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Thread: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

  1. #1

    Default Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    Hey everyone! This is my first post, but I’ve made good use of the forum already while researching my first mandolin. I’ve got some good background, but couldn’t find an answer to my specific delema, so here goes...

    I’m debating between a new MD305 and a used MD605. By the time I get a real case for the 305 and put a pickup in it, they are virtually the same price. I understand the prevailing sentiment is that the 605 isn’t worth the EXTRA money new, but what about this situation? The “newness” of the 305 isn’t important to me. I plan to play the heck out of it and gig with it, and I just couldn’t find one used.

    I’m a longtime guitar player, and have recently been sitting in with a friend’s bluegrass band. There are already two other guitarists in the group, and no one on mandolin. I’ve been flirting with the idea of picking up a mandolin for a while and this seemes like a great time to finally do it. The plan is to get up to speed on basic chop chords ASAP, and then see where things go from there.

    From my research this is what I’m weighing:
    Pros of 305 - possible better tone due to lighter finish, would prefer the 1/4” endpin jack I would install over the 605’s side-mounted XLR.
    Pros of 605 - possibly already broken in/opened up a little, better resale value (already taken the “drive it off the lot” new gear hit), more visually attractive finish. Not sure if the hardware is a step up?

    The other routes I’ve considered are a Breedlove Quartz OF or “budget” older Gibson (A-00/A-40/A-50). These were very appealing because I would love to play an American instrument. But the consensus that the Beeedlove’s aren’t ideal for bluegrass makes me a little leery, and the older Gibsons seem like a whole other can of worms in terms of researching models/years and getting it setup, etc.

    My goal right now is to get something in hand that I can learn on, gig with, and ideally won’t outgrow for a good long time. Maybe even a “one and done” kind of purchase. I’m not eager to overspend on an instrument I’m just learning how to play, but I’m also not against investing a little more for something that will be more enjoyable to play. Would it be rediculous for me to just jump into a $1,000+ instrument like a well-used Bulldog? I certainly remember what an improvement my first $1,500 guitar was over my $500 guitar.

    I know this post turned into a small novel, so thanks in advance to anyone who bothers to read it and chip in their $.02

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    Hi
    First off I'm no expert but have a friend in your situation and he had the same concerns. He finally went with the MD-305 for about $500.00 and put a good pickup in it (maybe a K&K ?) and loves it. His thinking was 1. If he outgrows the 305 he already has the pickup....2. If he plays it hard at all the gigs he does and it gets dropped or kicked off stage he's only out $500.00 not $1,000 or $1,500. So far he's had it for a few months and says it's working out good for him. It's not a "Once and Done" solution but a solution....

    Just my $.02

    Good luck !
    Eastman MD-305 Left Handed Version
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    The older Gibson's won't have the access up the fingerboard like the Eastman. If you start playing leads you will want the extra length.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    Well, my usual disclaimer: i'm not an expert.

    The good news: 1. I'm also a guitar player, and 2. I went through similar questions as you are.

    With that in mind, my personal opinions on the matter are as follows:

    1. I bought two Eastman mandos. An A style and an F style. About a year apart from each other. I sold both. They were great instruments, but I could never learn with them because the neck profiles were such that they created pain in my left hand.

    2. I bought an MIC Breedlove Crossover FF and the neck is more substantial and really helped me dig in. I know it's probably NOT a mando that the purists would recommend, but for my hand and my limited abilities, let's be honest: whatever limitations this mandolin may have, it's not the bottle neck. I am. But I can play it every day, pain-free.

    I bought a used LR Baggs Radius pickup for it for $100. Solves that problem, though to be fair, I'd rather mic it and it's easy to do.

    4. Bottom line: may I recommend that you would "first hand" try whatever mandos you have around you so as to figure out what works with your hands, what you like and dislike? The V neck on mandos is a no-go to me, for example. Hence my inability to play Eastmans. At least the ones I owned!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    What level of guitar do you play? I've worked up to nice but not boutique guitars, Martin D 35 and the like. I bought a 505 which was nice, but after about three months I knew enough and could play enough that I could tell the real difference moving up to a luthier or small shop mandolin. If you had no music experience, I'd say buy an Eastman, but since you play already and have a clear motivation, I'd say buy at least a 900 series Kentucky which you can find under a grand, or a used $1500 A style. Something like a Weber Gallatin, a Silverangel Econo, or a Ratliff Country Boy. There are many others. The Kentucky 900 or 950 is a pretty good middle ground. Spending more would be better.

