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  1. #1

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    Now I'm looking into getting an archtop and I've narrowed it down to the eastman 503ce and the d'angelico exl 1, and I'm just thinking because I'll have to just buy it blind on the internet without playing either one first, which one would be better to take a gamble with?

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  3. #2

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  4. #3

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    Hard to compare, the Eastman has a carved top the D'Angelico has a laminated top, also the Eastman is 16" compared to 17" for the D. I have the EXL-1 and really like it, everything about it is first class. I have not played any Eastman but have heard many good things about them. Rick

  5. #4

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    I have a D'A EXL-1 and a Yunzhi archtop similar to 503 but with a floating pickup.
    Since you cannot try them, I would encourage you to compare their spec.

    A few key difference I would point out

    eastman has a carve top (more woody resonance), EXL is laminated
    eastman has mounted KA humbucker (usually higher output), EXL has a floating pickup.
    eastman has a 1.75 inch nut (bigger neck), EXL is 1.688 nut (smaller neck & string spacing)
    eastman has a 16" body, EXL is 17"
    eastman has a 25" scale length, EXL is 25.5" (string tension will be higher)

    ==size matter==
    To me, from a playing point of view, neck width and string spacing is important to the "ease" of playing.
    Size of your hand and fingers is directly tied to how easy to move around a narrow vs. a wide fret board.
    In my case, the EXL is a bit narrow.
    ==sound==
    How much do you care about the Acoustic sound of the guitar?
    Sound from pickup can be modify from amp and speaker.
    Acoustic sound of a guitar is just between the guitar and you. (choice of strings & pick also make a big difference)
    Personally, I like acoustic sound from a carved guitar more than laminated.
    When plugged in, laminate top has a very nice character (see the THUNK thread) which carve top cannot achieve.
    ==mods==
    humbucker gives you lots of pickups options if you want to replace it someday.
    floating pickup is a bit limited and more work to replace one.

    enjoy shopping!

  6. #5

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    Good avice from above post! Another couple of points: Eastman uses laquer finishes, I'm not sure about D'A. You should also consider buying used for either of these brands, to get most bang for your $

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    Good avice from above post! Another couple of points: Eastman uses laquer finishes, I'm not sure about D'A. You should also consider buying used for either of these brands, to get most bang for your $
    Yeah, I will keep an eye out for used ones, but in Australia they're rare in the used market.

  8. #7

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    How about used from an Asian country? Not sure about your tarrifs?

  9. #8
    Yeah, I could get one from japan, but I reckon the added costs from buying a used one internationally would probably just equal a brand new one here. I'll keep looking though, you never know what will pop up.

  10. #9

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    I bought a secondhand exl-1 from oz ebay - now it belongs to a friend of mine. I paid about $900 AUD IIRC and for that price it was good value (it had a bartolini floating pickup installed).

    You've probably read the other posts about them here - for the price I was very impressed. My friend took it to the luthier to have the nut properly recessed and that improved the tone and feel by a significant amount (was fine before, but a good pro setup can really bring an instrument to life). You can totally gig on these things and they play great.

    Have you played many 17 inch archtops before? A lot of people will find them too big - also the neck on the exl-1 is 25 1/2 scale with quite a hefty profile - really great comfortable neck, but it's chunky. If someone was of shorter stature and/or had small hands, I'd express caution buying the exl-1.

    You're in Melbourne? Have you tried the Eastman 175 clone (AR371) I know you can get them in Sydney from Gladesville guitar factory - I've heard good things and I've liked the way they sound on youtube clips. I've played some other Eastman models and personally didn't like the tone they had, but the AR371 seems different to their other archtops, in that it sounds more like a 175, that is, a traditional Gibson laminate tone.

    The exl-1 is more of a retro design - no good for doing Rosenwinkel type stuff (hammer-ons, rat pedal etc.). Whereas with the AR371 you could switch from a 50's vibe to a Kreisberg tangent etc. etc. if you wanted.

