The latest ES guitar series includes a lavish ES-335 Figured, yet stays true to the hallowed Gibson electrified archtop look and sound.
Crafted in Memphis by the fine luthiers of Gibson, the 2018 ES Series of guitars features designs that mix a reverence for the past with subtle evolutionary updates that contribute to playing comfort and contemporary performance demands. This Gibson Memphis 2018 overview covers the 2018 ES-335 Dot, 2018 ES-335 Traditional, 2018 ES-335 Figured, 2018 ES-330 and 2018 ES-275 models. We'll cover all of the key features and specifications that you need to know before you buy your next Gibson.
It’s appropriate that Gibson’s Memphis plant, where iconic guitars such as the ES-335 are built, is located just a block from Beale Street—the birthplace of the blues. After all, Gibson semi-hollow body guitars presided over not only that birth but everything that followed: R&B, rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll, and soul. Every step of that journey involved big, amplified Gibson archtops, eagerly adopted by bluesmen and rockers for their fat tone and excellent playing dynamics.
When Gibson added a center block of wood to the bodies of these jazz boxes in 1958, the feedback that had plagued true hollowbody guitars with pickups was damped down. That allowed ES-type Gibsons to be cranked up in modern amplified settings so that everybody from Chuck Berry and Keith Richards to prog rocker Steve Howe could be found brandishing ES-335s. Even non-guitar geeks got to know these instruments thanks to B.B. King’s long-term love affair with Lucille—his famous ebony ES-335.
With much of the sustain generated by solidbody guitars coupled with the awesome fatness of their acoustically-derived tone, Gibson semi-hollowbodies are still major players today. Dave Grohl, Warren Haynes, and Eric Clapton are just three of the stellar musicians who have made a Gibson sem-hollow body a central part of their work.
Now, let’s take a look at the 2018 updates to these classic Gibson semi-hollow designs. After you finish this article, you'll also want to take a look at our overview of the Gibson USA 2018 line-up, which includes classic Gibson solid-body designs such as the Les Paul, SG and Firebird. You can also learn about 10 highlights from Gibson's 2018 acoustic guitar lineup in our overview.
2018 Gibson ES-335 Dot
For 2018 Gibson is producing the ES-335 Dot with two different finishes: a sumptuous Blues Burst or rich Wine Red. Burstbucker 1 and Burstbucker 2 pickups serve up deliciously fat and rounded tones that beg to be driven into subtle overdrive. When you do dig in, Grover 102 Rotomatics and the ABR-1 bridge with plated brass saddles keep your tuning solid. Although this is among the least costly Gibson Memphis archtops, no corners have been cut. Other appointments include pearloid dot inlays, black top hat knobs and a bone nut. From meticulously applied finishes to superb fretwork, the ES-335 Dot maintains Gibson’s obsession with superior craftsmanship.
2018 ES-335 Traditional
When Gibson first introduced the ES series in the 1930s, they were essentially archtop acoustics equipped with a single bar pickup adapted from lap steel. Control was limited to a single volume knob. Built in response to the increasing volume at which combos and bands of the day played, when luminaries like Charlie Christian began playing the ES-150, sales took off. But because it was a true hollowbody prone to feedback, guitarists still found it tough to compete with horns and drums. Since then, Gibson has made many refinements.
The 2018 ES-335 Traditional embodies many of those improvements starting with its double cutaway body. Loaded with MHS (Memphis Historic Spec) humbuckers, you can kick out the jams without fear of feedback thanks to the semi-hollowbody construction. A quarter sawn, Rounded "C" mahogany neck makes playing a joy. With superb handwork that includes Antique Ebony and Antique Faded Cherry finishes, the Traditional’s looks are easily the equal of its big sound. Pair it with an appropriate tube guitar amp and get ready to enter tonal nirvana.
2018 Gibson ES-335 Figured
The 2018 ES-335 Figured is a testament to the skills of the Gibson Memphis team. The ultradeep Aquamarine finish atop a figured AAA maple veneer top knocks it out of the park. Detailed with amber top hat knobs plus pearloid fingerboard and headstock inlays, this guitar is ready to take pride of place in any collection. But it’s not just about looks—MHS humbuckers hand wired with matched 550K pots and orange drop capacitors produce tonal depth that goes on for miles. With its modern finish and other features, the ES-335 Figured isn’t meant for the purist. But anyone who loves Gibson archtop sound and who celebrates sheer artistry should find themselves magnetically drawn to this beauty.
2018 Gibson ES-330
Like all ES-series guitars, the 2018 ES-330 has a rounded “C” profile, quartersawn neck with hand-rolled binding on the rosewood fingerboard for very smooth navigation. Notably, it is a full hollowbody, with no center block. The ABR-1 bridge with titanium saddles assures solid tuning. Equipped with a pair of MHS P-90s, you can get loud and dirty without noise thanks to phase reversed polarity on the bridge pickup. Gibson technicians hand wire the control assembly with ceramic capacitors. The expertly applied Sunset Burst finish is flawless, and with its thinline trapeze tailpiece, gold top hat knobs, pearloid small block inlays and vintage style tuners, the ES-330 screams “old school.”
2018 Gibson ES-275 Custom
Based around a single-cutaway body with classic f-holes, the 2018 ES-275 Custom’s origins as a jazz box are obvious. But this comfortable, thinline guitar gets plenty loud, making it right at home in rock and electric blues. The MHS humbuckers exploit all the tonal goodness derived from the archtop body. Dial in your tone with the 4-knob control layout that’s handwired and boasts matched 550K pots and orange drop capacitors to produce prized vintage tone. Grover “milk bottle” Rotomatics and an ABR-1 bridge with titanium saddles help ensure perfect intonation. Mother of Pearl full block inlays, gold finished hardware, gold speed knobs and a beautiful Sunset Burst make this a truly striking instrument.
Tags: Electric Guitars