Pawnshop prize Gibson ES-340TD

January 1, 2005

Our loaner ES-340TD looks sweet with its dark walnut finish—which shows some subtle weather checking, as well as a soft patina created by years of exposure to smoke and hand oil. The beautifully yellowed binding on the body and neck further attest to this guitar’s age, and the extreme wear on the frets shows it has done tons of stage time. The only hardware mod appears to be the replacement of the original Kluson tuners with chrome Schallers (which left some extra holes on the back of the headstock).

It’s not surprising that of the 20 or so people who bought ES-340TDs before they were discontinued in 1974 (I’m kidding, of course, but only nine were shipped during the final year of production), a few had the electronics converted back to standard configuration once they had a go with Gibson’s “new” system. Actually, this guitar may have been customized a bit, too, because in the dual-pickup mode (switch in center position) the Blend knob creates a distinctly out-of-phase sound when turned anywhere near the middle of its rotation. And with the switch in the down position, all you get is the neck pickup. It’s as if it were wired for someone who needed to be able to toggle between a Sly Stone-approved rhythm sound and a Bucky Pizzarelli solo tone, but it would bewilder anyone used to playing any other Gibson electric—aside from maybe the knob-crazy Les Paul Recording model!

No matter, the ES-340TD delivers sounds that range from robust to extremely funky, and the maple neck imparts a subtle brightness that’s very cool. The ES-340TD might be the black sheep of the 335 family, but I like how it gets niche tones that aren’t like a standard 335’s. Considering this model typically goes for a few hundred bucks less than an ES-335 of the same year, it’s a hip deal, too.

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