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Thread: Eastman MD815 vs. MD815v

  1. #1

    Default Eastman MD815 vs. MD815v

    I'm trying to decide between the MD815 and the MD815v. Can yall give me the pros and cons between each and why?


  2. #2
    Registered User gspiess's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Central PA

    Default Re: Eastman MD815 vs. MD815v

    Hi Shane,

    I have an 815v with no regrets. I play a wide variety of music from bg to contemporary Christian and find the overall tone of the instrument superb. There is a good combination of the "bark" that's needed for a chop with an unusually long sustain for an f-hole. I can play loud but also have no problem with articulation on the softer passages where the mid-range and that "woody" tone is readily apparent.

    I did have issues with the high strings sounding too shrill, but after trying J74s and Mapes pb, I found the right strings with Martin Monels.

    I usually have no problem with volume at jams and I try not to lean into it too much, otherwise my technique falls apart. I've installed a JJB pickup and run it through a Tonedexter for most other venues. I always get complements on the sound.

    It had been setup by the Mandolin Store, and I found one fret a smidge high for the e string, but only when playing way up the neck. A quick bridge adjustment solved that, otherwise the action/playability is excellent.

    My 815v is "aged" which means no high gloss and some intentional color fading. I know this is an issue for some, but it's not over the top and I like it. I don't have to worry about fingerprints, scratches or wear, and wiping it down occasionally with a soft rag does the trick.

    I have played other Eastmans with the nitrocellulose finish, and I prefer the varnish. If you have the chance to tryout either, I'd recommend it; but you may be like me where I bought on-line, relying on user ratings and sound clips. Either is an excellent instrument and a good value.
    Being right is overrated. Doing right is what matters.

    Eastman 815v
    Pono MND-20H
    1960 Silvertone Archtop

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Aberdeen, Scotland

    Default Re: Eastman MD815 vs. MD815v

    I have an 815v too, bought remotely during lockdown.

    At first I found the varnished neck a bit draggy but eventually adjusted my technique to allow for that.

    I had played an 814v in a shop and really liked it but that one and mine are the only Eastmans I've played and haven't tried the non-varnish finish.

    My comparison is to other instruments I have with faster, unvarnished necks (I mean the back of the neck). I've big hands with short fingers so my thumb webbing touches the neck more often than I would like.
    Last edited by Bren; Jun-26-2021 at 5:13pm.

  4. #4
    Registered User mingusb1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Burlington, NC

    Default Re: Eastman MD815 vs. MD815v

    Is the difference that the "V" is varnished versus lacquered? Varnish is more sensitive to marks/marring in my experience, but I've heard also has advantages in terms of tone.

    Member since 2003!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Eastman MD815 vs. MD815v

    Here's the Eastman page on their Antique Varnish, which they do say is softer (and thinner).

    It's their varnish, so I'm not going to argue with that, but varnish can continue to cure for a long time, and maybe in a decade or two, the difference is less obvious. And, there are all kinds of varnishes.

    The 815V I recently got from a friend is about 12 years old (based on when he got it), and while the (Baggs) pickup's jack clamp did leave a noticeable impression, the bridge location on the top is not hardly noticeable, while the footprint of the bridge on my fiddle (new ~1998) is quite obvious.

    I guess I'll find out if the mando's varnish is "soft" because I've attached a Tone-Gard, which came with a clear notice about possibly marring *soft* varnish finishes. (Honestly, I don't care if it does, as it's already far from new condition - a major benefit of buying used!)
    2009 Eastman MD815/V
    some home music videos

  6. #6
    Bill Healy mrbook's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Schenectady, NY

    Default Re: Eastman MD815 vs. MD815v

    I have the 805V and really like the varnish finish. I think it contributes to a better tone, and while I take great care of my instruments I accept that they will get some marks if I am playing a lot. I also have the 505, 404, and 514, and like them as well, along with another small maker F model. The A model I built 40 years ago also has a varnish finish, and it has held up remarkably well over all those years.

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