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Thread: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

  1. #1

    Default Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    I'd like to upgrade from my starter, a Mitchell (Guitar Center) Style A I've had only one chance to play a few Eastman models (MD305, MD315) under $1000. They sounded dry, no projection, no tone. I think my Mitchell sounds better, but the workmanship isn't good. (Bad tuners, sharp frets) Am I nuts thinking the Eastmans (tried 4 different ones) sounded awful? I always hear they're the best in the under $1000 range by leaps and bounds. Workmanship was nice but sound was blah. No other shops near me with mandolin experience. Anything else decent under $1000 with maybe a better tone?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    Northfield Calhoun, which is an oval hole might be a better choice. Better build quality, better sound. Try looking through the Classifieds, and on the Mandolin Store's website.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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  4. #3
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    Howard Morris is well known and well thought of as a builder. He had an oval flat top in the classifieds now for $650 and a two-point with f holes for $1,250. I believe his
    A styles still come in a few dollars short of 1K. You might contact him.

    Other than that, the Calhoun Mary mentioned and any number of new and used flat tops would work. If you're set on f holes, though, Eastman, Kentucky or the Morris at the upper end are just about it.

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    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    I would not judge any mando brand, Eastman or other, based on what you heard playing in a shop, that has not been properly set up or doesn't have decently new strings. Especially if you plyed it at GC.
    Chris Cravens

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  8. #5

    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    The Eastman's I played were at a reputable shop where they do great setup work. I just didn't like the tone and they seemed rather quiet, with the A being a few db above the F's.

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  10. #6
    Registered User Chris Bowsman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    I’m considering selling an old Japanese Ibanez 524 F model. It’ll be under your limit.
    Ď96 Sparks F-5
    Ď19 Northfield Big Mon

  11. #7
    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    I can’t speak about Eastman, I’ve bought new, Gibson followed by year old high end Kentucky, I wanted tone, volume, and sustain, sold them both and purchased a
    The Loar LM 700 and haven’t looked back.
    2019 The Loar Supreme LM700 VS

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  13. #8
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    If you are open to a flat top mandolin, this Crystal Forest mandolin in the classifieds is a fantastic bargain...

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/154679#154679

    100% American, small shop made.

    Here is his website...

    https://crystalforestmandolins.com/

    NFI
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  14. #9
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    I have played a number of Eastmans and I have the same reaction to them as you do. They are well made, but the tone is just not my taste. I prefer Kentuckys to Eastmans and The Loars I have played in that price range. I suggest you try them out.
    Tony Huber
    1930 Martin Style C #14783
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    Quote Originally Posted by Woyvel View Post
    I'd like to upgrade from my starter, .... Anything else decent under $1000 with maybe a better tone?
    If your budget limit is $1000 because that is what you can afford to spend, then my comments are entirely irrelevant and you can ignore the rest of the comments. You are on a good track without me.

    If your budget limit is $1000 because of some idea that should only purchase up to a certain quality until one has more experience, that you could go higher but it is not justified by your present skill level I totally disagree with you. After one's mando-passion has been confirmed and become self evident with the first mandolin, the next step in mandolins should be the very very best mandolin that you can afford and appreciate. No compromise based on skill level or experience.

    I have been doing this for more than a little bit, and I still cannot in any reasonable way deserve the second mandolin I ever purchased. It is very much better than I am at it.

    I would hope that the mandolin I own is always much much better than I deserve and can play. To inspire me to greater practice and commitments. May there always be secrets my mandolin will only unlock as I get better. May it always be true and evident to me that the mandolin is not what is holding me back.

    And when, someday, when I am as good as I am gonna get, my I be with a mandolin that I have played for seemingly ever, that I have a lot of experience with, that we have gone through many instructional experiences together. A mandolin whose secrets (maybe most of them) I have unlocked myself over the years.

    My opinion, YMMV etc,.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
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  17. #11

    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    JeffD...can’t argue with pure poetry!

    It’s really hard to guess what you will end up liking, or not, in the sub 1k range, (which is the only range I’ve ever been in, till today, bit 5hats another thread entirely.)
    I am a quite resolute defender of Eastman virtues, but only in the 500-series and up. Cause a 505 spoke best to me, from a large wall of decent mandolins, so I picked it. (10 years in, still love it.)
    It’s pretty key that you listen to your own feelings, and not get hung up on what brand, or features that you think you require. (Eventually you will have a menu of features, but unless you have learned specific preferences from the Mitchell, you are probably still making your way Into the Mystic and should look for inspiration first.) Because it’s not like ordering takeout.

    You don’t seem to care for the budget Eastman, that’s fine. Kentucky is their worthy competitor, and some perfectly respectable players like The Loar. I’ve never gotten a yearning to own any of either that I’ve played, but that’s just me.

    I would be wary of Washburn, Michael Kelly, Fender, and current Epiphones. Still, you -might- find something significantly better than your current wheels under any of those names—I just wouldn’t buy online, a principle which presents significant challenges at the moment.
    Just know, there are good relatively inexpensive instruments out there. But most of the cheap ones are not good, so you really need to make that expedition to where there are many to choose from.

    Make that weekend road trip to any of the frequent-advertising stores on the cafe, and you will have some fun along with your upgrade.

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    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    I've heard that Eastman mandolins may vary from one to the next, if you tried half a dozen say MD305, maybe some would sound pretty good, others not so much. I have one myself, it's ok, but doesn't excite me much, I end up playing a cheaper anonymous one much of the time.

