The Eastman company is famous for creating very classic instruments with a minimal finish but an elegant and simple look and feel. Their attention to detail is very well appreciated by most mandolin players around the world. The Eastman MD505 is a proud member of the Eastman 500 series, which takes vintage-style mandolins into the 21st century.
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I’m a music composer with several years of experience doing soundtracks and folk and rock music. I’m also an avid mandolin player who’s played a bunch of different models over the years. My fascination with mandolins brought me to this journey of exploring as many models as I can to learn more about this unique instrument.
Join me as we explore this beauty of an instrument called the Eastman MD505.
About the Eastman MD505
At first glance, the Eastman MD505 looks like a typical mandolin with that common sunburst finish and an A-style build. But this mandolin is much more than that. The pure and mellow tone is very well appreciated by most mandolin players, making it perfect for folk and jazz.
The Eastman MD505 is the newest model in the MD500 series. The main differences with the 300 series are a better tuner, a bound fretboard, a cast tailpiece and a gloss/semi-gloss finish.
The 500 series could be described in rough terms as an upgraded and modernized 300 series.
The overall design and finish is inspired by classic instruments like violins, violas and cellos. This is a trademark style for this company, as Eastman proudly takes old sensibilities and brings it to the modern age.
Another thing to mention is the quality of Eastman mandolins. Many models from the older 300 series had some serious tone issues. But it seems that with this new 500 series, Eastman was able to solve most of the problems and bring their mandolins to a new standard.
The body is made of carved solid spruce for the top and solid maple for the back and sides. The back of the mandolin has a very beautiful maple texture that can only be found in high-end instruments.
The overall design is very stylish with a great attention to detail. This model is hand-crafted, which is pretty common for most Eastman instruments.
The first time I had this mandolin in my hands, I really felt how comfortable it was to play and hold.
Although it might look delicate and fragile, the MD505 is actually very well built and robust.
The maple neck of the MD505 is as good as it gets in this price range. It’s nice and easy to play for most players. The neck of the MD505 stands in a perfect balance between too narrow and too wide.
It’s easy enough to play fast but wide enough to be accurate and have a decent tone.
The Eastman MD505 comes with a bound ebony fretboard. It’s a very decent fretboard overall, with a smooth and fast action.
I personally find the fretboard very balanced, not too thick nor too slim.
The Eastman MD505 comes with a standard adjustable ebony bridge. It’s a very solid bridge that needs little adjustment. I personally never had any issues with it.
The Eastman MD505 comes with a high-gloss finish, which adds to the overall beauty of the instrument. I’ve always been mesmerized by this mix of dark woods, a beautiful maple texture and a high-gloss finish. I personally find this visual design very impressive. The MD505 looks like a high-end mandolin.
The wet lacquer finish is considered too thin for some players. But here is where we get a natural and clear tone, as thick finishes may dampen the sound and clarity of the instrument.
I met countless mandolin players in love with the design of the MD505 and the 500 series overall. It’s a really beautiful handcrafted instrument.
Pros & Cons
My Experience with the Eastman MD505
The Eastman MD505 is probably my favorite mid-range mandolin currently on the market. I really enjoy the classic and elegant design, which looks like it was made with a lot of care and attention to detail.
I never had too much trouble setting up the MD505. It can be played straight out of the box. It’s also very easy to maintain, although if you want to get the best of it you might consider a professional setup.
One of the tricks I’ve seen done to this mandolin is changing to heavier strings and using bigger picks to get more mid and bass tones out of the MD505. This is a great solution to the lack of mid and bass definition, which is a common problem with most instruments fabricated in Asia.
The default strings are of poor quality. This isn’t a big deal, though, as you can always change them for something better and it won’t cost you too much.
Although as I mentioned before, many older Eastman mandolins were of poor quality. This is why at first I was cautious about getting one. But now I can say for sure that it’s worth your money and time.
MD505 has the best of both worlds, an absolutely stunning design and a clear and bright tone. To be honest, I never heard any big complaints from Eastman mandolin owners.
One of things I heard mentioned are the tuners. They sometimes lose the tuning, which is actually pretty common for most mandolins. I’d say that the tuners of the MD505 are decent enough. If you’re struggling with them you can always buy a new set of tuners and solve this problem for good.
Eastman mandolins aren’t just pretty looking ornaments. Mandolins in the MD500 series are famous for their natural sound qualities and clear tones.
Eastman MD505 Review: The Sound
The Eastman MD505 takes the traditional Eastman sound and expands it. The sound of this beauty is just impeccable. The MD505 has a very natural and pure tone to it.
Overall I’d describe the sound as big, clear and mellow. Although the MD505 has a decent punch on mid and bass tones, it also has a very clear treble ring to it.
The Eastman MD505 has the perfect tone for folk, jazz and classical music, although it could be used for any other musical style.
Eastman MD505 Warranty
Eastman offers a limited lifetime warranty for most of their models, but it might vary depending on the retailer.
Where to Buy the Eastman MD505
Eastman instruments might be tricky to find sometimes, as they’re not always available in stock.
But in the modern age of the internet there’s nothing that can’t be found online.
Amazon is a world leader when it comes to online retail. At this point, Amazon is the most famous and important company in the world. This is partially due to their very competitive prices and huge selection of products.
My personal favorite feature on Amazon is the customer reviews. Here’s where you can read the real opinion of real people who actually tried the product. This really helps you to make a decision, even more so if what you’re looking for costs a few hundred dollars.
Apart from Amazon, there are several online retailers that offer exclusive deals. Some retailers might have unique models only available on their website.
Your Local Store
Your local store might not have a huge selection of instruments and even fewer mandolins. But you can certainly spend the whole evening inside the shop, taking your time and trying out different models. This is the best option for someone who’s willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a long-term investment.
Trying out something in person is always the best option to see its pros and cons for yourself.
Eastman MD505 Review Conclusion
The Eastman MD505 is a great mandolin for a great price. Beauty and sound, this mandolin has it all.
This model is a lifelong instrument that will pass from generation to generation. Most Eastman models I’ve seen stood the test of time very well, and the tone even got better throughout the years.
I personally can’t recommend this model enough. As of today I haven’t met any player hating on the MD505. Anyone who has played this beast knows how good and high-quality this instrument is.
If you’re looking for a solid mid-range mandolin that can serve you for years to come, look no further. You won’t get any better deal, as the Eastman MD505 can compete even with most expensive high-end mandolins on the market.
Thank you for reading this article! If you liked this read, feel free to post a comment or share it on your favorite social media. Feel free to ask any questions, as we’ll gladly help you with any doubts you may have about the MD505 or any other mandolin models.
Stay safe, and as always, good luck with your sonic adventures!