By Kate Koenig
Eastman is a company born on handcraftsmanship. When the parent company started as a violin family manufacturer, in 1992, founder Qian Ni established a workshop devoted to traditional lutherie. The instruments were a success, and as a result, Eastman’s guitar division was launched in 1994. One of Eastman’s five main acoustic lines is the AC series of cutaway grand auditoriums that the company has been refining over the years. This year, Eastman has added soundports, chamfered edges, and new inlay designs to the line. I checked out the AC622CE, a luxurious instrument that’s as rich in tone as it is in appearance.
The AC622CE has a European spruce top, a maple neck, and flamed maple back and sides—all solid woods. The bevel is done in ebony, which creates a beautiful contrast with the blonde spruce. The black-and-white effect between the two woods creates a timeless, elegant look that’s echoed throughout the overall visual composition. The neck and body top are finished in gloss nitrocellulose, which creates a subtle, calm sheen that makes for a big factor in that elegance. The design is further enhanced by abalone maple leaf inlays on the neck and in an asymmetrical design on the headstock, which play off of the abalone rosette.
What the guitar pulls off in terms of design, it matches or even surpasses in sound. Overall, it’s warm, rich, and full-bodied. It really resonates in the lows and the mids, and has great volume. I love the sound of a medium to heavy pick against the bass strings, and this guitar does not disappoint. It responds well to picking and strumming with a medium attack, and that richness and clarity remains when you switch to fingerpicking.
As a tonewood, maple is generally warm and bright, offering more overtone content than mahogany, which this guitar certainly does. Normally I listen to where the high overtones ring out in the body—instead, I heard wide, fleshed-out mids, which blended smoothly while still maintaining distinction between strings. The guitar’s total personality is very strong, bold, and lively, and you can feel the warmth provided by the maple.
I really enjoyed the soundport, which essentially serves as a built-in amplifier, projecting sound directly up toward the player’s ear—it really changes the experience of playing the guitar, making you feel closer and more connected to the music you’re creating.
With the beveled edge and C-shaped neck—as well as a factory-set action of 3/32″ at the 12th fret on string 6 and 2/32″ on string 1—the guitar is comfortable to hold and play. Introduced by luthier Grit Laskin, beveled edges on acoustic guitars aren’t new, but they’re also still not very common. On this guitar, the bevel felt natural and accommodating—not at all disruptive to the feel of holding the guitar—plus, it doesn’t leave a mark in your arm! The gold Gotoh tuners have very precise response, making it very easy to switch between different tunings. My only complaint is that the frets felt a bit bumpy moving up and down the neck.
The guitar comes with a built-in L.R. Baggs Element EAS VTC, which has volume and tone controls that can be accessed just below the top edge of the soundhole. Plugged into my Roland CUBE Street EX, the signal came through clear and true to the acoustic sound. I could play it loud without distortion, and the tone control was useful across its range. It was definitely nice to have electronics that complement the clarity of the acoustics.
The AC622CE is a beautifully made guitar with a big and bold sound. It manages to be both strong and clear at the same time, great for strumming and inviting of picking and fingerpicking, the latter especially offering firmly spoken tones. The soundport, beveled edge, and new inlays add a modern touch to the all-solid-wood instrument, making it well worth the price mark.
BODY Grand auditorium cutaway; solid European spruce top with hand-carved scalloped X bracing; solid flamed maple back and sides; ebony arm contour; soundport; figured maple binding; abalone rosette; ebony bridge; bone saddle with 2 5/32″ string spacing; gloss nitrocellulose top finish
NECK 20-fret maple neck; 25.4″ scale length; ebony fretboard with 12″ radius; 1-3/4″ bone nut; Gotoh SG301 tuners; gloss nitrocellulose finish
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OTHER L.R. Baggs Element EAS VTC onboard electronics; D’Addario EXP16 strings (.012–.053); hardshell case
MADE IN China
PRICE $1705 MAP
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