Gibson ES-135 Limited Edition Guitar Review

Gibson ES-135 Hollowbody GuitarWith its single cutaway and slightly deeper body (2.125 inches at the edge), the ES-135 comes a little closer to a jazz guitar than its 335-based brothers. You’d normally find the ES-135 outfitted with chrome hardware and P-90 pickups or, on some models, Gibson’s stacked P-100s. The Limited-Edition 135 features the famous PAF ’57 humbuckers and gold hardware, including Grover tuners and a trapeze tailpiece. If that center block weren’t there, this would be a dead ringer for the jazz player’s workhorse, the ES-175.

Otherwise, it’s a simple- and functional-looking instrument, with immaculate craftsmanship. An unbound rosewood fingerboard is ornamented with dot inlays, and the headstock is similarly unbound and unornamented, save the gold Gibson decal. Simple white binding sets off the unfigured maple body, with its unbound f-holes. If the untinted clear finish doesn’t float your boat, check out Gibson’s wine red, vintage sunburst or ebony black finishes.

The ES-135 was strung with standard .010 – .046 strings, but the three-piece maple neck has a healthy, rounded ’59 Les Paul contour that could easily handle the added tension of flatwound strings. The deeper body and trapeze tailpiece combine to provide a response that is darker and punchier on the attack and less acoustically sustaining—a perfect recipe for a more traditional jazz tone.

Amp this Gibson up and jazz disciples will swoon the ’57 humbuckers sound rich and thick, nailing that Sixties Blue Note sound with a vengeance. Those fat-mama tones will work equal wonders on old-school funk or r&b charts, particularly if you employ the bridge pickup and roll the very responsive tone control back a couple of numbers. Fans of Sixties psychedelia will grok the zaftig, fuzzbox-friendly output: plucking behind the bridge nails Jerry’s “Dark Star” tone, the perfect ting for your next raga-rock jam.


The Limited-Edition 135, has enough custom attitude to set it apart from the standard ES-135 and ES-175 series, and the vintage ‘buckers are a good call. This is a premium guitar for all your retro needs.

Gibson ES-135


  1. Is this ES-135 in the video definitely fitted with p-90s? It looks just like mine but mine is a January 2001 model (I just put the serial number into the Gibson website). I can’t work out if the pickups are p-90s or p-100s… How can I tell? I have a jazzmaster with fender style p-90s on which are certainly a bit noisier but then I know that Gibson’s p-90s are a bit different.
    I’d appreciate any opinions! Cheers, David.

  2. As far as I know, only P-100s were offered (no P-90s). I had one, and it sounded quite good. Not as much treble content as P-90s would give. I have a Ltd Ed now, with the “’57 PAFs,” and I like that too. Right now, my Ltd Ed is the only HB guitar in my small group.

  3. The guitar never came with P-90 pickups. This was Gibson’s concept of taking the old ES-125 guitar and modernizing several ways: (1) have the body meet the neck at the 16th (rather than 14th) fret (for modern blues, rock and country playing), and (2) using a stacked humbucker (P-100) to simulate the sound of the P-90 without the hum and noise. the guitar was not, as described above, 2.125″ (2 1/8″), but actually 2.25 (2 1/4″) thick. It is a very fine design, more jazzy than blues or rock or country, but it makes a great Western Swing guitar, and with a Bigsby, a great rockabilly guitar. It’s good for blues also, but does not have the presence or sustain of ES-335s and other semi-hollows with maple blocks. Gibson used chromyte (balsa) on 4 of their semi-hollow guitars: Howard Roberts Fusion III, Chet Atkins Country Gentleman, Chet Atkins Tennessean and the ES-135. Balsa is resonant and, for most intents and purposes, feedback resistant, but it is a soft wood and that results in a mellower, less treble-rich response. P-100s are fine if you play with your pots open, but if you play with your volume pots at various settings, they are thin sounding. I replaced mine with mini-humbuckers, a great improvement (for me).

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