ES335 by Franklin Rabon, on Flickr Well, my dream guitar has always been a mid 60s sunburst stoptail conversion, small block tobacco burst 335. I've come very close a couple of times to dropping $5000-6000 for a player's grade version. The tone, versatility, look, feel, proportions, something about it, it just has always drawn me in. A couple of years ago when Gibson Memphis came out with their most recent iteration, I was also highly intrigued, because it was seemingly exactly what I was after, and it maybe fixed the only VERY minor issue I had with the mid 60s 335s: the narrow nut. However, they were $4000. My thought process was at that price, I would just get a vintage one, which would hold its value better. Fast forward to this december. Chicago Music Exchange is blowing out a huge shipment of Gibson Memphis guitars that Gibson sold at a ridiculous price due to needing to empty the Memphis factory they are shutting down. I found out about the sale about halfway though. Ironically enough, I was just randomly on Reverb searching for a 335. I saw the prices CME was offering and just did a double take. That couldn't be right. They were over 50% off what they had sold for new. ALmost 75% off what the 2018 models are selling for on Sweetwater right now. I did my research and found out that they were not factory seconds or floor models or anything like that, just extra stock. They had perhaps not been checked as thoroughly as a normal Gibson Memphis guitar would be, due to the way Gibson just sold their entire warehouse to CME. But I figured if I was ever going to do this, this would be my chance. CME promised that they would have a 30 days no questions asked return policy for these. I submitted an offer on Reverb for $1650 (list was $1795) around 9PM Tuesday. Next morning they had accepted my offer. It was really happening. It shipped out Wednesday morning and got to my door Friday at 2 PM. I didn't wait to open it, despite the CME warning. Honestly I wouldn't have minded some honest weather checking anyway. But, for good or ill, no weather checking issues whatsoever. I had read a few complaints early on in the CME sale, and seen several people positing that these were factory seconds. It seemed to be a few isolated cases, and CME took care of everybody who did have issues. Nevertheless, before arriving, I was both worried that I might get a dud (this was the most expensive guitar I had ever bought without seeing it first), but I also had extremely high expectations at the same time. I was expecting my dream guitar. And within just a few minutes of opening the lovely brown case, to the sweet smell of Gibson vanilla, I had a suspicion this thing might blow my wildest expectations away. 335 by Franklin Rabon, on Flickr The first thing I noticed is that the finish was flawless. In my experience, that's a little rare for Gibsons. I've searched for two days now and am yet to find a single flaw anywhere in the finish. The tobacco burst is EXACTLY how I wanted it. almost black in the corners, to a deep dark chocolate, to a sunset red, to a golden amber, to a light yellow. The yellow *just* peeks in before the f holes, allowing them to fully standout. I've seen other 335 bursts where the f holes get covered up by the dark edges, and some where there is no dark edge. This was JUST right. The flame is interesting. As you can see, it can look like the flamiest 59 burst you've ever seen in some angles, to almost looking like a plaintop in other angles. I believe this is due to it being a 1 piece top. unlike Les Pauls witht heir book matching, the single piece top has to make some "compromises" when it comes to how the flame works, due to needing an entire piece of maple to cover the whole top. This was why flme top 335s were pretty rare up until recently. But, regardless, I really like the effect anyway. ES335 by Franklin Rabon, on Flickr ES335 by Franklin Rabon, on Flickr The back is also 1 piece, and if anything, actually more flamed than the front. Also, even though it's laminate, and thus the interior pieces of maple aren't the same as the exterior pieces of maple, they also used flame maple for the inside, if you look really closely at the matte black paint they use on the inside of 2017s (which I like the matte black on the inside. The sides are also fully flamed if you look very closely under the dark brown. ES335 by Franklin Rabon, on Flickr The fretboard is a wonderful piece of dark rosewood. It definitely feels like rosewood, it isn't overly slick, which I like. I like a little grit under my fingers. Headstock is pretty much a perfect inlayed crown and Gibson logo. It's the smaller headstock. ES335 by Franklin Rabon, on Flickr The neck, i was originally worried about it being TOO slim. However, I knew that the 58 VOS 335s were just a tad too thick for me. I rolled the dice. It payed off. This is a dynamite neck. It's nominally a slim taper neck. But I have two Slim Taper necks and a 59 profile neck on other Gibsons, and this is definitely on the thicker side of slim taper necks. The nut width is perfectly standard Gibson. This neck just feels like home. It's also perfectly quarter sawn, and is very stable. I can do the tremolo neck trick, but I have to really try. Not like some rift/flat sawn slim taper necks I've seen that will bend out of tune if you chord too hard. ES335 by Franklin Rabon, on Flickr After playing it for a few hours, I confirmed what I suspected, that the gloss on the back of the neck was going to have to go. Got a brand new scotchbrite pad and went to town. I scotchbrited it down to an amazing satin feel. No more ticky nitro neck, it's fast and smooth as I could ever hope for. The binding is perfectly done. One of the few minor nits is that it's a bit more "pink" hued than I would like. I would prefer a bit more yellowed. But A) that will happen over time, and B) it's not even noticeable unless you really know the variations of Gibson cream inside and out (I do, so I noticed it). It's not the pinkest cream Gibson has done (like, for example, cream pickup bobbins from 2014), but it is a bit pink. I didn't love the look of the black tophats as much, but I have a black and white SG that had gold reflectors on it. I swapped them, putting the black tophats on the 335, and the gold reflectors on the 335, and I think it definitely improved both guitars. Swapped the cream pickup selector for an "aged" amber selector. ES335 by Franklin Rabon, on Flickr Also, I have a Goldtop tribute that had locking Grovers on it. THe 335 came with regular Grovers. I swapped those out as soon as I realized that this would easily become my #1. Love the convenience of Grovers, especially since that's what the headstock was already setup to accept. ES335 by Franklin Rabon, on Flickr Out of the box the setup was very good. didn't have to touch the truss rod, which, as far as I can remember, this is the first guitar that I've ever had where I didn't need a truss rod adjustment. Action will go as low as you want. I set it up for fairly medium action, which I like for bends, but it can go much lower buzz free. No dead spots anywhere on the neck. I did have to flip the G string saddle to get the intonation dead right, but that was easy, and after that it perfectly intonated all across the fretboard. Love that it comes with a wireless tone pros ABR. ES335 by Franklin Rabon, on Flickr Locking tone pros stop bar is also great as well. It came already setup with it all the way down, just like I like. ES335 by Franklin Rabon, on Flickr The factory bone nut seems to have been perfectly cut. no tuning issues whatsoever (I still nut sauced it anyway though). It even perfectly intonates at the first fret, which is pretty much shocking when it happens on a Gibson. Getting used to the vintage frets still. I don't have a problem with them per se, but I am used to slightly larger. Shouldn't take very long to adjust. Overall this guitar plays like an absolute dream. It passed my SG as my best player feel and speed wise. It's perfectly balanced and really fits my body. The neck just fits in my hand. Fret access is fantastic, playing all the way up to the 22nd fret is effortless.