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View Full Version : Eastman Review (Pretty Long)


ThirtyOne
07-12-2008, 07:11 PM
Thanks to the guys at Sound Pure (www.soundpure.com (http://www.soundpure.com)) I had a chance to spend an hour by myself trying out 7 or 8 Eastman guitars.

My goal was to find a replacement for my ES-335 that had a little more of an open archtop tone and vibe. I wasn't necesarily going full archtop though. My bias going in was to pick up one of the thinlines, probably a 146.

So first off props and thanks to Sound Pure. It was great to be able to try out all of those guitars. Whenever someone on one of these boards asks what to buy, people always say to try to a/b as many as you can. This experience has reinforced that opinion. Every model had its own voice, and every guitar was unique. I tried multiple of each model and they were all different - both in terms of the finish in the wood and the feel of the neck.

I played 803-15, 803-16, 145, 146 with maple back/side and ebony, and 146 with mahogany back/side and rosewood.

So, right off the bat I tried the 146 maple/ebony and a 145 with the same configuration. I was skeptical that one inch in the bout would really make a difference in the tone of a thinline, but to my ears the 146 was much more open acoustically. That doesn't mean the 145 was a bad guitar. Actually, in the end I think I probably would rate it higher than the 146. Because it is not just a tiny archtop. It has its own sound which is a punchy, fun, modern sound. The 146 felt very good and comfortable and it was definitely more woody than a 335. You could play it unplugged and it is much louder and more interesting than the 335. I was actually kind of digging it.

Then I played the 803-16. It was night and day. Just a much richer acoustic sound. I played an 803-15 as well. Once again, I really didn't expect much difference. But when I played them a/b the 16 clearly had a better tone. Plugged in it was a little closer. I think if I had just played the 15 without the 16 to compare it to it would have sounded fine (I don't have the best ears in the world or anything). But back-to-back I really liked the 16.

I should go back and mention that I played the 146 with mahogany and rosewood. I thought I would like it - kind of like an 80's 175. But I didn't like it. I actually loved the look of the mahogany back. But instead of being warm and dark like I expected it was just less complex. It may have just been that instrument or I may have been overanalyzing, but it just didn't do it for me.

So I played 3 different 803-16s to see what I would like. When people say to play a lot of eastmans and pick out a good one they mean it. These guitars were all different. One was a blem and I really wanted to like it because basically I am cheap/broke. But I didn't. It was a sunburst with a nice but rather plain back and a neck I just didn't bond with. The other two were violin finish and once set up were pretty similar, but the figuring on one was better than the other. That one also had a neck that I liked better. These weren't like CNC Fenders or anything. Every neck felt a little different.

I played them through a Henriksen jazzamp. Now, these guitars did not have the bright, loud, open (maybe a little thin) sound that Eastman is really known for. These were all humbucker guitars and I felt I could get a good dark jazz tone from them. With my 335, I roll off the tone a little bit. But I have to be careful or it gets that dull thuddy tone to it. With the Eastmans the tone roll-off was much more subtle. I couldn't decide if that was a good thing or if really the tone control was just not that effective. The tone changed a good bit as you rolled off volume. So maybe it could use some work on the electronics. I wish I had taken my 335 with me so I could have a/b-d them through the same amp, but I was pretty pleased with the sound of the pickup. Who knows after a few months how I would feel.

The necks felt flatter than a Gibson to me. And the string spacing felt wider. Sure enough, the nut width is 1.75. I don't know what the specs are on the neck but I would guess about a 14" radius. Very playable. I asked Chris to lower the action as far as he could and he got it very low with no buzz. Also, I did not play them loud but they seemed to be much more feedback resistant than what I have heard about their floater-equipped archtops. Strangely the easiest one to get feedback out of was one of the thinlines.

These guitars are all compromises in some way. I had a 17 inch full-depth archtop with a floater and I hated it (D'angelico Excel). The mini-humbucker floater was weak and the guitar was uncomfortable to play and made my shoulder hurt. I am kind of a little guy and I felt like the damn thing was playing me instead of the other way around. These guitars are not going to have the projection, note separation, and complexity of those types of guitars. But for me it was a good fit.

The 15 inch 803s and the 146 felt like the wrong kind of compromise. They were just in between - not as good-sounding as the 803-16 and not as punchy and fun as the 145.

