Gibson ES 339 Review: Is It the Right One For Your Style?

By Jodie Chiffey | Electric Guitars

Our Gibson ES 339 review will give you all the information you need to know to help you decide if this guitar is for you. You’ll probably be familiar with the well known and iconic ES 335. Over the years it has been played by the likes of BB King, Noel Gallagher, and Eric Clapton to name just a few.

As we’ll discover, the Gibson ES 339 retains all the classic style and sound of the ES 335, but in a slightly smaller and more compact model.

Gibson ES 339 Review

We’re going to explore all the main features of the Gibson ES 339 to find out how it sounds, what it looks like, and how it feels. You’ll find out the pros and cons of this type of electric guitar, as well as whether there are any alternatives worth looking at.

We’ll answer some common questions about the guitar and by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll have everything you need to know to make your choice.

Key specifications of Gibson ES 339

Made in Gibson’s custom factory in Memphis, Tennessee, the Gibson ES 339 is a high-quality semi-hollow electric guitar in a smaller size than it’s more famous big-brother the ES 335. Here are the main specifications of the Gibson ES 339.

Body Shape double cut, semi-hollow body.)
Body Material Top and back – 3-ply Maple/Poplar/Maple. Bracing – Spruce Centerblock – Maple
Neck mahogany
Frets 22 x Medium Jumbo
Pickup Neck – 57 Classic Bridge – 57 Classic +
Warranty Lifetime for the original purchaser from an authorised dealer.
Our score 9/10
Latest price Click here to find the latest price.

Core features of Gibson ES 339

The Gibson ES 339 comes from a very well-known and highly respected giant in the world of guitar making. Gibson are always tinkering with their designs, innovating with their technology and developing their range and the ES 339 is a development from the ES 335.

The ES 339 is part of the ES family which began with the ES 335 in 1958. The 335 quickly became an icon and a firmly loved guitar in the Gibson stable. Not content, Gibson expanded the range with two downsized semis, the ES 336 and the ES 346. In 2007 they launched the modern classic ES 339:

Size and shape

The Gibson ES 339 is similar in size to the 336/346. At 14 ¼” wide and 16 ¾“ long it’s considerably smaller than the ES 335 which comes in at 16” x 19”. The rim depth is 1 ¾”.

If you’re a fan of the ES 335 but you just don’t get on with the larger size and feel that something a bit more compact would suit you, then this is definitely the guitar to consider.

It has a delightfully curvy shape with lightly arched top and bottom and an overall comfortable play. The one-piece quartersawn mahogany neck comes in two possible sizes: 30/60 with the slimmer but wider feel of the earlier 1960s, or the ‘59 neck profile which is somewhat heftier.

It’s topped with a back-angled head at 17°. The neck is a c-profile and the frets on the pearloid dot inlay rosewood fingerboard are well rounded but tall which allows plenty of scope for gymnastic bends, pull-offs, and hammer-ons.

Overall we find the size of the ES 339 a real plus-point. You don’t always want to be carting a big guitar around the place and this guitar is just so comfortable to play.

It feels much less bulky than the 335, closer to the feel of a solid body, and the curves mean that it sits really nicely in the hollow of your body. Some people find that the cutaways are a little tight to get to those high notes, but we’ve found that this isn’t really a problem and you can definitely reach them.

Sound

Obviously the most important factor when choosing a guitar – what does it sound like? The Gibson ES 339 has all the great sound you’d expect from a Gibson. It has superb loud, acoustic resonance from the semi-hollow body.

The tone is dynamic and clean with plenty of soaring highs and roomy lows. The well-known ‘57 Classic humbuckers provide a lovely smooth sound at the neck, a thick bridge and when you mix them you get an open jumping twang, so you’ve got a great repertoire of tones to play with.

Gibson ES 339 features

To compare the sound, it’s a bit of a mashup of the ES 335 and the Les Paul, slightly more ‘solid’ in tone, and not as wide in the bass as the modern ES 335.

It’s more modern sounding than the ES 335, but more expressive than the Les Paul. Overall, this is a really great sounding guitar with a smooth, classic sound perfect for blues but happy to step in to rock any time.

Other features

If you’re new to a semi-hollow guitar design you may want a bit of information about how this works. There are three body types out there, the solid-body, the semi-hollow, and the hollow, all of which contribute to the sound of the guitar.

  • Solid bodies are most common.
  • Hollow bodies are closer to acoustic guitars.
  • The semi-hollow (like the ES 335 and ES 339) have two hollow areas with a solid center block through the middle of the guitar.

In terms of sound, this makes them tonally similar to the solid body but with less sustain and less focus at the low end. The block in the center reduces the feedback common in a hollow body.

Semi-hollow bodies are favored by blues or jazz type players who like the focus and tightness of a solid body but with a hint of the acoustic tones of a hollow guitar.

In the Gibson ES 339, the solid block is made mainly from maple, but with spruce cushions at the top and back and is clearly but tidily visible through the f-holes.

The control layout is almost the same as the ES 335, with top hat pot knobs on the two-tone and two-volume controllers and toggle 3-way selector switch.

The one difference is that the output jack is on the side, which many will feel is an improvement. Other hardware includes the nickel light-weight ABR-1 Tune-o-Matic bridge and stops bar tailpiece.

Reliability

Making sure that you have a guitar that will retain its performance over a lifetime is something you’ll want to think about before shelling out hard cash for a guitar. In this case, paying a premium price for a Gibson makes this a pretty sure bet.

Gibson is well known for building high quality, long-lasting guitars and there is no reason the ES 330 will be any different. The lifetime warranty on materials and workmanship is a testament to Gibson’s confidence in their product.

