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Thread: Eastman md305 vs md305

  1. #1

    Default Eastman md305 vs md305

    I apologize if this is a bit of a lazy question. I'm considering buying one of these (or maybe an md 515) from one of the Cafe sponsors.

    I can see pretty easily what I'm getting in terms of visuals. Am I losing anything in terms of tone or playability by going with a 300 series Eastman?

    I admit to usually being a made in USA guy, but there is no denying that Eastman makes good quality stuff. I have my hands on quite a few of their mandolins and guitars, and I've been pretty impressed.

    Also, I'm mostly a guitarist who dabbles in mandolin family instruments. I enjoy picking fiddle tunes. I don't need a world class bluegrass chopper.

    As always, thank you!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    With the 505 you get binding on the neck and headstock, better tuners, cast vs. stamped tailpiece, and gloss finish. The tone will be very similar. The playability will be very similar. The MD 305 may come with a gig bag instead of a hard case.

    The Eastman blem at the Mandolin Store would be very good for you.
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  4. #3
    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    Hi Chuck, I'm going to assume that you meant that you are choosing between an MD305 and MD315, in spite of the title of your post. If that's the case, the only real difference is one as an A-style and one is an F-style body. They sound virtually identical. I chose the MD 315 because I just like the F-style more. It's my first mandolin and I'm totally pleased with it. You can't go wrong with either of these. If you are just wanting a mandolin to plunk on once in a while, there's no need to pay the extra $ for a 515.

    If you meant to say a choice between a 305 and 505, then there's more details - most of them better, but the same statement applies - if it's just for dinking around, I'd stick with the 3 series.

    Last time I was in Old Town Music (on NE Sandy) they had a 305 hanging up on the wall, but that was a few weeks ago.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    Thanks for the replies.

    Yes. I messed up my title. I meant to compare the 305 to the 605.

  7. #5

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    With the 505 you get binding on the neck and headstock, better tuners, cast vs. stamped tailpiece, and gloss finish. The tone will be very similar. The playability will be very similar. The MD 305 may come with a gig bag instead of a hard case.

    The Eastman blem at the Mandolin Store would be very good for you.
    These are a couple of the ones I am looking at. The pickup in the 605 might prove useful to me as well. It sounds like the 605 might have nicer appointments than the 305 but have similar playability and tone. But obviously buying via mail isn't as good as buying a mando I can play - at least in terms of judging the individual instrument. I get that.

  8. #6
    Registered User Chris Bowsman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    This is almost entirely off topic, but related enough to share. I've had a 315 for about a year and love it. It's the first mando I've owned, and I'm still happy with it. I picked up an Eastman AC120 dreadnought yesterday, and it's a great guitar, especially for the next to nothing I paid.

    If you don't have a bunch of money to spend, I think it's hard to go wrong with Eastman.
    "There ain't too many folks, who can play too many notes... on the mandolin"

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  10. #7
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    Quote Originally Posted by flagstaffcharlie View Post
    I admit to usually being a made in USA guy, but there is no denying that Eastman makes good quality stuff. I have my hands on quite a few of their mandolins and guitars, and I've been pretty impressed. Also, I'm mostly a guitarist who dabbles in mandolin family instruments. I enjoy picking fiddle tunes. I don't need a world class bluegrass chopper.
    If you don't need a bluegrass chopper and are a made in the USA guy, have you considered a flattop mandolin? They're great for picking fiddle tunes and are frequently available at price points competitive to the Eastmen you are considering. Currently in the classifieds there is a used Mid-Missouri for $525 https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/110484#110484 , a new Howard Morris for $550 https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/110632#110632 , a used Flatiron Cadet for $695 https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/110510#110510, and a Redline Traveler for $700 https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/109376#109376 . Other names to look for include Big Muddy, Arches, and Poe.
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    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    I suspect that, on average, the prettier wood gets assigned to the best carvers. Other than that, all the plates are carved by the same people. Might well have less variation springing from graduation and arching as the line goes up, but these days they're all rather good.
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    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    I've owned two 305s and now have a 505 and have played others. I think the 5 and 600 models are better. To my ear (as I've posted elsewhere) there's something a bit tinny sounding in the 305s and 315s. Is it the cheaper hardware? Don't know but for me this has been a consistent opinion. I think the 505 is the best for the money.
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  16. #10

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    In my unbiased (ha) opinion, your choice is between the 505 and the 505, not the 305 and the 305. Better instrument in every respect. I play (Cape Breton/Scottish/Irish) tunes on a 505 in rooms full of fiddlers and it is the best session mando I have had, of many I tried. Tone, volume, comfort (flatwound strings), tunability, value for money. I believe a 605 is a 505 with the pickup added, end of changes, so if the builtin pickup is a big plus for you, my recommendation extends to it.

