ES-135 review by Gibson

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Features: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.6 (14 votes)
Gibson: ES-135

Price paid: $ 750

Sound — 10
The guitar is versatile. I have gigged with honky-tonk, blues, rock, skate punk, metal, hardcore, noise, and jazz outfits and my ES-135 is happy with whatever I throw at it. No noise unless you're trying (i.e. crank the amp gain for feedback accompaniment/solo etc.), wide tonal palette, good sweep on the pots. Depending on the gig I play through a Marshall Plexi 1/2 stack, 2 Fender Twins, or Fender 60w 112 combo. No effects except for occasional reverb from a Fender and I use The Rat through the Marshall.

Overall Impression — 10
I have been playing for over 20 years. I also own an ES-175, ES 137 Custom, SG 61 Reissue, Les Paul Studio, 1980 Flying V, BluesHawk, Yamaha Strat, Sho-Bud pedal steel, and Martin acoustic. I play through a Fender 60w 112 combo, 2 Twins, a Marshall Plexi stack with The Rat, or all, depending on the situation. As mentioned above, this guitar is well-suited for Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, Slayer and Megadeth (less trem dive bombs), Stones and Hendrix, Sonic Youth/Misfits feedback, GG Allin and Gwar, as unbelievable as it seems, I've done it all on my ES-135. If this guitar were stolen, I'd start a manhunt. There is no doubt that I would buy it again if I had to. This guitar is the total package: '50s neck, frets balance legato with bends, rock solid hardware, light, light, light, and tone that can sing you a lullaby or cut your head off. The only thing this guitar is missing is flashy inlays, but it draws so much visual strength from it's understated elegance that headstock and fingerboard inlays and binding would miss the point. The ES-135 is a gunboat, not a showboat.

Reliability & Durability — 10
This guitar has withstood outright abuse with style and grace. It has been covered in blood 4 times, sprayed with beer who knows how many times, dripping with sweat routinely, and knocked off it's stand twice. The only hardware issue I've had is that the 2 tone speed knobs have fallen off due to bottle-throwing, violent rowdies at skate punk and hardcore shows, and I fault myself for this, not Gibson. Miraculously, the finish polishes so beautifully every time. I always have a backup guitar on gigs and the only time I've had to put down the ES-135 is when a string breaks.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I bought this guitar barely used (whoever's loss, my gain) so I can't vouch for factory set-up. My only trouble has been intonation on the low E string past the 12th fret, which is the most rarely played area of the board for me (I hate to give it a 9 for this). However I can say that of all the 8 Gibsons I own, the ES-135 is flawless in fit and finish. All connections and fasteners are snug and happy, and an interior inspection with a mirror reveals beautifully flamed maple under the ebony finish.

Features — 10
2001. Made in Memphis. 22 jumbo frets on rosewood. Laminated, triple-bound maple top. Black finish on a thinline body with a florentine cutaway and balsa-like center block. Body chamber is open between bridge and strap button, so the guitar is light but sustains like a Paul. Tune-O-Matic bridge with tailpiece, 2 '57 humbuckers, 3-way toggle, 2 vol/2 tone pots. Chrome hardware, Grover tuners. Very nice HSC lined with hot Pink satin and truss wrench/screwdriver included. Hell, even the Pink case has gotten me laid.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Couldn't have said it better myself. I've owned mine for almost twenty years. Rock, blues, country, my first choice. The p90s are brighter than my les Paul, and more "twangy", which I like. Play through a fuzz box for that 80s sound, and the les Paul becomes the backup!
    Great review. I also am lovin' my 135. Great guitar. Guitar players love it. And again, looks damn cool! Great for pop, rock, and blues. Gets it all done... For the electric side of things...
    One more thing: Gibson specs list the ES-135 as having P-90s (like the sunburst one in the pic above). Mine definitely has 57 Classics. And no pickguard either. I can't explain why.
    Wherever I go my ES-135 turns heads and gets "beauty" comments, hey it sounds great too!
    Definitely the smoothest guitar I've ever played love the sound and it looks damn sexy
    Here's a reason to hate me: I've played an '82 Gibson Les Paul Custom since it was new but always loved the looks (and weight) of the ES series. My best friend just gave me a '96 ES135, black, nearly flawless, pink 'blanket' in the pristine case still attached. Did I mention it has an actual Bigsby installed? I never thought I'd like a guitar as much as my LP but I can't put this thing down. Only downside is the roller-type bridge the put on it when the installed the Bigsby. Doesn't want to stay in tune at times, but love the sound and feel of it.