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Thread: Are Eastmans a keeper?

  1. #1
    Registered User Joey Anchors's Avatar
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    Default Are Eastmans a keeper?

    Iíve had my Eastman MD404 for three years now and really enjoy its tone and feel.

    Am I missing something say a highend, hand built oval hole or say a vintage A2/3/4 may have tone wise?

    Iíve played a couple vintage Gibson ovals over at Fiddlers Green a while back but never did a side by side comparison with the MD404.

    P.S. Iím strictly a jazz/blues player.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    My first mandolin was an Eastman, and it did the job well enough to get me hooked on playing mandolin. But I have access to a great store, and I started playing a wide variety. Now you use the term high end, and to me that starts at maybe $5k, so no, you don't need a high end mandolin. What you do need is the low end of medium, which I define as a used A style as low as $1000, but more typically $1200-1800. You do not need to direct compare. If you do not notice an immediate difference with a Collings MT, well save your money until you can.

    You can find A styles like Weber Gallatins, Silverangels, teens Gibsons, and half a dozen others in the $1200-1500 range, with Collings MTs starting around $1800. Spending at this level will buy you a very satisfying instrument. Only you can say if you like oval holes or a vintage Gibson over an F hole archtop.

    A regular trip to Fiddler's green would be a great education. Find two or three mandolins you would be happy with, and pounce on one when you see it in the classifieds. But don't do it if you can't tell any difference. I'm betting eventually you will.
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  4. #3
    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    I have a 404 as well, it does have a unique tone. I have both A's and F's...love the look of an F but have been gravitating back to my As as they are super comfortable to hold.
    "It doesn't matter how much you invest in your instrument until you invest in you and your ability..."

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  6. #4
    Registered User Joey Anchors's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    Quote Originally Posted by B381 View Post
    I have a 404 as well, it does have a unique tone.
    I think that’s what I really like about the 404.

    Also to be clear.. I like the tone of Oval-holes. I’m not looking for that f-hole sound.
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joey Anchors View Post
    I’ve had my Eastman MD404 for three years now and really enjoy its tone and feel.

    Am I missing something say a highend, hand built oval hole or say a vintage A2/3/4 may have tone wise?

    I’ve played a couple vintage Gibson ovals over at Fiddlers Green a while back but never did a side by side comparison with the MD404.

    P.S. I’m strictly a jazz/blues player.
    Only you can decide that by playing so called high end instruments ! I have owned two Eastman's and the worse one was a 915 F5 . Play an Ellis or a Girouard along with your Eastman and you will soon be putting the Eastman up for sale !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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  9. #6
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    I agree 100% with Br1ck. I too started with an Eastman (a 305 to be exact) and it really was a killer instrument that I played on stage and enjoyed immensely. However, I can say that there indeed a noticeable difference when you play a small shop; luthier-made instrument. Not to say that Eastmans are NOT quality; they are great,... but even my wife and in-laws told me they could really hear the difference in tone and quality when I upgraded to my Silverangel (which fit budget wise into the amount that Br1ck mentioned).
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    1. Eastmans are keepers.
    2. Yes you are missing something.

    There is always better, or sometimes different, to be explored. There is no such thing as the perfect mandolin. You may or may not want or need another mandolin, but, of course, you are always missing something.
    Indulge responsibly!

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    If you cannot hear the difference between a higher end mandolin and the one you own consider that a blessing. There's a whole lot to be said about being satisfied with an instrument you own.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  15. #9
    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    If you cannot hear the difference between a higher end mandolin and the one you own consider that a blessing. There's a whole lot to be said about being satisfied with an instrument you own.
    Eh....that's easy....live in a town where you could swear you're the only person who plays mandolin AND stay out of ear shot of anything better than what you have currently.

    See.....easy.
    "It doesn't matter how much you invest in your instrument until you invest in you and your ability..."

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  17. #10

    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    Iíve had the same guitar now for nearly thirty years, I still love it. It has all those songs in it.
    Would I exchange it if I was offered a different, REALLY nice guitar?
    ... uhhh... Uhh, no I wouldnít.
    Uhhh.

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    For what you are playing and your stated interest, maybe. You might end up finding a Gibson that calls to you better. Am lucky enough to have two old Gibson oval holes. Like them both. But I've played some Eastman oval hole models that I'd be just as happy owning.

    The main difference between your 404 and an old Gibson is the back and sides. Mahogany on your instrument, most old Gibson models have birch or later maple. It will give more treble. But since I see your string and pick choices, that might not be what you are looking for.