    I'd give the same advice to a horn player or a pianist. You already know what it takes and therefore know the deal. And you will play unplugged way more so tone is important.
    Silverangel A
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    I've played several 305's, and none that I've played would cut it for me as a stage instrument.

    I had an older 505 pass through my hands a while back, and wish I had kept it. It was good enough to gig with. I thought it a better instrument than any A-40 I've played, and better than most A-50's I've played.

    With my current trio, we share a stage mandolin, and we've used a mid-grade Eastman [I don't remember whether it was a 515 or a 615] and a fairly plain Collings F model. The Collings is much friendlier to both my bandmate and myself. We haven't used the Eastman in quite a while.

    If I had my druthers, I'd prefer to play my beat up A-4 over any of the above, but most of the time we use pickups, and I don't want to install one on that mandolin. For whatever it's worth, I play up to the 15th or 17th fret, and the short neck on the A-4 has never bothered me. I'm actually more comfortable with the short neck-- I occasionally get lost on a long neck mandolin.

    If you have the opportunity, play as many mandolins as you can before you pull the trigger on something. Find something that fits you well. My attitude towards stage instruments is that although I don't want to risk banging up or losing a valuable instrument, I absolutely do not want to play a poor instrument. There are plenty of choices out there for $1500 or less. If you buy used and the instrument already has a bit of wear, you won't feel too bad if you put a few more marks on it.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jan-05-2020 at 2:40am.

  7. #7
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    My $.02 - the Eastman 605 is a good instrument. Better tuners than on the 305. And the pickup is nice. Should be a Schertler Reso-Coil with the XLR jack. And the hardshell case is a nice one.

    Like you said, it's already taken the price hit, so it should be easier to resell.

    Believe your reasoning is sound. If it looks like the 605 is a good deal, then go for it. Better to jump in and learn for yourself rather than let the rest of us decide how you should spend your money.
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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    I am uncertain what the issue would be with a Breedlove OF playing bluegrass. Mine did just fine for that for years until I upgraded to a Collings. The Crossover are not equal to the US made versions and perhaps someone is mixing those up, but the OF worked great and a number of locals complimented me on its sound at jams.

    I expect to sell it locally to someone who likes it better than their Eastman, once I get the lower frets worked on and back into shape.
    Collings MT2
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    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    Agree, go with the 605. The hardware is a definite step up from the 300 series mandolins. Unless you’re willing to step up to the 1000-1500 dollar range (which would be definite step up from the 605, IMO), the 605 is a good plug and play solution...
    Chuck

  10. #10

    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    Thanks everyone for the input! I know I ultimately need to make the decision for myself, but the collective experience here is certainly helping me sound out the competing considerations in my head.

    I’ve ruled out the MD305. The MD605 remains in the running as my “budget conscious/financially responsible” option, but if I can sell off some gear I’m not using I’ve found two Kentucky’s that are looking really promising. One is a 2017 KM900, the other a Sumi-era KM1000. The Sumi is going to run me about a $300 premium, but researching his instruments has seriously piqued my interest. I have a couple Alvarez Yairi guitars from the 70s and 80s and have a TON of respect for Japanese luthiers of that era. The chance to negotiate a little on both those instruments is on the table, so that may help.

    The American Breedlove may still be in play as well if negotiations/liquidations fail to bring the Kentucky mandos within reach. My main guitar right now is a modern Gibson, and I do have a desire to play American (though Japanese is very much the next best thing IMHO). Obviously the last three wouldn’t have pickups, but it looks like JJB has some options that wouldn’t break the bank.

    I gather the Sumi instruments have their own small but dedicated following. Would it be sacrilegious to put a pickup in one of those? I can certainly try a mic but knowing the PA that I’ll be playing through most often, a pickup will probably be preferable.

    Thanks again for the awesome suggestions, and in advance for the next round of advice!

  11. #11

    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    I know only two people who gig with mandolins, and both would rather mic than anything. Second choice is using a Tonedexter, rather a pricy option.
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  12. #12

    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????


