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Thread: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

  1. #1

    Default Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    Good morning! I've been searching hard for an electric-acoustic mandolin and I think I've narrowed it down to either the Eastman MD305 for $770 ($510 + $260 for pickup, installation & hard case) or the Eastman MD605 for $935. The wild card is the Ovation MM68AX for $849.

    The pickup is very important to me as my main purpose is to add some mandolin to home recorded songs. Secondarily I'm hoping for a nice enough acoustic sound that I can practice unplugged and hopefully learn enough to be more than just an intermediate guitarist strumming a mandolin. Look is not so much of a factor.

    Unfortunately, I'm not really in a position to go to a store which carries these and play around with them right now. While all of these fall within my price range I would consider any savings to be a benefit as long as I'm still getting a quality instrument (I've seen some people say they actually prefer the Eastman 300s to the 600s even though they're cheaper). I'm also open to suggestions of other brands/styles if you think I'm way off track here. A great majority of the mandolins I can find are acoustic only and I really want electric-acoustic.

    I know you guys probably get 100 questions a day on which Mando to buy so thanks in advance!

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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    I would go for the Eastman, either one, over the Ovation. I think you will be way better off with the acoustic sound of the Eastman. Remember if you put a pickup in a mandolin, unless it is magnetic, you will need a preamp to get a good sound. It doesn't need to boost the signal, but match the impedance. If you have something like a Fishman amp then the amp will have a hiZ input. Some P.A.s have a hiZ input in one channel, but not many.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    The main difference between cheap and expensive Eastman mandolins seems to be in the level of bling and the hardware (mainly tuners, tailpiece). If you’re largely interested in the sound rather than the bling, I’d go for the cheaper end. You can upgrade the hardware later if necessary.

    What you don’t say is what pickup is goingto be fitted. There are pickups and pickups. All pickups are equal but some pickups are more equal than other pickups! ... and yes, I’d budget for a decent pre-amp.

    By the time you’ve finished, unless you intend to record in a very noisy environment, you might be better, and find it cheaper, going for a decent mic. Something like a DPA 4099.

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  5. #4

    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    Thank you for the replies! The pickup the shop would install on the MD305 is a K&K internal twin dual head. Iím going to show my ignorance about the electronics a little here but Iím not sure if that requires a preamp as well. They offer a K&K preamp for another $100. The MD605 as sold has a pre-installed K&K pickup (donít see any info on the preamp). If the price keeps climbing on the MD305, Iíd be okay with jumping to the MD605 if itís actually a better instrument. Iíve just seen a lot of people on here say they actually prefer the 300 series. The Ovation is out of the picture and Iíd be willing to take the MD305 elsewhere for pickup installation if itís the best option. I see my Guitar Center offers a Fishman. Iíd definitely be interested in opinions on that as I would definitely prefer a pickup rather than a mic being my only option since I donít always have control of the ambient noise where I record. Thanks again!

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    Godin A8 ..., advantage built in pre-amp so none needed externally..
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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    The Godin A8 doesnít appear to have sound holes, I donít think it would meet my goal of a good acoustic sound as well as the simple recording ability. Do some mandolins with built in pickups not have preamps?

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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    If it were me, without doubt the MD605 with block inlay, gotta love it!
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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    The K&K definitely needs a preamp. All transducers need a preamp or an amp with a HiZ input.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  11. #9

    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    Thanks, pops! So can I assume that the MD605 which has a built in K&K pickup would already have a preamp installed?

  12. #10

    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim1983 View Post
    Thanks, pops! So can I assume that the MD605 which has a built in K&K pickup would already have a preamp installed?
    Nope.
    It'll be a passive pickup just like the one they would install in the MD305.

    You can save some coin by buying a JJB pickup instead of the K&K, but the installation costs will be the same. And you'll need a preamp as well.
    http://jjb-electronics.com/prestige-220.html

    Edit- found your mandolin.
    Buy this one quick:
    https://reverb.com/item/33822378-eas...assic-sunburst
    Used, Mint - Eastman MD505 with pickup. $599 shipping included.

    Here's a used preamp that'll be good for $65
    https://reverb.com/item/33840292-lr-...-guitar-preamp
    Last edited by stevojack665; May-27-2020 at 12:59am.

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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    In my opinion it is a popular misconception that the only difference between the Eastman models is the "bling" as someone said. This thought is primarily had by those that have the lower grade models. While the lower grade models may be a good value for money spent ( I will not argue that) they certainly do not sound or play the same as the higher grade models. One of my close friends had a 515 and swore the only difference between the models was the window dressing, that was until he played the Eastman 915 I owned for many years.
    In playing alongside many others in that time period of owning the 915 I never heard a 315 that, in my opinion, had good tone. A few 515 sounded Ok but certainly not all of them. Like any other brand, play before you buy.
    You usually get what you pay for, never more, sometimes less.

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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    I have an MD605, before I bought I played a 304 with a K&K installed. The 605 to me is miles ahead in every sense. I play mine through a Headway preamp and am very happy with the sound.

  16. #13

    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    So I use the Scarlett 2i2 audio interface for recording which has a built in preamp. I’m pretty sure my Crate acoustic guitar amp also contains a preamp. I believe you guys, I’m just not sure I really understand why I would also need a preamp with the mandolin. Is it just better paired to the instrument? Would it be internal or external? Thanks for the info on the 505 & 605.

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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    A preamp to boost signal is different than a preamp to match impedance. The mandolin pickups, if they are transducers, have an impedance of 1 million ohms. Your P.A. wants to see more like 1 thousand ohms. Preamp for this circumstance is a misleading term, but is needed to match the impedance of the two.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    Want an acoustic sound? you Mic an Acoustic. the air pressure waves coming off it.