    A hand build oval hole will sound different than an Eastman (or vintage Gibson) for the most part. Whether you like that difference is entirely up to you.
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  21. #12
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    Eastman mandos are great starter insturments. I have a 315 I got cheap and hot rodded with new hardware and larger frets. It sounds pretty good. I do own mandos that sound better but they are many times more expensive than the Eastman. If you see videos of older mandolin players like the older blues guys and old time players, they rarely were playing Loar era Gibsons, they mostly played less expensive mandolins. Some of the greatest 78's out there are not fine made instruments but of lower to mid quality instruments. The Eastman is the top of the heap of the lower priced mandolins out there IMHO.

    I have no plans to sell mine.
    Last edited by Bob Buckingham; Jun-02-2019 at 8:26am.

  22. #13
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joey Anchors View Post
    Am I missing something say a highend, hand built oval hole or say a vintage A2/3/4 may have tone wise.
    ďKeeperĒ is a subjective term, not an objective one. It is a well understood expression of longstanding satisfaction with an instrument. In this context, a keeper is that which is kept.

    As for the above question, it will be hard for others to decide what you are or arenít missing. I know what Iím not missing though.

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  24. #14
    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    I still have my first mandolin--Eastman MD305. I took it to the jam last night. Plays and sounds just fine. I payed less than 400 for it. The 4000 dollar mandolin stayed home. Yes they can be keepers for various reasons. And when strangers at a rowdy jam want to sit in with us and play it, I don't mind. Considering how little I'd get for it in selling, why bother trying to sell it? Great beginner mando at first and then backup/campfire mandolin as things progress.

    Yes, you may be missing something and it may be time you reward yourself with another instrument if you can afford it.

    And you're welcome. That's what we're here for.

    PS: Save this response and paste it to the same question after you ask it again in a few years about your third mando. Yes, you'll need that one too.

    PSS: About the "only play jazz" thing, don't fret. Just be patient. I knew a guy like that and he really stuck with it and eventually was able to play real music ! ))
    Last edited by Astro; Jun-02-2019 at 8:05am.
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  26. #15

    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    If you want to keep it, it's a keeper! If you've played more expensive mandos and are still in love with your Eastman, that pretty much settles it.

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  28. #16

    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    I think it depends on the actual mandolin, and what you're after (sound, volume, tone, comfort, etc).

    I had an Eastman 505 for a couple of years and it served me well, but the small frets and really narrow board were giving me a lot of problems with tendons and cramp. Upgraded to a Northfield F5S with slightly wider board, more pronounced radius and larger frets and it's a world of difference - and the upgrade in sound quality is massive.

    Having said that, my son got a new Eastman 305 last year and it's a killer. Loud, punchy, great tone and chop and the neck's wider and a little chunkier than my old 505. I'd say that one's a keeper!

    Eastman make a good instrument. In fact, I'm thinking about checking out one of their octave mandolins when I have some spare cash.

  29. #17

    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    And don't ever forget a really great player will sound better on an Eastman than an average player will on a Loar.
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  31. #18
    Registered User Joey Anchors's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    And don't ever forget a really great player will sound better on an Eastman than an average player will on a Loar.
    That is extremely true.

    I guess I just need to keep playing the 404 until I find another mandolin that speaks more to me.. (if/when that happens)
    2016 Eastman MD404 - "PenelopeĒ
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  33. #19
    R-5, MT & A1 ('12. '13) lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    I have owned two Eastmans-- MD605 and MD805V-- and both were superb! In looking at the videos of the shop, there seems to be a great organization and a lot of professionalism going into their guitars, mandolins and violins. I think that Eastman's are definitely keepers. I saw a couple of nice examples Friday-- a 515 and a 315 at Folk Music Center in Claremont (owned by the renowned Ben Harper) when I picked up my Ratliff after the bridge fitting and set up. Those examples played so well and sounded great after they set them up and displayed them in their shop.

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  35. #20
    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    Hell yes Eastmans are worth keeping! I recently bought the newly re-designed Eastman MD604 (an oval hole A model on steroids) and as far as I'm concerned it's the steal of the century. Fantastic tone, fantastic workmanship, beautiful block inlays in the radiused, ebony board, double bound body, onboard K&K pickup system, superb hardware, beautiful mahagony finish, beautiful rosette, flamey woods and a superb, violin-style hard case... brand new for $879.00! If this mandolin had a different name in the headstock it would cost THOUSANDS of dollars. The Eastman mandos of today are something else... especially some of their newest offerings...

