2 Jun 2024

Eastman EU1-C Concert Ukulele - REVIEW

A welcome return to a ukulele brand that I thought had given up on ukes. This is the new Eastman EU1-C Concert Ukulele.

Eastman EU1-C Concert Ukulele


I've looked at a couple of Eastman ukes before, both doing very well on the reviews. They were both extremely well made vintage style instruments with sublime woods and even more sublime nitro finishes. I regularly recommended the tenor in particular and then... well... then I heard that Eastman were dropping them. A crying shame if true as they were making, in my opinion, instruments that were criminally under-rated. Then I heard a rumour about a couple of new lines and sure enough whilst the EU3 series is no longer made, Eastman have released two new lines, the EU1 and the EU2. The two come in ranges of scales and have distinctly different wood choices. In both cases too the specs are downgraded in several ways from the EU3's, but more on that below. In even more confusion I've heard from someone that they CAN still get the EU3 series, yet they are nowhere to be seen on the Eastman site... ho hum.

SUMMARY VIDEO REVIEW

This is the EU1-C Concert that uses the same old timey shape (small body, small bouts, skinny waist) as the originals, and like that one is made from all solid mahogany. According to the Eastman website the EU1 series seems to offer a tenor and a concert whereas the EU2 uses a spruce top and ovangkol back and sides and comes in concert and soprano. These seem to be completely new to dealers and you may find that several dealers seem to have the names mixed up, but I have taken these from the Eastman website linked at the foot of this review. And this one in all solid mahogany looks promising with it's uber dark reddish brown staining.

Eastman EU1-C Concert Ukulele body


For the bridge I am pleased to see a simple slot bridge made from rosewood which echoes the vintage / Martin style I think these are going for. I like them for their simplicity and lack of space taken up on the sound board. They just work. This example looks far paler than I would like though and needs some stain or oiling to darken it up a bit as it really stands out. That holds a straight topped bone saddle with string spacing at 43mm. Oddly the top of the saddle has a curve indicating a radius on the fingerboard, but there is no radius. Ho hum - answers on a postcard... Incidentally it's interesting to note that even the tenor gets a slot bridge.

Eastman EU1-C Concert Ukulele bridge


Decoration is simple and also has a vintage vibe with tortoiseshell style bindings to the top and back and a black and white sound hole rosette with the white stained a yellowish by the finish which tones it back. It's all very up my street though i'd prefer the purfling addition on the original to the tortoiseshell, but it's all still nice looking. In the first 'downgrade' from the EU3 we now have an open pore satin coat rather than a gloss which I think is a shame. One of the things I liked most about the EU3 was their nitrocellulose glosses which are ultra thin and will age beautifully. They also made the wood grain shine and shimmer whereas things look much more flat here. Still you do get a bit of sunburst buffing here which is rather pretty, but it's a far cry from the gloss version.

Eastman EU1-C Concert Ukulele finish


Inside is is largely tidy bar a bit of glue mess on the underside of the bridge dowels. The braces are thin and the top vertically braced on the lower bout and the linings are notched. The top is also pretty thin and the sound hole edge is reinforced.


Eastman EU1-C Concert Ukulele inside


The neck is specified as mahogany and looks to be in two pieces with the only joint well hidden in the heel. It's in satin too which I prefer over the gloss on the EU3. It also has a vintage style profile which is skinny on the back of the neck which compensates with the average 35mm nut width (27mm G to A). I always say these things are subjective, but I can live with that nut width if the profile isn't too rounded and so it is here.

That is topped with more rosewood for the fingerboard ending with some nice shaping at the sound hole end. The condition is great and almost looks like it has been polished giving it a look that it's been played in which I really love. The frets feel old school to and are very skinny - you get 17 of those and this is a 12th fret join which is another old style / Martin choice which makes the instrument feel more compact. They are dressed very well too with not a hint of a sharp edge. Pearl dots (as opposed to the snowflake markers on the EU3) face out at the 5th, double 7th and 10th (more old time stuff!) and are repeated on the sides too. This neck is all very good.

Eastman EU1-C Concert Ukulele neck


Beyond the bone nut the headstock has a pleasing curve shape to the top and the Eastman logo is in a gold sticker but, unlike many Martin ukes these days, feels smooth and UNDER the finish so won't peel off with your clip on tuner. I also like how skinny the headstock is front to back rather than the huge hunks of wood you see on some ukes today.