    Pickups hear what they're attached to.. the bridge or the soundboard..

    Or in a solid body Or acoustic body, magnetic pickup you have a different sound..


    {I have a Schertler installed in a Mix A5, and a top mount, I can move onto many others. Dyn M.
    Hot signal level , with a Simple Impedance matching transformer XLR > 1/4", plugging into a guitar amp works..
    a dynamic mic output, it can use mic preamps in mixer channels.. & 2 channel Acoustic amps.. }
    Last edited by mandroid; May-27-2020 at 1:50pm.
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  19. #16

    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim1983 View Post
    So I use the Scarlett 2i2 audio interface for recording which has a built in preamp. I’m pretty sure my Crate acoustic guitar amp also contains a preamp. I believe you guys, I’m just not sure I really understand why I would also need a preamp with the mandolin. Is it just better paired to the instrument? Would it be internal or external? Thanks for the info on the 505 & 605.
    The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 will do the impedance matching. No need to add a preamp. I was unaware that you had something like that already. Sweet piece of kit!
    Acoustic amps should also be fine especially if the have an active/passive switch to change impedance

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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Mead View Post
    In my opinion it is a popular misconception that the only difference between the Eastman models is the "bling" as someone said. This thought is primarily had by those that have the lower grade models. While the lower grade models may be a good value for money spent ( I will not argue that) they certainly do not sound or play the same as the higher grade models. One of my close friends had a 515 and swore the only difference between the models was the window dressing, that was until he played the Eastman 915 I owned for many years.
    In playing alongside many others in that time period of owning the 915 I never heard a 315 that, in my opinion, had good tone. A few 515 sounded Ok but certainly not all of them. Like any other brand, play before you buy.
    You usually get what you pay for, never more, sometimes less.
    The quote about “bling” was me and, no, I’m not the owner of one of the lower grade models and have no reason to want one so I have no reason to be biased. I have played a few of them and, whilst I’d advise anyone to go with what their ears tell them, my experience is that there seems to be very little tonally to differentiate between the cheaper and expensive models. I have also heard others express this opinion.

  21. #18

    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    The quote about ďblingĒ was me and, no, Iím not the owner of one of the lower grade models and have no reason to want one so I have no reason to be biased. I have played a few of them and, whilst Iíd advise anyone to go with what their ears tell them, my experience is that there seems to be very little tonally to differentiate between the cheaper and expensive models. I have also heard others express this opinion.
    I've owned 5 Eastman mandolins, from the 300 level to the 800 and 900 level. The one that sounded best to me was an MD-505. All instruments vary individually. Eastman is producing high quality mandolins and you can expect to get a well made instrument regardless of which model you choose. Just because the 815 or 915 are fancier, that does not necessarily mean they will sound better. The worst sounding one that I owned was an MD-615. It was beautiful, but very thin sounding. The MD-915 was good, and beautiful, but the MD-805D and MD-505 were better sounding and virtually identical in playability to the rest.

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  23. #19

    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    My 5.05 cents: The difference between Eastman numbers is not “bling”—Eastman don’t do bling. It is very quantifiable hardware, finish and wood selection, plus available additional features that start at the 5 level including contoured edges, built-in pickup at 600, and so on.

    I would say get the 605, no question. You get a 305 with the intention of modding it, you end up with an upgraded 305. Which will not have the value of the 605 and up, ever. I agree with everyone that the 505 is in the sweet spot. 605 is the 505 with a pickup built in.

    Honestly though, I don’t get your need for a pickup to get an acoustic sound in home recording. Acoustic mandolins record beautifully and naturally with a half-decent mic. Do you feel you can’t simply mic your recording due to background noise in your recording environment? That’s the only reason I can think of, unless you really want some electric sound. Obviously you are recording vocals, so...?

    Another approach: get a high-quality Schertler Dyn-M stick-on pickup. Cost currently about $300. Installation charge: zero. You can slap it on any mandolin top made of wood, get the clean sound you need at any volume you need, trade mandos till you’re happy with one, a year or two later if you’re tired of it, you still have the pickup for your next mando. Need phantom power or a preamp.

    Have fun.

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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Cameron View Post
    Honestly though, I donít get your need for a pickup to get an acoustic sound in home recording. Acoustic mandolins record beautifully and naturally with a half-decent mic. Do you feel you canít simply mic your recording due to background noise in your recording environment? Thatís the only reason I can think of, unless you really want some electric sound. Obviously you are recording vocals, so...?.
    I agree with that. Get the best sounding mandolin you can, and put a mic in front of it.

    Electric-acoustic is often a compromise in both the all acoustic sound and the onboard electrics, so I understand. It is a strategy to attract folks from the guitar culture (where electric-acoustic is more popular), over to the mandolin.

    FWIW YMMV
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    Default Re: Newbie: Which electric-acoustic to buy?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I agree with that. Get the best sounding mandolin you can, and put a mic in front of it.

    Electric-acoustic is often a compromise in both the all acoustic sound and the onboard electrics, so I understand. It is a strategy to attract folks from the guitar culture (where electric-acoustic is more popular), over to the mandolin.

    FWIW YMMV
    I completely agree with Jeff.

    If you want your recordings to sound like you're playing a mandolin, then get the best acoustic you can afford and mic it. If you look at professional mandolin players, that's what the vast majority of them do.

    For what it's worth, I bought an Ovation once because I thought it was the answer to playing live, but the one I had sounded horrible unplugged, and just a little better plugged in.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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