Two classics go modern, get even better
Epiphone's Ultra Series features two of the House of Stathopoulo's most revered and critically acclaimed designs, the Ultra III Les Paul and the "Thin-line" ES-339, a welcome addition to the revered ES line first made famous by the 335, the Casino, and the Riviera.
In many ways, the Epiphone's Ultra guitars were inspired by inventor, pop music legend, and guitar provocateur Les Paul, who up until the last months of his life was still in touch with Epiphone offering new ideas and inspiring luthiers on how to improve the seemingly un-improvable Les Paul (along with any other instrument being made including archtops, mandolins, and electric basses).
For a look at Les's own handiwork, check out the brochure from the historic Les Paul estate auction in 2011.
The Epiphone Ultra III and Ultra ES-339 include so many unique features and offer players such versatility that they could have been ripped from the pages of Les' work notebooks. He would certainly have been their most enthusiastic supporter. Each Ultra guitar was designed to give both aspiring players and seasoned pros every conceivable option and convenience--from sound to feel to on-board tuners and eqs to mono, stereo, and USB outputs. But the Ultra III and Ultra ES-339 are also made to last and are powered by Epiphone ProBucker™ pickups, the very humbuckers that turned the guitar world inside-out this summer when they handily won out as a favorite when tested against the best boutique pickups on the market.
"Les was a friend to Epiphone throughout his life," remembered President Jim Rosenberg. "He loved to talk shop and make suggestions. He knew how hard it was to make a great guitar. We had Les's spirit in mind when making the Ultra III and the Ultra ES-339. They each combine an unbeatable design with all the modern advances in pickups, outputs, and playability that players need but can usually only find through a custom shop instrument."
Les Paul Ultra III
The Les Paul was the obvious place to start when creating the Epiphone Ultra Series and perhaps the most challenging since the Les Paul is already the most famous and most cherished electric guitar in the world.
The body of the Ultra III has a AAA Flame Maple Veneer top and a chambered Mahogany body with a belly scarf for comfort. The combination of a Maple top with a Mahogany body helps to give the Les Paul a remarkable range of tones--from a light, feathery acoustic sound to the world-famous rock crunch that's powered hits for five decades.
To accent those tones, the Ultra-III features two pickup systems--Epiphone ProBucker humbuckers and a Shadow NanoMag™ low impedance pickup (a favorite of Mr. Les Paul) that when combined give the Ultra III more tonal range than any Les Paul--old or new. The Ultra III has a ProBucker™-2 is the neck position and a ProBucker™-3 in the bridge position, wound for a slightly hotter sound much like vintage hand-wound humbuckers.
The Ultra III's second pickup system features Shadow™ Germany's patented NanoMag™ pickup, which is embedded discretely at the end of the fingerboard. The NanoMag™ has three Samarium Cobalt magnets, an air coil, and active electronics. The low-impedance pickup captures all the Les Paul's subtle body acoustics and string harmonics. When combined with the Ultra III's ProBucker pickups, players can pull off powerful humbucker-driven rock crunch as well as shimmering acoustic-like tones with the same intensity without switching guitars or amps.
But the Ultra III doesn't end with its notable pickup selection. Built discretely into the bridge pickup mounting ring is a full-function chromatic tuner with 11 easy-to-see color-coded LEDs that identify the note as well as whether it's sharp, flat, or in-tune. Push the ON/OFF button and sound is immediately muted when the tuner is activated.
To allow quick and seamless changes between each pickup system, the Ultra-III's NanoMag Volume control also doubles as an A/B switch. Just push it in and you can quickly toggle between magnetic, NanoMag or both pickup systems with no delay and no "pop." Two additional LED's on the pickup mounting ring provide a visual indicator as to which pickup system is active (Red=NanoMag; Blue-Magnetic or Red/Blue=Both).
The Ultra-III features three different outputs. By using the standard 1/4" MONO output, both the humbuckers and NanoMag pickups are mixed into one signal. When you plug another 1/4" cable into the Ultra III's STEREO output, the humbuckers are routed through one cable and the NanaMag the other. In this way, you can send the ProBuckers to your favorite guitar amp and the NanoMag to the PA or an acoustic guitar amp. Using the A/B switch, you can now change "on-the-fly" between the two outputs. The third output is for a USB cable. Using a USB cable (included), you can plug directly into your computer and use guitar applications such as Native Instruments GuitarRig™ 4LE (software included, downloadable from Epiphone.com) so you can play your guitar through a variety of simulated amplifiers and effects while listening through your computer speakers or headphones. GuitarRig also features a recorder, a metronome, a tuner and more.
