In September of 2022, we became a dealer of Eastman Guitars, a company that has been receiving widespread recognition and acclaim in recent years. Here at Heartbreaker Guitars, we are continuously fascinated by builders that seek to bring products to the market of premium quality while remaining affordable. For the past nine months with Eastman, we have had the opportunity to become thoroughly familiar with some of their finest handmade guitars while receiving great feedback from our customers who have chosen to purchase an Eastman. Headed by CEO and founder Qian Ni, the company prides themselves on their dedication to craftsmanship, attention to detail, selection of tonewoods and the implementation of quality components. As stated by Eastman’s own Steve Bernstein, “When it comes to tone, vibe, playability and value, we want to over-deliver at every single price point.”
The Eastman sound, in many ways, seeks to refine and improve upon the various techniques of guitar building that have developed throughout time. After a number of years crafting only orchestral string instruments, CEO Qian Ni made his foray into the guitar world with a selection of archtop guitars and mandolins in the early 2000’s, moving on to steel string flattops later in the decade, eventually releasing Eastman’s first thinline and solid body electric guitars between 2012 and 2016. The entirety of Eastman’s product line is held together by a unifying thread: each guitar is fully handmade. While the debate rages on concerning the quality of mass-produced guitars versus their handmade counterparts, there is no denying that handmade guitars are given the opportunity to undergo a much more thorough, conscious process of assessment, allowing for more time and care in the assembly and giving the guitar a unique voice. We spoke to Eastman specialist Steve Bernstein about the current state of instrument construction and how Eastman’s philosophy hearkens back to a previous era of guitar building, taking influence from 1930’s-era designs and recontextualizing them for the modern landscape of guitar players. “In a day and age where everything is so automated and so many guitars seem to be exactly the same as others, it’s refreshing that there is a company like Eastman that still has an old world approach to how we build things. Even when the time comes that everyone else will be using the latest A.I. technology, we’ll still be in our workshop with a hammer and a nail.” As Mr. Bernstein explains it, Eastman’s primary motivation lies in the idea of continuously improving upon their existing products while keeping them at a reasonable price, a message that seems to be fully realized by patrons and ambassadors alike. From the PCH1 all the way to the AC922CE, guitarists seem to be unanimous in their praise of the instruments, as well as the partial disbelief that an instrument of such quality could be so affordable. That said, let’s take a look at some of the Eastman models we have in stock here at Heartbreaker.
The AC models from Eastman are built in the Grand Auditorium shape with a cutaway. The 622 sports a solid European Spruce top over a solid Flamed Maple back and sides, and the examples of Flamed Maple used on these guitars are consistently gorgeous. Complemented by a Maple neck, Ebony fingerboard and bridge and figured Maple binding, this guitar has undeniable style. This guitar is also laden with premium inclusions such as a Maple arm bevel, a 1½” sound port on the side for self-monitoring, Gotoh SG301 tuners, a striking Abalone maple leaf inlay on the fretboard and headstock and an LR Baggs Element EAS VTC pickup. At a price of only $1,969, the AC622CE is the perfect guitar for those looking to acquire a premium instrument without breaking the bank.
Eastman’s Orchestra Models are incredibly focused, with a very direct, midrange oriented tone. Featuring a classic combination of solid Thermo-Cured / torrefied Sitka Spruce over solid Indian Rosewood, the E8’s tone has an unmistakably warm overlay across its tonal range, while delivering a growly punch to the mids that renders an incredibly responsive sound overall. The aesthetics of the guitar are modest yet perfectly suited for the vibe of the instrument. Featuring a Mahogany neck, an Ebony fingerboard and bridge, a pearl dot fingerboard inlay and Pingwell V93N machine heads, the E8 stands up beautifully against any other OM.
Designed in a familiar shape, the SB59 is available in three distinct finishes: Redburst, Goldburst and Sunburst. This solid body electric, rigged up with two Seymour Duncan ‘59 humbuckers, yields a powerful tone fit for any genre, conceived as a callback to solid body electrics of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Whether it is being run through a clean or distorted channel, this guitar produces a wonderfully rich, expansive tone with heaps of sustain and clarity and with its slightly-less than 1¾” nut width (1.68” at the nut), the playability and traversal up and down the neck is notable. With solid Flamed Maple atop a Mahogany body, a one piece Mahogany neck, an Ebony fingerboard, Gotoh SD90 machine heads, and Pearl Crown fretboard inlays, the SB59 has proven itself a formidable addition to Eastman’s line of solid body electrics.
Available in the Classic, Red, and Goldburst finishes, the T486 is a versatile thinline semi-hollow electric guitar with a dual humbucker configuration that produces a dark, broad tone. With a Seymour Duncan Jazz pickup at the neck and a Seymour Duncan ‘59 at the bridge, the T486 flourishes in any playing style, from Jazz to Blues to Hard Rock. The body, beautifully constructed with a Flamed Maple laminate, sits comfortably in the player’s arms and the fast neck allows for quick movement between the low and high register. Due to its semi-hollowbody construction, the T486 creates a noticeably resonant sound replete with a responsive attack and long sustain. Its quality of design is further realized by the Maple neck, Ebony fingerboard, 1.72” width at the nut, Pingwell RM1239-NV machine heads, and its Pearl Split Parallelogram fingerboard inlays, rendering an instrument with indisputable elegance in its looks and its tone.