I had some time to kill on Friday, so I ventured over to the local Guitar Center, a mere one block away. I do not go there much, but I needed strings.
I looked around for awhile, saw a few nice used guitars and the usual rows of beautiful Fender guitars on the wall. After a few minutes I walked into the private area, where the really expensive Les Pauls and other electrics are stored behind locked glass doors. Hanging on the wall were two 335's, two 339's and two Les Pauls. The sales guy said to help myself and try out any of them. So I did!
I have done these kindof tests before when I had the room to myself, and I had it to myself on Friday. I plugged into a Bogner amp, not sure of the model, but you could switch between 20 and 40 watts. It was a great amp, priced at $1,500. The first guitar to try was the Gibson 339, which is a smaller bodied version of the 335, and with a maple-poplar-maple laminate. The electronics are also different, with circuitry to maintain the highs when the volume is turned down. I loved this guitar, and at $1,799, was the cheapest in the room! The guitar had a sparkle to it, crisp highs and very warm lows. The guitar had no imperfections on it, as many Gibsons often do. In fact, all of the Gibsons I tried were perfectly made - no fret issues, no finish issues.
The 335 was next. The last time I played one, it smoked all the Les Pauls and SGs I tried out. This time, I felt it did not have the spark of the 339 and the large body was uncomfortable to me. Now I have never played the 339 until today, so the 335 has always been the one guitar I really would love to own. It was still a great guitar, but felt the 339 had more punch.
The Les Paul Traditional was next, and at high gain, it was great. However, at the low gain setting it felt it was muddy sounding. Plus the single cutaway, never an issue before, seems to bother me a bit now. I am used to the double cutaway of my Fenders. The Les Paul was still a great guitar and this one had everything going for it.
I am trying these out at low volumes, so it is hard to really get a feel for how they sound. I have no doubt that any one of these guitars would sound fantastic on stage or on recordings.
I give my vote to the 339, though, because it just cut through the rest, was lighter and very comfortable, and is a stunning guitar to look at.
I am no expert on these things. I know what I like, by the feel and sound. I have been sort of anti-Gibson as of late, and am not very fond of how they have run the company the last few years or so. However, if I had the cash, I would have a 339 sitting in my music room.