NGD: 2020 Historic 59 ES-335 Nashville Custom Shop review

Trapland

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I can’t believe how close they got. I’ve compared my new 335 both in person and with a dozen photo/video examples of original 59s. I can only find 2 things that aren’t spot on.

1. Most of the vintage examples have a shallower neck angle. It actually was a problem in some cases as there wasn’t enough space to lower the bridge so some had the bottom of the bridges ground, then they collapsed. There is a cool look with the shallow neck angle. The pickups sit pretty flush with the rings and pickguard. The new “fixed” neck angle is only a degree or so more and it make the guitar more playable and easier to adjust the action, but it lacks the cool look. No I won’t be doing a neck reset anytime soon.

2. The pickguard is wrong. Of all the things that they made right, correct binding material, ring material, switch tip material, knobs, the easiest and probably least expensive to get right would hav been the pickguard. And they screwed it up. Originals have a gap above the bridge ring of 1/8-1/4” and the bottom long point is 1/8/-1/4” shorter. How did they get this one wrong? They claimed they did detailed scans of many originals, hell an original pickguard IS a template. The way they did it you can see from the back of an auditorium that it’s not a real 59. Frankly it’s a blatant screw up. With all the amazing changes this one little thing is the most obtrusive.

[mini-rant on]
I don’t want to bash Memphis but either they didn’t get what a 59 should spec out or they didn’t do QC. I’ve owned many Memphis semihollows. One 59 Memphis I had was made well but the neck was a 2x4, ridiculously huge with giant sharp shoulders. Nothing like any vintage 335 I ever held or heard of. Another was a $5k custom shop 64 reissue with varitone and bigsby. It came with the nut cut so low the strings were all resting on the first fret. Totally unplayable. Shame on Memphis for that one, but DOUBLE SHAME on Wildwood. They strung it with my preferred strings and shipped it out that way. When I called them they threatened me with a 20% restocking fee if I returned it. Karma Wildwood, karma.
[/mini-rant off]

Now the Nashville custom shop gets it. The neck profile is spot on. The scraping is perfect. The seams too. They changed the logo and flowerpot and they are right. The Klusons are straight, funny how often they weren’t from Memphis. The holly is thinner. There is NO orange peel on the top open book of the headstock or anywhere. Yet the lacquer doesn’t seem very thick, maybe less than half the thickness of the current USA Gibsons.
The nut is cut perfectly, it’s surprising how often the nuts are wrong even with a plec machine, the spacing is right and the slots aren’t too deep. No G string tinking here. The binding is rolled but it’s subtle, and I’m happy because if they wanted the binding rolled any more they would have had to shorten the frets a bit and I like them right to the edge. In fact the frets are wide enough that there is just a hint of binding nibs. Wider frets without putting them over the binding....extra time and detail to do it this way. The ends are smooth and gently rounded and the rest of the frets are perfectly Crowned, rounded and polished. This might be the best fret job I’ve ever seen on a Gibson and over owned an obscene number of Custom shop and Historics.
The hide glues neck joint is a perfect fit and the finish is flawless. Really, how often do you see missed scraping, orange peel, tool marks, etc on the neck, binding and fingerboard that’s over the body? Every time. But this one is perfect, perfect!
The body contours all seem accurate to me. My 335 weighs 7 3/4 lbs and balances perfectly. Clearly the woods were chosen with some attention to weight. Even though it’s a semi-hollow instrument, it feels fully hollow, where you knock on the back it sounds loud and hollow even over the center block. In fact it’s as fun to play unplugged as cranked, it has a distinct acoustic guitar quality unplugged.
The plastics! First the strap buttons are the correct plastic instead of the routine aluminum that my Memphis 59 had. The pickup rings are alleged to be a historically accurate plastic formula. Not sure but they look right, and if it was available back in the “true historic” days why not use it on the new improved Nashville Historic ES’s? The Catalin switch tip has the correct flatter top and color. It even stays on. The knobs are true beauty. The paint used to color the numbers as well as the gold is different and look correct to me for 60 year old paint. The knob shape looks right too, the bevel is changed, the top corner is rounder and there’s even a sunken divot on the top.
Looking inside with my lighted dental mirror, the wiring is neat, the insulation on the bees looks aged. My guitar came with GIBSON logo’ed pots and I am finding the taper a struggle, they seem linear rather than audio tapered. I have to turn the volume down to 1-2 to start cleaning up. Tones too, nothing until 2. Perhaps they ran out of the right pots and found a few from the 90s? It’s really my only playability gripe and I may have to have this corrected.
The unpotted Custom Buckers are the bomb. I never bonded with MHS or MHS2 pickups , and I know I’m not alone here. The Custom Buckers are probably the best reviewed GIBSON pickups in recent memory, selling used for real money due to their scarcity. I’ve always loved Custom Buckers since they where introduced on the Historic Les Pauls. This set is stellar, with an extra helping of harmonics. And the cover shape it so spot on I just want to lick them.

