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  1. #1

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    I managed to free up some ducats via some herd thinning, and am now obsessing over youtube videos, which is giving me more questions than answers.

    The pluses
    - Has a good unplugged sound, which matters to me (evident in videos and from what people say here)
    - Perfect form factor (16" lower bout, 3" or under depth. are my preferences)
    - Widely available and at a price that corresponds to available ducats.
    - Have not been able to try one, but having tried other Eastmans, I know I like the neck (more than my current Godin's neck, TBH)
    - Very nice looking; recent Eastmans are well made
    - has a cutaway (my Godin does not)
    - Single humbucker, which is what I want, and the recent ones come with a Duncan Seth Lover which is generally a great sounding pickup

    The minuses -- there's really only one. I can't for the life of me tell how they sound plugged in. A couple sound really nice, such as

    and

    .

    But most of the others just do not sound good for example,

    and


    And/or have so much of the acoustic sound picked by the phone/camera you can't really hear the plugged in sound.


    So, has anyone here played one, and are you able to dial in a reasonable amount of midrange warmth (and if so, do you have a link that demonstrates this) There are other directions I can explore, but this does check a lot of boxes., and I'd really like to like it.

    Thoughts/Comments?

    John
    Last edited by John A.; 11-18-2020 at 10:55 AM. Reason: Post got mangled by sloppy copy/pastes; this should be cleare

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  3. #2

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    John, I have one. These days it's my main jazz guitar, but that doesn't mean it's the best I've had, but for the price it is an excellent buy. Acoustically it is not loud, certainly no rhythm cannon, but more acoustic than a laminate. As for plugged in, I can't help you much as I changed the pickup to a Charlie Christian style from The Creamery in Manchester, England (highly recommended). I don't think the stock pickup was bad, I just wanted a CC-style pup for a change.

    Unfortunately, the only video I have of it shows my playing at its worst! Or, rather, I'd been away from jazz for a while, and my brain couldn't come up with anything worth hearing. But here it is, through a Yamaha THR10:


  4. #3

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    I had a 403, also with a Creamery CC pickup. I didn't bond with it. Plugged in it sounded too acoustic for my taste. Almost like a flat top, a bit nasal almost. I bough an Ibanez LGB30 that I liked much more.
    Recently I sold all guitars that I didn't love and kept 4 good ones. All thin lines and a solid body.

  5. #4

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    I have a 403 (coated roundwound 12's, stock pickup) that plays wonderfully (after a post-purchase going-over by my tech) and sounds gorgeous through my Henriksen amplifiers. Acoustically, it's not particularly satisfying, but I suspect that the 503 with a solid - not laminated - top would be better but perhaps also more susceptible to feedback.

    I did a quick sound sample of it on YouTube right after I got it over 8 years ago - one of the 1st production models:

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    John, I have one. These days it's my main jazz guitar, but that doesn't mean it's the best I've had, but for the price it is an excellent buy. Acoustically it is not loud, certainly no rhythm cannon, but more acoustic than a laminate. As for plugged in, I can't help you much as I changed the pickup to a Charlie Christian style from The Creamery in Manchester, England (highly recommended). I don't think the stock pickup was bad, I just wanted a CC-style pup for a change.

    Unfortunately, the only video I have of it shows my playing at its worst! Or, rather, I'd been away from jazz for a while, and my brain couldn't come up with anything worth hearing. But here it is, through a Yamaha THR10:

    Hi Rob, I had seen this video before and think it sounds really good. Can you describe the difference between the Creamery and the original humbucker? Do you think the guitar's tone changed dramatically as a result of the swap?

    John

  7. #6

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    I have a 503,

    Here's a short sound sample: Box

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    Hi Rob, I had seen this video before and think it sounds really good. Can you describe the difference between the Creamery and the original humbucker? Do you think the guitar's tone changed dramatically as a result of the swap?

    John
    The Creamery CC is a lot louder, more dynamic, but has less tonal variety. However, the tone it has, I am completely happy with. I tend to prefer single-coil pickups, as they have more of a punch. The stock humbucker was mellow, but lacking punch, and a little quieter.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    The Creamery CC is a lot louder, more dynamic, but has less tonal variety. However, the tone it has, I am completely happy with. I tend to prefer single-coil pickups, as they have more of a punch. The stock humbucker was mellow, but lacking punch, and a little quieter.
    Thanks.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    I have a 503,

    Here's a short sound sample: Box
    That sounds quite nice. I could definitely live with that tone.