  20. #13
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Cameron View Post
    JeffD...can’t argue with pure poetry!.
    The second mandolin you get should be the last mandolin you will ever need. I have done this several times now.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
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  22. #14
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    I had an Eastman 315 that I thought was very good. It had maybe 75-80% of the tone and just as much volume as a Collings MT I had at the same time. The MT was definitely better, but that 315 held up much better than I thought it would. So, maybe you played some that just werenít stellar, or maybe the Eastman tone (which falls more into the Collings than Gibson camp, IMO) just isnít for you.

    Look for a used Morris A, Kentucky 900 or 950, used Weber Absaroka or Gallatin, used Silverangel Econo, Ratliff, or used Gibson A9. With the exception of the Morris and 900 series Kentucky, theyíll probably fall in the 1000-1500 range, but will be a huge step up for you. Also, a Lafferty A hit the classifieds recently for 750. They donít turn up often, but are good mandolins...

    Good luck in your search. Instrument shopping is tough right now, as you have to rely on sound clips and the word of the dealers for the most part. But, there are some good deals to be had if youíre patient and pounce quickly when you see one you like!

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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    We have an Absaroka A oval hole that is a dandy. I bought a F hole once and it was a dud. Nothing would wake it up. Morris mandolins are the best bang for the buck under a grand unless you fall into something. Absarokas bring way more than a grand.

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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    If you don't like the sound -- move on. Lot's of good suggestions here. Eastman's are tricky. There is quite a bit of variance amongst them and setup can be critical, but is seldom something practiced.

    The problem with having a good ear is that it significantly increases cost of anything you would want to buy.

  26. #17
    Front Porch & Sweet Tea NursingDaBlues's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    Quote Originally Posted by OlDanTucker View Post
    The problem with having a good ear is that it significantly increases cost of anything you would want to buy.
    Conversely, Mike Edgerton has this to say: "Blessed are those that cannot hear the difference for they will have more disposable income."

  27. #18

    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    I just picked up a Howard Morris earlier this year. I have a redwood top, maple back, and f holes. It cost me 950 with shipping.

    With the redwood top it has a nice bassy G string while taking nothing away from the top end. The sound of this mandolin is very modern and bell-like. My wife describes it as "harp-like" (and it's the only mandolin I own she will let me play in the house lol). If you want a modern sound that can still cut in a jam, a Howard Morris is your best bet.

    If you want a woodier, twangy sound, I'd recommend a j.bovier. Boviers are thumping loud, woody as all get out, and great for a bluegrass jam.

  28. #19
    Mando-Afflicted lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    I agree with so many excellent comments that have already been made. I want to add that Eastman is what it is: an affordable all solid, hand carved option. Any instrument needs to be well tuned, fit the Hands of the player well and be suitable to their music style. There are some great ones out there as ces indicated about his 315. Most new mandolins hanging on the wall are right out of the box, and that includes some of the finish domestically built instruments. You always get more when buying used. I bought an Eastman 815V (varnish) that was mint and 13 years old because I understood that for $1150 you can’t get a high end F5 but knowing it may or may not be what I had hoped. It turned out to be a well made, hand carved instrument with excellent fit and finish and good tone and projection. I would call it very good if not excellent. I love the flat fretboard and V neck which gives it that traditional feel. Very low action and playing comfort are other attributes I would describe. I can hear the difference and have owned many excellent U.S. build mandolins. One gets what one pays for and you do get more when you buy after the new one depreciates. By the way, I agree that Morris makes excellent mandolins and they are the most fair priced hand made, great quality mandolins made in America for $1,000. I personally recommend him highly. However, the 300 line of Eastman mandolins with a great set up done right and newly restrung is still one of the most consistent new options available. Ask Dennis at the Mandolin Store. JeffD is right— he often says it is all about practice and skill development. The better instruments can inspire us to keep growing and enjoying the process. If you love the mandolin, you deserve the best you can afford without taking out a second on your condo (I happen to live in one). Best wishes in finding just the one you want. Kentucky KM 900 used in great condition is a super choice, IMHO. As DataNick often says, YMMV.

  29. #20
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    A used Rigel A Natural might do it for you, OP. My Eastman experience was that I eschewed them for years. Got new MD-515 from TMS and couldn't be more thrilled. Fits my hand much more easily than the Rigel. That said, every time I think of letting the Rigel go I tune it up and play it a while and return to my senses. No, at least not yet.
    Axes: Rigel A Natural #1774 w/mods, Jerman custom 5 string electric, Eastman MD-515 & El Rey, Grandmom's solid-mahogany teens bent-top, Baglamas 002
    Amps: Fishman Loudbox 100; Rivera Clubster Royale Recording Head; Laney Cub 10 & Cab, Peavey Studio Pro

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  31. #21
    Mando-Afflicted lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Greenspoon View Post
    A used Rigel A Natural might do it for you, OP. My Eastman experience was that I eschewed them for years. Got new MD-515 from TMS and couldn't be more thrilled. Fits my hand much more easily than the Rigel. That said, every time I think of letting the Rigel go I tune it up and play it a while and return to my senses. No, at least not yet.
    David, Those MD515's are one of the best F5's for the money, consistently! The Rigel I have never played but I sure have heard great things about them and the electronics, as well.

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  33. #22
    Mando-Afflicted lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    This Breedlove on the Classifieds right now is hard to beat for a handmade, USA built high quality mandolin under $1,000! https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/156382#156382

  34. #23
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    Another Morris landed in the classifieds today...

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/156491#156491

    NFI
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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  36. #24

    Smile Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    Last edited by Woyvel; Jul-01-2020 at 8:53am. Reason: forgot quote

  37. #25

    Default Re: Looking to upgrade from first, but Eastman?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    The second mandolin you get should be the last mandolin you will ever need. I have done this several times now.
    That's what I've been saying about guitars for 40 years, the last 30 to my wife.

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