  13. #13
    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Gibcaster000 View Post
    Obviously the last three wouldn’t have pickups, but it looks like JJB has some options that wouldn’t break the bank.

    I gather the Sumi instruments have their own small but dedicated following. Would it be sacrilegious to put a pickup in one of those? I can certainly try a mic but knowing the PA that I’ll be playing through most often, a pickup will probably be preferable.

    Thanks again for the awesome suggestions, and in advance for the next round of advice!
    Please realize that a pickup is only half of the solution for playing plugged in ... pretty much all piezo pickups sound VASTLY better with a quality pre-amp. On my Breedlove I was never happy with how the K+K pickup sounded, even with a lot of EQ-ing on my K+K preamp.

    I got the pickups on my Collings put in by a pro who installed a lot and have paired it with a RedEye preamp by FireEye. It lacks EQ outside of a single `treble' knob that I turn down all the way ... but it sounds really good and I find myself very happy with it as a plugged in system.

    I used to vastly prefer mics [and still do in the right context] but the ease of a pickup [and wireless system] make playing amplified with a pickup a much better experience with nothing between me and the audience.

    Breedlove sounds much better through the FireEye too. I don't want to sell it as the greatest preamp ever, but it's not radically more expensive than the lowest end options and IMO sounds quite good. I would certainly suggest it over a K+K Also sends a balanced/XLR out which the sound engineers like and seem to get good results from. Eventually I'll probably end up with a Felix/Alix as I gig enough to make it pay for itself.
    Collings MT2
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  14. #14

    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    The RedEye is a really good pre. Period. It could use a better transformer, but that would double the price. I like the overall tone of my Stage One DI from Sunn Audio better, but it’s larger and lacks the boost switch.
    Silverangel A
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    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    I will add that I have gigged both ways, and much prefer a mic, which is how my whole band amplifies now. The sound is much more natural, and if there is already a sound system, you can get a used SM57 for less than a hundred bucks.
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  16. #16

    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    Well, I pulled the trigger on the MD-1000, and it is arriving Wednesday! I had originally ruled out an F-style because of the extra cost, but after a little negotiating I picked it up for less than the other seller wanted for the 900 series.

    I should have mentioned from the start that I plan to mic whenever possible. When I play out on guitar I mic when I can, but my gigging guitars all have pickups for when it is necessary. That’s where my head is at with this mandolin.

    The preamp thing is something I’ve been wrestling with a while now for guitar, and I’m figuring whatever I land on will pull double duty for guitars and mandolin. A little while back I picked up a Hotone A Station for almost nothing. I’ve tested it out on the PA at my local guitar shop, but I haven’t had the chance to really put it through it’s paces yet. I’m expecting it fall into the “crude but functional” category - it has the functionality I need but certainly will not sound like a chorus of angels. It’ll serve for those DI gigs until I settle on a permanent solution.

    In my mind I was sort of already resigned to saving for a Tonedexter, but I will look for a chance to try out a RedEye and a Stage One.

    Thanks again everyone who helped me muddle through this selection process. I’ll update again once I have my new instrument in hand!

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  18. #17

    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    Congrats!

  19. #18

    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    Well, all said and done I am very happy with the MD-1000. It had some cosmetic issues that weren't well-photographed but the seller gave me a few bucks back, and I've always enjoyed playing instruments that someone else put the first scuffs on anyway. My luthier did a quick setup on it (small adjustment to intonation and raised the action) and now it sings like a bird. I'll have a long ways to go before the instrument, rather than my playing, is my limiting factor haha.

    I'm really enjoying that this is a little bit older instrument, with some history behind it. Maybe its silly/sentimental but it feels like there's a little more life in it than something brand new off the rack. At 35 years old, certainly it's had time to open up a bit.

    Once I get a few songs under my belt I'll work up a primitive recording to share. Where is the most appropriate place to post something like that?

  20. #19

    Default Re: Eastman vs Eastman vs Breedlove vs “budget” vintage vs ?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Gibcaster000 View Post
    Where is the most appropriate place to post something like that?
    ^ Scratch that silly question, just saw that there is a section of the forum clearly marked "Videos, Pictures, and Sound Files."

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