Let it be known: I like small-bodied guitars, especially 00s. This size has pretty much everything I desire in an acoustic: a comfortable body shape, short scale, balanced tone, and general cuteness that all makes for the ultimate couch, gigging, or recording guitar.
I have a 12-fret and a couple of 14-fret 00s in my stable, and even my archtop and classical guitars have bodies with similar dimensions. So when I was asked to review the Eastman E20OOSS/v, a 14-fret model with a slotted headstock and all-solid-wood construction, I was eager to see what the company had to offer. I’m pleased to report that it turned out to be quite a lot.
Perfect Out of the Box
The only thing better that shows up in a box is a pizza, but not by much. When I removed the E20OOSS/v from its shipping carton, the first thing I noticed was the excellent hardshell case—super sturdy, plush-lined, and fitting the guitar’s form perfectly. I’ve seen more expensive guitars show up in lesser cases. It’s a nice touch and evidence of the care Eastman puts into its instruments.
With its rich sunburst finish, herringbone purfling, and pearl diamond fretboard inlays, the guitar inside the case is handsome, to say the least. It’s made from a choice set of tonewoods—an Adirondack spruce top (often an expensive option on U.S.-made guitars) with tight, straight grains, paired with back and sides made from light-hued rosewood with beautiful figuring. The inky black ebony used for the fretboard and bridge provides a nice visual contrast.
The E20OOSS/v has an exemplary fit and finish throughout. Inside the guitar, the kerfing and bracing are nice and tidy, and I see no glue residue whatsoever. The fretwork is clean, and the tuners feel substantial and work well. As I twist the buttons, I feel no pinging or catching of the strings, and the instrument holds its tuning very well. Usually when I get a new guitar, I take it to my guy for a fret and truss-rod check, and for lowering the bridge saddle (I prefer low action), but the Eastman was perfect right out of the box.
One of guitar’s biggest selling points is its varnish finish, a luxurious option not commonly seen on production model guitars like this. Varnish is much more time-consuming to apply than most finishes. It’s thinner and more flexible than other types and is said to allow instruments to vibrate more freely, thereby enhancing their tone. The varnish on the E20OOSS/v is beautifully applied, with graceful shading in the sunburst pattern and a lovely burnished quality overall. There is a bit of faux aging on the top—simulated arm wear that appears realistic from a distance, though not totally convincing up close. But hey, it’s a fashionable look, like those jeans that the maker has so nicely torn for you.
Great Tone and Headroom
So how does the E20OOSS/v sound? In a word, fantastic—surprisingly loud but not brash; sweet, with tons of sustain; and with a more impressive low end than you would expect. Played fingerstyle, the guitar is balanced and full across the entire range. It exhibits a captivating sweetness when played quietly, and a full and articulate voice when worked more forcefully. With a flatpick, the sound is crisp, but the notes retain fullness at all dynamic levels.
I tried really digging in with the pick, but, likely thanks to the Adirondack top, there is plenty of headroom, and the E20OOSS/v never gives up. The guitar’s neck has a moderate C carve, somewhere between vintage clubby and modern slim, and a comfy low action and buzz-free setup make for not just clean sounds but a fun and exciting playing experience.
For a couple of months, I practiced hours every day on the E20OOSS/v and, as soon as I ended a session, I really looked forward to picking up the guitar again the next day. I tracked it on a studio session, mostly a strum fest with some arpeggios. The recorded sound was great, more like a vintage guitar than a new one. I also brought the instrument to a local music shop where I was recording demos of some high-price-tag acoustics. It was pleasantly surprising to see that the Eastman held its own in comparison and sounded just as nice to my ears as those much more expensive instruments.
The Bottom Line
The Eastman E20OOSS/v is a fantastic guitar. It’s comfortable to hold, has a sweet and warm vintage tone, and is articulate and expressive. Equally happy whether approached fingerstyle or with a flatpick, on the couch or in the studio, it’s just a wonderful instrument to play. And considering that Adirondack spruce and varnish are options that alone can add thousands to the cost of a boutique guitar, the E20OOSS/v is a fabulous value, too. Highly recommended.
BODY 14-fret 00; solid Adirondack spruce top with hand-carved scalloped X-bracing; solid rosewood back and sides; ebony bridge; bone compensated saddle with 2-5/32″ spacing; herringbone purfling; firestripe pickguard; varnish sunburst finish
NECK 24.75″-scale mahogany neck with dual-action adjustable truss rod; slotted headstock; ebony fretboard with 12″ radius; 20 Jescar frets; 1-11/16″ bone nut; nickel open-gear tuners;
OTHER D’Addario XT Phosphor Bronze Light strings (.012–.053); hardshell case
MADE IN China
PRICE $1,869 street
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.