Eastman Guitars — A Review Of Two ModelsPosted: October 13, 2015
If you have not heard of Eastman guitars (www.eastmanguitars.com), you need to be informed! The company makes a variety of stringed instruments: mandolins, archtop acoustics, flat top acoustics, and electric guitars. They are a very well made import, and their acoustic flat top models are always well reviewed, e.g. their dreadnought models E20D, E10D, E20SS, and E10SS. Here, in this posting, I offer my own reviews of my own two models: the AJ816, and the AC530-12.
The Eastman AJ816
My first up close and personal experience with an Eastman guitar occurred three years ago at a wonderful music store in Ashland, Oregon, Cripple Creek Music. I had heard of Eastman guitars and seen ads in publications such as Acoustic Guitar for them, and I did file away the name. Immediately upon entering Cripple Creek, my eye caught sight of a beautiful jumbo body guitar hanging up on display. It was (and still is) an AJ816, now a discontinued model [photo #1].
A respectful and friendly sales associate placed the beauty in my hands. I spent a few minutes playing it. I admired the tone, feel, and playability of the instrument. Then I began to notice some very unique details the guitar possesses. First, there is a carved, arched back. Thus, the back serves as a parabolic disc which projects the sound. Second, with the carved arched back serving as sole structural support for the back there is no bracing on the back of the guitar (thus, in part, its light weight) [photos #2 and #3].
Satisfied with my elementary observations, the associate gave more information: Englemann spruce top, maple back and sides with maple binding / trim, ebony fretboard and bridge, bone nut and saddle. The body depth is a nudge shallower than most guitars. The depth of the AJ816 runs from 4 inches at upper bout, and 4 1/2 inches at lower bout, or about 3/8 inch shallower than the dimensions on most acoustics. The fluted headstock is shaped like that of many archtop guitars, following the fact of the carved back. [photo #4]. The tuners hold the strings in tune even if it goes a several days between “play times.” The overall construction is solid and sound, and compares to any Taylor, or other top line American made guitar (Eastmans are produced in China).
The AJ816 is very playable. After a few moments of playing the AJ816, first noted is the volume produced by the guitar — it is impressive — all my other acoustics sound muted in comparison. Second, the volume does not overwhelm the tonal complexities of the tone woods. The guitar emits a bouquet of tones, just like the tastes brought forth from a well crafted wine. And concerning the tones of the guitar — two very discerning friends agree with my assessment.
Again, unfortunately, Eastman has discontinued this model and others like it. A search in both Reverb (www.reverb.com) and Ebay (www.ebay.com) revealed only two such jumbo bodied carved, arched back guitars. Too, bad — they are fantastic instruments (if you find one, snatch it up!).
The Eastman AC530-12
Prior to December, 2013 I owned three 12 string guitars and sold each one. I once informed my friend and guitar/composition instructor Ann Herring, “If I think of buying one more 12 string, beat me senseless!” Fortunately she’s not prone to violence, and she knew I would again own a 12 string guitar. She just smiled and nodded. Well, I sold a Martin guitar, and with the money I decided to buy an acoustic 12 string. But, “the right one this time!” So my search began on Ebay and local guitar shops. I concluded I would seek out a Taylor, but a jumbo bodied model (now discontinued, their Grand Symphony body is used now for their 12’ers). But, now being a fan and owner of an Eastman I thought of giving one of them a try. I had to turn to the internet. I found a store in Pensacola, Florida, Blues Angel Music — a distributor of both manufacturers. The sales associate gave me all the comparative information needed, offered a two week return policy, and with a price I couldn’t refuse, I purchased an Eastman AC530-12. [photos #5 and #6]
The playability of this Eastman is very similar to a Taylor 12 string — very comfortable and has an ease of play that many lesser 12 strings lack. I had a slight lowering of the saddle done to aid the touch. Regarding playability, here the only difference, and only complaint, is that the Eastman has a gloss finish on the neck (I prefer a satin finish, but can live with it). The tone is rich with the typical shimmer and chorusing given by a well made 12 string.
As with the AJ816, the top wood is Englmann spruce. Mahogany makes up the back and sides. All tone woods of the AC530-12 are solid woods (as with the above reviewed AJ816). The fretboard and bridge are ebony. Its nut and saddle are bone. This is NOT a carved, arched back model as is the AJ816: you can note the traditional back bracing. [photo #7]. The rosette and body binding are rosewood (I personally like a wooden rosette) and add a real touch of class to the guitar. It is well made and will stand up to any American made 12 string — even Taylor’s wonderful twelve string models. You can still find Eastman jumbo 12 strings on both Reverb and Ebay, and Eastman distributors are increasing in number all across America!
I would highly recommend the Eastmans: you get a well made guitar at a third-less of the price of comparable American made instruments. Keep on playing!