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  18. #11

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    So I actually have a little history with mandolins. I owned an Eastman md315 and an md515, but only because I was in a position to acquire them for friends a few years ago. I never got to know those instruments. I have also owned a Flatiron A-style (should have kept it), a couple Mid-Mos, and one of Walt Kuhlman's instruments. Like a lot of folks, I've done a lot of swapping and I tend to get rid of instruments I'm not playing.

    What has changed is that I am playing more with other folks and want to have one on hand for composing fiddle tunes and fooling around with arranging. Also, just to have one handy when someone stops by.

    I'm pretty sure I want an archtop now that I have had some flattops. I also already have a flattop octave and mandola. So just for variety's sake an archtop would be neat. I'm really leaning towards one of the blems at the Mandolin Store.

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  20. #12

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    So Chris, I also bought an AC120 from a student recently. Unreal how much guitar it is for the money. I have several Martins and a Santa Cruz. But I really enjoy playing the Eastman. I use it for most of my teaching now.

    My friend loves the md315 I found for him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bowsman View Post
    This is almost entirely off topic, but related enough to share. I've had a 315 for about a year and love it. It's the first mando I've owned, and I'm still happy with it. I picked up an Eastman AC120 dreadnought yesterday, and it's a great guitar, especially for the next to nothing I paid.

    If you don't have a bunch of money to spend, I think it's hard to go wrong with Eastman.

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  22. #13

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    I have found some 315s better sounding than some 515s and visa versa, but it would be hair splitting by how much.

    If you are leaning toward a blem from TMS, don't delay. They will sell fast. I never found the blem on my 505. If what I thought I saw maybe was the blemish, Eastman's QC is off the charts.
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  24. #14
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    Main differences that I've found between Eastman's "300" and "500" mandolins, have been in looks, hardware, and price. Sound-wise, not a consistent difference that outweighs the differences you find among individual mandolins.

    Looks and hardware matter, of course. So does price. If you can't play one instrument versus the other, balancing out the relative weight you attach to these factors may help you decide.

    My old instrument dealer part-time boss, Eldon Stutzman, used to tell customers, "If you can't tell the difference, buy the cheaper one." Good advice in 1970, and now.
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  26. #15

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    With the 505 you get binding on the neck and headstock, better tuners, cast vs. stamped tailpiece, and gloss finish. The tone will be very similar. The playability will be very similar. The MD 305 may come with a gig bag instead of a hard case.

    The Eastman blem at the Mandolin Store would be very good for you.
    I just want to chime in and say that I purchased one of the MD515 blems (upgrade from my MD305) from this current sale. Not only is it a struggle to notice the very minor blemish, I have to say that The Mandolin Store is one of the best businesses I have ever given my money to. I don't want to describe in detail the extra effort they went to for me, because I'd hate to obligate them somehow to do the same thing for everyone, but I was (very happily) surprised when the new MD515 arrived. These guys are a class act, and I love love love this mandolin.

    Thank you Mandolin Store!!!!

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  28. #16
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    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    Quote Originally Posted by flagstaffcharlie View Post
    I apologize if this is a bit of a lazy question. I'm considering buying one of these (or maybe an md 515) from one of the Cafe sponsors.

    I can see pretty easily what I'm getting in terms of visuals. Am I losing anything in terms of tone or playability by going with a 300 series Eastman?

    I admit to usually being a made in USA guy, but there is no denying that Eastman makes good quality stuff. I have my hands on quite a few of their mandolins and guitars, and I've been pretty impressed.

    Also, I'm mostly a guitarist who dabbles in mandolin family instruments. I enjoy picking fiddle tunes. I don't need a world class bluegrass chopper.

