A full-bodied archtop with deluxe appointments and three P-90 pickups
"The ES-5 combines the acclaimed features of the L-5 with the finest method of electronic guitar amplification. Three separately controlled, adjustable magnetic pickups reproduce the full, rich tones and harmonics to make the ES-5 truly ‘the instrument of a thousand voices.'" — Gibson catalog, circa 1951
The Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster was truly a guitar ahead of its time. First introduced in 1949, the ES-5 Switchmaster was the first ES guitar to be fitted with three pickups, and was initially intended solely for jazz players. It was dubbed the “supreme electronic version” of Gibson’s L-5 and offered a unique four-knob control circuitry that allowed players to manage pickup selection by adjusting the volume of each pickup, thus eliminating the pickup selector switch. Yet despite its pioneering circuitry and three-pickup layout, the ES-5 Switchmaster was not immediately embraced by jazz players while competing guitar manufacturers rushed to introduce their own similar models, including the Epiphone Zephyr Emperor of the early 1950s and the Fender Stratocaster in 1954.
Today’s ES-5 Switchmaster has a high-grade maple top, back and rims and its signature full proportioned body: 17-inches wide, 21-inches long, and 3 3/8-inches deep. Multi-ply white and black binding accents the guitar’s top and back, with single-ply white binding on the f-holes for a distinctive touch.
The gold hardware, including an ABR-1 bridge, is also eye catching – especially the artistically designed trapeze-style loop tailpiece. The ES-5 Switchmaster’s neck is high-grade maple and walnut supporting a 20-fret rosewood fingerboard with large pearl block inlays and multi-ply white and black binding. The scale length is 25 1/2-inches with a 1 11/16-inch nut and kidney bean tuners on the headstock.
The Switchmaster’s signature electronics starts with three of Gibson’s P-90 pickups. Three volume and three tone pots and the guitar’s distinctive four-way pickup selector switch complete the package. The ES-5 Switchmaster comes with a Custom Shop case and certificate of authenticity.
And like all the Gibson Custom guitars, the Switchmaster is examined and dressed by one of Gibson’s state-of-the-art Plek machines to ensure that it’s ready for any playing situation when it leaves the factory. It is available in a Vintage Sunburst finish.