Les Paul Ultra III Gallery:
The "339" was first introduced by the Custom Shop as a "Les Paul" sized ES guitar, one of the most recognized designs of the modern era that has powered hits by The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton and today is still making hits with Alabama Shakes, Dwight Yoakam, and Joe Bonamassa.
The ES-style electric was an ingenious design that came out of the historic Kalamzoo factory in the late 50s and capitalized on Epiphone long history of making superb archtop guitars. The ES series became an instant rock classic, bringing the look and feel of an archtop to a generation of players who had grown up playing solid body guitars like the Les Paul. The ES-335, the first in the ES series, was an instant success. But over the years, ES fans asked for a smaller body "Thinline" the size of a Les Paul. The Epiphone Ultra-339 is the perfect remedy, featuring smaller body dimensions while still retaining the bell-like tone the ES series has always been famous for.
While the Ultra-339 is packed with all of the Ultra Series' cutting edge technology, it still maintains the same basic specifications that made ES-style guitars the choice of two generations of artists from Chuck Berry to B.B. King to Alex Lifeson. The Ultra-339 has a laminated maple body with a solid center block, classic f holes, and a comfortable 24.75" scale SlimTaper™ "D" profile mahogany neck, which is glued-in with a mortise and tenon neck joint. The 12" radius rosewood fingerboard has 22 medium jumbo frets just like vintage ES-style archtops, a 1.68" nut and pearloid dot inlays. The Ultra-339 comes in three beautiful color finishes: Cherry, Natural and Vintage Sunburst.
Like the Ultra III, the Ultra-339 features two pickup systems--an Epiphone ProBucker™-2 in the neck position and a ProBucker™-3 in the bridge position along with a Shadow NanoMag low impedance pickup system.
Ultra 339 Gallery:
The Epiphone ProBucker™ pickups found in the Ultra III and the Ultra 339 are patterned after Gibson's famous BurstBuckers™ and feature authentic 18% nickel silver base and cover, Elektrisola wire, accurate bobbins, slugs and screws, and sand casted Alnico-II magnets for that classic "Patent Applied For" airy tone that define rock and roll.
Over the years, the first generation of Kalamazoo-made humbuckers (often called "Patent Applied For" for the tell-tale sticker found on the back of the pickups) have acquired a mythical status among guitar players. There's hardly a player in the world that doesn't regard the prospect of owning (or just seeing) a late 50's Les Paul with these rare, impossible to find humbuckers as the ultimate electric guitar experience.
Richard Akers, Epiphone's Director of Research and Development, wanted to turn around the idea that the Patent Applied For experience was only for those who could afford a custom shop guitar. For any R&D person in the guitar trade, securing a place in the crowded and formidable race to produce a great--not just good--but great Patent Applied For-style humbucker was the ultimate challenge.
"These ProBucker pickups are not just slight improvements over previously produced pickups. They were completely designed here in Nashville and tooled from the ground-up at a new factory dedicated to high end pickup production," said Akers. "These pickups use only the highest quality components and are based on the most sought after humbuckers of Gibson's history. I spent many, many hours making sure these came out great and I am really happy with the results. They sound fantastic."
This summer, Epiphone celebrated its 140th anniversary by setting up the ProBucker challenge featuring two sets of three Les Paul Standard PlusTop PROs--in Vintage Sunburst and Heritage Cherry Sunburst--and encouraged visitors to check them out. Both groups of Les Pauls were set up with new Epiphone ProBucker pickups as well as two other very fine boutique humbuckers.
Check out our ProBucker Challenge video to say see the surprising results.
The Ultra series is hands down the most exciting guitar on the market. And of course the Ultra III and the Ultra 339 come with Epiphone's Limited Lifetime Warranty. Every era has produced an instrument that players consider "the best guitar ever made." Now it's Epiphone's turn. Play an Ultra III and an Ultra 339 at your local authorized Epiphone dealer.