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Thread: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

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    Michael Grady MSGrady20's Avatar
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    Question To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    So I have been thinking about purchasing my second mandolin within the next 6-12 months. Even though that date is a ways off, I've already started looking pretty hard for the next addition to my collection. I have been eyeballing the Eastman 615 and Eastman 815. Does anyone have any pro's/con's about the Eastman brand? Or any information about the the 615/815 models other than what I have already read on the specs page of the Eastman website? Thanks !

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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    The 615 will have an internal pickup while the 815 will not. It's been a while since I have played with new Eastman models but, in general, the differences in the line are mostly cosmetic and don't impact the sound quality. Meaning, out of a batch sitting in a store, the best sounding playing one may not be the most expensive one.

    If it were me, I would consider the 515 along with the other two and if I didn't intend on playing plugged in, that would influnce my decision to get a 515 over a 615 if they sounded similar. I had an 814 (oval hole - sn#22) a while ago. I miss that instrument. Should i ever get another oval arch top, I would seriously consider another Eastman. I've been a long time fan of their instruments.

    Jamie
    There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second. Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865 - 1946

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    Eastman mandolins are very well-made, excellent attention to detail, and a high ratio of hand-crafting. They're not over-finished like some other Asian-made brands, and they represent a good value for the money, IMHO. I have two Eastman mandolins, a mandola and a mandocello, so as you can see I'm a pretty "happy customer."

    The Eastman mandolins I've played have a less woody, bass-y sound than some bluegrass players prefer; they tend to be clear, with more mid-range and treble. If that's not your preference, Loar or Kentucky may be more your speed.

    The main differences among the various grades of Eastman, appear to be the amount of figure in the back/sides maple, gold-plated vs. nickel or chrome hardware, amount of binding, and some finish differences. Many Eastman owners have noticed that the lower grades (500, 600 series) sound as good as, or better than, some of the 800 series instruments. When I bought my mandola I chose a 615 over an 815, based on sound and price.

    If you can get to an Eastman dealer, and try the various individual instruments, you will find the normal range of variance; individual mandolins differ in sound, and generalizations are risky. I've been a satisfied Eastman purchaser and owner, but can only speak from personal experience. "Your mileage may vary," as they say.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Michael Grady MSGrady20's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    Do you think that Loars and Eastmans are on the same level as far as a quality instrument goes?

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    I've played several Eastmans (or should that be Eastmen?), including a 305, 315, 505, 515, 605, 615 and a couple of the 8's and 9's.

    As Allen pointed out above, they do sound remarkably alike. I bought a 505 because it sounded every bit as good as the higher-end models in the shop, but without the higher price tag. I personally wouldn't describe mine as lacking in bass. It's nicely balanced and has a bell-like quality to the sound.

    One thing to watch out for, though - the finish is VERY delicate. I treat my instruments well, but my 505 is rapidly acquiring a hell of a lot of dings, bashes, scratches, wear-points, etc. I've got more marks on this year-old mandolin than several guitars that I've owned for many, many years!

    Can't comment on The Loar as they're as rare as hen's teeth over here in the UK.

    Fragile finish aside, I'm very happy with my Eastie.

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    In my opinion the Loar isn't on the same level as Eastman. Bear in mind I have only experienced a single instrument from each maker. I may have gotten a subpar The Loar. I really dislike the finish on The Loar instruments. The finish is necessarily thick.

    Both have several flaws as far as fit and finish go. That is to be expected with imports at this price range. The Eastman for instance, seems prone to finish checking. This is not something that bothers me.

    I much prefer the materials, sound and construction of Eastman.

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    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    Quote Originally Posted by AncientMatingCalls View Post
    In my opinion the Loar isn't on the same level as Eastman. Bear in mind I have only experienced a single instrument from each maker. I may have gotten a subpar The Loar. I really dislike the finish on The Loar instruments. The finish is necessarily thick.

    Both have several flaws as far as fit and finish go. That is to be expected with imports at this price range. The Eastman for instance, seems prone to finish checking. This is not something that bothers me.