    As always, thank you!
    I own both a 300 series and 600 series Eastman mandolins and I have to say without a doubt the 615 is better sounding. Playability is about the same on all Eastmans but I have never heard a 305 or a 315 that sounded as good as the 505 or 515. To me the 300 series have that "cheaper mandolin" sound. Not to say that it's not a pleasant tone from the 300's but you definitely get closer to the woody, warm Gibson tone with the 500's and up. To my ears the major leap in quality in finish and tone is found going from the 300 to 500 series. They are better made instruments in my opinion and I've never understood all the MC members statements that basically all Eastmans sound the same with the only improvement being the fit and finish in the upper numbers. This makes no sense to me and I've played ALOT of Eastmans and have NEVER heard a 300 that sounded as good as the 515, 615 or 815 and especially the 915. That being said the difference in sound from the 515 to the 915 is a lot less than one would expect. It seems like the dividing line in the Eastmans is between the 300's and the 500's. If tone and finish are not as important to you than I'd go with the 305. My suggestion would be to play both and decide for yourself.
    And of course now they've got 400's with some unique finish options but I've never played any of these.
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  30. #17

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    While I've never owned a 300 series, I did own an MD 505 which I consider a great value. I've tried a 315 back to back with the 515 and 815 multiple times, and the 315 and 515 sounded very similar to me. There was a great difference in feel however. The 515's binding gave it a playability edge and that pride of ownership feeling.

    After having larger frets I doubt I'd be happy going back, but the real negative is the tone of the G string which I'm comparing to my Silverangel. But most import mandolins can't go head to head on that basis, and I certainly realize many wouldn't like my SA.

    I'm also experiencing a richening of the G on my Michael Kelly as it gets more mileage on it, so perhaps I need to seek out and play some older Eastmans.
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  31. #18

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    Not sure when the 300 and 400-series were added, but when I got my 505, around 2010, that was the bottom of the Eastman line. Near the end of phase 1 of their (l believe) very successful marketing plan, which was to achieve brand recognition and acceptance with a line of high-quality instruments at market-challengingly reasonable prices. The next phase involved introducing the 3xx and 4xx Eastmans, even lower priced, manufactured more cheaply in almost every way (still good value), while raising the prices of the original 5xx to 9xx lines (because they couldn't sell the best instruments at those dirt-cheap prices forever, nor should they--highly skilled Chinese luthiers deserve a decent wage like anyone else). They also made changes in the higher-end line like switching them all to snakehead pegheads--a wise move since the snakeheads use less expensive tuners than the paddle-style ones, with no quality reduction and possibly an improvement. Both the new budget lines, and the original models, benefited from the established brand-recognition, for different reasons.
    I guess thats just how business works. Martin certainly did much the same thing since Chris Martin IV took charge, except they introduced a zillion new model/levels instead of a couple. But as an Eastman and Martin devotee, I have an emotional reaction that the lower-end models introduced after I got mine aren't "real" Eastmans/Martins. I suspect I'm not alone. I still might buy a Martin Road Series model sometime though.

  32. #19

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    You have hit on a pet peeve of mine. Martin realized that Taylor was eating their lunch as far as building brand loyalty with their Mexican made lower cost instruments, so bowing to market forces, they did the same. I guess I don't like business decisions diluting the brand, but that is how people stay in business. I just have to laugh when people ask me what guitar I play and turn up their noses when I answer Epiphone. Mine however is a real one from 1965.

    It is just a fact that many will buy what they are familiar with and work their way up the ladder with the same brand. I draw the line at using laminate with the same brand name as the high end and feel there should be clear definition for consumers. So I have no problem with Eastman in this regard. The 300 series is very decent at an attractive price.
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  34. #20

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    Well, I dont fault Martin for experimenting with many different configurations and price points, at least into the medium-range, as CM4 reshaped the company for 21st-century success. I dislike some of the more garish results, like those cowboy-art mousegeetars and the multi-ply necks, but changes were needed as it wasnt just Taylor nipping at their heels, but a whole world of high-end luthiers on the north side of the price range. Still, my tastes were shaped when the models were prefixed D or some zeroes, and thats not likely to change.

  35. #21

    Default Re: Eastman md305 vs md305

    It's been a while. I figured I would update the thread. I ended up picking up an older Weber Absaroka in trade for a guitar. It's probably more mandolin than I'll ever need or deserve.

    Thanks so much for all the advice and help!

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