    What archtop specs are ideal for you?

  11. #10
    Well, I play in small ensembles with usually a drummer so I don't know if a floating pickup would be ideal. I was thinking that I'd like to try a solid top to get more of an acoustic sound out of the instrument. Also, I thought the Eastman would be louder so I wouldn't have to practice with an amp. The largest archtop I've played was 16 inch so I don't know how I would deal with 17 inch.

  12. #11

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    After looking for an archtop for quite awhile, I finally bought the Eastman 503Ce when I was in Melb in June for the Melb Int Jazz Fest from The Acoustic Centre (very competitive pricing)
    Pretty much a well made guitar for the price point, plays very well after a setup and with the TIs, may upgrade the electronics and PU if required. I've looked at the D'angelico range online but have not managed to locate one to try so I can't comment on them. I know Jack's Music stock them as I bought a Rivera Jazz Suprema 112 from them earlier this year, and you wouldn't believe it, cheaper than what they sell for in the States. ($1800AUS)

    D'angelico vs Eastman?-ga1_edited-1_zpsfcab0046-jpg
    Last edited by Deng; 08-23-2014 at 08:43 PM.

  13. #12

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    Your two choices are good ones. (Whoa! That CC-equipped D'Angelico is a super-wow-tempting guitar. If I didn't already own a bunch of archtops... Somebody ought to snap that one up. Those Lollar CC pickups are just about as good as it gets for a set-in pickup. If I were having a guitar made with a set-in pickup, it's what I would spec. That guitar is going to be a gig-monster.)

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by nick1994
    Well, I play in small ensembles with usually a drummer so I don't know if a floating pickup would be ideal. I was thinking that I'd like to try a solid top to get more of an acoustic sound out of the instrument. Also, I thought the Eastman would be louder so I wouldn't have to practice with an amp. The largest archtop I've played was 16 inch so I don't know how I would deal with 17 inch.
    I found the exl-1 more prone to feedback, so I wouldn't recommend it if you had to play loud - can be done though, you just have to know how to handle it. I dig what you're saying about having a more acoustic sound - however the typical laminate guitars (175 types) are good for practicing acoustically - you can hear everything fine and play late at night without annoying anyone. Pretty much any hollowbody archtop is good for practicing without an amp IME.

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by 3625
    I found the exl-1 more prone to feedback, so I wouldn't recommend it if you had to play loud - can be done though, you just have to know how to handle it. I dig what you're saying about having a more acoustic sound - however the typical laminate guitars (175 types) are good for practicing acoustically - you can hear everything fine and play late at night without annoying anyone. Pretty much any hollowbody archtop is good for practicing without an amp IME.
    True, but I've noticed with the laminates I've played, they just don't ring out like an acoustic guitar, if that makes sense. I'm not ruling out laminates, the exl-1 is laminate, so long as it's a well built guitar and sounds good to me, I'd be happy.
    I don't know a lot about the AR371, I'm wondering how it would compare to the 403CE Eastman. both are laminate 16 inch, so I'm wondering how different they sound.

  16. #15

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    I have three 16" EXS-1DH (discontinued factory made second generation?) that I sort of stumbled on looking to keep the one I liked the best, they're all visually very different but are very consistent in playability and excellent sound, but I kept them all.

    Their quality is outstanding and I will not say "for the price" because they stand shoulder to shoulder with my more expensive guitars like the Tal Farlow, and ES-175.

    The 1DH being 16" may be a better choice for anyone not feeling comfortable with a 17" body so keep your options open.

    Something unusual for the generation I have (Korean made with the split markers) is two have the 12 pole DeArmond pups, the other has typical 6 pole pups.

    The Eastmans I've played are fine guitars also so again keep your options open and you may have to decide on what's available there at a price you're willing to pay.

