I was a mandolin player before I was a uke player, and Eastman mandolins are a great choice. They are made in China by a company with a long history of building carved-top musical instruments. Eastman started with violin family instruments, then adapted their methodology to make a series of archtop guitars which were a huge success. With the success of the guitars, Eastman moved into mandolins. I have owned several Eastman mandolins in all ranges, from the low to the high end, and all are quite good. In fact, cost seems to have little to do with sound quality; some of the best-sounding Eastmans I ever played were the "lower-end" models.
Eastman mandolins are completely hand-made, so there is natural variation between any two, so one may sound different from another. But for a reasonably-priced import mandolin, I think they are perhaps the best available.
Or, how about any of the Mandolins on this page? Folk Musician seems to carry primarily Kentucky or Morgan Monroe. Both look really nice. And there's also a Loar Mandolin too. Now to youtube videos for research.
Thanks Folks. The Eastman Mandolins do look nice. I was trying to find a Mandolin company that manufactures their instruments in the USA but, alas, I have no idea who does and who doesn't. The Eastman do sound amazing to my ears. The Loar and Morgan Monroe are coming in at 2nd and 3rd place. For me, it's all about finding an instrument that will make me happy. Know what I mean?
Wow, just checked out Mandolin Cafe and found out about Big Muddy Mandolins. For the price I think I'm going with one of theirs. They sound frigging amazing and they will setup one as a lefty for me. Their prices are amazing too. Oh, and did I mention they are a small operation and build them all by hand?
Big Muddy are very good mandolins. They used to be manufactured under the name Mid-Missouri, or "Mid-Mo;" you can probably find a lot of information about them under that name as well. They are flat-top mandolins, built similarly to a guitar or ukulele, as opposed to mandolins with a carved archtop, as Eastman makes. The tone is very different; not better or worse, just different. If you enjoy the flat-top tone, Big Muddy is a great choice. Their prices are exceptional and the quality is excellent.
Thanks Rich. I'm waiting to hear back from Michael. I have also checked out Michael Monroe and like the sound I'm hearing from them as well as The Loar. It's nice to have a few different choices for a lefty. Cheers.
I have an Eastman 315 and love it. I got it this summer and have been taking some Skype lessons with a well known mandolinist. The tone is nice and lots of people have commented that they like it. For the price I think i got a great instrument.
My only beef was there were a few finish flaws especially around the scroll area, doesn't make it sound any worse and I got this at a discount from a store going out of business.
I see you've found mandolin cafe so hang out over there for awhile and check out the classifieds.
BigSky, yup, I'm loving the Mandolin Cafe. People are a little slower to answer on a few threads but everyone is super nice like the Uke community. I think it's because the Ukulele community and Mandolin communities are small, and creative community and that's what unites us. I will definitely be checking it out more. Alas, there are not many lefty instruments in the classified section. However, I have been turned on to a few instrument makers and am now looking at Mandolin makers in the USA. Eastman and Michael Monroe are a backup for me. Also, another instrument I saw, Delta Ridge Mandolin, I have a few questions about. I'm waiting to hear back from someone that acquired one. Apparently these mandolin were made by Southwest Strings but their Mandolin business never really took up so that have ceased production. I have no idea where they were made but the price that they are selling their remaining stock for is dang awesome.
Hey southpaw, I am a lefty but play righty, often wondered if it made a difference but at this point I'm not going to change. Play golf righty too.
There is lots on the cafe about east mans.....you'll get some strong opinions about its overseas origins but in general it's well regarded as to build quality and such.
I am moving towards the webers and northfields although I'll probably stick with the Eastman, I really love it and its priced nicely as you can get a 300 or maybe even a 500 series for less than $1000 new.
For a few years after the turn of the century I played in a bluegrass group. I started out using an oval hole mandolin, but, after borrowing an f hole F-style mandolin, I decided to get an f hole mando. A friend found a Gibson A model with f holes at the Twelfth Fret in Toronto. I arranged to meet him there and I arrived first and had a look around. I saw mandolins branded Eastman hanging on the wall and liked the look of them. I took the Gibson, a 615 (F-style) and a 605 (A-style) into the back room and played the same thing on all mandolins. I really liked the idea of having a Gibson and being a bluegrass player, liked the idea of an F-style mandolin, but the 605 just blew the other two away and it was $300 cheaper than the Gibson and a lot cheaper than the 615. By the time my buddy arrived, I had already become the owner of a brand new 2005 Eastman MD605 mandolin. I still have it and its quality still amazes me.
I wanted an F-style mandolin but when I saw the price difference and after seeing a video
of two Eastman F- and A- mandolins I settled for an Eastman MD 305 A-Style.
I just got it a few days ago and I'm trying to learn Chicken Reel and Buffalo Gals.
I'm still trying to adjust to the narrower fret board and the double-course strings.
The only string instruments I played so far were the (6-string) guitar and the ukulele.
Vonbiber, you have discovered what every mandolin purchaser should know. At a given pricepoint, you will always get a better quality mandolin if you opt for an A-style over an F-style.
In other words, a $1000 A-style will (almost always) be a much better quality mando than a $1000 F-style, but if money is no object and you really want a scroll, go for it. There are a lot of wonderful F-style mandolins.
I've heard musicians describe the scroll as "A very expensive strap hook".
With this model of mandolin I don't have to attach the other end of the strap behind the nut.
I put a shoe lace at the other end of the strap and it can go
around the bottom of the neck underneath the raised fingerboard.
My son has an Eastman Mandolin.......Grandma was in a car wreck that damaged her right wrist........while she was retired at the time of the accident (a 17 year old made an wrong turn and hit my inlaws) it cut short her violin playing days......so she though she would try a mandolin.....grandma was a Suzuki strings teacher and can/could play a wide variety of instruments--
The Mandolin did not work out for her.......grandma never buys junk and she knows her way around an instrument shop.....I looked up the new value of the Mandolin......No the Eastman is not a multi thousand dollar instrument ......but is seems a good value for the money....
My son is developing into a muliti instrumentalist and has enjoyed playing the mandolin......now if I can just get him to come to a bluegrass and old time music workshop with me....we have a strong state organization.......when covid is over (reduced--vaccinated--herd whatever) the workshops-events-live concerts and such will roll on with force I hope..........and there are some opportunities on line as well......
My wife can play the mandolin a little as well.........now IF I could get her to a bluegrass & old time music workshop-------that would be a miracle----she plays a mean hardanger fiddle but is a bit of music snob---blue grass vocals grate her some......
It was a toss-up between an Eastman and a Kentucky for me. The Eastman was dark looking and had f holes which I don’t like. So I bought the oval hole Kentucky, and it’s my favorite stringed instrument (so far . . .). I might buy an Eastman some other time, but I’d rather have a more expensive Kentucky. I bought mine from Elderly and they’re great to deal with, but I had no idea of the sound difference between the two. However, I’m very satisfied.