Back in 1959, the primary differences between the Gibson ES-345 and the ever-popular ES-335 were its stereo output, Varitone circuitry, bound fingerboard with double parallelogram inlays and gold-plated hardware.
"There are certainly stellar tones to be found, especially if you lean to the rockier side"
The slightly narrower horns put our sample post-62, the shorter pickguard from early-61, while the gold Varitone legend plate changed from black in late-59.
Probably sensibly, Gibson has moved this 2014 recreation from stereo to standard mono, though there are plenty of details to keep the vintage buffs happy, not least the double-ring Kluson tuners and the additional purfling inside the nicotine-toned binding on the top edge only.
Once again, the V.O.S. treatment hits the spot: the gold plating is nicely toned down and much more classy-looking.
This ES-345 is a heaviest guitar compared to Gibson's other semis - no deal breaker, but we'd advise you trying a few. It also illustrates the upper level of the late-50s/early-60s Gibson thinline range, which was topped by the ES-355.
Feel & Sounds
The ES-345 is a subtly different proposition, and that's with the Varitone bypassed (position 1). We don't quite have the high-end clarity and detail of an ES-335 - it has different pickups for one, and there's the weight difference, too.
It's slightly less dynamic, with a little less resonance perhaps - a little more solid-sounding? But plenty of those things could work in your favour. There are certainly stellar tones to be found, especially if you lean to the rockier side.
"It'd make a great tracking guitar in the studio, where you may need a host of different colours"
The Varitone won't be for everyone, with its range of filtered sounds that, certainly in stereo, back in the day, must have sounded quite otherworldly. Each one provides considerable volume reduction, too, and different frequencies/resonances of quite honky, almost out-of-phase-like filtering.
Of course, with a pretty clean amp tone there's classic BB King-style blues aplenty here, some great Chuck Berry-like rhythm, a little Rickenbacker in there with volume reduction... We have to say it'd make a great tracking guitar in the studio, where you may need a host of different colours.
With gain, some altogether nastier sounds emerge, while with clean tones, and an outboard phase effect, old-school funk oozes from its pores. If the ES-335 is for the 'purist', this ES-345 may well appeal to those players who like to mix it up a bit.
The ES-345 would work well with a host of sounds, and a studio guitarist or someone wanting to stretch the sonic boundaries a little should try it.
New guitars that feel and look old aren't a new thing, but few do it better than Gibson Memphis, whose guitars not only seem to get more vintage-accurate by the day, but also seem to supply that elusive 'mojo' of real vintage pieces without the high cost or worries about authenticity or wear.