Mandolins are unique looking and sounding instruments. Their production takes a lot more effort and thought than most other folk instruments. That is why usually they cost a lot more too. So even if you are looking for a beginner mandolin you have to be prepared to pay over $500 unless you want one of those models that pride themselves solely on price and get worn down within months. Eastman MD315 Classic Finish F-style mandolin costs a bit over $800 and while it is still more of a beginner instrument I do not see how it cannot be enjoyed by intermediate players as well. This F-style model combines the sound, feel and looks that together create one of the best mandolins you will be able to find at this price.
This F-style mandolin featured solid spruce top and solid maple back and sides. This combination is pretty common, but for a good reason – it produces the best results, meaning the sound and feel. The maple neck has dark and stunning looking ebony fingerboard that is accentuated with white pearl dot inlays. This fingerboard has a radius which makes is more comfortable, especially if you play for long stretches of time. Eastman produces their mandolins outside the U.S. and while this is a deterrent for a lot of buyers I think as long as the quality check and standards are kept up the final product will be just as great. This is definitely the case for the MD315. All the details seem to fit pretty well and the matte nitrocellulose magically binds this mandolin to deliver not only great looks but better sound due to thinner finish. Although usually, the finish is good, there are certain inconsistencies with the model. I have heard some people complain that the finish is sloppy.
Moving on to the hardware, Eastman chose single acting truss rod along with adjustable compensated ebony bridge that matched the fingerboard. Already, we can see that Eastman is prioritizing quality over low cost. Apart from that, you will see that this model has 1 3/32″ bone nut and Eastman cast aluminum tailpiece. Both are good quality and add to the overall good setup of the instrument. The geared tuners on the mandolin are accurate, easy to use and hold the tune pretty well. One of the additional features is the strap peg made of ebony. This model also ships with D’Addario J74 strings and padded gig bag. I don’t have any complaints about the strings, they fit the instrument well. As for the gig bag, I would say that the fact that Eastman includes a gig bag is already good but it is by no means one of those sturdy bags that will keep your instrument safe in all circumstances. If you need a bag just for transportation or keeping dust and dirt away from your mandolin, then you should be fine with this gig bag.
Eastman MD315 Sound
This F-style model provides all the resonance and projection you would ever want from a mandolin. The tone is pretty dry and loud. With quality craftsmanship that Eastman provides a superb choice of tonewood, the MD315 is not the kind of an instrument that you will use for a year or two until it deteriorates. This model is built to age well and to become better in sound and feel. One of the more unexpected features that allow this model to have such a nice, loud sound is the thin finish. With a lot of mandolins in this price range, you get a pretty thick layer of finish that usually dulls down the sound. That is definitely not an issue with this model.
There is a holy trinity when it comes to mandolins and for that matter any other string instrument – the feel, the look, and the sound. A good mandolin has to have all three. If you get a mandolin that looks amazing but feels an over-decorated chainsaw in your hands, then there is no point in spending even a penny on it. Eastman MD315 Classic Finish F-style mandolin has got all three of those and at a pretty nice price. This is one of the best mandolins under $1000 mark. Whether you are a beginner looking for your first mandolin or a more experienced player, you will fall in love with this instrument from the get-go.
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