Of course, there will be things that you need to do to maintain optimum performance. You’ll need to store and ship your guitar properly, and you’ll need to replace your strings every now and then and give it a clean.

Pros of Gibson ES 339

This is a really great guitar so there are some fabulous features to pick up on here.

  • Gibson’s Memphis Tone Circuit – A nice little addition that helps to preserve high frequencies no matter the volume. Many guitars go a little dark when you turn down the volume because the volume appears to turn down the high tones more than the lows. This little innovation in wiring means you still get the full spectrum of tones even when the guitar volume is at a lower level.
  • Classic tone – If you love the tone of the ES 335 then you’ll love the tone of the Gibson ES 339 too. The neck and bridge pickups are nicely balanced. The neck pickup is warm but clear giving an almost jazz tone. The bridge pickup is controlled, but bright and sounds great with a range of styles.
  • Great build quality – From the way that the lightly arched, pressed laminate back and top are glued to the laminate sides using kerfed linings to increase the gluing area, to the nicotine colored single strip edge binding every aspect of this guitar is carefully handled and neatly achieved. Using a computer-controlled Plek machine to level and finish the frets creates an even and reliable finish. There is superb workmanship throughout this guitar.
  • Looks and design – With its the studio body shape, tidily cut ‘f’ holes, and super slim waist, the Gibson ES 339 is not only comfortable to play, but also holds its own up there on the stage. Every aspect has been considered from the matt black paint disguising the laminate layer edges in the f-holes to the pearloid dot inlays on the rosewood fingerboard and the pearloid inlay logo on the headpiece.

Cons of Gibson ES 339

As with any guitar, even one as beautiful as the ES 339, there are always a few negatives to tell you about.

  • Somewhat expensive – The ES339 is not a cheap guitar. Of course, coming from the Gibson Memphis workshop you are getting great quality parts and skilled craftsmanship as well as the Gibson name, but if you have a tight budget or are looking for an inexpensive guitar then at upwards of $2000 this is possibly not the guitar for you.
  • Not that easy to find – Despite its popularity (or perhaps because of it) the Gibson ES 339 is unlikely to be held in stock in your local guitar store. In fact, at the time of writing, many popular online guitar retailers were out of stock with this popular guitar model. You may need to search around or get in line to get your hands on one of these beauties.
  • Narrow neck playing area – Thicker binding, which goes over the ends of the frets, on the neck reduces the playing area of the neck somewhat. That narrower fret means that you can easily slip off the treble side of the neck. It’s not a huge deal, and you quickly learn to automatically compensate in your playing, but it may take you by surprise when you begin to play.

Are there any alternatives?

Ibanez Artcore Expressionist AM93ME

Ibanez Artcore Expressionist AM93ME

The Ibanez Artcore Expressionist AM93ME is another semi-solid body electric guitar, but in a much cheaper price bracket, so accessible for the budget-conscious musician. A Macassar Ebony semi-hollow body, Nyatoh/Maple neck, and ebony fretboard combine to create a warm resonant tone in the Ibanez Artcore.

The double-cutaway allows good access to the 22 frets. The whole guitar is beautiful to look at with the ebony top, body and sides, gold hardware, and elegant pearl block inlays on the ebony fingerboard. Ibanez Classic Elite pickups give well-balanced output and a big tone, full of character.

This is a perfect guitar for fusion or eclectic players who like a bit of a mixture of jazz, rock, country, and blues. Check out our Ibanez Artcore AM93 review here.

Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe

Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe

The Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe is a bad boy of a jazz guitar. Extremely playable with a contoured maple body and maple set neck. Capturing the incredible Angstrom style with tight quality control and Angstrom’s exclusive technologies, these are a really incredible guitar.

The vibrato hollow body is made from contoured flamed maple and the set maple neck sports resonator wood with angstrom pearl block position marks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the differences between the Gibson ES 335 and ES 339

The key difference is the size, though there are differences in tone too. Where the ES 335 is 16” x 19”, the ES 339 is 14 ¼” wide and 16 ¾” long. In tone, the ES 339 is similar to the ES 335, though while retaining its versatility, it can have a slightly more aggressive sound and give tones more reminiscent of a Les Paul. Both have a laminated top and, despite the difference in size, both weigh in at 4.65lb.

What finishes are available on the Gibson ES 339?

The finishes available at the moment from Gibson for the ES 339 are gloss nitrocellulose lacquer in Cherry and Trans Ebony. What’s the Gibson ES 339 “figured” The design spec on the “figured” version is the same as the standard ES 339. The difference is in the wood construction used. The “figured” version uses curly or flamed maple. This accounts for a difference in price too.

What kind of tuners do you get on the Gibson ES 339?

The tuners are Grover Rotomatic tuners with kidney buttons. This appears to be a change as older models had Kluson style tuners with tulip buttons but there were a number of issues with keeping the guitar in tune. This change of tuner seems to have fixed that issue and is a much better set up.

What does it come with?

The Gibson ES 339 comes with a hardshell case and a Gibson Accessory Kit, which includes a nylon strap and some cleaning equipment.

Final thoughts – the Gibson ES339 is a great guitar, but you pay for it.

This is a superb guitar. You get the looks, style, and sound of the classic 335 but at a more manageable size. You get clean workmanship, a great set-up, and classic finishes from the Memphis Custom Shop. And of course, you get the Gibson ES tone from that semi-hollow body.

This really is one of the best new Gibsons on the market – a great guitar built with quality and consistency. Many people love the function and looks of the Gibson ES 335 but just don’t get on with the size. This is the best compromise you could have: An ES 335 for the solid-body player that still retains the character of it’s a larger sibling.

However, all this workmanship and the great Gibson name will cost you. It may be easy on the ear, but this guitar is not easy on the bank balance.

Check out more Alternatives from Gibson:

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