Epiphone vs Gibson 335 vs Tokai 335 (145L)

Epiphone vs Gibson 335 vs Tokai 335 (145L)

I have always been a big advocate for the Epiphone Dot 335 Guitars.  Their standard “dot” version was a great sounding and playing guitar since I first remember buying one back in about 2002.  I always loved the Eric Clapton live from Hyde Park guitar tone and it was something I aspired to tonally matching even with far inferior guitar playing – it was a good model to work from in terms of 335 tone.

I had my original Epiphone for years- I recorded my first demo songs for my first live band. Several years later I ended up selling it to make room for a new Fender Stratocaster.  Not long after, i realized I made a huge mistake selling it and got another one.  By the time I got my second one it was somewhere near 2006 and the model had changed quite a lot offering a fatter neck and different “Cherry Red”, but for all intensive purposes it was pretty much the same tone I remember.  I didn’t keep the second Epiphone very long, something about the finish and the new neck shape never really appealed to me like my original one did.

In 2008 I had enough money to go splurge on a new Guitar I was either going to get a Gibson 335 or an Epiphone Sheraton II. I was somewhat talked up to getting the “real deal” Gibson, only later to find out the real deal needed a new nut, it sounded muddy in every amplifier I purchased after owning the guitar and it simply didn’t feel right.  The amp in the shop didn’t give me a clear indication on how bad this guitar sounded – it was simply dark and lack luster.  My good friend also picked up a 2008 Gibson 335 in the same color but in right handed.  His sounded identical to mine.  It was crap.  After years and years of persisting and not being happy, I sold it on ebay for a loss but felt like I had come to the end of the road.

In late 2012, all the planets aligned.  I was in a situation where a guitar collector (a lefty) was selling off about 15 of his prized guitars two of which were a 2008 Gibson 335 and a Tokai 335 (145L).  The Tokai is Japanese made and features the woods and build like Gibson used to make guitars in the 50’s.   I finally found a guitar that sounded so much more like I remember my Epiphone 335 sounding but better.  It played way better than both the Gibson and Epiphone, it sounds good in every amp, it has a nice clear dynamic sound and it doesn’t sound like there’s a wet towel over the pickups.  Putting these two guitars side by side in the shop through my Fender Deluxe Reverb 65 Reissue made me laugh. I knew right away there was no comparison between the two.  The Gibson sounded exactly like I remember – Muddy, lack luster, thick and weird while the Tokai 335 sounded rich in every way on all the pickups.  That low note thick muddy overtone that I was used to with the Gibson does not exist.   I found out through a friend that the block Gibson use now down the middle of the body is responsible for their horrible tone.  The Tokai is lighter, feels better, sounds better and I got it for $1500.00 as new instead of $3800.00 for a Gibson.

For all those who think I am a Gibson hater know this: I own two other Gibson Guitars, both of which are amazing.  It seems this series of 335’s aren’t made to the same sort of tonal quality previous years provided.   I happened to compare my Gibson to a friends Yamaha 335 and his sounded like magic, it was bright, full, clear and smooth all at the same time.  Mine suffered from the wet towel syndrome yet again!

In order I would buy them this way. (best to worst – left to right)
Tokai -> Epiphone -> Gibson

I would of loved the Gibson to be the best, but sadly in my case, it’s not.  I hope their tonal quality has improved since this time.

The Gibson guitar was a huge waste of money, time and effort.  If I knew more about these high quality Tokai guitars back in 2008 I wouldn’t of hesitated to get one.

Tokai 335 !


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