The sunburst finish is done perfectly. Unless excessively faded, all of the vintage 59s I can find confirm this guitar was painted accurately. There is some magic in the way it resonates, how every note on the whole fingerboard sustains indefinitely, really I never thought I’d see a semi-hollow with TOO much sustain. There’s no dead notes anywhere. I can become mesmerized by just playing a note, listening to it bloom, then the loooong musical decay. But that decay just morphs into a sweet controlled feedback if played at any volume louder than the TV, yet it’s still in control even quite loud.

Plugged in or not there is something more “right” about this 2020 Historic 59 ES-335. Songs just keep pouring out. I’m losing sleep playing it. I’ve been lucky enough to own or have owned many Custom Shop Historic Gibson’s since it started in 93. This is the best one. Gibson is back.

 

Deep Purple fan

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I can’t believe how close they got. I’ve compared my new 335 both in person and with a dozen photo/video examples of original 59s. I can only find 2 things that aren’t spot on.

1. Most of the vintage examples have a shallower neck angle. It actually was a problem in some cases as there wasn’t enough space to lower the bridge so some had the bottom of the bridges ground, then they collapsed. There is a cool look with the shallow neck angle. The pickups sit pretty flush with the rings and pickguard. The new “fixed” neck angle is only a degree or so more and it make the guitar more playable and easier to adjust the action, but it lacks the cool look. No I won’t be doing a neck reset anytime soon.

2. The pickguard is wrong. Of all the things that they made right, correct binding material, ring material, switch tip material, knobs, the easiest and probably least expensive to get right would hav been the pickguard. And they screwed it up. Originals have a gap above the bridge ring of 1/8-1/4” and the bottom long point is 1/8/-1/4” shorter. How did they get this one wrong? They claimed they did detailed scans of many originals, hell an original pickguard IS a template. The way they did it you can see from the back of an auditorium that it’s not a real 59. Frankly it’s a blatant screw up. With all the amazing changes this one little thing is the most obtrusive.

[mini-rant on]
I don’t want to bash Memphis but either they didn’t get what a 59 should spec out or they didn’t do QC. I’ve owned many Memphis semihollows. One 59 Memphis I had was made well but the neck was a 2x4, ridiculously huge with giant sharp shoulders. Nothing like any vintage 335 I ever held or heard of. Another was a $5k custom shop 64 reissue with varitone and bigsby. It came with the nut cut so low the strings were all resting on the first fret. Totally unplayable. Shame on Memphis for that one, but DOUBLE SHAME on Wildwood. They strung it with my preferred strings and shipped it out that way. When I called them they threatened me with a 20% restocking fee if I returned it. Karma Wildwood, karma.
[/mini-rant off]

