Gibson es 333 vs 335

Gibson ES 333

Gibson es 333 vs 335

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Topic: The ES-333 vs the ES-335


Somebody asked about the ES-333 vs the ES-335. Since I’ve got two ES-333’s, and have a bit of ES-335 experience… here goes.

First off – the ES-333 was “supposed to be” the entry level thinline from Gibson. However, Gib made a mistake. What they did was price it too low, the dealers got greedy, and the model tanked. There was some talk about the 333 being the model they broke in the new workers on in Memphis. I cant say about that, but I can say both are well made, with only very minor complaints.

What they did on the ES-333 is price it at $1500 LIST price. It was supposed to sell for about $999 or so, with a gig bag. The next model up the food chain sold for about $1999 at the big boxes…. so what did dealers do? Instead of selling the 333 at a dicsount, they tried to sell it at full list, pocket an extra $500, and still underprice the 335. That strategy backfired. Dealers eventually became overstocked (due to Gibsons sales quotas) and dumped them for very low. I got one for $850 shipped to my door in a hard case, the other Vic got me and I think the price was $790 shipped, also in a hard case.

Now, they’re back up in price on ebay… go figure. If you have a chance to get one, and want a 33x body guitar, its a good instrument.

Ok, now to the differences.

The 333 has a thin “faded” finish, available in red, brown, natural, and they did a few sunbursts for Elderly and maybe a few other big dealers.
The 335 has the traditional full gloss finish.

The 333 has no inlay in the headstock, while the 335 has the logo and holly (crown) inlay.

The tuners are identical – either Gibson (Ping) or Grover (maybe also Ping) screw in bushing tuners, that appear to be excellent and smooth.

Same nut.

Same fretboard, frets. Both have ABR-1 bridges, and stop tails. They dont have Nashville bridges – and there’s a reason for that – which is the Memphis / Nashville rivalry going on at Gibson – a good thing.

Both have the same controls and switch and output jack.

Both are maple/poplar/maple bodies with maple center block. Some 335’s have a mahogany block, and some have a “hardwood” (poplar?) block. I’ve never heard of a 333 having other than maple. Keep in mind the 335 has changed, evolved, evolved more… over the years.

The 333 has a mahogany neck of medium contour. Thinner than a LP neck, fatter than an SG neck. Its nice. The 335 has the same contour, but, the neck could be mahogany or two-piece maple depending on its evolution.

The 333 has pearloid dots on the fretboard, the 335 may have dots or small blocks or a few were made with small traps too.

Both have bound necks and bodies, although the 335 has pinstripe binding, and the 333 has plain binding. Some 335’s have had bound headstocks.

The hardware is nickle on each.

The 335 comes with… oh depending on the year….PAF’s, T-tops, maybe the preHistoric PAF, SuperHumbuckers, PAF reissue (which are pre-57 Classics) or 57 Classics. The 333 came with the 490R/490R combination.

Just a FYI, a lot of folks poo-poo the 490/490 combination – I think mostly because they come as entry level pickups on entry level guitars. And… they’re really good pickups when used in the right instruments. I had to hunt and really try a LOT of pickups to beat the 490/490 combination in the brown ES-333 I have. I settled on a Burstbucker Pro #1 at the neck, and a Burstbucker #3 (non pro) at the bridge. Despite the hollow body and mahogany neck, the 333 can be a bright guitar, and I really had to search for something that was brilliant, and not overly icepick-in-the-ear for the bridge. The somewhat mellow 490T was actually a good choice by Gibson. I didn’t try the 57 Classic of the 335… I probably should have just gone with those and been done with it. But, I got a chance to test drive all of the Burstbucker series pickups doing that search, so not a complete loss.

The rings used are interesting…. Memphis has a set or rings that you cannot buy – except already on a guitar. They use them on all the carved and archtop (laminate) bodies. The front ring is shapped all different, higher on one side, and takes the arch into consideration. The back ring is really tall. The 333 doesn’t use those. It uses standard rings, like on a Les Paul. The 335 has the mystery rings. BTW, the ES-137 that I gave to Vic for Xmas a few years ago, has those mystery rings.

