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​Eastman Guitars: A 19th Century Violin Workshop in Beijing

​Eastman Guitars: A 19th Century Violin Workshop in Beijing

Posted by Robinson Earle on Mar 21st 2019

Eastman guitars are not “Made in China”. They are proudly hand-crafted in Beijing. In our increasingly global economy this is an important distinction. Founded in 1992 by a Chinese music student named Qian Ni, Eastman strings initially gained their reputation in the world of violin making. In fact, they still operate in the manner of a 19th century violin workshop, with a team of master luthiers crafting instruments largely by hand (with the exception of a few band-saws used for neck outlines).

When they turned their attention to guitars, they started with arch-tops, the design being a natural extension of the violin. These “Chinese D’angelico's” quickly became popular amongst professional Jazz musicians, for whom comparable instruments could run upwards of 10K. When they began producing flat-tops, their reasonably-priced, diverse selection of guitars proved equally successful.

An Eastman guitar is distinguished by traditional construction (which entails a dovetail neck joint and hand-scalloped braces) and the grade/species of its tonewoods. This wood is often procured from the same sources as the major American boutique builders, but is of a lower grade. It’s also slightly “greener”, meaning that it hasn’t settled and cured as long. That said, many players are willing to accept the slightly lower quality materials and hand-hewn nature of the craftsmanship given the massive price differential. Fully domestic companies will charge you $1,000 just for an upgraded “Adirondack” top. For the same price, Eastman will throw in the rest of the guitar, too!

Their taxonomy can be confusing, but here’s the basic breakdown: “AC” suggests a more modern design, “E” a more traditional (though both are built with dovetail neck-joints). In the traditional series, “10” means Mahogany back and sides with an Adirondack Top, “20” means Rosewood back and sides with an Adirondack top. “8” means Sitka/Rosewood, “6” means Sitka/Mahogany. The body styles are indicated by the letter at the end of the model name. So, an E10D would be an Adirondack/Mahogany dreadnought, and an E6OM would be a Sitka/Rosewood Orchestra Model.

The modern “AC” series has slightly different, more Taylor-derived body styles and uses either Sitka or Engelmann Spruce for their tops. The body sizes are Grand Concert, Grand Auditorium, and Dreadnought. “3” is Sitka/Mahogany (often substituted with Sapele), “4” is Sitka/Rosewood, “5” is Engelmann/Mahogany, “6” is Engelmann/Maple, “7” is Engelmann/Rosewood, “8” is Engelmann/Rosewood with Maple binding and a bunch of abalone (their top of the line). They also often come with a cutaway and electronics, indicated by the “CE”. So, an AC508CE would be an Engelmann/Mahogany grand concert with a cutaway and electronics. An AC420 would be a Sitka/Rosewood dreadnought, and a AC622 would be an Engelmann/Maple Grand Auditorium.

Eastman's come in at a manageable price-point for professional musicians, and can be gigged with fearlessly. They also offer many novel models for collectors who want a particular, different sort of sound, but are hesitant to drop “boutique” money on a parlor or mandocello. Some of their latest offerings include: all-solid, streamlined models for under $600, varnish-finished Gibson styled 00s and dreadnoughts, and a whole range of semi-hollow and solid-bodied electrics.

They have an ambitious and innovative team of experts with its US headquarters in San Luis Obispo, California. They are highly responsive and knowledgeable about their instruments and all are Eastman players themselves. In fact, the single greatest testament to the quality of Eastman guitars is the caliber of artist playing them. In the spotlight and behind the scenes, Eastman's are everywhere. Check out their impressive roster of endorsed artists on there website if you need to be convinced. Then, stop by our shop in Charlotte to play some of the best guitars they have to offer!

Shop our current Eastman inventory here: https://bit.ly/2FsW4DZ