Thursday, March 20, 2008

Eastman MD-515 Mandolin

Like a lot of guitar players, I THINK I want to play mandolin. I’ve owned about 4 mandolins over time, and I always end up selling them when reality sets in that, if I’m going to take the time to learn to play the mando, I should just use that time to be a better guitar player.

Of the four mandolins I’ve owned, this is the one I wish I had back. I was looking at mandos at Buffalo Brothers one day and the guy who runs their mando department started telling me about Eastmans. I picked one up and the sound was amazing, and the price was very reasonable for what it was. Eastman is an instrument company from China that builds mandolins, violins, archtop and flat top guitars, and maybe something else...I don’t know. But the quality of all of their instruments is astounding.

Most people have some pretty negative feelings about most things made in China these days, and rightly so. However, Eastman is sort of the cream of the crop of instrument builders in that country, and the workers take great pride in their craftsmanship (No lead in this mando!). But, because it’s China, the prices are much lighter on the pocket book than something like a Gibson or a Collings.

The lowest end model they make is the 515, and it was the only one under $1000. That’s the one I picked up, knowing that if I got hooked, at least it would be the cheapest model. I picked it up, strummed a few chords, and I was hooked. As a comparison I played a few other $3000 mandolins on the wall and I have to say that the $899 Eastman blew them away. Not as fancy, but sound is what is important, right? I’m not always the best at following through on that theory, but in this case it was a no brainer. I owned this mando for about a year or so and came to that inevitable realization that I’m not a mando player and never will be (although I currently own one for some reason). It went on eBay to help finance whatever was next on the list, and I can truly say, man, I wish I had that one back.

1 comment:

Ander said...

Yeah, they're great instruments, made by hand in a small shop that's produced fine violins for years, so they really understand that kind of craft.

I have a MD-515, and it's terrific. I've just complimented it with a MD-514, their oval-hole model. They have quite different sounds, the oval being more mellow and guitar-like.

Anyway, dude, Eastman still makes 515's—so rather than pining away like this, why not think about getting another?

In fact, over in the classifieds at Mandolin Cafe (, there's a like-new MD-815 V for the same dough you'd pay for a new MD-515. It has nicer wood and appointments, and the special varnish finish, which has been getting raves for its acoustic properties and vintagey look.

Well, sorry to blab, but you get musicians started about instruments... (I don't work for Eastman, BTW. ;?) Cheers, Ander