Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

8 Nov 2020

Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

This week it's a welcome return to a uke brand that ticked most of the right boxes for me in the soprano scale. This is the Eastman EU3T Tenor ukulele

Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele

I try not to repeat reviews of different scale models in the same series but the look of this one and its scale being distinctly different from the soprano nudged me to take a look... so I bought it. That first one I looked at was the Eastman EU3S Soprano and as you will see it reviewed very well. It was a very traditional and classy looking soprano, built in a way that showed me very clearly that this Chinese brand know exactly what they are doing with musical instruments.  In fact, it's not just ukes that they make, as they have also built a very solid reputation in the world of guitars and mandolins as well.

In style terms this tenor reminds me very much of the soprano. It's the same very deep reddish brown all solid mahogany with classic decorations that work well together. I said in the recent review of the Kala KA-TGE Tenor  that I thought the brown with cream binding look of the Kala was looking rather tired and perhaps 'old fashioned'.  It's a somewhat similar thing here of course, though I think the Eastman carries it off in a far more classy way and the details hang together much better, as I will explain.

Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele body


This is a double bout shaped ukulele with an old timey curved shape, particularly around the lower bout which I find very attractive.  Interestingly, the US uke shops tend to list this as a 'grand concert shaped' tenor ukulele. What I think I take that to mean is that whilst it's a regular tenor scale length at 17 inches, the body is slightly smaller. What's odd to me is that it really doesn't look much smaller at all, as you can see below pictured side by side with the Kala KA-TGE. OK, it's not a jumbo tenor with a big old butt, but then it's not small either? Traditional. There's nothing 'concert' about it.

Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele size

It's made from all solid mahogany tone wood with two pieces on the top, back and sides. I often point out that mahogany is not usually the most interesting wood to look at, and then an example like this comes along to slap me around the face. It's well book-matched and there is some interesting stripe going on, but it's the depth of colour and the flaming in the wood here that really knocked me for six. I think it's absolutely stunning to look at and can't take my eyes off it. In some of the pictures it almost looks like it's a sunburst uke, but I think that is just colour variation in the wood. Angling this in natural light makes it shimmer and almost flash before your eyes. Wow. So pretty.

The bridge is extremely simple and made from rosewood. It's a rectangular slot style bridge holding a straight topped simple bone saddle with chamfered ends. Nothing fancy here, but then you don't NEED your bridge to be fancy. Easy string changes, nice and tidy, not too big. Check.  Spacing here clocks in at just over 43mm.

Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele bridge

Decoration elsewhere consists of rosewood edge binding and tail stripe with a thin white strip of paler wood purfling alongside it. You get a simple black and white sound hole rosette too. It all works really well with the dark wood of the body, and something like cream or abalone here would have looked way off.  Very classy and understated I think.

Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele decor

The body is finished in a very well done, mirror finish gloss. Like the soprano I looked at, there is a touch of over applicaiton around the end of the fingerboard and it also looks a bit thick on the waists, but, bear in mind this is a nitro-cellulose finish. That is a very traditional instrument finish, as used on some of the highest end guitars from the likes of Gibson and Martin. Nitro finishes are NOT plastic like poly finishes and as such will age over time. If you have ever seen any old guitars that use this finish that are of a certain vintage you will note that the nitro kind of melts into the wood and end up looking thinner as the instrument ages. It's a beautiful effect, but it's not really done for looks. Nitro finishes are softer and more porous and as they age over time they allow the instrument to breathe, vibrate and sustain more than a plastic finish. As such they should help the wood of the uke open up. Nice.

Inside is very tidy. It has notched kerfing and tapered thin braces with the top braces running vertically down from the soundhole. I can't see any real mess and it's nice to see that the top wood is not overly thick either.

Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele inside



The neck is made from mahogany which looks like a single piece though may have an extremely well hidden joint at the heel. It is also glossed but being a nitro finish, it doesn't feel grippy, more slippy which is fine with me, and also something that will mellow and flatten with use.  I really like the soft shaping of the neck heel too. The profile is more C shape than D and I would like it a bit flatter around the nut, but it is a comfortable 36mm up there and a smidge over 30mm G to A, so that's balances it off for me.