    John

  11. #10

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    I have two. The older one purchased at a road show when the model was first introduced seems warmer unplugged than the newer one. On that one I did change the pickup to a Benedetto A6. I like the Benedetto more than the Seth Lover that came in the newer guitar. Both guitar necks feel very similar. I have several Eastman guitars here. I recall seeing two AR371CE guitars at a road show and the necks were extremely different. AR805CE, AR371CE, AR380FV. I also have a Benedetto Bravo. I find I play the AR503CE guitars the most out of the bunch.

  12. #11

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    Hi John,
    I had a 580CE if that helps. It was a nice guitar. Not a very warm sounding guitar. The Pickup wasn't very good. I used it at one of the Pool parties I played at and quickly ran to the car to get my Tal. Because they are hand made, they vary in quality. Particularly in the cosmetics. Although I loved the color, the burst looked to me like it applied with a paper towel. Also, the center seem in the back was poorly executed. Lots of glue and not enough scraping and sanding to get it right before the color was applied. I bought it new. The case it came in was way too tight. I feared that it would cause the finish or the guitar itself to crack. So I reached out to the dealer who connected me with an Eastman rep who sent me out a replacement case which was too deep. And I had to pay shipping on it.. On the plus side, it took low action very well. It had beautiful Maple bindings. It was a very comfortable size.
    So, if you buy one, just look it over 1st. If you get one without the issues my guitar had, You just might have yourself a winner.
    Joe D

  13. #12

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    Thanks Joe.

  14. #13

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    A good thread. I've been gassing for a 503 lately, as it's a tremendous value among carved-top archtops. However, I already have a 175 -59VOS and a Benedetto Bravo, which are great (and largely overlapping) for playing electric - all I do these days. A carved top would make more sense in the 17" format, but there my Peerless Emperor Regent stands ready for the occasional swing comping mission. It's from -99, and the years have certainly not been harmful for the tone. I guess I'm a laminate guy.

  15. #14

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    I'm the happy owner of an Eastman AR503CE, sunburst, that I purchased new five years ago
    Opinions on Eastman AR503-dsc_0041-jpg
    I play this guitar exclusively unplugged at home, so that it is now strung with Phophore Bronze 12's for 3 or 4 years
    That is the best fit I found for the acoustic sound (and the worst for electric sound !)
    This is my go-to guitar when I want to spend some time with a guitar without having to use an amp or when I don't want to make too much noise ! That means, in these pandemic times, that itr gets 80% of my playing time.
    In fact, I can't remember how it sounded plugged in, that was probably not too bad
    It's prone to feedback, as you can expect from a thin carved top, but as far as I remember, that remained manageable.
    I notice that they sell this guitar new for 25% more than what it was 5 years ago
    Fit and finish are very good. Perhaps you've heard about finish problems on the early Eastman, but mine was, and still is OK
    It has aged quite good and is very stable (never had to tweak the truss-rod)
    Very confortable to play with the 2 3/4" rim and the 25" scale and the 1 3/4" nut.
    Perhaps one day I'll string it again with TI's and plug it in ?

    Let us know if you pull the trigger on one.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gitterbug
    A good thread. I've been gassing for a 503 lately, as it's a tremendous value among carved-top archtops. However, I already have a 175 -59VOS and a Benedetto Bravo, which are great (and largely overlapping) for playing electric - all I do these days. A carved top would make more sense in the 17" format, but there my Peerless Emperor Regent stands ready for the occasional swing comping mission. It's from -99, and the years have certainly not been harmful for the tone. I guess I'm a laminate guy.
    You sound pretty well set for archtops! If you need someone to look after your 175 for a while, let me know :-)

    John

  17. #16

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    Just updated my thoughts on a recently aquired AR503 here: Eastman AR503CE (and bridge question)

    Great guitar. Takes some dialling in...then again it could just be that my DRRI isn’t the best amp for the jazz tone I’m after!

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    John, I have one. These days it's my main jazz guitar, but that doesn't mean it's the best I've had, but for the price it is an excellent buy. Acoustically it is not loud, certainly no rhythm cannon, but more acoustic than a laminate. As for plugged in, I can't help you much as I changed the pickup to a Charlie Christian style from The Creamery in Manchester, England (highly recommended). I don't think the stock pickup was bad, I just wanted a CC-style pup for a change.

    Unfortunately, the only video I have of it shows my playing at its worst! Or, rather, I'd been away from jazz for a while, and my brain couldn't come up with anything worth hearing. But here it is, through a Yamaha THR10:

    Sounds great for me!

