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.
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.
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” ?!?!