Price paid: C$ 449
Purchased from: Long & McQuade
Sound — 6
Well, I'll start by saying that I've never owned any hollow-body guitars previously, so if you haven't ever played around with one, the sound is very different right off the hop to most solid-bodies even with similar specs and hardware. Add in the fact that I've been primarily a Fender single-coil guy for much of my playing career which spans off-and-on for some 25 years. So it took a while to get used to and dial in to my tastes (and presets). It has a real bell like sound at times, and took me some playing around with to start getting sounds I enjoyed out of it. The setup out of the factory left a little to be desired (more on that later) and dialing in the action and pickup adjustments made a big difference. I still find the sound a little muddier than I'd like, but for blues and dirty blues playing I'm starting to enjoy it more and more. In single-coil modes, you'll find the hum is actually far worse than on a typical Fender Strat even with lesser quality pickups (Mexicans and Squiers), however it does provide a really broad range of sound options on this guitar. Versatility is definitely a strong point. Adding a little fuzz/gain/distortion works just fine as you'd expect from a double humbucker guitar. However, until getting the proper setup done I did come away pretty disappointed in it, lacking any kind of clean response and consistency. Today, I've learned what works for me and I like it much better - for the right type of use. I'd still like to give a shot at upgraded pickups to see how it would respond. Maybe later...
Overall Impression — 8
Again I have to point out that the guitar is absolutely stunning, and sometimes it's better to look good than feel good, as Billy Crystal says. For deeper, darker sounds, it's a real good fit. For the cleaner lighter more articulate sounds, I reach for my Strats. I play this guitar more for the fun and enjoyment of the very different sounds the hollow-body and twin hummers offer. I rarely switch either pickup to single coil any more, because quite frankly I find the sound a little disappointing. All in all, a very enjoyable and less-than-expensive way to have some 6-string fun.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I haven't owned it long enough to rave about it, but it does seem to be put together pretty well. The body is solid (if a hollow-body can BE solid) and the neck seems to be well crafted. The electronics haven't given me any issues, and with the exception of the guitar sometimes falling out of tune a little easier than I'm used to with other guitars I've owned - especially when the strings are newer - it plays pretty darn well. I'd gig with it for sure, but I sure would use other guitars - not because of reliability issues, but because for my tastes and styles the Strats fit a lot better in many cases. For the money, it seems to be a lot of features packed into a reliably-crafted guitar.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
Out of the factory, about what you'd expect from a less-than-expensive Epiphone model in terms of setup. While the neck was straight and felt very nice in fact, the action was too high for my tastes. The pickups were not mounted very well, one being a little wobbly, and the other on a pretty fierce angle for some reason. A trip back to Long and McQuade made a big difference, improving the action tremendously and the sound a healthy amount too. The guitar is plain beautiful really though, with a gorgeous blended Vintage burst, nice binding touches, and the inlays on the fretboard and headstock. Really a striking piece all around, and the reason I enjoy having it in my collection. The size is GREAT to me... Larger than a Les Paul, smaller than the 335's. In fact it seems to split the difference very nicely. While I don't find the guitar "fits me" the way I'm used to with my Strats, it's a nice guitar to hold and play, and I have no real issues with the tailpiece interfering with my right hand in any way. The standard strings I believe are 0.10's, and not of a real high quality. For some reason I initially got a lot of colour wear off the fretboard on my fingertips for the first couple weeks of playing, but it seems to have cooled off a little now. In comparison, I got next to none from a Deluxe Player's Strat with rosewood with a lot more time in. However, all in all, a beautiful looking guitar let down somewhat by less than ideal setup and some less than high-performance parts. For the money, about what you'd expect.
Features — 9
Brand new 2012 release Epiphone ES-339 Pro in Vintage Burst. 22 Fret, rosewood board, 12" radius, 24.75" neck glued-in. Mother of Pearl inlays, dual ProBucker humbucker pickups with coil tap option (accessed via push-pull volume controls for each). Semi hollow body with a laminated maple build. Off-white / cream binding on the body as well as the neck, and finally a "Tune-o-matic" bridge and LockTone tailpiece, nickel hardware. No case or bag was included, which to me was disappointing. However, the specs in general are pretty good on paper.