ES-135 vs ES-137?

Posted by Tony Corman on Fri, 02/06/04 - 13:28:50.

What are the important differences between these two Gibson guitars? They look pretty much identical to me!

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Re: ES-135 vs ES-137?

: What are the important differences between these two Gibson guitars? They look pretty much identical to me!

I don't know. But looking at this article below may help...
Gibson ES-137 Semi-Hollow Archtop Guitar

by John Gatski

In the early 1990s, Gibson introduced the ES-135 semi-hollow, laminated maple guitar. The guitar was basically a two-pickup version of the 1960s archtop ES-125 with Florentine cutaway and trapeze tail piece.

The standard pickups were noise-canceling versions of P-90s (and latter æ57 humbuckers), but the ES-135Æs biggest difference from the original ES-125 was the sustain center block under the bridge; it made the guitar more versatile, adding a solid-body sustain character.

The made-in-Memphis ES-137 reviewed here ($1,599 retail) is the next generation of the ES-135 guitar. Tested here is the ES-137 Classic with two humbucking pickups. There are two other models; this one is the middle sibling. The premium model offers æ57 Classic alnico II pickups and a varitone control. The lower-cost 137 has uncovered humbuckers and no binding.

The 137 series is still the same size as the 135 (the 2-inch thick and 16-inch width body). The body, however, has a new component in its three-ply construction; poplar now joins the two pieces of maple. Gone is the trapeze tail piece, replaced by a tune-oÆmatic bridge and stop tail piece. The center block is now mahogany instead of the softer balsa wood (chromyte) of the 135. This larger, harder block allows the use of the tune-oÆmatic bridge system.

The guitar comes in several colors; my test unit was a striking sunburst. The guitar measures 16-inches in width and sports the traditional Gibson f-holes. The neck is the tried-and-true 24.75-inch scale, and it has the Les Paul-shaped headstock. The model decal is situated between the keys, which are Grover Keystones.

The neck contains trapezoidal blocks and a crescent inlay at the 12th fret. Neck and body are bound in white, single-ply plastic. As with all Gibsons, the lacquer is the old-fashioned nitrocellulose. Fret height is medium.

Electronics include the top-bout mounted selector switch, a 498 bridge humbucker/ 490R neck humbucker pickup setup, and separate tone and volume controls for each pickup.

The audition

The ES-137 comes with .10-.046-inch strings, but I changed to a set of .11-.050-inch strings. For my tastes, larger strings vibrate the top better on laminate guitars.

Once the sting replacement was made, I tuned up and played the ES-137 Classic through several amps including a new Gibson GA-15RVT ù a class A, push-pull, EL 84-tube powered amp that looks like a throw back to the early 1950s Gibson amps. I also sampled the guitar through a 1971 silverface Princeton Reverb, æ66 Fender blackface Deluxe Reverb, a reissue Fender æ65 Twin Reverb, and the way-cool Groove Tubes Soul æO Single triode combo. Threw in a Radial Tonebone distortion pedal for the OD stuff.

With all the amps, the 137 sounded impressive; it has more sustain and snap to the dynamics than the 135. Gone is the 135Æs microphonic trapeze tail piece that drove me nuts. With its more focused character, the guitar is well suited for almost anything: jazz, funky rhythm, hard rocking overdrive tunes or Sun Record slap-back leads.

The flip-side is that the bigger sustain block and the poplar portion of the body ply moves the sound away from the ES-135Æs more hollowbody character and closer to the faster, leaner solid-body sound. But that is okay; it still sounds bigger than a 335. In my opinion, it is a cross between a Les Paul and the vintage Gibson thin hollow bodies.

By the way, the Gibson Keystones worked perfect with the Gibson bridge hardware; this guitar always stayed in tune. Even with low action, the buzz was nearly non-existent.

The only downside with the 137 was the 490R humbucker, which sounded somewhat muddy. I could not get as much treble out of it as I have heard the pickup output on other 137s. The pole-piece adjustments could only do so much for the high-end. I think it was that particular pickup.

The Gibson ES-137 electric, semi-hollow archtop guitar is a definite improvement over the ES-135. Its versatility has increased, and, at $1,599, it is a value leader for jazz, rock and country pickers, who want a vintage tone, yet with modern feel and sustain. Personally, I like it better than an ES-335.

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