    I much prefer the materials, sound and construction of Eastman.
    Ditto! I have played 3 different The Loar mandolins, have owned 3 Eastmans (currently 1) and I think that Eastman's overall package can't be beat for the price points.
    1996 Flatiron Festival A
    1999 Flatiron Performer A
    2010 Eastman MD 515
    2012 JBovier F5 Studio

    "I would rather play music anyday for the beggar, the thief, and the fool!"
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    Re:mastering the mandolin - "relentlessly obsessive"

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    I'm new to mandolin, but have played guitar for several decades and over the years, have owned some really nice vintage Martins and Gibsons. I read here extensively before I made my first mandolin purchase and thanks to the many who shared their knowledge, made an informed choice when I bought my first mandolin for the amount of money I was willing to risk on a new hobby (Loar). It was a good starter but when I picked up a used Eastman for a great price, I could not believe the quality difference. I've since looked at Eastman guitars and will probably pick up one of the Adirondack tops that are being offered.

    I am blown away by the quality of Eastman instruments, especially considering their price. I'm told by several distributers I've talked to that it is more affordable for the Chinese to use hand labor than to invest in machines. People complained about how Martin quality suffered when they started using more machine factory methods and we all know how much the older guitars cost compared to the new. Hand made "botique" instruments cost a fortune but when you buy a Chinese instrument, that is essentially what you are getting. I understand there are still quality control issues with a lot of Chinese instruments, but if you purchase from an honest dealer, the bad ones are mostly weeded out. Put "Eastman" in the search engine here and you will learn a lot.

    I have never played a high end Gibson and I'm sure when I finally do I will immediately notice the difference, but for the money, I think it is hard to beat an Eastman instrument. Just my two cents. Good luck and if you make the purchase, please share your experience here.

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    I bought an Eastman 305 three months ago and am delighted with it. Its looks grabbed me first - it has a distinctive and, I think, very attractive matt finish. I traded in a Kentucky, which I had found very hard to play as it took a big effort to hold the strings down. The Eastman was instantly playable and much easier to hold the strings down. It sounds sweet to me, and I love it. I haven't particularly noticed it is vulnerable to damage, although I treat it gently! But, clumsy fellow that I am, I did drop it against a hard radiator, causing a loud clang, and I then gingerly inspected it. No damage at all, thankfully. So Eastman is a great brand, I believe. And I just love that matt finish...

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    John Bernunzio (I think it was he) told me Eastman's building a new facility adjacent to its current one, to keep up with demand. They've started making "thinline" electric guitars, and have a wide variety of acoustic guitar types. They're making Whyte Laydie copy open-back banjos, as well. This is in addition to their mandolin-family instruments, and their orchestral stringed instruments (violin, viola, cello, bass). There's been discussion here about an Eastman octave mandolin being introduced; at this year's NAMM they showcased a new ukulele line.

    Most of the really bluegrass-oriented Cafe posters seem to recommend Kentucky, and to some extent Loar, mandolins over the Eastmans. I'm not doing all that much bluegrass any more, and find my Eastman instruments to be excellent general-purpose choices.

    And I concur regarding Eastman's comparatively thin, soft finishes. There was one year that they had problems with finishes feeling sticky, especially on the neck, but that seems to be well in the past. From an acoustic standpoint, better a thin finish than an overly thick one, but you may get more apparent finish wear on an Eastman.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Gadfly Dr H's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    And here I thought you were going to ask for oppinions on whether or not you should attend the Eastman School of Music.
    Dr H
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    "I have nothing to say, and I am saying it, and that is poetry." -- John Cage

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr H View Post
    And here I thought you were going to ask for oppinions on whether or not you should attend the Eastman School of Music.
    In lovely downtown Rochester NY, and a great school it is!
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Registered User Chad Thorne's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    "Eastman mandolins are very well-made, excellent attention to detail, and a high ratio of hand-crafting."

    Yes. I just have a strong emotional bias against buying Chinese-made goods.
    "I'm your density."

