressed with the guitar. It'll be a keeper for sure. So, even though it sounds like just a generic humbucker guitar, here are some of my pros and cons on it after playing it for a month.
After having this guitar for a month, the more I play it, the more I like it. I'm pretty certain that it will never be my favorite guitar, but it's solid enough that it has become one of 3 that sit out on the stand that I leave out to play. And it will probably stay there. I've had Gibsons that weren't this nice of a guitar. I've had Gibsons that were nicer. The same can be said of Epiphone and Fender. I, also, believe that it's noteworthy that my cons are more preferences and things that are average and not really things that are wrong with the guitar.
So the question I have to ask now is, knowing what I know after playing the guitar for a month, would I buy it again? Absolutely! This is a solid guitar. Bang for the buck, there's so much to like about this guitar. It plays really nicely and it doesn't sound bad. Truth is, if I didn't admittedly have a bias towards the BB-type pickup, as was evident when I introduced some drive in my little pickup test, I'd probably say it sounded really good. This is a nice enough guitar, even though it's out of the "budget" import line, as my first PRS it has impressed me enough that I wonder what their more expensive MIA line is like. If this one is any indication, those have to be killer guitars!
It's no secret that I like Epiphone guitars. I also like Gibsons. And Fenders. And a good Gretsch. Gosh, I just really like guitars. I also like modding and even fixing them sometimes.
That said, if I were to pick my top 5 guitars from my woodpile, they would probably be these, and in this order.
Four of those guitars have been modded in some way. The Strat is the only one that is bone stock. I kept saying I was going to swap out the pickups in it, but every time I decide it's time to do so, I pick it up and play it, and like the way it sounds. So it has managed to remain untouched. I guess I did add a couple of springs to it to deck the trem, but I'm not sure that completely counts.
The Gibson ES-339 is mostly un-modded. The only thing I've done to it is to swap out the bridge. I didn't like the bridge that came was on it when I bought it. I'm not completely sure it was the original bridge either. So I bought one and swapped it out. It came with 57 Classics in it, and that's how I'm leaving it.
The Epiphone 339 has had the pickups swapped out and two of the knobs have been swapped. The original shipment of those that Epiphone sold were advertised to come with their Probucker pickups. When I ordered mine, and even when it came in, they were still advertising those as the pickups. However, when I got mine in and checked it, it had the Alnico Classic pickups. I found out that, after that first batch that came over, they had swapped the pickups in all the 339s, but they hadn't updated their ads or specs on the website. I was disappointed, but the ones in it didn't sound bad. Still, I always wondered what the Probuckers would sound like in it. A year ago, I ended up with an extra set of Probuckers, so I finally got to hear what the 339 sounded like with them in it.
The Epi LP originally came with Probuckers in it. A Probucker 1 in the neck and 2 in the bridge. I really liked them. In truth, I saw no reason to change them out. Played it for a year and a half or so with those in it. Then one day I got a wild hair and decided to grab a pair of Burstbuckers (a 1 and a 2) and drip them in to see what they sounded like. Honestly, I liked the Probucker 1 better that the Burstbucker in the neck, but the Burstbucker 2 sounds better than the Probucker 2 in the bridge. Because I'm lazy and didn't want to mess with it again, the Burstbuckers have stayed in the LP.
Those Probuckers out of the LP were what went into the 339.
The Epiphone 335 came with the Alnico Classic pickups. I was quite happy with those. They sounded as good as the 57 Classics that were in the Gibson 335 that I had traded off a couple years previous. I had no plans to replace them. I played it for a year with it being bone stock. Then, back in December, I unplugged my cable from it, and the jack fell back into the guitar. Then, while I was trying to fish the jack out and back into the hole, I screwed up one of the pots. So, since I didn't feel like I had the time to I decided to carry it into the my local luthier. And, since I was carrying it in for electronics work, I started making a list of what I wanted him to do to it. Basically, put in another jack and replace the push/pull pots in it. Since I was doing that, I decided to pick up a couple of 57 Classics to put in it. When I dropped it off to the luthier, I have him do all of that at the same time. Got it back, and have been super happy with the sound of it.
You'll notice that, by and large, it's the pickups that have been swapped. I know that there are a LOT of different pickups out there, and a LOT of those pickups sound really good. You may notice that all of the pickups that I have talked about are Gibson branded in some way. That's mostly because I know what they sound like because I've played them at some point in time. So I've stuck with them. I know that Lollar Imperials are supposed to be super good. I've also been told that the Bare Knuckle brand is super good.
