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Thread: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

  1. #1
    Harpua19
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    Default Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    I checked out an Eastman MD615 the other day. It sounds good and is definitely an upgrade from my Michael Kelly. The factory installed K&K is a nice bonus, too.

    However, I've been eyeing some used Flatirons and Collings online, as well as preparing to check out some shops during my cross-country drive. Should I drop a little over a grand for the Eastman and enjoy playing a better instrument now, or save a little more and shoot for a solid American made instrument? Either way, I'm getting a new axe. Just weighing affordability vs. quality.

  2. #2
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    While I concede that and Eastman is an upgrade to the MK, not much of one. Personally, I would wait and find that Flatiron or Collings that you really love and go for that. Remember also, if you buy the Eastman, you will lose money on that when you sell it too. I tend to like to reach for end game from the beginning as opposed to seeing every purchase as a stepping stone. That said, I have not one mandolin family instrument that I bought over four years ago.
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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    You could get the Eastman, play it while still saving, sell it later for a loss, and then get the Collings (or whatever). Along the way at least a couple things will probably happen: You will probably start to think the Eastman is really all the mandolin you need, and you might spend some of the Collings money on upgrades (CA bridge, etc.). That might hold you over for a bit, but you then might end up still wanting the Collings (my prediction; rarely here does someone stick with an Eastman, Kentucky et al for life, though they are plenty of mandolin and could very well do the job if not for MAS). So then you lose the upgrade money when you sell the Eastman (the upgrades don't usually increase resale much) and you are set back a bit. At last you end up with the Collings.

    This was my exact journey - upgraded Eastman to Collings. YMMV.
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  6. #4

    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    IMHO, a Master Kentucky sounds better than an Eastman, but the likes of Northfield and Weber et al are a significant improvement over the Kentuckys, but at increasing cost.

    I'm a firm believer that you are better off biting the bullet sooner rather than later. You can add a K&K to anything.
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    I had an Eastman MD815, which was nice, but not the level of mandolin I really wanted. I sold the Eastman, and bought a nice used Weber Bitteroot-A. I got $1K for my Eastman, and bought the Weber for $1.4K. At first, I wondered if I would regret going from a well appointed F-style mandolin to a fairly Spartan looking A-style mandolin. But that really hasn't been a concern. The upgrade in tone and playability was huge. The Weber plays and sounds like a professional-grade instrument. The extra $400 I spent elevated me to a whole different level of mandolin. I would have saved money if I had just bought the a Weber when I originally bought the Eastman. Hindsight. Recommendation = buy used, and spend a little more to get a higher quality mandolin. You'll thank yourself later.

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  10. #6

    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    After going through this myself, I concur with the other folks who say if you want a real upgrade, go for a Weber Yellowstone or better, a Collings, Northfield, or something similar.

    I have two Eastmans, a MD614 and MD315. The 614 sounds nicer than the 315 but not by a lot. So I'm selling the 614 and keeping the 315 for travel. The Collings I recently purchased sounds and feels profoundly better. It costs a lot more as well but unfortunately I think that there is NO easy way out if you want better tone, playability, and craftsmanship. Its a bummer but I think its true with Mandos. I suggest saving up more or simply enjoying what you have, to me it seems like dumping money into a slight upgrade is a waste. That's just my opinion of course, and I wish you the best in your decision.

    It's hard to imagine you not absolutely loving a significant upgrade, provided your cashflow can support it

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  12. #7

    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    itstooloudMike:

    Wow, only $1K for your 815? What kind of shape was it in? I'm asking because I'm probably selling my 614 and hope I can get nearly that for it.

  13. #8

    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    Purchase the md615. Install a set of ghs silk/bronze strings and enjoy. Just a IMHO of a rookie.

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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    I've owned several Eastman mandolins. I personally like them better than Kentucky. If you really want to save money, buy the Eastman MD-505 for $700 new. It sounds just as good as the 515 or 615. Install your own JJB pickup for $40
    http://jjb-electronics.com/prestige-220.html

    However, I am partial to the Collings MT. I think you should wait until your road trip and test as many mandolins as you can before you buy. Keep a log of instruments that you play, including shop and serial #, so that when you decide on what one was the best, you can call the shop and buy it.