    I am wondering, how this Creamery PU compared to Lollar Charlie Christian HB, which is double price?

  19. #18

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    I've knocked a Soundcloud demo together using a Grant Green style lick. Im just a home player...aware its a bit rough and possibly nothing like Grant Green .

    The first run through is my AR503CE. The second is a stock Ibanez AKJV90D for comparison. Pickup heights are the same and volume & tone knocked back to around 8 on both guitars. Recorded with a Helix Stomp into GarageBand.

    I'm surprised how similar they sound on playback. In the room while playing its night and day- the Ibanez sounds boxier, less bright and more muted, I guess due to the laminate top. The Eastman is louder acoustically which influences perception and makes it seem brighter while playing than on the recording


    Grant Green-ish Eastman AR503CE vs Ibanez AKJV90D by Tinman | Free Listening on SoundCloud

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gabor
    Sounds great for me!

    I am wondering, how this Creamery PU compared to Lollar Charlie Christian HB, which is double price?
    I've no idea. The new Creamery version is the same but in a more recognisable CC blade casing. The Creamery is one guy, Jaime, and his reputation in the UK is very high.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Humbuckr
    I've knocked a Soundcloud demo together using a Grant Green style lick. Im just a home player...aware its a bit rough and possibly nothing like Grant Green .

    The first run through is my AR503CE. The second is a stock Ibanez AKJV90D for comparison. Pickup heights are the same and volume & tone knocked back to around 8 on both guitars. Recorded with a Helix Stomp into GarageBand.

    I'm surprised how similar they sound on playback. In the room while playing its night and day- the Ibanez sounds boxier, less bright and more muted, I guess due to the laminate top. The Eastman is louder acoustically which influences perception and makes it seem brighter while playing than on the recording


    Grant Green-ish Eastman AR503CE vs Ibanez AKJV90D by Tinman | Free Listening on SoundCloud
    Yes, they do sound very similar. Both strike me as on the brighter end of the spectrum, but that's often how direct recordings come out. I usually use amp sims in Garageband, and it takes a lot of tweaking of the settings, plus some compression and reverb to get it sounding realistic. I'm actually going to make the pilgrimage to Guitarsnjazz to check out an ar503 (among others).

    John

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    Yes, they do sound very similar. Both strike me as on the brighter end of the spectrum, but that's often how direct recordings come out. I usually use amp sims in Garageband, and it takes a lot of tweaking of the settings, plus some compression and reverb to get it sounding realistic. I'm actually going to make the pilgrimage to Guitarsnjazz to check out an ar503 (among others).

    John
    Indeed. The patch I used is actually called “jazz bright”, I copied it from
    a YouTube video. It has an EQ pedal within the patch. I should probably have included a darker patch too.

    I just got a 6 band EQ pedal for my DRRI and bumping the low mids and cutting highs makes for a warmer tone. Should possibly look at a compressor too. Digital/ solid state could be the way to go for jazz though, rather than a scooped blackface style amp.

  23. #22

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    OK, so I finally got to try one of these out (two, actually). I am unclear as to whether this is something I want. It's definitely not as bright sounding as most of the youtube demos make it seem. But it does have this strong (for lack of a better term) "nasal" resonant peak that reminds me of a floater or a flattop with a sound hole pickup. That complements the way some people play, but I don't know that I'm one of those people.

    It's also not as loud unplugged as I expected given what people say about it.
    My Godin Kingpin is as loud and "acoustic" sounding (maybe more so). Overall, I'd say it's prettier and more nicely made than my Godin, but the Godin sounds better to me.

    I was really hoping this would blow my Godin away, because there are some things about it I'm not in Iove with (lack of cutaway, neck shape, cheap fit and finish) and I do want something else. But this probably ain't it. I guess I'm a "thunk" guy after all.

    I also tried a Peerless Gigmaster and a Cremona. Gigmaster was OK (better sounding than the ar503 to my tastes), but had some buzzes.3 Cremona struck me as similar sounding to the ar503. But neither left me drooling.

    Back to the drawing board, I guess.

    John
    Last edited by John A.; 11-30-2020 at 06:14 PM.

