Eastman might not be as “on your radar” as other well-known instrument manufacturers, but as players in the loop seeking timeless models are well aware, the company has been making some of the finest handcrafted guitars (opens in new tab) for almost two decades.
What’s significant is the company’s deep-rooted expertise in building world-class violins using centuries-old German luthiery methods, and some of that artistry at work is outwardly evident by Eastman’s superb ageing and good old-fashioned hand-varnishing that has trickled down to their Antique Varnish Series of electrics.
At the 2020 Winter NAMM Show, Eastman unveiled two new models in that series with the SB55/v-SB and SB55DC/v. They’re not merely replicas, but rather graceful interpretations of stripped-down classic designs with impeccable custom-shop craftsmanship and dynamic tone that make them undeniably captivating.
I was immediately drawn to Eastman’s SB55DC/v. One of my favorite double cutaway guitars that I’ve come across, it screams raw power.
One of the most striking aspects of the SB55DC/v is how much it feels like an orchestral instrument in your hands – most notably, a violin.
Eastman’s six-step hand-applied varnish technique and mild ageing that concludes with French polish originates from their custom violin shop, so it feels delicately plush against your skin, and it’s exactly this attention to detail that elevates it from an ordinary off-the-line guitar.
Suffice to say, the see-thru antique vintage red varnish looks exquisite, and the custom tortoise Bakelite pickguard adds authentic vibe.
From there, everything else selected is pure custom shop treatment, with a cap-less one-piece okoume mahogany solid body and one-piece set okoume mahogany neck, ebony fretboard with 22 Jescar frets, Faber compensated bridge and Faber tuners with vintage-style oval knobs.
The guitar comes equipped with a Lollar “50’s Spec” DogEar P90 in the bridge, and a CTS 500K volume and No-Load tone pot that bypasses itself when dimed, and acts as a standard tone pot when set below 10.
I do try not to judge a book by its cover, but the SB55DC/v is everything I thought it would be for its alluring throwback appeal and so much more, once I played it. Its okoume mahogany body is pleasingly lightweight, and as expected, rings like a bell with lavish volume when strummed acoustically.
You get an immediate sense that its fit and finish is flawlessly executed and inextricably connected, where wire and wood all work together for an exceptional playing experience.
Eastman’s choice of premium Faber hardware maintains unwavering intonation and tuning stability, while the guitar’s low action setup is a judicious compromise for allowing ample degrees of bouncy elasticity in both the lower and higher registers.
Comfortably slim and grippy is the best way to describe the vintage-style carve of its neck, which has a softly rounded C-profile with a slight V running down its center, and the gorgeously dark ebony fretboard with medium/jumbo frets makes bluesy-bending sinfully easy.
Call me biased, but I’m a fan of Lollar pickups, so the electronic superstar here is the sole Lollar “50’s Spec” DogEar P90 that kicks the guitar up a notch in brilliance.
Sure, it’s clichéd, but the pickup nails all the requisite clang and wide-open sound necessary for raucous rock and blues, and alternatively, sparkly smoothness for lilting country or buoyant jazz. For its bare simplicity as an all-in-one guitar, the SB55DC/v proves less is certainly more.
- PRICE: $1490 / £1239
- ORIGIN: China
- TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric
- BODY: Okoume mahogany
- NECK: Okoume mahogany, one piece, set, C profile
- SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43mm
- FINGERBOARD: Ebony (12”) radius
- FRETS: 22, medium-jumbo ( Jescar FW47104-P)
- HARDWARE: Faber aged-nickel compensated wrap-around, Faber tuners
- ELECTRICS: 1x Lollar “50’s Spec” DogEar P-90, master volume, master tone
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.31/7.3
- OPTIONS: None.
- LEFT HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Antique Varnish (as reviewed)
- CONTACT: Eastman Guitars (opens in new tab)