From the October 2016 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY ADAM PERLMUTTER

I am a little snobbish when it comes to instruments, but two new Eastman guitars—the AC–GA1CE and AC–GA2CE—have led me to reappraise my view of lower-priced models. Both of these all-solid-wood guitars sound robust and balanced, play exceptionally well, and come with Fishman electronics. And each carries a street price of just $620. At first, I thought a digit might be missing from the beginning of that price, but that’s not the case, making these instruments exceptional buys in a market teeming with options.

Variations on a Theme

The AC–GA1CE and AC–GA2CE are grand-concert models—a design splitting the difference between the dreadnought and the OM—with smooth cutaways. They’re identical in every spec, save for their soundboards. The AC–GA1CE has a Sitka spruce top, while the AC–GA2CE is sapele. Both are supported by hand-carved scalloped X bracing.

The guitars show a judicious use of ornamentation, with subtly classy details, like the maple inlay of the headstock logo. But the wood is the real star: The AC–GA1CE’s solid spruce soundboard’s tight grains are punctuated occasionally by bear-claw figuring; the sapele on the AC–GA2CE is richly colored and has striking grain patterns.Guitar_AC-GA1CE_Flattop_Front_1115

The fit and finish of both guitars are good. All of the frets are perfectly seated and polished and the setup is dialed in nicely—there’s no fret buzzing to be found on either instrument. The inlay and binding work is clean and tidy, as are the interior aspects of the guitars.

And instead of the overly thick finish found commonly on imported instruments, these instruments have an ultra-thin satin finish, without any pore filler. This treatment not only feels sleek, it likely helps the guitar’s resonance.

Agreeable Players

Both guitars feel much the same, though out of the box the AC–GA2CE somehow seems just a little stiff in comparison to its cohort. Both have moderately proportioned C-shaped necks with 1.75-inch nuts. The factory-set action, low but not overly so, is easy on the fret hand, and the generous nut width makes the guitars good choices for fingerpicking.

It’s not often that I get an opportunity to audition the same guitar with different tonewoods, and that’s why it’s so fun to compare the AC–GA1CE (left) and AC–GA2CE (lower left) in terms of their sonic performance. The solid spruce example has a bright, shimmering sound and sligGuitar_AC-GA2CE_Flattop_Front_1115htly greater sustain than the sapele, which has a warmer and more direct voice—a good choice for recording.

Both guitars take equally to the plectrum and to fingerpicking. They perform just as well with brisk, open-chord strumming in standard tuning as they do to gentle fingerpicking in DADGAD.

And though neither has quite the resonance of some of the finest steel-strings, each guitar has great evenness between its different registers and good definition and note separation as well: attributes that make them suited to a range of styles.

Natural-Sounding Electronics

A Fishman Sonitone preamp system comes standard on each guitar. These electronics include an under saddle pickup and thumbwheel volume and tone controls mounted discretely under the soundboard. Plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amplifier, the guitars sound natural, without much to speak of in the way of extraneous noise.

The quality of imported guitars has increased dramatically in recent years, but few models with all-solid construction hit all the high notes in terms of sound, playability, and craftsmanship for well under a grand.

Either guitar would make a superb choice for a beginner, or even a solid go-to instrument for a working singer-songwriter.


AT A GLANCE

Eastman AC–GA1CE and AC–GA2CE 

Body

14-fret grand auditorium size with cutaway

Solid Sitka spruce top on AC–GA1CE; solid sapele on AC–GA2CE

Solid sapele back and sides

Rosewood bridge

Satin open-pore finish

 

Neck

Mahogany

Rosewood fingerboard

25.4-inch scale

1.75-inch nut

Ping precision tuners

 

Extras

Cleartone 7412 strings (12–53)

Bone nut and saddle

Padded gig bag

 

Price

$775 each retail, $620 street

Made in China

eastmanguitars.com

At a Glance

Eastman AC–GA1CE and AC–GA2CE 

Body

14-fret grand auditorium size with cutaway

Solid Sitka spruce top on AC–GA1CE; solid sapele on AC–GA2CE

Solid sapele back and sides

Rosewood bridge

Satin open-pore finish

 

Neck

Mahogany

Rosewood fingerboard

25.4-inch scale

1.75-inch nut

Ping precision tuners

 

Extras

Cleartone 7412 strings (12–53)

Bone nut and saddle

Padded gig bag

 

Price

$775 each retail, $620 street

Made in China

eastmanguitars.com


AG286_Cover

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

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