By my own admission, with the humbuckers I've always picked, I have always seemed to chase that PAF sound. In the Gibson stable, the 57 Classics and the Burstbuckers are both supposed to get that sound. Of the Burstbuckers, the Burstbucker 1 and 2 would be closer to that vintage 50s LP kind of sound. In the Epiphone world, it has been my understanding that the Alnico Classics are the Epi version of the 57 Classics and the Probuckers are the Epi version of Burstbuckers. I once read that, from a PAF perspective, the Burst/Probucker 1 & 2 combination would be that 50s sound. The Burst/Probucker 2 & 3 combination would be that 60s sound. And the 57/Alnico Classic combination would be that 70s sound.
So, except for the Epiphone ES-339, all of the pickups were just swapped from the Epiphone version to the Gibson version. In that 339, I just swapped from one Epiphone version to another Epiphone version. In the case of the ones being swapped from the Epi version to the Gibson version, the Gibson pickups do sound better. The Epiphone ones sound good. They're not bad. I could absolutely play them and be happy. But, since I swapped them out, I'll say that the Gibsons seem to have the edge when it comes to clarity and range. I think there's a reason that they cost twice as much, and isn't just the name on the box they came in.
Maybe some day I'll try some other pickups like the Lollars I mentioned. I hear the low-wind Imperials are just the best. In fact, I've got a buddy that said that's what he has in his 335, and his guitar sounds amazing. Course his overall tone is a step above mine too.
All that to say, if you don't like the sound of the guitar, try some new pickups. Heck. Even if you like the sound, try some new ones and see if you like them better. Or leave them the same. At least for me, half the fun is in the tinkering.
Our personal musical journeys are always filled with twists and turns. So often we start down one road and end up going in a completely different direction. I was talking to Mrs Snarf the other day about that very thing.
I played for years and only played acoustics. Then I bought my first electric. It was a low end, import Parker. I don't remember the model number. I only remember a few things about it. I never really bonded with it. It was a weird Parker because it was an SSH. And I traded it at a guitar shop in a little town several hours away to a shop keeper that just saw Parker and gave me waaaaay to much for it because he thought he had something special (he didn't). I traded it straight up on my first Strat.
Honestly, I got that Strat to impress Mrs Snarf. We weren't even dating at the time, but I thought she needed to see me with a guitar for some reason. I immediately named it after her. It also made it into our engagement pictures. Kind of cheesy if you ask me. But sometimes life is ooey and gooey like that.
Neeways, I started playing that guitar, and I really liked it. It was, in my opinion, a much better guitar than the Parker. Honestly, though, it was probably more that I just didn't know what I was doing when I bought the Parker. But the Strat left an impression on me. When it came time to buy another electric, I bought a second Strat. Heck! At one point, I had 5 Strats. Currently, I only have 4. And, for the time being, that's probably where the count will stay.
Between that first and second Strat, I actually bought a really low end Les Paul. I don't really count it, because I never bonded with it. It was a low end instrument with a LOT of the problems that you would expect from something that was at that price point. The humbuckers in it were...I'll be nice and call them muddy. They didn't sound good. I ended up swapping them out for a pair of Burstbuckers, and it sounded a LOT better, but it still played terribly. So, by and large, it stayed in the closet.
About 10 years ago now, when Epiphone first started making the ES-339, I picked one of those up. I tried to get in on that first run of them, but didn't get one ordered in time. So I put my order in and waited like 6 months for the next shipment of them to come over. Got the guitar, and it almost never went in the case. I liked the way it sounded and the way it played. It made me think I might like humbuckers better than single coils. Then I got my 1962 50th Anniversary Sheraton. Loved the sound of that one! Initially I thought it was the fact that it had humbuckers too (even though it's mini-hums in it). Then, because I have always like the aesthetic of an ES-335, I got one of those. Oddly enough, I LOVED the sound of that one, but I never bonded with it. There was something just not right about it. But I got to wondering, at that point, my 3 favorite guitars were all semi-hollows, so was it the humbuckers or the semi-hollow that I liked.
Fast forward another couple years, and I was trading the 335 off. I picked up that Epiphone Les Paul when I did, and really liked the sound of it. I figured I was just turning into an humbucker kind of guy. But I realized that I still liked the sound of the 339 better than the LP. Then a year later, I picked up the Epi 335. I totally dug the sound of it. So I started doing the A/B thing with some of my guitars, and I realized that I think I have a thing for semi-hollows with humbuckers. That sound just really does it for me.
