|Documentation & Support||10%|
| OVERALL RATING =3.5
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
When players think of premium, steel-string, acoustic guitars, a few American builders names frequently top the list, followed by a number of builders from Europe and to a lesser extent, Japan. But China? We've seen the world of electric guitar manufacturing transformed in this nation, but there's rarely been a conversation about acoustic guitars coming from China. Eastman Guitars will definitely force you to have that conversation, as the AC708CE instrument reviewed here rivals anything you'd find coming from the big American names.
Eastman Guitars has a history that began with hand-building violins in the style and tradition of old-world violin makers. Other than powered band saws for cutting necks and the outlines of instrument tops and backs, all building is accomplished with hand tools: chisels, kives, gouges, and scrapers. Founder Qian Ni next set out to bring his shop's style of building to archtops, mandolins, and flattops.
The Eastman Grand Concert Series Acoustic-Electric guitar is a great acoustic guitar, worthy of consideration by any serious musician in need of a premium acoustic electric instrument. It offers excellent playability with outstanding craftsmanship and cosmetic detail. Considering the more reasonable pricing of a Chinese-built instrument—even one that is hand made, Eastman really made us think twice about how much we've spent on some other acoustic guitars in our collection. If the tone is right and you're not looking to spend a small fortune on your next acoustic, the Eastman AC708CE (or one of their other models) may be a great option. Consider us impressed.
The Eastman Grand Concert Acoustic-Electric guitar AC708CE provides a lot of excellent features you would find from a top line acoustic guitar builder.
Starting with the most important part of the guitar, the natural-finish, AC708CE guitar is built from a solid, Englemann Spruce top with hand-carved scalloped X bracing. The back and sides of the body are made from solid Rosewood.
Body features include:
- Sound Hole Rosette: Wood inlay
- Body Binding: 5-ply Rosewood
- Body Dimensions: 15” x 4 ¼” with cut-away
- Bridge: Ebony
- Saddle: Bone 2 5/32” spacing
The neck of the guitar is made of a one-piece, Mahogany wood with an Ebony fretboard.
Neck features include:
- Bone Nut: 1 ¾” wide
- Scale Length: 25”
- 20 Frets: Nickel – Silver
- Dot Inlays: Mother of Pearl
- Tuners: Gold-plated Gotoh
The electronic pickup system in the Eastman Grand Concert AC708CE is a Fishman Matrix VT that provides a Volume and Tone control, and requires a 9V battery.
The guitar comes set up with D'Addario EXP 16 strings in .012 - .053 gauge.
The AC708CE guitar provided excellent playability for all the right reasons. The neck featured excellent action through all twenty frets, and we found it extremely easy and comfortable to play due to a feel comparable with some electric guitars. The neck also joins the body at the fourteenth fret, allowing for higher-register access, and the body also provides higher-fret access thanks to its single cut-away design.
The slotted headstock on the AC708CE actually simplified tuning the guitar by having the open gear tuners pointing to the back of the headstock. It was more natural to grab and turn the tuners from that angle than with tuners facing out from the side of the headstock as tends to be more common.
Being able to plug in is definitely a plus for live shows. The Fishman Matrix VT system provided basic volume and tone controls, easily accessible at the edge of the sound hole of the guitar. Knowing the strength of the battery is a challenge, though, as there isn't any battery life indicator, and changing the battery typically requires re-stringing—it's done through the sound hole.
One other feature we noticed with the Fishman Matrix VT system was that the tone control provided very minimal difference in sound shaping. We would have liked to see a wider operating range between high and low tone options. The volume control provided excellent adjustment through the entire operating range of the control.
As we have seen on most acoustic guitars, there isn't a strap button on the neck heel of the guitar, so you will need to have one installed or revert to the "string tie" method at the headstock if you want to play standing up.
Upon first strum of the Eastman Grand Concert AC708CE guitar unplugged, the guitar's full-bodied tone was obvious. It definitely projected a deeper, low-end EQ opposed to the brighter acoustic spread we were accustomed to hearing on our choice acoustic instruments. The deeper tone provided a very woodsy sound while still having some high-end sparkle. Basically, it was very well balanced between the low and high string voicing. Another difference we noticed was that the guitar was very "live" sounding. The string reverberation and sustain within the single cut-away body provided a thick texture for each chord while being strummed or arpeggiated. Each note provided very articulate sounds with a pronounced presence while still maintaining a very traditional sound.
For purposes of this review, we plugged our Eastman guitar into a L.R. Baggs Para Acoustic DI before going into our ProTools rig for amplification. The AC708CE provided excellent acoustic tone via the onboard Fishman Matrix VT pickup system. Just as with the guitar unplugged, we heard a well-balanced, woodsy tone without losing any sparkle or tonal balance. The Fishman Matrix VT captured the true sound of the instrument without any coloration or tone loss of the instrument.
Documentation and Product Support
Our AC708CE Acoustic Guitar included a certificate of authenticity, warranty information and basic care and maintenance documentation. More often than not, we see manufacturers providing necessary documentation on their website. While Eastman Guitars provides detailed specifications for their instruments online, we could not find any documentation or information regarding our guitar's Fishman electronics.
The Eastman Grand Concert AC708CE Acoustic Guitar (MSRP $1,875) sells for approximately $1,399 street, including a hard case. By comparison to a few USA-made guitars with similar features, we found the Eastman Grand Concert acoustic electric to be an excellent value—and some tough competition—for its rivals costing slightly more.
From a workmanship, construction and materials standpoint, this guitar offers nothing short of a professional level instrument, leaving tone character/sonic preference to be the only differentiating factor.
Eastman Handcrafted Guitars and Mandolins