Eastman E10D Review

AG 225 September 2011

Posted by Scott Nygaard

Established in 1992, Eastman Strings has primarily been known to guitarists for its high-quality, relatively inexpensive acoustic archtop guitars, which grew out of the company’s experience building violin-family instruments. But Eastman has also been making several lines of flattops. Its Traditional series includes dreadnoughts, OM’s, and parlor sizes, and the E10D is the Adirondack-and-mahogany dreadnought of the group.

The wide-grained Adirondack top on the E10D we received for review won’t win any beauty contests, but the reddish mahogany on the back, sides, and neck is very attractive, looking a little like cocobolo or one of the flashier tropical hardwoods. The ebony fingerboard and open-back tuners add to the traditional vibe. (And in case you’re wondering why anyone would make a dreadnought without a pickguard, Eastman thoughtfully includes one in the guitar’s case so you can protect your top from marauding flatpicks if you desire.)

The E10D has so much volume and life that I almost wondered if the Eastman factory subjects its instruments to a series of regular lunchtime bluegrass jams as part of the finishing process. This guitar emerged from the case ready to go—no break-in period required. Although it pays homage to Martin’s venerable design, it doesn’t really have the typical “Martin sound.” It’s more balanced, although there is a peak in the upper midrange, and the treble strings match the tone of the third and fourth strings quite well, even as you move up the neck. Perhaps it’s the somewhat pointed upper midrange, but it doesn’t quite have the complexity of tone that some might want. However, when you’re trying to slay banjos, complexity tends to be lower on the list of desirable traits.

Because of its tonal balance and excellent projection, the E10D is a more versatile guitar than some dreadnoughts, and it may appeal to a more folk/pop singer-songwriter than a bluegrass traditionalist. It positively rocked on a series of key-of-E power chords with ringing open E and B strings, and its balance really proved its worth when I put the guitar in dropped-D tuning and cross-picked some small chord shapes up the neck, accompanied by a ringing low D string. The E10D’s balance, combined with great headroom, also makes it a great lead guitar for many styles. Single-note lines cut nicely on flamboyant bluegrass leads and, thanks to a factory setup that was comfortable but not too low, it held up to a forceful attack, even up on sustained single notes at the 12th and 14th frets, without buzzing.

If your primary concern is versatility, a vintage Martin-style dreadnought may not be the first thing you’d think of, but if you’re looking for something that will hold its own in a bluegrass jam but also give you balance, sustain, and rich tones in other settings, the Eastman E10D is definitely worth a look.

SPECS: Solid Adirondack spruce top. Solid mahogany back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. Bone nut and saddle. Hand-carved scalloped X-bracing. 25.5-inch scale. 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 3/16-string spacing at the saddle. Gotoh chrome open-gear vintage-style tuners. Gloss nitrocellulose finish. D’Addario EXP16 light-gauge strings. Made in China.

PRICE: $1,195 list/$955 street.

CONTACT: Eastman Guitars: (800) 789-2216;eastmanguitars.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar September 2011

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