I purchased the Gibson ES 165 when I began playing more classic jazz standards in a jazz ensemble. I had previously been using an Epiphone Broadway and it just wasn't doing it for me. The ES 165 met all of my needs perfectly.
Above all else, it is important to note that while this guitar excels when playing jazz, I did not find it useful for any other type of music. The design of it is very prone to loud feedback when the volume gets too high, or when more than a few effects are layered into the sound.
I used the guitar with a Mesa tube amp. The combination provided a smooth and full-bodied sound that fit into a Big Band ensemble better than can be imagined. I used D'addario flat wound strings, which I would recommend to anyone using this guitar. The guitar's tone is very bass heavy, and the trebles don't always cut through a mix when the guitar was plugged in directly to the amp. For this reason, I used a Danelectro Fish n Chips EQ pedal with it to even out the tone.
The ES 165 is a work of art to say the least. Looking at every little detail in the construction you will find that Gibson didn't hold back in making a professional instrument. The original ES 165 has a Gibson 490R humbucker pickup, a volume and tone control knob, a fully hollow body, rosewood fingerboard with a round neck, and grover tuners. I have heard that newer models are slightly different though, so be sure to do some research before purchasing one to find out what you're getting.
The neck shape was very nice for playing the many barre chords required by Jazz Standards. I found that I could effortlessly hold a barre for more than enough time to play music from the Real Book. The intonation was nearly perfect, probably the best i've ever had in an instrument. I never had issues with tuning consistency. Another nice feature is the adjustable bridge. You can alter the height of both ends of the bridge to your liking.
The only problem is that because this guitar is designed to play jazz, it does poorly in other styles. If you use even a moderate amount of distortion, you will find a whole world of problems to solve in feedback issues. Modulation effects caused similar problems as well. Because the body has such a bass-heavy tone, an effect like a chorus of flanger would cause feedback when the lower frequencies were pushed further.
If you love jazz and want a guitar for playing jazz standards, look no further. If you only dabble in jazz and think you will want a more versatile guitar, I recommend checking out the Ibanez Artcore. Overall this is a great instrument for what it does, and you will not be disappointed in it if you know how to use it!
I bought this guitar secondhand from a German collector for 1700 euros.
It was crafted in the Memphis factory in 1994.
I previously tested a 175 '59 Re,wich was a real sh.... For 3500 euros you would expect better, but Gibson isn't any longer what it used to be. That's why I went looking for a secondhand one.
Even then, the finish wasn't the best, but it was clearly better than on current models.
I got it with a Benedetto B6 pickup, but I replaced it with a 57 Classic, which I prefer to the original 490R. The latter is too twangy for my taste.
I wanted a smoother sound.
The bridge is made of rosewood.
This model has both controls integrated on the top. I prefer that to having one single knob on the pickguard.
The neck is perfect for me, neither too slim nor too thick. It's easy to get familiar with it and you can lower the action without it sounding bad.
I play with D'Addario Chrome strings, flatwound, 12- 52.
It's a guitar made for jazz, so don't try to do anything else with it.
I love warm sounds. So I set the tone control to 2 or 3.
The clean sounds are very nice, without a doubt, but that's not what I was looking for.
I use it mainly with a 1984 Roland Cube 60 MIJ and a 1983 Roland Bolt 60.
I used it some time with an all-tube Fender Blues Deluxe, but I love the neutral sound of the Roland Cube 60, which, incidentally, is lighter and easier to transport.
But, once again, it's always a matter of taste.
I've played it every day for a couple of hours since October 2012 and I think I waited too long to get it.
It's certainly worth its price (especially secondhand) and I wouldn't change it for a 175 because I think one of the pickups is useless and only puts more weight on the top.
The perfect guitar does not exist, but I think this guitar is a must-have for jazz.
At least in my opinion!
It's a classic Gibson with 22 frets. It features a floating P90 with a very interesting volume knob because it shows the power of the electronics at loud volumes, while at low volumes the acoustic sound takes over... It's formidable.
The body is quite deep, which gives it a nice resonance and acoustic sound. The neck is set-in, obviously.
The neck is comfortable, access to the upper frets is easy, the length of the body favors a comfortable playing. The sound is very distinctive, at least to me, and I've had the opportunity to play an L-5. It's a different league altogether.
It's obviously a jazz guitar, although you can also play thrash metal with it...no, I'm joking, you can only play jazz with this type of instrument (and maybe also blues). To get a good sound, I recommend you to play it with an all-tube amp, a Fender or a Peavey (I'm no amp expert. I use a Fender Bassman :s).
The sound of the P-90 might displease some, it's not a Wes Montgomeryish sound, not even Pat Metheny-like (fortunately). Personally, I have other jazz guitars and this one has a unique sound.
It's been six months now (I posted the review on January 20, 2007) and I'm satisfied with it, but it remains a secondary guitar, it's not my first guitar. The sound of the P-90 might prove weak if you want to explore more funky jazz sounds (think Benson). but this guitar is of very good quality.
The price is not justified. 3000 euros is way too much. I prefer my L-5 (it's actually my dad's), (it's 15 years old, so it's starting to age a bit), it's a totally different ball game.
Excellent quality guitar made in the US. The finish is remarkable, although Gibson could still do better, like brands with guitars at the same price point already do (Gretsch 6120...).
The Herb Ellis is a guitar made for jazz, but not only.
It has no pickup selector because it only has one pickup. But that's more than enough, it gives more amplitude to the soundboard and makes the design more refined.
Very pleasant neck and, like most guitars with a cutaway, access to the upper frets is easy.
The sound is remarkable, the thickness of the body gives it a remarkable sound amplitude, which is typical of quality guitars.
The balance between bass and treble is perfect. It's silky and smooth.
You can do whatever you want with it.
The classic 57 is, as usual, good at what it does.
This guitar, like a good wine, was not made to play anything. Avoid effect pedals, distortions and the like.
You need to let it express it's natural sound, which is exquisite.
Plug the Herb Ellis into a tube amp, a Mesa for instance. A basic Fender will also do the trick.
I haven't used this beauty too long, mine is from 2003.
I believe the wood ply structure was changed after 2006: Instead of a spruce ply it now has a birch one (between two plies of maple for the soundboard). That may affect the quality and sustain in the long run...Spruce remains the best wood for sound transmission.
I have a guitar collection and this one is among my favorites. Finesse, shape, lacquer, sound, it doesn't lack anything.
It definitely has the jazz club spirit, but it has the Gibson price tag.
I think these guitars ought to be considered a different instrument. It's the kind of guitar you dream about and only after saving money for some time you can buy one. This type of guitar shouldn't belong to the consumption system we all know and hate. When buying it secondhand, get one in excellent condition!
It's often expensive, like all collection items. The price depends on the shape it's in.
Don't trust sellers who say their guitars are worth more due to the scratches they have accumulated throughout the years. 30-year old Gibsons can be in a great condition.
The decision to buy such an instrument shouldn't be taken lightly.