    PS- a new Eastman MD-615 is about $1350. A used Collings MT can be found for about $1650. If spend the extra for the Collings and put in a JJB pickup if you need one.

  15. #10

    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    I concur with colorado_al. I went up the line buying and selling lower end Loar's and Kentucky's before finding my Eastman MD815V. Actually, I bought two 815V's, kept the one I liked best, sold the other, and had a pro set-up and Cumberland Acoustics bridge fitted. The mandolin plays like butter and has a great tone: sweet, clear, and focused.

    I also bought a Collings MT which is pretty special, too. But I gotta hand it to the Eastman: it's a great sounding and great playing mando, so I'm keeping both.

  16. #11

    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    "While I concede that and Eastman is an upgrade to the MK, not much of one."

    I know some really great musicians that might beg to differ that statement.
    A feller named Jeremy once told me that Jeremy Chapman, mandolinist of the bluegrass band "The Chapman's" owns and plays an Eastman 815v and loves it!
    I also wonder what Sam Bush thinks of the Eastmans he played at the NAMM show?😉

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    Last edited by Payton; Aug-05-2017 at 7:35am. Reason: Miss quote

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    The Eastman is a good instrument. Saw a number of them at a Scandinavian Music festival back in June. And have liked the ones I've played.

    However, when getting to the price range of a new MD615, there are other choices out there. Like you said, maybe wait and buy an all solid wood US made. Or maybe a small shop Japan made. (There's an Acoustic World A-5 at Elderly that looks nice. Haven't played it being a few states away.)

    Personally, my preference is for an A style mandolin, so I'm naturally going to suggest finding a used US made A style at that price range. Again, though, I would have no problem getting and keeping the Eastman if it's the one that calls to me.
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  18. #13

    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    I wouldn't consider Eastman Strings mandolin shop to be a large shop by a stretch. I once heard an Eastman rep ball park a number per year they turn out. I can't accurately say what that number was, but it wasn't anywhere near the amount I'd guessed. A used but well cared for Collings MT would be a good investment for 1,600 to 1,700. That's my next stop.

    Payton
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  19. #14

    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    I am an Eastman loyalist, but putting that aside, I also have a general rule of thumb "don't buy the most expensive model of an economy brand expecting a financial return". The simple reason is that the name on the headstock is going to be an anchor on the resale price no matter what the model. The comments in this thread, and others, are illustrative of the mindset that "made in USA is going to be a better instrument". Consequently there is a concrete price premium on quality American-made instruments and I believe it is particularly applicable to F5 styles.

    600-series Eastmans are mid-range in their lineup--well, upper-mid-range and I wouldnt advise anyone against purchasing an Eastie they loved. But you seem a bit ambivalent about this instrument, or are you just thinking you _shouldn't_ admit to liking it as much as you secretly do? (That'll be a nickel for the psychiatric advice, good deal for me cause its 6 cents Cdn ��)

    Also, you have this whole trip planned, why not see how it pans out? If you still end up liking the Eastman, you can still get it or one like it--they are fairly consistent in quality so its worthwhile to bargain hunt for them.

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  21. #15
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    Always buy the best quality that you can afford. It will then encourage you to work to keep up with it's potential. Eastman and Kentucky are good student quality and a step up from Michael Kelly it's true. A used Collings , Weber or Flatiron are another level entirely. Between the two, which is a matter of opinion and tonal preference, you have several small makers and importers Bovier, Northfield, Silver Angel and the list goes on . But keep in mind that it is always best to play and hear an instrument played in person. Take a recorder on your trip to compare sound files. Enjoy the journey. ... R/
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  23. #16
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    I guess we'll assume you play Bluegrass? Okay, maybe it doesn't matter. . .

    I started out on my MAS journey collecting Japanese mandolins (i.e., Alvarez, Kentucky, Ibanez, Yasuma, Aria, etc.). All these pre-dated the current lineups from China, so, there may be some improvements in modern manufacture. That said, when I sprung for my Flatiron A5-1, it was an eyeopener!