So that was my experience and opinion. Would love to hear what others think.

jzucker
07-12-2008, 07:20 PM
I also had a 15" 803 and 145 as well as a 185. I think the extra " does make a diff. My wife thinks so too. ;)

ThirtyOne
07-12-2008, 08:06 PM
Jack -

I know you have a lot of experience with the Eastmans. What's your take on the pots? I felt like I would want to get someone to do some work on the electronics to give a little more action on the tone and a little smoother roll-off on the volume.

sinner
07-12-2008, 08:09 PM
Excellent review, thank you. I've not played an Eastman and looking over the models I got confused (so many models), thanks for the break down.

Couple of questions:

Were any Spruce Top?
Any set dual humbuckers?
Still fairly feedback resistant?
How is the fret work?

Thank you!

ThirtyOne
07-12-2008, 08:23 PM
All of the guitars I tried were carved spruce top. And as has been commented before the details were awesome. Ebony pickguard. The tailpieces were ebony over some kind of metal. Multi-ply binding including the F-Holes. Bound neck and headstock. To me, the violin finish is beautiful. The bursts were nice too. The finish is not thick bulletproof stuff like on an Ibanez for example.

I didn't try any dual humbuckers. They are all available with dual but I am a neck pickup-only guy and I like the simplicity. I have heard some say they believe the dual humbuckers make it even a little more feedback resistant and a little less resonant. I can't say.

I didn't try it at "play over the drummer" volumes but they were definitely not prone to howl like some other archtops I have played. I played facing the amp and tried to do a couple of things to coax the feedback out. I am sure if you turn it up they will feedback - they are archtops.

I have to admit I am not as fret-obsessed as some guys. There were no lose frets, sharp edges, or glue puddles around the frets.

Set up out of the box had high action. We lowered it very low on all of them with no buzz which was a good sign but they weren't fully set up. I never checked the intonation. I would think you would want to have a tech go over it, but I feel that way about all guitars because I am not very handy with them.

jzucker
07-12-2008, 08:36 PM
my fave of all the thinlines is the el-rey. I don't know about the pots but a good set of replacement pickups will do wonders.

ThirtyOne
07-12-2008, 08:38 PM
I just can't get with the el-ray. I think it's ugly.

What can I say - I'm shallow.

jads57
07-13-2008, 12:41 AM
I`ve owned 3 Eastmans 805C, John Pisano, and currently have a El Rey 2. All 3 are wonderful instruments. I`ve had some work done on El Rey, installed Vintage Vibe h/b`s and had the neck made fatter by having a luthier shim the ebony fingerboard w/ a peice of curly maple.

Nulgnoy
07-14-2008, 02:18 AM
What pickups do you guys recommend for an el rey?

i bought a 2nd hand elrey which already had a custom bartonlini installed (which i have no idea what model it is, original owner bought it from jhale).

I changed the frets to jumbo and they sound better than everrr..

I think the tone of an el rey grows on you. I like the finish on eastmans. They look like violins.

Jamar
07-14-2008, 09:18 AM
is sound pure even close to opening up there store front? just curious. i have an eastman acoustic that i love. its their grand auditorium maple back and sides. great guitar!

jzucker
07-14-2008, 09:24 AM
Lollar Imperials, Dimarzio 36th Anniversary PAF, Dimarzio EJ and Gibson Classic 57 are all great choices.

What pickups do you guys recommend for an el rey?

i bought a 2nd hand elrey which already had a custom bartonlini installed (which i have no idea what model it is, original owner bought it from jhale).

I changed the frets to jumbo and they sound better than everrr..

I think the tone of an el rey grows on you. I like the finish on eastmans. They look like violins.

ThirtyOne
07-14-2008, 06:18 PM
is sound pure even close to opening up there store front? just curious. i have an eastman acoustic that i love. its their grand auditorium maple back and sides. great guitar!

They told me it will be open in August.

Crazyquilt
07-14-2008, 08:56 PM
I just got an El Rey 1 off of eBay, and I really, really like it. It's simple, beautiful, and sounds very good. For under $800, it was an absolute steal & a delight. Of course, being a TGPer, I can't help but consider tweaking...

I was also curious about replacement pickups, although I think I've settled on a TV Classic in an English mount (straight into the humbucker rout!) I might even change the bridge for a bar bridge & use the gold G knobs that aren't currently on my Gretsch 6120. :D

No doubt I'll change the electronics while I'm at it. I suspect it's going to be a minor PITA to work on, but, eh. It'll be worth it.

AD
07-15-2008, 11:18 AM
The pots had to be changed on teh El Rey II i had......I never got to play the original as the guitar store did the change right off the bat before i came in to try it.

they sound phenomenal....i miss mine (it is an ugly duckling but so FAT sounding).