    FYI, here's an old thread on Eastman that I present not as criticism of Eastman (though it started out that way) but points out what a manufacturer has to deal with when they deal with us, the players :-)

    Eastman Finish Issue?
    Last edited by GNAPPI; 08-24-2014 at 03:19 PM.

  17. #16

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  18. #17
    very tempting, falling leaves. I'll certainly have a think about it. Looks very nice.

  19. #18

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    i've played both. i don't remember what type of strings were on the eastman, but i played different ones a couple of times, more than a couple of years apart. while the guitar felt nice, i thought every time i played one, the sound was thin. it didn't seem to have much body. both acoustically and through the amp. i only played the 16" ones.
    i like the exl1 but it is 17" and feels big to me. i'm five foot eight, 170 pounds if that gives you any reference. but i like the sound on it so much better. i think i'll end up getting the dangelico. good luck in your search. jay
    i

  20. #19

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    Eastman 803CE 16" solid top X braced w/ sgl humbucker, LOVE IT!

  21. #20

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    I have 3 Eastman archtops, one flattop, and one archback (flat top with carved back).

    The 3 archtops I have are the AR805CE, the AR371CE and the AR503CE.

    The one I last purchased is the AR503CE.

    The AR503CE actually seems to put out the least amount of acoustic volume of the 3 with the AR805CE being the loudest. I find the AR503CE to be darker / more mellow than the AR371CE. Noting that the guitar has a routed in humbucker I suspect they there was no intent to try and make the guitar that would yield the acoustic volume of the AR805CE with it's pick guard mounted pickup.

    The AR503CE that I have is parallel braced.

    I am really enjoying the AR503CE and that's the one I am now primarily using. I am finding the size, depth, scale length, and nut width suit me very well. The Eastman finishes are delicate, however, I believe that light delicate finish contributes to the sound. Bang it into a few mic stands on stage and it will no longer look pristine. I have just come to accept that if you gig, bring it to jams, that minor bumps will occur, and the marks will show.

    If you search this community for AR503CE you will find other threads referencing the model.

    I would not count on two Eastmans with the same model number being identical by any means. Not sure if they are still doing it to the same extent, but early on they were making changes to models without changing the model number.

    (FYI, Love the E10-OM flattop guitar)


    Danielle

  22. #21

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    The EXL1 with the CC is nice but that is about $400 more than the average price that they sell for.

  23. #22

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    Hey everyone,

    I've been reading this somewhat older thread over and over again in the past couple of weeks, since I was deciding between a D'Angelico EXL-1 and an Eastman AR503CE. And since this is pretty much the only site I've found with a comparison between the two guitars I thought I'd share my experience for the next guy who might be in the same situation. :-)

    Due to the pandemic I had both guitars delivered to my home, I've played them there and at the (acoustically optimized) studio of my guitar teacher. I've played both guitars with amps of various price categories: Fender Vibro Champ XD, Vox AC30, Victory V40, Fender Hot Rod Deluxe and a Fender 64 hand-wired Princeton.

    Set-Up & First Impression
    Since all my guitars have been made in the US, I first was a bit hesitant buying a guitar made in Asia. These doubts quickly disappeared when first holding the guitars. The Eastman has a sunburst finish, the D'Angelico a natural finish. Both look absolutely beautiful and seem to be well-made overall. One slight exception with the EXL-1 though: the strings where somewhat askew in relation to the fretboard (the highest e-string was almost in line with the border of the fretboard, while the lowest e-string had plenty of space between them). I assume this might just be due to a small shift of the tailpiece but since one of the guitars would be returned in the future, I didn't tinker with it. A quick google search ended up with no results, so it might just been an unlucky exception.

    The AR503CE was optimized by the dealer (although he said, he only made very minor changes), the EXL-1 came with the factory setting. Both guitars play nicely but the set-up of the Eastman was superior to the D'Angelico. In fact, I was blown away by the playability – it might be one of the best I've ever played. As has been noted, the EXL-1 is larger than the Eastman, it's also a lot heavier though the neck is slimmer. For me both guitars sit well in my lap but this is surely very subjective and dependent on your size (I'm 1,85m with my hands being a bit on the smaller side).

