Sweet ES-355

When I purchased my Riviera P93, what I really wanted was a semi-hollowbody in the traditional Gibson ES shape, with a Bigsby tailpiece.   I didn’t want to invest the extra several thousand dollars in a Gibson, and the only model available from Epiphone was the Riviera P93.

I took a chance on the P93, and as you may have seen in my blog, it turned into quite a project trying to improve its sound.  In the end, even after replacing the pickups and electronics, I am ultimately frustrated by the three pickup, three volume, one tone configuration.  I would have preferred the traditional two humbuckers, two volume, two tone configuration.

I still haven’t completed my planned changes to improve the usability of the middle pickup, nor have I replaced the buzzy bridge with the roller.  Changing these three pickups to two humbuckers is certainly possible, but the result would be less than beautiful due to the different hole-spacing and routing requirements of dog-eared P-90’s versus humbuckers.

A couple months back, Epiphone announced the guitar which I wish had been available when I purchased the Riviera P93: the new Epiphone ES-355

The ES-355 is a very similar guitar to my Riviera P93.  Both have the ES shaped maple laminate body and mahogany 12” radius neck with SlimTaper “D” profile, and a gold Bigsby B70 tremelo.   These are the differences:

  • two humbuckers instead of the three P-90’s
  • ebony fretboard with block inlays instead of the P93’s rosewood with parallelogram inlays
  • fancier 5-layer body, neck and headstock binding versus the 1-layer binding on the P93
  • split diamond headstock inlay versus the crown inlay on the P93
  • black speed knobs instead of the P93 vintage gold hat knobs

Also available is the ES-345 which adds a VariTone control and separate mono/stereo outputs like BB King’s Lucille, but has simpler 1-layer bindings, crown headstock inlay, double parallelogram inlays, and plastic tulip tuner keys.

The new LockTone bridge (claimed to be in all Epis since 2011) sounds like a definite improvement over the older Tune-o-Matic on my P93.

Epiphone P93 at $499Epiphone ES-355 at $699Epiphone ES-345 at $699Gibson ES-355 at $4149

Pricing today (shown in these screen grabs from Musician’s Friend): these new guitars are $200 more than the P93- I would like to understand better the reasons for this difference.  (Ebony costs a little more than rosewood, multi-layer bindings are more labor intensive, but can that fully explain it?)   And, they are $3500 less than the comparable Gibson- a difference that I can sort of understand (being handmade in USA), but will likely never be able to wrap my head around.

So what will I do? I’m not running to sell my Riviera P93 just yet, but it’s a possibility.  Lately, I’m actually playing a Vox SSC-55 (as you may have seen in my recent Jamman Delay video).  Honestly, every time I return to the P93, it just feels, well, disappointing.  More on the SSC-55 on another day.

For now, I will leave you with some fine facts about the ES series, courtesy of Gibson.
Who knew that ES stands for “Electric Spanish” ?!?!