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  37. #21
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    +1 on answers like Yes and Yes.
    +1M on be grateful if you're happy with the sound of your axe.

    An Eastman mando today is a substantially better mando than an Eastman mando made even a few years ago. I'm continually impressed by how the player experience and suggestion seems to find its way into the production line. I know I'm not the only one to feel that a recently made 515 is far superior to the even some of the higher-end mandos of yester-year. I'd suggest sticking with the Eastman line first, and exploring one of the 804/814, or a 9X4 if you can find one used and are willing to go that route. Frankly, you can't beat the lifetime warranty that comes with a new purchase, and I'd likely go for a new 8X4 with that in mind.

    But, if you're interested in really going in a different direction....
    Would a Rigel A+ oval hole or Q95 sound or play better for you? Maybe, if you're not wed to a traditional build or look and are interested in the options coming with a built-in pickup. You can find some floating around used; jump on it when you do! You could also commission a new one.

    Beyond Rigel, could a custom A from one of the great builders on this forum do it for you? You have a wealth of options: Black, Girouard, Hester, Macica, and Pava all quickly come to mind for exceptionally well-built, traditional, A style oval hole mandolins. In any case, you're looking at quite the jump up in cost; it's up to you to determine if there is value in spending upwards from $3K (loosely) for your custom, personal axe. At that point, you're also start to knock on the door for a used Collings...well, you get the idea. Have fun, and let us know where you land with this!
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  39. #22

    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    I've sampled a wide variety of instruments so far, and have benefitted from every one.

    It's the very different ones that have helped the most though, I am probably not going to get much out of another f-hole, other than a more refined version of what I already have, but the OM and the electrics were eye-opening.

    Once I have explored then maybe it's time for a better instrument. So far all my instruments together cost less than one high-end mando, and the variety and fun so far has been priceless. But I am an explorer by nature, different strokes for different folks.

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  41. #23
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    Any brand can produce a keeper, or a non-keeper. Judgments about whether to stay with whatcha got, or shell out some buxx for a new one, are subjective. Deciding by brand is an approximation, firing ranging shots to get in the neighborhood of your next target. To hit the bullseye, you find the individual instrument that floats your proverbial boat.

    Good suggestions above, but having a mandolin built for you, is to some extent a leap of faith. The faith may be warranted -- probably is, given the builders suggested -- but no real guarantees. I personally prefer to have the instrument already built and in my hands, and then make the comparison. YMMV, for sure...
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  43. #24
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    It seems to me that there is often the need to justify loving cheaper instruments. If someone has a Kentucky, Eastman, etc, and genuinely loves playing it, that should be the end of the matter.

    I went through this mental struggle till I had my Collings and found it all very distracting. I love the Collings and sometimes I'm flat out amazed at the sounds that come out of the thing (not my playing but just the unbelievably beautiful tones and sounds it makes). But in the end, I would have been just fine without it.

    It's funny how things sometimes come full circle too. I have a super nice Larrivee guitar and a plywood Takamine that I bought in 1993 when I was 18 years old. I LOVED that guitar till I started reading guitar forums and realized it was actually a piece of junk (or so I was told). I stashed it under a bed for years, but lately it's the instrument I play the most. Oddly enough, I find that I actually enjoy the simplicity of its tone and just how much fun it is to play. I play rock and roll on it most of the time and it flat out JAMS.

    I say if you love the Eastman, just focus on playing and making it about the music. I think a person ends up way happier (and a better player) this way.

    .02

    (PS: Joey, you probably have the coolest avatar on the forum.)
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  45. #25
    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are Eastmans a keeper?

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    It seems to me that there is often the need to justify loving cheaper instruments. If someone has a Kentucky, Eastman, etc, and genuinely loves playing it, that should be the end of the matter.

    I went through this mental struggle till I had my Collings and found it all very distracting. I love the Collings and sometimes I'm flat out amazed at the sounds that come out of the thing (not my playing but just the unbelievably beautiful tones and sounds it makes). But in the end, I would have been just fine without it.

    It's funny how things sometimes come full circle too. I have a super nice Larrivee guitar and a plywood Takamine that I bought in 1993 when I was 18 years old. I LOVED that guitar till I started reading guitar forums and realized it was actually a piece of junk (or so I was told). I stashed it under a bed for years, but lately it's the instrument I play the most. Oddly enough, I find that I actually enjoy the simplicity of its tone and just how much fun it is to play. I play rock and roll on it most of the time and it flat out JAMS.

    I say if you love the Eastman, just focus on playing and making it about the music. I think a person ends up way happier (and a better player) this way.

    .02
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