    Acoustic Sound
    Because the EXL-1 is larger than the AR503CE it is also somewhat louder. The difference isn't that big though, both guitars are loud enough to practice with at home and too quiet to be played in a band setting (except maybe as a duo if the other player doesn't play too loud).

    What is immediately noticeable, is the fact that the D'Angelico is way more balanced than the Eastman in its sound. But, as r_cc_c as pointed out, the solid carved top of the AR503CE gives it a very strong acoustic sound. The EXL-1 sounds to my ears like an electric guitar with a bit more "air" or "volume" if that makes any sense. The Eastman sounds like a real acoustic instrument, although I have to admit the bass is a bit dark sounding.

    Plugged-In Sound
    Both guitars correctly reflect their acoustic sound when plugged in. The EXL-1 is very balanced and sounds like an electric guitar. The Eastman has an acoustic sound and needs a bit of tweaking for the bass. To my ears both guitars sounded best when played with the Fender amps but the D'Angelico is indeed very prone to feedback. On the mighty Hot Rod (40 watts tube) more than 3 on the volume was not possible without getting massive feedback. So, if you need to play your guitar at loud volumes without mic'ing it, this is definitely something to consider.

    On the EXL-1 the tone knob wasn't really working (something I've gotten used to as a left-handed player – the wires are often simply reversed so the turning direction stays the same which results in a very weird curve for tone and volume) but I happily noted that tone and volume worked fine on the Eastman. The AR503CE was, electrically, a bit unbalanced between the wound and the unwound strings – I was able to improve this by tinkering a bit with the height of the pickup and I assume this can be fully fixed by further adapting the height and also by using different strings.

    Verdict
    Both guitars sound really great in their own way. But I found myself playing with the EXL-1 for 15 minutes, then trying again the AR503CE and staying with it for way longer over and over again so in the end the decision to keep the Eastman was pretty clear. I was looking for an acoustic sound and the Eastman is exactly that. Even though the D'Angelico is more balanced tonally, to me it sounds like an electric guitar and I'm fairly confident that with a bit of eq'ing and different strings I could achieve almost the same sound on one of my semi-hollow body guitars. The Eastman has a unique sound that captivated me and that I would not be able to recreate with any of my guitars – it quite simply has character.

    Both guitars are comparable, it's not a difference between night and day. But the EXL-1 is definitely the more flexible guitar. If I didn't own any semi-hollow electric guitars and was looking for an archtop guitar that doesn't restrict me tonally too much, I might have kept the D'Angelico. The Eastman has a very specific sound and it does limit you somewhat soundwise. But within that limit there is a unique and special sounding guitar with loads of character. The setup is incredible and I feel like it makes my playing simply better, which is always a good sign.

    I hope this review is helpful for someone looking for archtop guitars. This thread has certainly helped me. :-)

    Cheers
    Philipp

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by nick1994
    Now I'm looking into getting an archtop and I've narrowed it down to the eastman 503ce and the d'angelico exl 1, and I'm just thinking because I'll have to just buy it blind on the internet without playing either one first, which one would be better to take a gamble with?
    I own an Eastman ar503ce. The newer models(2019) come with a Seymour Duncan Seth Lover instead of the Kent Armstrong. It also has a Nitrocellulose finish.... much better than a poly finish. I ended up swapping the Seth for a Bartolini PBF-55 Jazz HB. Sounds fantastic. The solid carved top really adds to the overall tone. I also have an Ibanez hollowbody all laminate with a Lollar Charlie Christian and the overall tone is very different. The Eastman is a fantastic instrument. I don't have any experience with the D'angelico.

  25. #24

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    A pic of my Eastman 503ce
    D'angelico vs Eastman?-oi000358-jpg