The ES-333 has no pickguard, and came with plain black bell knobs. The 335 comes with a pickguard using the “low archtop” standoff and has gold bell knobs like a Les Paul (but also came with speed knobs and witch-hats over the years).

The ES-335 has no back opening. The ES-333 has a back opening – which is the EXACT SAME as a BB KING LUCILLE. The back opening allows you to get to the pots and jack, and makes pickup swaps easy as can be. You have a monster cavity to solder in.


Sorry no pictures – but a Bigsby B7 got put on the brown 333 I’ve got. The holes left over on the body for the stop bar got neat little nickle plated brass buttons put on the holes – they have a little impressed rosette design and are set onto dowels that fit into the holes. They look good there. I told you about the pickups – BB(p)#1 and BB#3.

The natural (blonde, maple) 333 got the Phat Cat set, and I scrounged up a nickle plated trapeze tailpiece of the correct type, and fitted it. Same type of buttons cover the unused openings. I added a maple truss rod cover to the blonde 333 too.

I did those mods because I like the extra string length on the thinlines. That blue ES-137 I gave to Vic had that… and it was a joy

Hoping that covered it all.

=CB=, thanks for the detailed feedback. thanks for noting that the bb lucille too has the back cavity for electronics.

some questions though :

some reviews on harmony central hint that the wood used (particularlyin the fretboard) is inferior etc? any views on this?

also the 333 is supposed to have a ‘slim taper’ neck. and most sgs i know have rounded necks. so am not really clear how the 333s neck can be chunkier than the sg’s.

apprecaite the feedback.

hey btw any views on the guild starfire IV? sorry for bringing up something else – but this is also a guitar i have been looking at for a while now.

Yea, I have been looking at the Guild also and would be very interested in any comments!

Gibson is fond of calling all the non historic necks, all the non 50’s necks, “slim taper”. Most of the newer SG’s I’ve seen – the Specials, the Standards, reissue, etc have rather thin necks. The older SG specials, and the Juniors have the inscription “Louisville Slugger” on ’em if you look close enough….
The ES necks are just a tad slimmer than a 60’s LP neck I’d say. And its hard to tell, because of the way the neck joins the body as well.

Total BS on the wood. Thats snob appeal. The finish, yes. The wood, no. The fretboards of both of mine, and both SG special faded’s (the lowest of the low end SG), and my LP Standard, and my LP BFG… all the fretboards are pretty much the same, except the SG’s and the BFG have what appears to be ebony, or, very tight and very dark rosewood. Looks like ebony to me though.

I guess it’s very easy for established players, like so many of us here, to read Gibson = overpriced, poorly made guitars.

But reading your assessment there of the ES-333, you sense that this guitar was a real attempt of the company to give the public what they want and still retain the integrity of the traditional instrument (ES-335). I love the shape of the 335 guitar but hate the price. Would love a Cherry Red model with block inlays and huge bat wing ears. But I’m dreaming – as I could never afford something like that.

If I found a real need for a 335 type guitar, the 333 seems a decent player model option. I did notice these a while back, and dismissed them as being stripped down 335s with not much going for them. But your assessment of them makes them not so ‘stripped down’ after all, and with the same woods and most of the accoutrements of the 335. I also like the idea of the back entry cavity!

Funny you mention the SG Faded Special. That model is very well priced and is definitely a player’s model. If the pickups are not good enough, a quick replacement and you are in Angus Young heaven!

Thanx for taking the time to post the comparison it has been very helpful.

Great info there on the ES model differences, very helpful.

The guy that chopped the neck off and robbed all the electronics out of this use to be extremely valuable early 60’s ES 345 was not happy with Gibson for some reason.

There may be a Lucille picture or two on line for the back route – its identical. In fact it uses a mildly arched cover plate (black plastic). What they did was reinforce the route area with an extra inner laminate glued onto the back body section. That way, when it was routed for the cover, you still had a good 1/4 inch or more to put the screws into.


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