Doesn’t time fly by – Hard to believe that a guitar that has a date of birth as 1981, is now pushing towards it’s 40th birthday – Makes me feel old as well, as in 1981 I was 22 and under the influence of many of the LA session guys, like Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton who all played a 335 – So yes I have a soft spot for such guitars as this 1981 Gibson ES335TD with an original nitro, gloss tobacco sunburst finish – It still includes its original deluxe Gibson case – So in no particular order let me supply you with a host of details :-
- Whole guitar weighs 8lbs and 9oz – More than credible for any 335, from any era
- Look inside the f hole and you’ll find the original Gibson Kalamazoo label
- Condition wise and overall it is in good order, especially when you consider its age – The burst finish has faded and mellowed over the years – Overall it possesses some played in character, but nothing that is of an issue regarding its condition – Sure you can view some surface grazes, but nothing nasty to report – No repairs in anyway, shape or form – Frets are fine and need no attention
- 22 low wide frets – low profile – A feature of Gibson Guitars from this era
- The cream binding shows the usual ‘yellow’ character, but the binding itself is all okay
- Dark rosewood fingerboard that is nice and smooth
- 3 piece maple neck which again is a feature of many Gibson Guitars from this era – Measures .812″ around the top nut end and fills out to .988″ around the 12th fret – So more on the slim side around the top nut era, yet gently fills out to a meaty depth around the 12th fret
- All original hardware throughout – No changes whatsoever
- Includes a pair of Gibson humbuckers – Bill Lawrence designed ‘tarback’ models – Look underneath them and you can see why they acquired this tag – Markings on the pick-ups are 401581N (neck) and 400681B (bridge) – So on the low side of the output league table – Neck measures 5.03K and the bridge measures 7.3K
- Traditional Gibson 3 way switch and 4 control format – But this era also features a 2 way coil tap function, that works on both pick-ups
- Almost the last of the 335’s with the trapeze tail piece, before Gibson moved back to the dot inlay vintage based models with a stop tail piece
Tonal character :- It would be easy to say it sounds like a 335 and indeed it does – Yet different 335’s from different eras will deliver a different tonal character in one form or another – The lower output of the ‘Tarback’ pick-ups deliver a voice that is less ‘fat or full’ than other 335’s – I don’t mean thin or tiny – Just less girth in the mid range – So maybe more Larry Carlton and less Clapton/Cream era – The neck pick-up is smooth with a rich/lush character – Certainly jazz flavoured and makes you think BB King ‘The thrill is gone’ – More bite, attack and dynamics from the bridge pick-up with almost a Tele style twang and bite to it, albeit more full bodied than a Tele – Maybe this helps with those big ‘Who style power chords’ as it has a tight and controlled character – So it it doesn’t favour the Clapton/Bonamassa rock blues voice as much as other 335’s, it does suit the Indie/Brit Pop voice that modern players like, or indeed the articulate nature that the likes of Larry Carlton favour
I played it through my shop demo amp with a clean setting, more of a subtle overdriven amp setting and a full hi-gain setting – It was happy with either option, yet maybe somewhat surprising is that it sounded better and more responsive, in my opinion, on the clean and hi-gain amp settings, so somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde character – The volume pots help to deliver subtle yet effective changes – Start of with the pots on 10 and some gain on the amp – As you roll them down towards 8, maybe you are thinking little in the way of any effective change regarding gain and voice – Yet wind the pot back towards 10 and you’ll instantly notice a ‘turbo boost’ kick in – So yes the pots are effective – The guitar still retains its expressive tonal character as you reduce the volume pot below 10 – This approach delivers so much more expression at your fingertips – The coil tap may well be something that certain players will never use, whilst others will rant and rave about it – As with most humbuckers the tapped version will not transform your 335 into a Strat – Yet it will deliver a far more funky flavoured voice that is certainly crisp – Maybe more effective on chord work than single note licks – So yes it works and yes a clear difference in the voice between humbucker and tapped, but if it is your cup of tea, then that is for you to decide
Overall a very nice 335 that has no shortage of character, both with regards to its light played in VOS appearance and indeed the tone that it delivers
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Every guitar in stock at Guitars4You has been personally selected, inspected and approved by me, with particular attention paid to the set-up and playing performance – Every sale, phone call, mail order transaction or e-mail is handled my me – Mark Hopkin, the owner, Managing Director, cleaner and coffee maker (Jo, my wife helps with the coffee) – A journey, now in excess of 40 years, has fuelled my knowledge, experience, love, devotion and passion for exceptionally fine guitars – This reflects in every aspect of our business.
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