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    Mine's a blonde 604 oval hole & I'm in love with the sound & the playability - a worthy substitute for the vintage gibson I fell in love with but couldn't afford! The only issues I found with them was the quality of the finish. My choice was based on sound, finish quality & cost & as we have a dealer here in Edinburgh, I was able to try 5, 6 & 8 models in both f & a styles. For 600 or so my baby was the best deal imo. I didn't really rate the finish on the more expensive line for close on 1000 & couldn't hear much difference in sound either.

    It is loud & sweet enough to be heard & appreciated in folk clubs & acoustic open nites without mic. Otherwise I've just mic-ed it up!

    If anything happened to it, I'd have no hesitation in getting another!

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chad Thorne View Post
    "Eastman mandolins are very well-made, excellent attention to detail, and a high ratio of hand-crafting."

    Yes. I just have a strong emotional bias against buying Chinese-made goods.
    Am curious, where was the device and its components made that you used to write this?

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    Am curious, where was the device and its components made that you used to write this?
    I have been trying to formulate something along these lines for weeks now, but have not come close to anything as pithy as this. Very nicely done, shortymack.

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    I've had a few Eastman 615s and two 815s and all great but not enough bass for me. I bought a Loar Lm 700 from Thoman recently and it was just a great mandolin in all aspects including set up straight out of the case (not to mention the fantastic price). Having said that I played a Loar Lm 500 and it was way down on the scale. I reckon The Loar LM 600 or LM 700 would be a great buy but you need someone with you or a guaranteed "money back if not satisfied" deal because a few people have been disappointed. Set up is everything.

    Jimmy

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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    Before this goes poorly, lets ramp back the rhetoric. The posting guidelines are clear on flaming trolling and political posts.

    Jamie
    There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second. Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865 - 1946

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    I apologize Jamie, my fault, its just hard hearing the same nationalistic arguement sometimes.

    Eastmans are great and work nicely for all styles of music IMO. The newer ones have really balanced out the sound and arent thin or trebly throughout the register any longer.

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    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    Quote Originally Posted by shortymack View Post
    I apologize Jamie, my fault, its just hard hearing the same nationalistic arguement sometimes.

    Eastmans are great and work nicely for all styles of music IMO. The newer ones have really balanced out the sound and arent thin or trebly throughout the register any longer.
    I love my Eastman MD515, but am "done" when it comes to buying "Chinese" made mandos; primarily for the reason that with my limited exposure I think all things considered (wood source availability, luthier tradition, etc) I'm more interested in an American Luthier's mando product (not to take anyhing away from Gilchrist, etc); also probably because there's so many luthiers around these days, and for me, unless it's a Gibson(Derrington-Roberts-Harvey) mando, I'm going the USA independent luthier route (Audey Ratliff). My impression is that more USA luthiers "get it" when it comes to mandolins. I could be totally wrong however, and am open for correction!
    Also to me it seems that Eastman's top of the line(along with The Loar, Kentucky, etc) is the low-end of the level of mandolin I'm looking to acquire. If Eastman (besides the Giacomel-Dawg mando) made a pro-level mando in the $4-5k range that we find Gibsons, Collings, etc. I would definitely be interested!
    1996 Flatiron Festival A
    1999 Flatiron Performer A
    2010 Eastman MD 515
    2012 JBovier F5 Studio

    "I would rather play music anyday for the beggar, the thief, and the fool!"
    B.K. Nicholson

    Re:mastering the mandolin - "relentlessly obsessive"

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    Michael Grady MSGrady20's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    Have you eaten at Lebowski's in Edinburgh? I liked enjoyed their food. I enjoyed their white russian menu even more.

