The Eastman MD915 is an F-style mandolin that has gained a reputation as a dependable top-of-the-line mando that isn’t a Gibson and, compared to many, is reasonably priced. We recently tried one out and were impressed with some of the instrument’s features, though maybe not all.
The MD915 we played had pretty good action and a normal amount of sustain. It was relatively loud and held its own in the volume department, especially in the mid-ranges. This MD915 had good tone and a decent chop, though maybe not necessarily as much bark as one would hope for in a good bluegrass mando, and one would wish for more bark as the instrument ages. At the same time, its overall tone made it good for more than just bluegrass, which is fine considering how widely the mandolin is used in other forms of music.
The instrument has 23 frets (on the high E) on an extended fingerboard that is scooped on the end to avoid pick noise. It comes with an Adirondack spruce top, highly-flamed maple back and sides, ebony fingerboard and bridge, maple neck and curly maple binding and is a pretty axe to be sure. With vintage Schaller tuners, abalone inlay and a split tailpiece, it comes in classic and vintage sunburst finishes. While MSRP is $3,100, it can be found for less, which is good, as this writer doesn’t feel the one we tested quite lives up to that price. At the same time, used MD915s are fetching a good amount, a sign that the instrument ages well and is dependable over time. The company also makes several other F models that come in at gradually lower MSRPs than this one. So the final verdict is that, while the MD915 is a good axe which may or may not be worth the money depending on your own ear, the company definitely makes formidable instruments and has a variety of mandos that might suit your taste and pocketbook if this one doesn’t. So check out the MD915 as well as its siblings.
Even though Eastman has been known for its mandolins for a while now, the company scored big-time when it got the collaborative nod from mando giant David Grisman, who works with the company on its “Dawg Series” mandolins. Eastman, which began as a violin and bow maker in China only two decades ago, has built an operation that has expanded into brass and woodwinds, and bought renowned Haynes Flutes in 2004. The company also makes mandolas, mandocellos and impressive guitars.