Washburn HB35 Review | An Alternative to Gibson’s ES-335

Washburn HB35 Headstock

It’s pretty safe to say that the Gibson ES-335 is the most iconic thinline, semi-hollow electric guitar ever made. Problem is, with a price tag of over US$2,500+ it’s well out of reach of the average guitar player.

Enter the Washburn HB35.

For those who favor the design of the 335 without the unbelievable price tag, Washburn’s HB35 makes for an excellent alternative that doesn’t look or feel cheap.

Washburn HB35 Player Review

A review of Washburn HB35 The Washburn Hollowbody Series of guitars (which is the “HB” portion of the model number) have been around for quite a few years now and have slowly gained in popularity as more guitarists have been able to play them.

As a thin line hollow-body, the Washburn HB35 is lighter than most electric guitars and produces a more mellow tone favored by blues and jazz guitarists. It shares a lot in common with another beginner archtop electric guitar that I’ve spent time playing as well. But as I hope this Washburn HB35 review will show, there’s quite a bit more to love about this guitar than just a thin body.

Production Quality of the HB35

The Washburn line of HB35 is constructed using a flame maple top with maple back and sides. While these primary pieces are laminate wood (which isn’t as good as having solid wood), the big difference with the HB35 is the use of a solid maple block in the center used to “increase sustain and reducing susceptibility to feedback in high volume situations” according to the Washburn website.

This is exactly what the Gibson 335 does and there’s a reason Washburn mimicked them: it makes an incredible difference on the sound produced by the HB35.

The fretboard is traditional rosewood along the 22 frets and is adorned with beautiful split-block inlays. The dual Washburn humbuckers, 4 pots (2 volume and 2 tone controls) and 3-way switch are all great quality considering the price point. There are many people who prefer to mod the guitar by changing out the humbuckers, and although this can certainly improve the guitar, it’s not absolutely necessary.

Finally, the Grover tuners are just another indication that Washburn wasn’t trying to skimp on manufacturing. Don’t expect this guitar to go out of tune very easily!

Sound Quality of the HB35

I think what I loved most about grabbing this axe is that it had excellent setup directly from the factory. In other words, once I received the guitar all I had to do was tune it up and it was ready to go.

The action of the guitar was excellent and no additional modifications were needed.

Although acoustically the Washburn HB35 projects with more volume that the traditional solid-body electric guitar, it’s definitely not meant to be played that way. Plugging in the HB35 offered excellent tone that packed a beefy sound that remained well-rounded. After playing a variety of styles on the guitar, I was impressed by the versatility of the HB35. It responded well to simple jazz licks as well as more heavy rock playing.

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Visual Options with the HB35

In addition to being an excellent alternative to much pricier thin line guitars, Washburn has done everybody a favor by offering quite a few different options with their HB35. All the specs on these guitars are the same except for one thing: different finishes.

Washburn HB35BK

The Washburn HB35BK is an all-black finish on the traditional HB35 thin line electric guitar. Even the headstock and pickguard are pitch black. A look at the Washburn HB35BK electric guitar

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Washburn HB35NK

The Washburn HB35NK offers a natural finish on the HB35 electric guitar. The nice thing about the natural finish is that it offers a much better look at the flame maple top that makes the HB35 so beautiful. A look at the Washburn HB35NK electric guitar with natural gloss finish

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Washburn HB35TSK

For those who prefer a sunburst finish, you’ll like the Washburn HB35TSK model of their thin line electric guitar. Washburn calls this their “Tobacco Sunburst” finish and it is a beautiful gloss finish. A look at the Washburn HB35TSK electric guitar with a tobacco sunburst finish

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Washburn HB35WHK

The Washburn HB35WHK is a white gloss finish of their thin line electric guitar line. While the headstock and pickguard remain black, the rest of the guitar is a beautiful solid white. A look at the Washburn HB35WHK electric guitar with a white gloss finish

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Washburn HB35WRK

Last, but certainly not least, the Washburn HB35WRK has a “wine red” finish on the electric guitar. This is a gloss finish but what I love is that it still allows some of the flame maple beauty to shine through. A look at the Washburn HB35WRK electric guitar with wine red gloss finish

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Final Thoughts on the Washburn HB35

Overall, I am happy with the Washburn HB35. It offers a great value for the quality and sound it provides, especially for those who don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on the original Gibson ES-335.