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    I've only been playing a few months, but I must say that I absolutely love my Eastman MD305. Thanks to this forum, I had considered a couple of other brands, but the Eastman played and felt the best to me. I would definitely purchase another one. My only complaint would be the delicate finish - I've scratched it a couple of times and wish they would have put a more durable finish on it.
    Late 2012 Eastman MD305
    Early 2012 Eastman MD605

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    Quote Originally Posted by DataNick View Post
    I love my Eastman MD515, but am "done" when it comes to buying "Chinese" made mandos...I'm more interested in an American Luthier's mando product...unless it's a Gibson(Derrington-Roberts-Harvey) mando, I'm going the USA independent luthier route (Audey Ratliff). My impression is that more USA luthiers "get it" when it comes to mandolins…Also to me it seems that Eastman's top of the line(along with The Loar, Kentucky, etc) is the low-end of the level of mandolin I'm looking to acquire. If Eastman (besides the Giacomel-Dawg mando) made a pro-level mando in the $4-5k range that we find Gibsons, Collings, etc. I would definitely be interested!
    And that's a typical progression: as we get more "into" mandolins, and are willing to spend more, we become more interested in the higher-end or custom instruments. There are some definite top-line Asian-made mandolins -- I'd mention the Eiichi Sumi-made instruments as an example -- but Eastman is building for the mid-range market. And, as stated above, I think they do a really good job of it.

    My progression has been atypical. The higher-end mandolins I own, I bought 25-30 years ago: 1954 Gibson F-5, 1910 Gibson F-2 three-point, Gibson K-1 mandocello. Which meant I paid around $1500 for each of them, a fair market price at the time. Since then, I've been buying "lesser quality" mandolins for everyday use (not that I didn't put some miles on the Gibsons in the '80's and '90's). The Eastmans I own are very satisfactory for what I need now, easy-playing good-sounding instruments. The Gibsons mostly sit in cases, other than the occasional foray when I just need/want that particular sound.

    I won't wade into the imports-vs.-domestic controversy. A preference for US-made instruments is a valid point of view, as long as not accompanied by denigration of others' preferences. It is hard to find new, US-made, mid-price instruments, but that's only an aspect of the globalization of our economy. You can't find a US-made TV set, but you can still buy a Weber, Collings, Gibson, Big Muddy or Breedlove if you want to -- as well as an instrument built in the US by an individual luthier. So pick whichever you want, while respecting others' different decisions.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    I'm torn on the "Made in China" thing, but it only seems so in certain areas. For instance, I recently went shopping for some new work boots and was amazed that almost every boot in the place was Made in China, though the boot companies were USA-based companies. I searched till I found a pair of USA-made ones and bought those (and paid more). But this same boot company (Justin) also had many (more, actually) boots in the store made in a Chinese factory. So did I better support the company by spending more and buying the USA-made boots? Even if I'd went with the Chinese-made boots my money still went to the same company, right? That's what makes it tricky sometimes.

    I was recently in a Mac/Apple store buying some new earbuds. The place looked more like a fashion show as folks lined up to see which laptop they'd drop $3k on. No one seems to be bothered by them being made in China, though "designed in California." In fact, many people show their Mac as a badge of some kind. Some even put the little Apple sticker on their car, etc.

    But with instruments it seems to be different. Maybe because there is still a choice? One cannot buy a USA-made Mac, as far as I know, or a USA-made TV set, etc. I got my Eastman used, here in the Classifieds. Does buying a used import count as the same as buying a new one? Does this knock a USA builder out of a sale? In my case, not really. I spent $400 on my Eastman, which will likely be the reason I'll buy a USA-made mandolin later on. But without the entry-level, there's no way I'd go straight to a Collings, Gibson, etc. So on one hand it seems that these imports end up helping to sell more USA mandolins than anything else, since they point us to the standard which they were built upon.

    If I had to wait to drop $2k (or more) on a USA-made mandolin, I'd still not have a mandolin today. I'd likely just have stuck with the guitar.
    Eastman 505

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    Default Re: To Eastman...Or not to Eastman, that is the question.

    I will add my vote that Eastman is good quality. I own a 505 and Jazz guitar (no electronics). Both are very good sounding. I was able to try various 505's in the store when I bought it and picked the best sounding one. But they were all very close and any one of them would have been a fine instrument soundwise. The finish is delicate but having a number of Poly finished instruments it is refreshing to have a couple of mid priced instruments that will gain that patina and charm of wear and tear over time....(smiley face here)

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