Eastman EU3S Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

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17 Mar 2019

Eastman EU3S Soprano Ukulele - REVIEW

A new ukulele brand for Got A Ukulele this week. I'm looking at the Eastman EU3S Soprano.

Eastman EU3S Soprano Ukulele

Whilst it's a new ukulele offering, it's not a new brand to me as Eastman have a very well respected name in guitars and in particular their mandolins. Their ukulele line, of which this is one of three, joined by a concert and tenor has actually been around for a few years and I figured I should take a look. And a Chinese brand knocking out cheap re-badged instruments they are not. Eastman are a serious player. What also caught my eye was the fact they are carried by some of the ukulele specialist stores I always recommend.  Always a good signal.

The EUS3 is, naturally, the smallest of the bunch in traditional soprano scale and shape. And they have clearly gone all out for a vintage look here. It's made of all solid mahogany which is stained into a quite beautiful deep dark / red brown. It's made from single pieces on the top and dead flat back and a couple of pieces in the sides. The grain is quite wonderful, almost verging on being flamed, something you don't see much in mahogany. Helping that along of course is a very nicely done gloss finish which makes the colour pop and shine. Whilst it's a mirror finish there is a minor touch of pooling around the end of the fingerboard and the edge of the soundhole is a touch scruffy. Incidentally, that gloss is a more traditional nitocellulose rather than a modern poly plastic coat. Told you they were going for vintage!

Eastman EU3S Soprano Ukulele body

For decoration we have rosewood edge binding to the top and back. It's complimented on the back binding by a simple single cream purfling stripe and on the top with the same, but with an additional black and white stripe inlay. It looks great and doens't sit out of place with the mahogany. Adding to that is a black and white stripe inlay around the sound hole. Nice.

Eastman EU3S Soprano Ukulele decoration

The bridge is made of rosewood and is a slotted style, diminutive in proportions. It's fitted with a bone saddle which is flat topped and nicely chamfered at the ends.

Eastman EU3S Soprano Ukulele bridge

Inside is only relatively tidy with notched linings and simple thin braces. There is quite a bit of glue seepage on the kerfing though which irritates. What is very pleasing here though is just how thin that top is. Almost paper thin meaning projection and resonance should be good.

The neck is made of mahongany, stained dark and also glossed. It might be a single piece although there could be a joint at the headstock. Either way it's hard to tell. I love the really slight and soft shape to the neck heel here too.  Profile is a little too rounded on the back for me, but not massively so. And at the nut we measure 35mm and 26mm from G to A, so not overly narrow here.

This is topped with a rosewood fingerboard in great condition. It actually looks like it might be polished which I have not seen before. It's unbound on the edges but nice and thin. You have a generous 17 frets joined traditionally at the 12th and they are nice and thin, low and have no sharp edges. Position markers are kept to a minimum with very attractive 'snowflake' inlays made of abalone at the 5th, a double at the 7th and one at the 10th. You also get white side dots at the same positions, but also at the 12th. Great.

Eastman EU3S Soprano Ukulele fingerboard

The headstock is a curved top harking towards a three pointed crown and glossed too. The Eastman logo is a gold sticker, but not one that can peel off like the new Martins use. This instead is under the gloss and completely flat and smooth to the touch. I actually like that and it gives it an almost 3D effect.

Eastman EU3S Soprano Ukulele headstock

Tuning is provided by Grover brand open gear with black buttons.  Something had to let me down didn't it? I would REALLY prefer to see high quality friction pegs on a soprano, or maybe even Gotoh UPT tuners to make it look right. I get that a lot of new players will prefer gears, but when you see the price and specs here, I don't think this is aimed at new players. You may think I am making too much of this but I know several ukulele players who spend serious sums on sopranos and would simply not buy one with geared tuners. Here's hoping Eastman offer friction pegs as an option in the future.

Eastman EU3S Soprano Ukulele tuners

It comes fitted with D'Addario Nyltech strings (so the ones I believe made by Aquila) and also comes with a very good quality hard case as part of the package. And for that you are looking at a UK price of around £450. So that's a serious price, but to fair, not a silly one.

The build quality all over the instrument is excellent despite the bit of gloss pooling and messy innards. It is extremely light to hold and perfectly balanced - two things which are extremely important with a soprano. It's really comfortable to play too. Tapping it shows just how resonant it is too. This bodes well.

And sure enough this ticks another highly important box for me when it comes to sopranos. It has a loud bark that really punches you in the face when strummed with some force. It's what I like best about good sopranos because they are, after all, really more rhythmical instruments. And there is nothing worse than one that feels flat or quiet. Top marks in this category for Eastman because this is really punchy. Sustain is excellent too for such a small instrument so we are not lacking on that front either.

