Gibson knew from the start that the double cutaway semi-solid thinline ES series guitars were going to be a success. Designed to retain the feedback busting qualities of the Les Paul solid bodies but with the acoustic characteristics of the big jazz guitars, the new ES-335 and ES-355 models were launched in 1958 and were instantly popular with players. They were less cumbersome than their hollow-body predecessors and the double cutaway allowed easy access to the entire fretboard. Best of all, they could encompass all musical styles including jazz, country and the emerging rock and roll.
In the late 50s, stereophonic recordings were becoming the norm and to keep up with trends, Gibson designer Walter Fuller came up with a stereo circuit and a six-way switch for a guitar called a Vari-Tone, which provided different tone colours in each position. Each pick-up on the proposed stereo guitar would be half of the stereo signal; therefore it would have to be equipped with a stereo socket and be supplied with a Y cable to plug into two separate amps. The combination of the pick-up selector switch and the Vari-Tone control permitted a total of 18 sounds. A new ES model incorporating the new electrics – pitched between the 335 and the 355 – was announced in April 1959 as the ES-345.
Although the Vari-Tone was added to the ES-355 and subsequent Gibson models like the Lucille and the Blueshawk, it was never universally popular with players, who considered it spoiled the tone by gradually diminishing the low end to nasaly squawk on the extreme setting. The ES-345 is still in production, and in the interests of authenticity, still features the Vari-Tone.
Currently available in Faded Cherry Finish or Vintage Sunburst, the Gibson ES-345 features gold hardware, ’57 Classic humbucking pick-ups and a pearloid, split parallelogram inlays on the rosewood fingerboard. The guitar is constructed with a Maple/Poplar/Maple laminate on the top, back, and rims, joined with a solid maple centre block. It also has a Mahogany, 1960s slim taper neck profile with a 24.75” scale length, Tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece. Other hardware includes black tophat knobs and Green key tuners. The guitar includes a Gibson black smooth levant hardshell case.
The review ES-345 is a beauty. The Faded Cherry finish adds a vintage look to an already near perfect replica of the original model. A great playing a sounding guitar for blues, rock and fusion. The Vari-Tone can be ignored, but is sometimes useful for thinning out the humbuckers. About as perfect an electric guitar as you can get.