It seems I’ve been shortchanging 345’s a bit lately which I shouldn’t do because I like them so much. There is just so much to like about them-the gold hardware, the beautiful split parallelogram markers and, of course, the always controversial Varitone. Over on the Les Paul Forum, you can’t bring up a 345 without starting a new debate about it. Year in and year out, somebody asks an innocent question about it and the naysayers and haters come out to play. The Varitone is an incredibly outdated onboard effects knob that is so antiquated that it’s an absolute delight. A bit like those analog freaks in a digital world. The Varitone is about as analog as it gets. It’s a whole bunch of capacitors hand soldered to a 6 way switch connected to a big ol’ transformer inside the guitar-two of ‘em actually because the guitar is stereo. The capacitors act as a notch filter, removing certain frequencies from the sound of the pickup you’ve chosen. That gives you some very Strat like quacky sounds and some other sounds that are maybe a bit less useful. But fun? Yep, hours and hours worth. Lessee, thats 6 positions times 2 pickups times 3 positions on the 3 way, times I don’t know what else for a total of 8,671 different tones.
OK, maybe 18. But still fun. The naysayers call them tone sucking or worse but it is my experience that what they are hearing is phase cancellation. The pickups are out of phase magnetically on a 345. The guitar is meant to be played through 2 amps or 2 channels of the same amp which the bridge pickup going to one side and the neck to another. The sound of the pickups each going their separate ways is very different than the middle setting on a 335 where they both are processed the same. On a 345 in stereo, you hear 2 distinct tones-not one “in between” tone. So, here’s a great looking ’61 with a gorgeous sunburst finish. There’s a lot of red in some of these early guitars and as they age, they get more and more beautiful. Rumor has it that the best wood was used for the upper end of the line meaning the 345s and 355s. While less expensive on the vintage market, it wasn’t so when they were new. The 345 was an adult guitar. The teenage rockers never drooled over this one. As a 61, this guitar has it’s Mickey Mouse ears and a pair of PAF’s. They could be long magnet or short. A 61 335 would always be short but with 345’s, you never know unless you take it apart. I suggest not doing that. To my ear, the short magnet PAFs are more consistent and sweeter sounding than the long magnet ones. That’s just me though. The ’61 is going to have a wide flat neck which I find very comfortable. Not everyone does but I suspect that the trend toward big fat necks isn’t as all consuming as it might appear. These are very comfortable necks especially if you’re used to a Fender B or C neck. So many 345s have had the Varitone removed that they are becoming an endangered species. Seller states that the tuners may not be original because they are “too clean”. .They are probably original-I’ve seen this over and over again.
The tuners look better than the rest of the gold plated parts but think for a moment-do you sweat on the tuners? Do you rest your hand on them? Do you whack them over and over with a pick? I thought not. I’m willing to bet they are the real deal. There has been considerable downward price pressure on all of the ES models but the 345 has been hit a bit worse than the 335. While it’s always been the case that the 335 is more popular, the 345 was always the choice of those who wanted early 60’s quality and tone for a bit less money. This one is priced better than many of the 345s I’ve seen and well under what the dealers with their heads buried in the sand are looking to get. I don’t like to comment on whether an Ebay listing is worth the money but I’ve decided that that’s kind of what I’m here for. I think this one is high-not stupid high like some of them but still, unless you’ve been searching for this exact guitar, I think you might be able to get one like it for a bit less. If a gorgeous 61 sunburst 345 with PAFs is what your heart cries out for, then go ahead-make him an offer. Or go to Gbase, where you could do a lot worse.