Now the Nashville custom shop gets it. The neck profile is spot on. The scraping is perfect. The seams too. They changed the logo and flowerpot and they are right. The Klusons are straight, funny how often they weren’t from Memphis. The holly is thinner. There is NO orange peel on the top open book of the headstock or anywhere. Yet the lacquer doesn’t seem very thick, maybe less than half the thickness of the current USA Gibsons.
The nut is cut perfectly, it’s surprising how often the nuts are wrong even with a plec machine, the spacing is right and the slots aren’t too deep. No G string tinking here. The binding is rolled but it’s subtle, and I’m happy because if they wanted the binding rolled any more they would have had to shorten the frets a bit and I like them right to the edge. In fact the frets are wide enough that there is just a hint of binding nibs. Wider frets without putting them over the binding....extra time and detail to do it this way. The ends are smooth and gently rounded and the rest of the frets are perfectly Crowned, rounded and polished. This might be the best fret job I’ve ever seen on a Gibson and over owned an obscene number of Custom shop and Historics.
The hide glues neck joint is a perfect fit and the finish is flawless. Really, how often do you see missed scraping, orange peel, tool marks, etc on the neck, binding and fingerboard that’s over the body? Every time. But this one is perfect, perfect!
The body contours all seem accurate to me. My 335 weighs 7 3/4 lbs and balances perfectly. Clearly the woods were chosen with some attention to weight. Even though it’s a semi-hollow instrument, it feels fully hollow, where you knock on the back it sounds loud and hollow even over the center block. In fact it’s as fun to play unplugged as cranked, it has a distinct acoustic guitar quality unplugged.
The plastics! First the strap buttons are the correct plastic instead of the routine aluminum that my Memphis 59 had. The pickup rings are alleged to be a historically accurate plastic formula. Not sure but they look right, and if it was available back in the “true historic” days why not use it on the new improved Nashville Historic ES’s? The Catalin switch tip has the correct flatter top and color. It even stays on. The knobs are true beauty. The paint used to color the numbers as well as the gold is different and look correct to me for 60 year old paint. The knob shape looks right too, the bevel is changed, the top corner is rounder and there’s even a sunken divot on the top.
Looking inside with my lighted dental mirror, the wiring is neat, the insulation on the bees looks aged. My guitar came with GIBSON logo’ed pots and I am finding the taper a struggle, they seem linear rather than audio tapered. I have to turn the volume down to 1-2 to start cleaning up. Tones too, nothing until 2. Perhaps they ran out of the right pots and found a few from the 90s? It’s really my only playability gripe and I may have to have this corrected.
The unpotted Custom Buckers are the bomb. I never bonded with MHS or MHS2 pickups , and I know I’m not alone here. The Custom Buckers are probably the best reviewed GIBSON pickups in recent memory, selling used for real money due to their scarcity. I’ve always loved Custom Buckers since they where introduced on the Historic Les Pauls. This set is stellar, with an extra helping of harmonics. And the cover shape it so spot on I just want to lick them.

The sunburst finish is done perfectly. Unless excessively faded, all of the vintage 59s I can find confirm this guitar was painted accurately. There is some magic in the way it resonates, how every note on the whole fingerboard sustains indefinitely, really I never thought I’d see a semi-hollow with TOO much sustain. There’s no dead notes anywhere. I can become mesmerized by just playing a note, listening to it bloom, then the loooong musical decay. But that decay just morphs into a sweet controlled feedback if played at any volume louder than the TV, yet it’s still in control even quite loud.

Plugged in or not there is something more “right” about this 2020 Historic 59 ES-335. Songs just keep pouring out. I’m losing sleep playing it. I’ve been lucky enough to own or have owned many Custom Shop Historic Gibson’s since it started in 93. This is the best one. Gibson is back.


Congratulations! Enjoy that amazing guitar. Great detailed review.
 

Sir Don

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I have to say the build quality and construction of my R9 60th Anniversary Les Paul is flawless.

The guitar was perfect straight out of the custom shop, no tweaking to be done, action spot on, intonation spot on.

The weight is perfect as well, somewhat lighter than my 95 Les Paul.
 

El Gringo

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Amazing review and very informative which I really appreciate . Wildwood , with there high prices ! Some years ago I was dealing with the owner who I got to know a bit when I purchased a Strat from him . Well I wanted a certain kind of top on a Custom Shop Sunburst Les Paul and the time came when he offered me several to choose from his newest batch . So I get into the office open my E-Mail and took a couple of hours and choose one by 10:30am that morning when I received his E-Mail . So I contact him at 10:30am and he tells me he sold it earlier that morning . Thanks for nothing , as he tried to convince me to choose one of the other 2 . First off the tops were underwhelming at best and he has the nerve to tall me "that's how his customers like them " underwhelming . So I got cash to spend and he sounds as he is going to tell me how to spend my money -yeah right as if. So I don't know if it was weeks or a month and he E-Mails back and says they guy that got the guitar I wanted sold it back to them and it was mine if I wanted it. To which I replied nope as I had already purchased one from Dave's Guitars , sloppy seconds no thanks !
 

Trapland

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I got a chance to compare it to a 1960 Es-345 today. Mine looks more authentic, lol.
 

Trapland

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I have to say the build quality and construction of my R9 60th Anniversary Les Paul is flawless.

The guitar was perfect straight out of the custom shop, no tweaking to be done, action spot on, intonation spot on.

The weight is perfect as well, somewhat lighter than my 95 Les Paul.

When did they build your R9?

BTW, you have2 of my favorite amps, the 2204 and the JCM1H. I had the jcm1c and loved it but always wanted the head. Is your 2204 a JMP or JCM800?
 


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