It's topped with a rosewood fingerboard that looks to be in great condition and is evenly coloured. It's not edge bound, but it does seem to have slightly rolled edges for comfort. It has 18 frets joined at the 14th and these are all dressed very well too. They are extremely traditional style flat topped frets and I usually much prefer them to be crowned personally. That said, my reason for that is I tend to find flat topped frets can jar the finger on runs up the neck and I am not feeling that here. These are fast to navigate. Snowflake position markers in abalone are fitted with a single at the 5th, a double at the 7th and another single at the 10th. They look great, and thankfully you get small white side dots at the same positions and an extra at the 12th. No complaints. This is a nice neck.

Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele  neck

Beyond the bone nut is a simple curved top shape headstock that doesn't add an ostentatious look to the uke where it is not needed. The Eastman logo is a gold sticker but is well under the gloss so won't scrape off with the use of a clip tuner. It looks really classy.

Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele headstock

Absolutely no complaints with the tuners either as these are chrome open gears with black buttons by Grover. They are excellent. As good as gears get in my opinion.

Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele tuners

Finishing it off are what look like Aquila strings, an Eastman branded soft cleaning cloth and a great quality hard case which fits the instrument like a glove. You may be looking at this level of quality and assuming absolute top table level pricing, but what's a nice surprise is that this comes in at about £475 average across the shops I see it listed in (and about $460 in the USA). That's very keen pricing I think and coming in less than many Pono's and ukes like the Martin T1K. Remarkable.

Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele sides


As you can tell, I am liking this one so far. The build, looks and finish are all excellent. It feels nice in the hands, is not too heavy at 700g and is also well balanced. Setup on this example (bought blind) also reached me with no adjustments that I would make.

On to the sound. First of all, sustain here is really very good - it's long and lingering and that bodes well for melody frills like a touch of vibrato. The volume is interesting. It's not a quiet ukulele at all and the volume is good, but it's a not a uke that screams and barks either. Rather it's a much more considered affair. Now, that may change over time as the finish mellows and wood opens up, but for now it's a more laid back. 

The tone is a fair bit brighter and chimier than I would expect from a mahogany tenor with a very crisp edge that means all the notes are absolutely singing out in the mix. That's not to say it's a spruce like brightness, as there is clearly a warm edge that mellows it out to my ear. It's actually quite a rounded tone, and not wanting to use the word 'subdued' it's a chillout sound for me. Relaxing and very fluid when you change chords. Whilst this is not a koa tone, the presence here reminds me of the traditional voice of a Kamaka ukulele - a more traditional and considered affair. Strummed it is bouncy enough, but not staccato and jarring. Fingerpicked it has an extremely pretty tone like a music box, again with great clarity and no volume drop off when moving right up the neck. I think it shines more with melody lines.

This is a very grown up sounding uke and would make for some wonderfully pretty recordings through a nice microphone. Smooth as you like!


Eastman EU3T Tenor Ukulele back


What's not to like here? I think they absolutely nailed it with the looks, the build is exemplary and it plays very well too. Sure, some people may like a bit more punch and 'in your face' to their tone and volume, but this is a relaxing very pretty sounding instrument to play that I am sure will only get better as it ages. And for under five hundred quid? That's a bargain for something like this. I've  totally fallen in love with this one as you can tell. Very highly recommended.



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Eastman EU3T
Scale: Tenor
Body: All solid mahogany
Bridge: Rosewood
Saddle: Bone
Spacing at Saddle: 43mm
Finish: Nitro-cellulose gloss
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 18, 14 to body
Nut: Bone
Nut Width: 36mm, 30mm G to A
Tuners: Grover open gears
Strings: Aquila
Country of origin: China
Weight: 700g
Extras: Hard shell case, cleaning cloth
Price: £475

UKULELE PROS

Top drawer classy looks
Wonderful mahogany look
Great build in every department
Very comfortable neck
Good volume and great sustain
Very clear tone
Nitro finish will age as the wood opens up
Terrific price for the quality

UKULELE CONS

Not much!
Gloss will take time to settle and thin out
Punch may be a little laid back for some

UKULELE SCORES

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

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.3 out of 10

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2 comments :

  1. Very classy looking uke, Baz. It has some clout, too! It sounds like a tenor uke should sound, not that guitar like tone that so many have. Eastman seems to have hit the nail on the head here.
    I wish I could justify one myself!
    Glad you got one for yourself!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a VERY good point you make about the guitar like tone. Couldn't agree more!

      Delete

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