    I'd certainly keep an eye out for a Flatiron (A-model for price-point) or a Collings MT (anther A-model).

    Unless you just want to buy an old-Gibson oval-hole A-model? You see that's what I had all along and what I now play the most.

    Then again, I don't play Bluegrass.

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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    I played quite a few high-end instruments at Elderly a few months ago, but at my level of play, the Eastman does the job just fine. It kind of quashed my MAS for a while.....
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    Registered User Cochiti Don's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    My visit to the mandolin store convinced me that the Eastmans were ok but did not sing to me like the Collings. There was just no going back. I paid a good amount for my MTO but no regrets. Hard to explain but some folks understand
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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    Harpua19, you need to have a good, long conversation with yourself. There's no perfect answer here.

    How patient are you? Do you want to upgrade right this minute, or are you content to wait until you have more choices? Are you the one who always wants the best around, never content with second-best? Is the instrument you have holding you back, keeping you from enjoying playing, or are you just seeing its limits and realizing that someday will be time for a new one? Are you looking at three months or three years from now to get into a Collings or Flatiron if you wait? If you buy the Eastman now, how far back does that put you on saving for something else? Would buying the mid-grade mando now keep you from being able to jump on a great deal on that used Collings that won't last two days before someone else snatches it up? Will it drive you nuts if that happens?

    Only you can answer. We are all in different situations financially, and we all have different abilities to withstand MAS. No right or wrong answers in this game.

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  28. #20
    acoustically inert F-2 Dave's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    My experience is a little different. I have an MT and a Nashville made Flatiron. Both are great sounding mandolins. My wife surprised me with a new Eastman 415 gold top back in Feb. I've been playing it almost exclusively for the last six months. It doesn't quite have the volume the other two have, but I've been really impressed with the sound and especially the playability of the Eastman.

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    Registered User diptanshu's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    Just play the Eastman and see if you like it. Some Eastmans sound better than Collings or Weber. Really depends on the specific mandolin. Don't go by model numbers and makes. I have a 50 dollar plywood mandolin that I have had for 25 years now and it sounds better than the Eastman I have. It sure has other issues. So go play a few and buy the one that sounds good.

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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    Eastman are fine in general, and occasionally quite strong. I've owned two. They're well built, certainly. But all mandos have different tones, and you may find that Eastmans are or aren't to your liking on their own. I respect Collings and Webers as brands but haven't played any I like the tone of all that much in my own hands. It's not because they weren't good.

    I've been playing seriously again for about six years. (I played all the time twenty-five years ago, then stopped.) I've gone through a lot of mandolins since, trading, buying and selling, to figure out what I'm looking for.

    Here's what I've learned: if money is a concern, buy used. That way you can keep it for six months, and if you find yourself wanting a change, you won't lose more than a couple hundred. Cheaper than renting.

  32. #23
    Registered User jdchapman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    Especially if you live in the U.S. Might be bad advice for folks outside the county.

  33. #24
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    I play the lowest of the low Eastmans... the MD305... I love it and think it sounds great, but I AM relatively untrained. At this juncture, I don't foresee getting rid of it, even if I buy bigger better names, but that remains to be seen. I am in the process of saving up for my second instrument, but with the intent of a different sound (flattop oval), not necessarily better, but maybe.
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    Default Re: Eastman Md615 or save up a little more?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harpua19 View Post
    I checked out an Eastman MD615 the other day. It sounds good and is definitely an upgrade from my Michael Kelly. The factory installed K&K is a nice bonus, too.

    However, I've been eyeing some used Flatirons and Collings online, as well as preparing to check out some shops during my cross-country drive. Should I drop a little over a grand for the Eastman and enjoy playing a better instrument now, or save a little more and shoot for a solid American made instrument? Either way, I'm getting a new axe. Just weighing affordability vs. quality.
    Going back to the original question, I would say that you are in an ideal situation with an upcoming crosscountry trip with some stops to sample mandolins.

    If you still have not bought a mandolin by your return (I bet you will have), you will be in excellent shape to answer your own question. All I can say is follow your ears.

    Or ...
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