Eastman EU1-C Concert Ukulele headstock


The tuners mark another downgrade from the EU3 i'm afraid, so out go the excellent grover open gears and in come more generic versions which don't look anywhere near as good. They work ok, but look rather agricultural!

Eastman EU1-C Concert Ukulele tuners


Finishing the deal are a set of D'Addario Nyltech strings and the final downgrade - the case. The EU3 ukes came with superb plush hard cases and now we have a padded branded gig bag. It's not a bad quality one at all (though I can live without the colour), but it's a far cry from the hard case.  So that's three downgrades (finish, tuners, case), but there is an important bonus that comes with those changes and that is the price. The EU3 instruments were on the pricier side for a far eastern instrument, whereas they have really sharpened their pencils here. For example, at the time I reviewed the EU3 tenor, it would have cost you £450. The EU1 tenor is RRP £249. This concert version is even less at RRP £199 and the last time I saw the EU3 Concert it was about £450 too. That's quite the saving.

So maybe i've overplayed things on those 'downgrades' to much. Heck, some people prefer satin finishes and the tuners work just fine despite looking scruffy. As for the bag.. well.. it's a bag. But the key difference here for me is that the EU3 was priced at a level that many would need to think about whereas this is much more reachable as an impulse buy.

Eastman EU1-C Concert Ukulele back


All of these points are irrelevant of course if it doesn't play well, but I can say that the build and finish quality are both excellent as is the setup out of the box. It's also extremely light at only 420g and balances and sits really nicely in the hands with that 12th fret join. You almost don't know it is there.

Absolute basics first. The volume. Wow, the volume. This has a punch and bark that reminds me of Martins that goes off like a cannon with little effort. Superb power. Sustain too is reasonably good for a small bodied concert. And whilst this is certainly going to be more of a rhythmical instrument rather than one with achingly long ring, it's certainly passable and fits that vintage vibe just right.

Tone wise this has a warmth from the mahogany but a very clear clarity to each of the strings that never sounds muddy. Strummed it has a great old time jazzy vibe that you can get very rhythmical with as it jangles and harmonises with itself. Finger picking is surprising actually as whilst it doesn't have achingly long sustain, the sound played this way is very bold and pretty all the way up the neck with very little effort. I'm going to call this the 'soprano lovers concert' as it has that sort of tone. A bit more beef to the soprano scale and more roundness, but with the bouncy pep and jangle the ragtime players will enjoy. One final point I will make that is totally subjective, and that's on strings. For me personally, on smaller bodied hog instruments I think they suit fluorocarbon brilliantly and would swap out these Nyl-whatsits myself and think that may give more sustain again, but.. that's just me.. Still it's a very pretty and trad sounding instrument regardless that I've fallen for.

Despite the downgrades this one has still impressed in a way the originals did on build and tone, but now does it for a much more attractive price point. In fact I am astonished at how this works this well for that money. No, it's not a modern looking or sounding instrument, so if you like your rounder beefier sounding concerts perhaps go elsewhere. But I can think of many players, particularly proponents of the more old time jazzy / ragtime style of play who would and SHOULD adore this one. It's a belter.

This is a bit of a no brainer for my tastes and a nice value replacement to the earlier Eastmans - recommended! Bigger name brands with long standing concert ukuleles at this sort of price - take note - THIS is how you do it!



UKULELE SPECS ROUNDUP

Model: Eastman EU1-C
Scale: Concert
Body: All solid mahogany
Bridge: Rosewood slot style
Saddle: Bone
Spacing at saddle: 43mm
Finish: Satin:
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 17, joined at 12th
Nut: Bone
Nut width: 35mm, 27mm G to A
Tuners: Unbranded open gears
Extras: Gig bag
Weight: 420g
Strings: D'Addario Nyltech
Country of origin: China
Price: £199

UKULELE PROS

Great vintage look
Great build and finish
Nice sunburst despite the lack of gloss
Lovely neck and fingerboard
Light and small
Superb volume
Warm yet bouncy old timey tone
GREAT price

UKULELE CONS

Scruffy looking tuners, and preferred the gloss, but not much wrong here!

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9 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 - 9.1 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW




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2 comments:

  1. Nice Uke for a very good price. Eastman making cracking guitars too. Was sorely tempted to push the boat out beyond £1500 for an Eastman E1000SS.

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  2. Thank you so much for your detailed ukulele reviews. After hours of reviewing your videos, I ended up buying this Eastman version from my hometown music store. Cheers!

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