Eastman EU3S Soprano Ukulele back

Tone wise this sounds much brighter than I was expecting for a mahogany soprano. In fact I usually prefer to put something like Martin fluorocarbon strings on these to brighten them up more, but I don't think that it's necessary here. That's not to say it's overly bright, but just that it definitely has a zing to the sound. This is no bad thing. I do wonder whether in time I would like more warmth from it, but it's hard to complain about this tone really. Strummed it has a really pleasing jangle that just oozes the soprano sound and is a hoot to play rhythms on. It's not a one trick pony though because the combination of that brightness with the sustain makes this equally pleasing to play fingerpicked, delivering chimey tones which put a smile on my face too. It also keeps it's volume in this regard high up the neck, and with those 17 frets you are not going to run out of room for anything more complex on the melody stakes.

All in all, despite one or two minor gripes (and those tuners), this is a stellar instrument that is absolutely worth the ticket price. It's doing for me what a good soprano really should do and certainly deserves a place in your consideration if you are shopping the the Martin and Kiwaya sectors. Highly recommended indeed!

Many thanks to Eagle Music and Eastman for helping to arrange getting this on loan to me for the review.

https://www.eastmanguitars.com
https://www.eaglemusicshop.com

SPECS ROUNDUP

Scale: Soprano
Body: All solid Mahogany
Bridge: Rosewood
Saddle: Bone
Neck: Mahogany
Nut Width: 35mm (26mm G to A)
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Tuners: Grover open gears
Strings: Aquila
Extras: Hard case
Price: £450



UKULELE PROS

Great vintage looks
Wonderful wood colour and grain
Great build quality
Very light and comfortable
Excellent volume and great sustain
Chimey jangly bright tones

UKULELE CONS

A touch of gloss pooling on the top and scruffy soundhole edge
Somewhat messy inside
Geared tuners...

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 8.5 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9 out of 10

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3 comments :

  1. Very carefully thought out review, Baz. Your reviews aren't just cookie cutter, nice, because ukes aren't supposed to be cookie cutter, either!
    I'd like this uke much better with Gotoh tuners, too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Barry and all, great review and spot on accurate. I myself have this exact Eastman model, the soprano EU3S. I have always loved Eastman instruments. I once played the tenor version and was blown away by the tone, projection, warmth and lushness. I usually don't buy sops, but I chanced upon my Eastman sop one day, on sale, picked it up, and just could not put it down compared to 15 other ukes in the store. The Eastman had a tone like no other and playability was amazing.
    It was a great way to get vintage looks and tone without the price tag of the 1k instruments.
    Like Barry said, this is a serious instrument nonetheless.

    On mine however, the tone was not bright like the one you got for your review. Mine was the opposite...super open, super mellow, lush, full, round, non-jangly, and i have a suspicion that it's the combination of strings, and how well the wood has aged? Mine has been sitting in the store for a few years, and due to its price point, no one was buying it since most people go to the store to buy beginner and intermediate ukes. The one i got eventually came down in price a full $150 off, and i just HAD to snag it. Especially with that nice case!

    so tone wise, Barry I think it may be the D'Addario Nyltechs that is making it jangly bright. I have had the same jangly tone from Nyltechs tried on many of my other ukes, and i just didn't like them (for my tastes).
    So on my Eastman, the Aquilas were more rounded and warmer without that twang. I have since also tried the very good Hannabach Nylons on them and they're ever warmer with great sustain and easy to play. They sound best when tuned up a half step.

    I have also put Fremont clear flourocarbons on it and those got really loud and bright with some nice overtones and even more sustain. But the best strings i've had on the Eastman so far, are the lesser known brand called Luthier Super Carbon. Those are amazing. For those of you who love Living Water Strings' tension, feel and sound, the Luthiers (From New York here in the USA), are a fabulous alternative. The Luthiers are very flexible, in that they maintain great pitch that the higher tension carbon strings give, but at a more playable feel. They don't cut into fingers like Worth strings, and they have a sweet tone, but it gets subjective, I know.

    All i know is that when Luthier carbons get put on this Eastman Soprano model, it really comes alive. Maintains warmth, but really projects, has volume like a loud speaker, and responds well to varying touch and styles and allows for a little more fingerpicking to be added to strumming especially for sops.

    Great review. I whole heartedly agree with how accurate it is, and i also totally recommend the Eastmans. I would buy another if i had the chance. And i really hope one day they will make a nice cutaway version with EQ, or try other woods in their uke lines. LIke redwood or cedar...wow, imagine that. Or add a baritone to this finely crafted line.

    Barry you should ask them to send you their little archtop jazz model, the EU60E (Mahogany), or the EU80E (Spruce), those are so beautiful but there aren't many in-depth reviews of them. Check them out, what a beauty.

    -jeremy

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Barry,really nice review. I've owned an EU3C concert model since February & it's a lovely ukulele. Great tone, set up is perfect & so easy to play.In contrast to this soprano, mine is extremely clean inside with no sign of glue marks. Shame the review one wasn't as tidy.I agree about the tuners though. I think that sopranos & even my concert would look better with friction pegs or planetary tuners.

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