A few months after that, I had always told myself I wanted a real live Gibson ES-339, preferably made in the area of 2010 when the Custom Shop was making all of them. I had been trolling for a particular color. Found what I thought was a screamin' deal on one on the other side of the Metroplex. So I got it. And it has been my main guitar since. When Mrs Snarf and I were having the conversation the other day, I had realized that the second guitar hanging on the wall since I got the 339 has been either the LP or the 335. And mostly been the 335.
I've kind of done a 180. I started the electric guitar journey with single coils in a solid body. For several years, I thought they were the only pickups that were any good. If you played anything with humbuckers, then you were just letting your tone suffer. Now I pull a Strat out on occasion, but I primarily grab a semi-hollow with humbuckers in it, and I sometimes think that single coils sound kind of anemic. Unless they're P-90s, but those are a whole other animal.
Funny how that happens sometimes.
A couple of months back I picked up one of those Epiphone Les Paul Standard 50s. A gold top. Because everyone needs a gold top, right? Never expected to play it much because I've never bonded with an LP. Granted the only ones I'd played had been the entry level Epiphones and the entry level Gibsons. I'd never played a "nice" one from either brand, so some would say I had probably never given them a fair shake.
I think I got a pretty good deal on this guitar because it was being sold as a blem from American Musical. No big though because I fully expected to just hang this one on the wall because I think a gold top is a beautiful guitar.
It came in, and I pulled it out of the box. I'm not sure why American Musical was selling it as a blem. I'm guessing someone bought it and returned it, so they couldn't sell it as new. It was setup pretty nicely, and I couldn't find anything wrong with it. Once I got it on the workbench, I noticed that the nut is a couple of millimeters off center. I think it was cut weird because it's flush on the bass side and just barely not flush on the treble. Otherwise I have been all over this thing, and can't find anything wrong with it.
The neck is perfect. I wish all my guitars had the neck on this one. It's bigger than all the other electrics I've got. I've got an Epi acoustic that has a big neck on it that is bigger and borders on being uncomfortable to play after a few minutes. This one is big without being as big as that one. It's a good handful without making my hand tired. It's just a great feeling neck.
The pups on it are advertised to be an Epiphone Probucker 1 in the neck and Probucker 2 in the bridge. I've read that those are Epi's version of the the Burstbucker pups. I really like them. To my ear, they're clear and articulate. I especially like the neck pup. I've really liked the Epi Alnico Pro (Epi's equivalent to the 57 Classics) that are in my 339, but I think these Probuckers make the Alnico Pros sound kind of average.
It has the 50s-era wiring in it. From what I've read, that means that the highs don't get muddy if you turn the tone down. Honestly, until recently I've always dimed the tone and never messed with it again, so I'm not really sure if wiring like this makes a difference. Since I've started playing with the knobs on all my guitars more, maybe I'll eventually be able to hear a difference.
I think it looks as good as a gold top should. I think that the gold color is more yellow than the Gibsons I've seen. The Gibsons seem to be a greener gold that this one. You can look at the sides and see that it is a 3-piece body. Looking at the back, they have a veneer on it (albeit a nice looking veneer) that make it appear to be one piece, but it's not.
It's got the to-be-expected cream colored binding and hardware and gold knobs with pointers. There is binding on the neck, too, but the binding doesn't cover the fret ends like it does on a Gibson. It's got the vintage looking tuners with the off-white plastic tulip keys. The headstock is the new Gisbon-inspired headstock that I, personally, like better than the usual Epi headstock.
The one thing I don't like about the guitar is that this mug is heavy. Like orca heavy! I stuck it on the scale because I was curious, and this thing is 9.5 pounds. It is noticeably heavier than any other guitar I've got. I wouldn't want to stand and play it for long periods of time.
Other than the weight, this guitar is really a great guitar. My assumptions of the guitar when I initially bought it turned out to be completely wrong. It feels good and plays good and, to my ear, sounds really good. Since I picked it up, it has become the guitar that I play the most. For the last couple of years, I was typically reaching for my 339 when I played. This Epiphone Standard 50s Les Paul seems to be making the move to become my main player. I've played Gibson LPs that I didn't like half as well as this one. Over the course of the last 10 years I've bought several Epiphones (a 1962 anniversary Sheraton, a 339, a couple of different acoustics, this Les Paul, and others), and with every purchase, I am more impressed with Epiphone's offerings.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. He believes chocolate milk made from milk that is anything less than whole milk is basically water and deserves to be dumped down the sink so nobody has to suffer through it. He hates having to shop for clothes. But he has a thing for really cool bags, and, consequently, has more gig bags than guitars and a closet full of messenger bags and backpacks. He still misses his dog who was taken by cancer years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.