Jack -

I know you have a lot of experience with the Eastmans. What's your take on the pots? I felt like I would want to get someone to do some work on the electronics to give a little more action on the tone and a little smoother roll-off on the volume.

esiegel
07-25-2008, 09:05 PM
I'll post pics soon. I got them from a pretty amazing place in Summit NJ called Guitars N Jazz, I think.

I drove out there with an afternoon to kill trying out archtops. Turns out the place is only open by appointment, but there was a phone number on the window. Behind the window, between the bars, you could see like 50 beautiful archtops ranging from a D'angelico to a bunch of old gibson/epi's to a wall o eastmans. Tiny storefront next to an old style pharmacy in a very ritzy little town. I called the number, leo said he would be down in 20 minutes, so I grabbed a coffee and came back.

Turns out Leo owns the pharmacy and used to own several others besides, and does the guitar biz as a substantial sideline, a kind of retirement gig.

Anyway, that's the back story.

I tried every configuration of Eastman he had....805, 810, 809, and a bunch of 335 types. I found that all the 80x's were too specifically jazzboxes for my taste, and I wanted a more flexible sound that could work for blues and other stuff I do. I already have an old gibson l50 that I use mostly as an acoustic guitar, tho it has a pickup mounted in it.

On a lark, I tried the el ray 2 and really dug it. Long and short, I got the violin finish elray to and it is very sweet. I was thinking about experimenting with pups also. Is there a p90 that fits into the same opening as the standard hb's that are on there?

I was also thinking of trying the tv jones for a different sound.

More reports and pics to follow.

Eric

Kalalau Hiker
11-24-2008, 09:34 PM
just played an El Rey I at the Philly guitar show and was REALLY surprised how great it is for the price : $1300 NEW! I think it looks very Pagelli - like... very cool.

that $800 one on ebay seems rare - the ones I just saw were a bit more.

I thought it sounded and played great and am looking to get one asap.
I like the natural reddish finish, not the sunburst.
The Kent Armstrong pup seemed nice. With just the neck pup, it looks more elegant than the 2 pup ...but is a bit of a one trick pony.
how is the tone diversity w the 2 pup model?
THIS looks very nice btw :

http://www.edroman.com/guitars/eastman/images/eastman-elray.jpg

jzucker
01-15-2009, 12:33 PM
I just received a 146 today. I have a few days to decide if i'm going to keep it. I've only played it acoustically but it sounds great. Plays amazing too. It's VERY loud for such a thin guitar. I'm pretty blown away with them except for their finishes which seem very fragile. I'm wondering if I should spring for an 904 (oval hole) or Pagelli.

Kalalau Hiker
01-15-2009, 01:45 PM
hey Jack ... thx for the advice on the el rey again .... I just scored a used El Rey 2 on ebay yesterday for $842.!!

http://i4.ebayimg.com/03/i/001/29/17/cebc_1.JPG

I was looking for Eastman info yesterday and noticed you had posted asking for reviews on Eastman arch tops, and was hoping I wasn't bidding against you... glad to see otherwise.
I played an El Rey 1 at the Philly guitar show recently and loved it ...but wanted the added pup versatility. Expect to get it next week.

as far as getting a Pagelli ...the Eastman Pagelli is nice....but why not get one of those "sugarbabe" Pagellis like your cousin Norbert Zucker, as shown on the Pagelli site?

http://www.pagelli.com/d/4allerhand/images/zucker_splash_03_k.jpg
Norbert Zucker (sugar)
with his sugarbabe!


http://www.pagelli.com/e/4allerhand/schnappsch_fr.html

I'll bet you're glad your folks remembered that name was taken by the other side of the family, huh? ;):D

or get one of these to accompany cousin Norbert in a rockabilly jazzbo jam? (beret required! ... bring back the beret ...screw those cork sniffin' joy challenged snobs that didn't dig it!)
http://www.pagelli.com/e/2instrum/image/gross/jazzy_gruen_g.jpg

Larry played one !... it could happen!
http://www.pagelli.com/d/4allerhand/images/coryell_k.jpg

seriously ....(humor IS allowed here right?) .....this is beautiful
http://www.pagelli.com/d/4allerhand/images/o_monteleone_05.2006.jpg

and THIS one really intrigues me :
http://www.pagelli.com/d/4allerhand/images/vieng_werkstatt_04_k.jpghttp://www.pagelli.com/e/2instrum/image/klein/eg_vieng_vorne_k.jpg

all WAY out of my price league ... but hope to get a Burns Jet Sonic one day ....they run around $900 US. hard to find.

hope to hear a review of your new Eastman!

Bob