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9 Responses to Washburn HB35 Review | An Alternative to Gibson’s ES-335

  1. Rudy says:

    Hello Josh I am an old guitar hacker from a small rural town miles away from any guitar shops and was glad to find your articles. I am in the market for a double cutaway semi hollow body with a slim taper style neck to mainly play rockabilly to classic rock (no metal). Having read your reviews on the Washburn and Epi Dot I would really appreciate your advice between the two or any other brand semi hollow body guitar for that matter in these price ranges. I may could expand my budget a little (not Gibson ES335 range) to get one with really good pickups from the get go and horn openings for easy access to the upper frets for a guy with medium/large sized hands and shorter fingers. As a note I own 2 ’66 Ltd. Edition Epi SG’s with slim necks but the bridge pu’s were so dark & muddy I changed them out with SD alnico 8’s which made a solar system of difference in the tones. However, changing pickups in a semi hollow body is a major task and your knowledgeable input is really appreciated in my search.
    Thanks in advance,

  2. Rich says:

    Hi, Rudy,

    Just weighing in as a relatively new HB-35 owner. I found a beautiful used one on eBay for under $400. The workmanship, fit and finish are outstanding. I spent another $300 on replacing the pickups with SD Seth Lovers and a set-up and it is now just a killer guitar. The stock pickups were fine but nowhere near the quality of the guitar overall. And you’re right- doing the pickup change yourself on a semi-hollowbody is a pretty major undertaking. Unless you’ve got a lot of patience and confidence, I’d recommend letting a good guitar tech do this (and a set-up) as a I did.

    As far as the neck profile goes, I don’t know that I’d call it slim taper but it’s very comfortable to me. I think I got an outstanding guitar with the HB-35 and the changes I made. Best to you,


    • Josh Summers says:

      Hey Rich, thanks so much for your input. It’s great to hear that you were able to modify this guitar to your liking despite the challenge it probably was to do so. I hope you continue to enjoy the HB-35!

  3. J.B. Clagg says:

    I respect your review of the HB-35, but you make it sound like that there are no other options for quality, inexpensive semi-hollow body electrics. There are numerous others, and maybe you know and maybe you dont, but most of them from overseas are ALL made in the same factories and/or have their subcomponents all sourced from the same parts suppliers. When you get up close and personal with these guitars, it is quite obvious which factories produced which guitars as they dont take great pains to change the basic design and construction, just the name on the headstock. I buy, sell, repair and modify guitars and have owned or worked on thinline semi-hollow body electics with names like Springfield, Johnson, Jay Turser, Samick, Crestwood, Ibanez, Washburn, Vester, Aria, Epiphone and a couple of original Gibson ES models. They all have the center block construction and all were representative of the normal quality control expected from production line guitars. Despite what guitarists hope and expect, it is rare that a production line guitar is properly set-up and ALWAYS needs to be tweaked, whether that be by the retail outlet that sells it, the owner or by an owners personal guitar tech. It aint rocket science, the basic design and construction of these guitars hasnt changed in over 50 years, now we just have more choices.

    • Josh Summers says:

      Hey J.B., thanks so much for your valuable input here. Even further support of your assertion is that fact that all throughout China (a country where I have lived and traveled extensively) and Asia, exact replicas of these guitars can be found with everything the same except for the name on the headstock. Pricing is much cheaper but I’ve also found that in some cases, so is the quality of construction.

  4. Mauro Fallas says:

    I buyed a HB35, about 20 years ago, natural, from Korea, first a have a rare ES 325, a very nice guitar, but I had to sell, when you try to buy another years later, it was imposible, by prices; so so I tried several brands and found my Wasburn Natural HB35, and really conquered me, right now I’m trying to buy one, then sold it to negotiate a Epiphone Les Paul Signature, with the Electar pickups, it sounds good, but I miss my Washburn, very close to a Gibson, are perhaps the only guitar that I think exceeds 335, with the respect they deserve all who read this comment, is the Yamaha SA2000 or SA2200, something almost superior to everything standardized, in my opinion. I had one for 3 years thanks to its sale, I buy a great ES 175 … but that’s another story

  5. John Carter says:

    HI guys. I own an Ibanez as153. I like the sound, but find the neck a bit thick (21mm at first fret). Does the Washburn hb35 have a thinner neck than the Ibanez?

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  7. Vic says:

    I have one that I bought over 20 years ago. It was made in Korea. I noticed they cost less now than during the nineties! Are they made in China now?

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