As we all know, Epiphone have been knocking it out of the park for years, producing high quality instruments at affordable prices with remarkable consistency. From the pub circuit to the stadium stage and touching upon every genre imaginable, Epiphone models are gaining the respect that is generally afforded to their parent company, Gibson.
The Epiphone catalogue covers pretty much everything across acoustic and electric guitars, basses, amplifiers, accessories, etc. Modern day metal heroes including Trivium’s Matt Heafy, Bring Me the Horizon’s Lee Malia and In Flame’s Bjorn Geloitte, have all turned to Epiphone to produce their signature models. However, it’s renditions of semi-hollowbody archtops that we’re going to focus on with this article, namely the beautiful ES Dot “335” and ES-339.
Step back in time
Around the time that Epiphone were constructing their own semi-hollowbody offerings back in the 1950s – the Riviera and the Sheraton -, Gibson created their legendary “ES-335”. Since its inception, blues, jazz and rock guitarists have flocked to the ES-335, wielded by the likes of B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and John Scofield. The Epiphone Dot, which takes its name in reference to the delightfully simple “Dot” fingerboard inlays, inherits the body shape and tonal character of the original with a few refinements added for good measure.
First things first, the Epiphone Dot “335” is endowed with a substantial lower bout. Initially, this can seem like a daunting prospect for some players. However, Epiphone provide balance by incorporating a chambered design to minimise weight. Thanks to a mahogany centreblock, enhanced articulation and attack results from tonewoods resonating to their fullest potential.
Joined to the body is a hand-fitted, glue-in 24.75-inch scale length mahogany neck, with comfort at hand thanks to the SlimTaper “D” profile. Bending strings to your heart’s content is a breeze thanks to the 12-inch fingerboard radius, a firm favourite with blues players.
Everything from smooth to throaty tones burst forth from Alnico Classic humbuckers via traditional Kalamazoo-style TopHats. Premium hardware appointments include Grover tuning machines, which uphold tuning integrity with precision. Epiphone’s exclusive LockTone locking tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece optimise intonation and sustain.
Put the Epiphone ES-339 and Epiphone Dot “335” next to one another and the difference in body size is clear to see, with a reduced lower bout – the stylish F-holes are still present and correct. The significance of this is stark, and those who find the Dot “335” cumbersome tend toward the smaller ES-339. The chambered body design with centre-block delivers the same rich output, but the resonant response feels much tighter than the ES-335.
When it comes to neck scale length, profile and feel, the ES-339 and Dot share exactly the same specs. As far as playability is concerned across the neck and fingerboard, you can readily transfer between the two with ease.
Rather than Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers, Epiphone equipped the ES-339 with a pair of Alnico Classic PRO and PRO plus pickups in the neck and bridge positions respectively. These beauties use Alnico V magnets, which produce a much “hotter” output than the Dot “335” Alnico Classic pups. In addition to this the independent volume controls for each pickup unlock push/pull coil-tapping capabilities, which tempers the output for when you want to achieve a “vintage” sound.
Epiphone deluxe tuning machines adorn the headstock, whilst the same tried and tested LockTone bridge and stopbar tailpiece carries out its job with steadfast dedication.
Which one should you choose?
As with anything guitar-related, it ultimately boils down to personal preference. The obvious differences here are body size and pickup switching capabilities, both of which dictate heavily what suits your preference. Smaller players and those who want a hotter sounding pickup with the option to switch to a more vintage tone, may lean toward the ES-339. The smaller body shape can be less taxing if you’re a gigging musician who is on their feet during performances, but both are designed to sit sweetly on the knee if you’re sitting down.
A less obvious difference at first glance is the output jack location. On the ES Dot “335” it is on the body top, whereas on the ES-339 it is along the side of the body. The Dot boasts nickel Grover tuners, which differ compared to the tulip-style tuners of the ES-339. Finally, the stripped-back style of the Dot offers stark contrast to the single-ply cream body and fingerboard binding of the ES-339 . These differences may seem minute to some, but we have seen players refuse to touch a model for less. Guitarists can be a precious bunch.
As with anything you should always give both options a once over, as you never know what you might fall in love with. After all, the ES-335 has been the instrument of choice for many guitarists for decades with good reason. If you fancy having a look at the other guitars that we’ve got to offer, then check out the Dawsons website.
As ever, if you need any help or advice then our Customer Service Team are more than happy to help over the phone on 01925 582420. Our in-store specialists will guide you through the wonderful world of guitars. Pop into your nearest Dawsons store.
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.