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Thread: Eastman Vs. Morris

  1. #1

    Default Eastman Vs. Morris

    Hi everyone,
    this is my first post, but I have been looking at the forums for quite a while now. I wanted to start playing mandolin and I wanted everyone's opinion whether I should pursue and Eastman 505 or keep an eye out for a Morris mandolin. I play other instruments and would like to find a good sounding mandolin for under $1000. I know the Eastmans are made in China and I would like to support and American business, but I know my budget is limited.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    I know this is a single data point, but I'll toss in my opinion. I've been playing an Eastman 515 for several years and have never regretted the purchase. Although I always aspire for more, I think I did very well for the money when I bought this instrument. My background is with the violin and I really wanted a good voice and fine quality. I think I got both in my Eastman.
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    Registered User Willem's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    This is an easy one for me. I would take a Morris over an Eastman without batting an eye. I have owned both. This isn't to say there is anything wrong with an Eastman, but for me it is about the preference for an individual luthier built instrument crafted in the US versus an imported factory made instrument. Of course, I wouldn't recommend Morris based solely an that criteria if they were of sub-par quality. Sonny builds a fine mandolin at very attractive prices (new A5's are $1,100). I believe he is still taking some custom orders. Of note, they do not have adjustable truss rods and are unbound. I find myself regretting having sold Morris #393 (still is my avatar pic), but my Ruhland was dominating playing time.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    Do you think one would hold up better then the other? I am in my twenties and I really don't want to buy another mandolin for a long time.

  5. #5
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    Having no other information I would prefer the Morris, all else being equal.

    But there are many options in your budget. Especially for a first mandolin. (You know you will buy another someday.)

    Take a look at the Cafe Classifieds, and see if you can't find some good options.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    Have played both, and while I like the Eastman, would get a Morris instead. Both should hold up well. That's not a problem. The biggest difference will be a Morris under $1k will probably be a flattop (there is a used A5 in the classifieds) and an Eastman will have a carved top and back. Neither is better than the other. But they are fundamentally different sounding instruments. Either will be fine to learn on and keep for a very long time if you go that route.
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    Registered User Willem's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    I haven't heard of any long-term structural/durability issues that are common with either maker. I had my Morris for 3 years without a single problem. I have stayed in contact with the buyer who has had not issues in the year he has had it, in fact he loves it. I have no reason to believe they wouldn't hold up. Sonny has been putting mandolins out there for at least 20 years now with many satisfied customers holding onto them. He does put a steel or carbon fiber stiffener in the neck rather than an adjustable rod as several other prominent builders do as well.
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    How would a flat top mandolin sound in comparison to the Eastman. From the mandolins I’ve been around I prefer a more mellow sound. Thanks for answering my questions, I just want to pick the right one.

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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    If you want to play bluegrass (especially in jams or a band) get a carved top F hole mandolin. If you aren’t playing BG (or will just be playing it at home) a flat top mandolin (Morris, Flatiron 1N, crystal Forest, Redline, Big Muddy, Northfield) can get you a professional quality mandolin at a nicer price (the labor is just less). I’ve owned an Eastman 315 and a Flatiron 1N. Both were well built. I sold both in a downsize move 3 years ago. While I think the Flatiron was probably a “better” instrument, and truly professional quality, I miss the Eastman more. I favor the carved, arched top tone, and the Eastman was my beater, so I have more memories with it. It was also better set up (which is my fault for not replacing the nut on my Flatiron).

    Both are excellent values, both should serve you well and hold up well. I’ve come close to buying a couple of Morris mandos but never pulled the trigger, but I enjoyed my email exchanges with Sonny. Eastman is a bigger operation, US based but with production in China, but with a ton of hand work. I really respect their operation. But, my current players are a Skip Kelley A-5 and a Rigel CT-110 (and prior to those a Silverangel econo), so I get where you’re coming from…

  10. #10
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    I am a big fan of flat tops. With the exception of hard core bluegrass, flat tops can do it all. And it is no physical limitation, only the caprice of history that Bill Monroe picked a carved top F style f hole mandolin, and the music he developed grew in around the sound of his instrument.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    I've played several mandolins built by Sonny Morris (he lives about an hour drive away from me). Most were carved top and back. Each sounded and played great. I've played fewer by Eastman, but based on my experience I would definitely choose a Morris.

    I have a 2010 hybrid F4 that Sonny built for me and I've played it hard over the years. It has held up wonderfully. I have a 2007 Eastman MDC805 mandocello that I bought in 2011. It's also held up well. You can frequently find a used carved Morris A style in the classifieds here in the $1 k range.

    As far as truss rods go - I own some two dozen stringed instruments. Most don't have truss rods. Some are 40, 90, over 100 years old. I have never adjusted the truss rod on any of the ones that have them. I've never wished I had a truss rod on any that don't have one.

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    Quote Originally Posted by CraftySteinhauser View Post
    How would a flat top mandolin sound in comparison to the Eastman. From the mandolins I’ve been around I prefer a more mellow sound. Thanks for answering my questions, I just want to pick the right one.
    Here is the link for the Morris A-5 in the classifieds...

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/176938#176938

    Basically brand new. Some folks think that the redwood top gives a warmer, more mellow tone than spruce. YMMV

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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    "Here is the link for the Morris A-5 in the classifieds..."

    If I were in your boots I'd be all over that. Right now.

  15. #14
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    I'd also get the redwood Morris. . . Quickly!

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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    In my own own experience I would go for the Eastman. I bought a Morris years ago and I found it rather quiet and it felt like there was a bow in the neck. Due to my own lack of research I didn’t realize Morris mandolins necks connect to the neck at the 12th fret like old oval holes. Not really what I was looking for at the time.
    I’ve had a couple Eastman over the years that I ended up selling but I’ve had the same Eastman DGM2 for over six years that has never given me any trouble. I haven’t even needed to adjust the action. It’s the loudest, fastest oval hole I’ve ever played. I’m currently looking for an F hole myself and am seriously contemplating a new Eastman.
    I do however play mostly classical and jazz with some folk and Celtic. No bluegrass really at all.
    Good luck

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    Registered User urobouros's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    I haven't played a Morris but have owned a couple Eastman. While the latter were good, I'd be on that Morris in a minute. I love Redwood tops & the one in the classifieds seems like more of a bird in the hand unless you already have your eye on something in stock elsewhere.
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  18. #17

    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    Thank you to everyone for the advice. If all goes well the A5 Morris in the classifieds will be mine!

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    Quote Originally Posted by Castrinato View Post
    I didn’t realize Morris mandolins necks connect to the neck at the 12th fret like old oval holes. Not really what I was looking for at the time.
    That's certainly not true of all Morris mandolins. I've played a lot of his builds.

    A traditional A4 or F4 has the neck join the body at the 12th fret. My Morris hybrid F4 neck (elevated fretboard) joins the body at the 14th fret.

  21. #19

    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    Another question: when this mandolin comes will I have to have it adjusted/ change the setup in anyway? I live in a rural area with mostly guitar guys around and do not know who I would need to take it to if anything needs changed on it.

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    Registered User Willem's Avatar
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    Default Re: Eastman Vs. Morris

    That is a question best asked of the seller, but I would guess the used Morris is probably well set up. I do know that Sonny sets them up very nicely in his shop.
    If still pondering an Eastman, level of set-up needed would depend where you get it from.

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