This post comes to you today from Steve. I posted pictures of his new guitars last summer (the line up has actually changed quite a bit since then) and have visitors end up here looking for a review of these 2 guitars side by side.
Thanks for stopping by to read about the Ibanez AM93 and the Epiphone ES 339. Obviously if you’ve found us here through Google, you’re considering purchasing one or both of these guitars (or, if you’re like me, you just like reading up on newer guitars). Right off the bat I should say that I bought these guitars at quite a discount while working for a major music retailer – I can’t necessarily speak to what these guitars would feel like to me at full price, but I can say that each is fantastic for the price I paid.
The Epiphone was a long-standing obsession of mine. After hearing about the release of these Les Paul sized semi-hollows, I knew that I had to try one out, but no one really had them in-store. The Ultra version was widely available, and though I liked the way it felt, the sound was a little too thin, possibly due to a body jam-packed with electronics. I ordered the Pro sight-unseen and couldn’t have been happier with the guitar. It has been a few months now and the honeymoon period has subsided, but I can still say that this is one hell of a guitar for the price I paid. The humbuckers are hot, the fit and finish are spot on (the binding looks perfect on mine), the tuners are great, and you get all the punch of a Les Paul with the light weight and warmth of big brothers Dot and Sheraton. I had considered a Wildkat to fill the need for a smaller-bodied semi-hollow, but the pickups didn’t quite do it for me (and I normally prefer P90’s) and the Bigsby Licensed tremolo felt cheap and flimsy. Those Wildkats are gorgeous guitars, but probably not something I’d gig with if it came down to reliability. All in all, the 339 is probably well-worth the full price they’re being dealt at, and though I don’t normally dig the Cherry finish, my wife has convinced me that it’s a pretty slick looking guitar.
The Ibanez was a major impulse buy. I was getting ready to quit my job at the music store and wanted to get one more “great deal” on a new guitar (how often do you get to buy instruments nearly at-cost, new?). What drew me to this guitar was a slightly larger body than the 339, but not one so big as a 335. The finish is absolutely stunning on this guitar – just gorgeous. The horns are a little more menacing on the AM93 than the 339, but once you plug this guitar in, you know it’s no fusion-shredder’s guitar. This one is probably more suited for Jazz and Blues than the 339, slightly lower-output humbuckers, and slightly larger chambering make for a very mellow tone. The block inlays and binding on this guitar are beautiful, and after months of playing it, the gold hardware is taking nicely to wearing in. The tuners on the AM93 aren’t so great, they don’t keep well for more than a couple of tunes, but these can easily be upgraded later on if need be. Comparatively, this is a “nicer” guitar – better suited for studio work with a little more response from the pots and a bit more chord-clarity due to the Ibanez Custom 58 pickups.
Just quick overviews, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
Oh – cases! Get hard cases for either guitar, as with most guitars. Epiphone and Ibanez both make specific cases for each respective model and each run between $80-90, and both cases are quite cool (the Ibanez has the advantage with a blue plush interior).
1) Fit and finish are about equal on these guitars – though the AM93 is definitely more of a looker.
2) The 339 has hotter pickups and a coil-split option. I prefer the 339 for rock or more heavily overdriven tones, but the AM93 for music a little more geared to Jazz or Blues.
3) Both feature a TOM style bridge, which makes changing strings and action quite easy.
4) Both feature binding, though the AM93 shows perhaps a little more care when this was applied (not to mention block inlays as opposed to dot fret-markers, which would have been nice on the 339).
5) The tuners on the 339 are stronger by far – the Ibanez surprisingly didn’t come with the high quality machine heads I would have expected with the rest of the body. Again, those can be easily upgraded down the road.
6) How they feel side-by-side. The 339 is about the size of a Les Paul and is slightly lighter than the AM93. The neck on the AM93 is wider and flatter than the 339, which works well for my hands, as I have alien-long, skinny fingers.
Which do I prefer? For the most part I reach for my 339 when I’m just getting ready to do some practicing, but will pick up the AM93 when I want to sit down and write a song. Gig-wise, I will probably use the 339, as I really don’t want to mess up any of the aesthetics of the AM93 (I happen to think the 339 will benefit from a little road-rash, Epiphones just seem to need that wear). For the studio, I will be using the AM93, as the 339 is perhaps a little tinnier sounding, and again, the pickups are a little too hot for studio purposes.