Despite its huge heritage and perception of conservative style, Gibson is actually remarkably forward-looking and innovative.
Okay, not everyone gelled with the 'robot' tuners, brass zero frets (and the like) of some recent USA production models, but that's only one part of what the brand is about.
Gibson's Memphis division, which creates the mainly laminate 'f-hole'- styles, seems to take a different slant on modernism that's typified by the recent semi-solid ES-Les Paul and the downsized ES-339: classic guitars but with a different spin.
Today we're looking at the ES-335 Premiere Figured. "These are new for this year," says Mike Voltz, director of R&D/product development at Gibson Memphis, "but all the changes are internal. We started working with thermal treating a couple of years ago – so, here, the centre block is thermally engineered.
"The bracing is quarter-sawn thermally engineered Adirondack spruce, and we adhere the braces with hot hide glue and that helps to create a guitar that's acoustically louder, open, and with more clarity."
These changes aside, our classic centre block thinline semi is pretty identical to the recently-reviewed ES-275, measuring 42mm at the rim, and 409mm wide ( just over 16 inches). There's no yellow-toned top coat here, so the look is a little more contemporary.
The 'burst top and back also look more modern than vintage, while the translucent dark brown/ almost-black sides and neck-back finish add contrast that creates a classy appearance, along with the nickel hardware.
We also get a lightweight aluminium stop tailpiece with locking studs, but this is all-very-classic ES-335 fare, such as the small block inlays and the small fleur head logo. Again, Gibson's build specs tell us we have MHS 'buckers and here the 'Memphis Tone Circuit' includes matched pots with a tight five per cent tolerance, with the same 'orange drop' tone caps as the ES-275.
Plugged in, it's like all our Christmases have come at once. There's a more solidbody response here, as you'd expect, and it really pushes out the sound. It takes that oh-so-Gibson voice of the ES-275, cleans up the lower end, but still does effortless jazz or hugely vocal blues and fusion lead and we're still on the neck pickup.
Clean up your amp again and just funk out on the mix: sparkle, depth, musicality. Swap to a classic rock Marshall voice with a gain boost and edge back the tone and/or volume, and you could rock out with just about anyone – there's a vibrancy and resonance that you can feel from the guitar as it leans into feedback.
Go to the mix again, roll down one of the tones, and it's a Clapton-y 'woman' tone or Santana- esque tube-y vocal sustain. A good ES-335 is really something. This is a good one.