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Thread: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

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    Question Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    Hi Folks. Getting started with mando after years of banjo picking and guitar rhythm playing/singing. Looking at these 2 as entry into decent instruments for experienced bluegrass musician. Any thoughts??

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    One of my mandos is a KM756. It's my BG axe as my better instruments are more suited to other styles. I think it's great for the price point. That being said, I've never played it with the original bridge (it came with a Cumberland Acoustic one) and was "Mandovoodooed" by luthier Steve Perry, so it's a little extra hot-rodded. I don't know if it's still the case, but these were made in the same shop that Kentucky's highest end instruments come from and is the most well crafted one I've seen. A lot of people like Eastmans but many also favor Kentuckys. I might sell it as I haven't been playing Bluegrass for a couple of years, but I'm on the fence because it really is a killer instrument, definitely on par with some higher end instruments I've played. I liked it better than the Ratliff R5 I played. But I don't know how other examples are. In that price point though, it should be competitive with the Eastmans, as long as it's had a proper setup.

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    @Mainer73 Thanks so much for your input! Glad to read you like your Kentucky so much and point well taken on the set up. I've gone through several banjos and they all really came alive with proper set up!

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    The Eastman 515 or the Kentucky 750 series are solid choices but this used Silverangel in the classifieds is a steal...

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/195052#195052

    You might want to ask for better pics.

    100% small shop American made and they have a good reputation here.

    NFI
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    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    small instrument, big fun Dan in NH's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    Haven't read the thread.

    The KM-750 retails for ~$1250. That's the same as the MD-515. That's not even a contest. Eastman every time, every day.

    Actually spend the extra $200 and get the MD-515/v with the violin varnish finish.
    Eastman MD-514 (F body, Sitka & maple, oval hole)
    Kentucky KM-250 (A body, spruce & maple, f holes)

    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan in NH View Post
    Haven't read the thread.

    The KM-750 retails for ~$1250. That's the same as the MD-515. That's not even a contest. Eastman every time, every day.

    Actually spend the extra $200 and get the MD-515/v with the violin varnish finish.
    I think you'll find that many regard the Kentuckys equally or better, so it's not always clear cut. I owned an Eastman years ago when I first started playing mandolin. It was ok, but not on par with the Kentuckys I've played, which is part of what got me into the one I have. It's also subjective when it comes to tone. Some people like the thinner chimier quality of the Eastmans, while others prefer the more Gibsonesque flavor of the Kentuckys. Though, Kentucky DOES have at least one model (km505) that's more of the "modern" tonal flavoring due to the different arching and body width. Bottom line is it's best to try and compare, and pick the one that speaks to you the most. Others' opinions are only that!
    And then there's the matter of whether or not you want to pay for the scroll lol.

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    The KM-750 retails for ~$1250. That's the same as the MD-515. That's not even a contest. Kentucky every time, every day.

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    @Charles E. Thanks so much for the endorsement and classifieds heads up! Appreciate it!

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    Thanks for your input! Definitely looking for input like this from people who have played them

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    I see what you did there, Lol!! Thanks. Gonna spend some time picking them both and see how it shakes out in real time

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    You may also find you get better tone per $ in an A model Eastman or Kentucky in that price range - adding a scroll works out real expensive on the lower end F hole Eastmans.

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    I recently had the opportunity to accompany and listen to a reknowned classical player audition the Eastman 515 CC/N against the other mandolins present in the Music Emporium showroom just outside of Boston. Stunningly the sound of the Eastman and playability was incredible. The tonal quality and evenness was outstanding across the complete fretboard and embarrassing, to say the least to the so called higher end mandolins. Maybe it was simply that particular mandolin! I do not know anything regarding the consistency of theEastman products. That particular instrument has since been added to my collection! This model is a relatively new addition to the Eastman line and I suggest, if available consider this mandolin.

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    As a guy who’s owned Kentucky, Eastman, and Silverangel, +1 on the SA. I had an Econo for 9 or 10 years that was a definite step up in tone from the other brands, IMO. That said, Ken does build a little more bass response into his mandolins, so not everyone loves them, but, man, mine had great BG tone. It was also versatile enough that I played everything from classical to praise music on it. I wish I still had it, but sold it to fund my next step up the food chain, and as part of a downsize move.

    To your actual question, I preferred my Eastman 315 to the Kentucky 675-S I had, but the 675 was not of the same build quality as their newer models (they’d just moved to China and were still working some kinks out). Both are consistently good quality mandolins. If you can play them side by side and choose your favorite, that’s definitely the way to go. Good luck, and welcome to the obsession!
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    I’ve had a 515 for a few years. It was an upgrade from my first cheap mando. I had every intention of selling it to pay for my Northfield F5S upgrade, but it is just too good of a mandolin to part with. It has a great sound, great set up and the projection and volume are as good if not better than the Northfield. I continually get compliments on the sound when I take it to jams.

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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    Yes, I see that. But, all of my mandolin heroes, like every single one, play F style mandolins... So, there's something about that big, throaty tone that I like... Thank you for your input

  25. #16

    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    I got a good deal on an open box Kentucky 756. It needed a setup but is a terrific mandolin and all a lot of us would need. I tend to prefer Kentucky mandolins but have not played the newer Eastman's. The 756 has a full 1 1/8" nut and almost feels like a 1 3/16". It also has a U or C shaped neck and is pretty full which will appeal to some and not so much to others. I think Eastman leans a little more towards the modern spectrum and Kentucky leans more towards the traditional dry, woody, mid-range bluegrass sound. I have heard some really good mandolins from both makers, and they seem pretty constant at this point. There is a nice-looking used Eastman 515 at The Mandolin Store and a used 756 from a private party.

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  27. #17
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    Default Re: Eastman MD315/MD515 vs Kentucky KM750

    I have had several of both. Each has strengths. My short answer would be Kentuckyís are traditional bluegrass in tone, while the Eastmanís are more modern. This is an over generalization, but true enough overall in my humble opinion. I do think they both offer well constructed and good sounding instruments.
    I started on the guitar my dad handed me in 1962, and have continued as a guitarist all my life. In 1982 my wifeís family passed down an old teens Gibson A4. It only took me 40 years to learn to play mandolin in 2013. Now I canít stop trying to get better. ó lflngpicker

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