  24. #23

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    John,
    I understand that Eastman 503 sound is not to your liking. It is very personal and nobody can argue.
    But I'm quite surprised you state that it's not as loud as your Godin. Something must be wrong with this particular Eastman.
    Was it a new one ?
    Do you know which strings were on it ?
    How was the set-up ?
    Your description of the guitar doesn't depict mine
    But once again, it's your $ and you decide :-)

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by 339 in june
    John,
    I understand that Eastman 503 sound is not to your liking. It is very personal and nobody can argue.
    But I'm quite surprised you state that it's not as loud as your Godin. Something must be wrong with this particular Eastman.
    Was it a new one ?
    Do you know which strings were on it ?
    How was the set-up ?
    Your description of the guitar doesn't depict mine
    But once again, it's your $ and you decide :-)
    I actually played two of them, both new with roundwounds (I'd guess 12's). The setup was fine (I didn't measure, but it was definitely high enough for the strings to ring out). I didn't have the Godin with me, so maybe I'm wrong, but it did not strike me as crazy loud for an archtop electric with a set pickup. And the Godin is exceptionally loud for a plywood guitar.

    Anyway, none of this is meant as a knock on the ar503. I can see its appeal, and it's a beautifully made instrument.

    John
    Last edited by John A.; 11-30-2020 at 05:50 PM.

  26. #25

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    I think you’re right about the slightly nasal resonant peak, as that’s how I’d describe it through my DRRI. However I’m increasingly thinking mine has a dud tone pot. It’s either on or it’s off (off being around 2-3) with very little effect on tone until you hit that point. I’m probably going to upgrade the pots and maybe consider a new pickup, as I’m not sure the Seth Lover complements this guitar.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Humbuckr
    I think you’re right about the slightly nasal resonant peak, as that’s how I’d describe it through my DRRI. However I’m increasingly thinking mine has a dud tone pot. It’s either on or it’s off (off being around 2-3) with very little effect on tone until you hit that point. I’m probably going to upgrade the pots and maybe consider a new pickup, as I’m not sure the Seth Lover complements this guitar.
    One I played today had a chrome pickup cover, the other had a gold one. I think the former is the duncan and the latter is a Kent Armstrong. The chrome one might have been a hair brighter and more detailed, but it was at the edge of detectible, and the two definitely sounded like the same guitar.

    John

  28. #27

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    I retract my previous comment after further investigation and tinkering.

    Im now very close to the warm Wes tone on bumpin’ and neither volume or tone controls are rolled off (and I use a jazz 3 pick, not thumb).

    The key was switching to the “normal” input on my DRRI which has removed the shrill/nasal overtone I was hearing. It requires an outboard reverb pedal. I have amp treble and bass completely off. That’s a nice clear rhythm tone and with the MXR 6 band EQ engaged with a bump around 400K it gets into Wes lead territory. The other factor was adjusting the pickup height, now 3mm bass side, 2.5mm treble. Pretty warm on these settings. Trying to dial more treble out using guitar tone or more extreme EQ pedal settings makes it less natural and more farty..not worth it.

    Im glad because I was starting to question the purchase. It’s a very sensitive guitar to setup and amp but worth spending time with. No way this could be achieved sitting in a shop. I think I’ll prefer it even more at the next string change (planning to switch from TI bepops to swings).

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Humbuckr
    I retract my previous comment after further investigation and tinkering.

    Im now very close to the warm Wes tone on bumpin’ and neither volume or tone controls are rolled off (and I use a jazz 3 pick, not thumb).

    The key was switching to the “normal” input on my DRRI which has removed the shrill/nasal overtone I was hearing. It requires an outboard reverb pedal. I have amp treble and bass completely off. That’s a nice clear rhythm tone and with the MXR 6 band EQ engaged with a bump around 400K it gets into Wes lead territory. The other factor was adjusting the pickup height, now 3mm bass side, 2.5mm treble. Pretty warm on these settings. Trying to dial more treble out using guitar tone or more extreme EQ pedal settings makes it less natural and more farty..not worth it.

    Im glad because I was starting to question the purchase. It’s a very sensitive guitar to setup and amp but worth spending time with. No way this could be achieved sitting in a shop. I think I’ll prefer it even more at the next string change (planning to switch from TI bepops to swings).
    Good to know.

    John

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Humbuckr
    I retract my previous comment after further investigation and tinkering.

    Im now very close to the warm Wes tone on bumpin’ and neither volume or tone controls are rolled off (and I use a jazz 3 pick, not thumb).

    The key was switching to the “normal” input on my DRRI which has removed the shrill/nasal overtone I was hearing. It requires an outboard reverb pedal. I have amp treble and bass completely off. That’s a nice clear rhythm tone and with the MXR 6 band EQ engaged with a bump around 400K it gets into Wes lead territory. The other factor was adjusting the pickup height, now 3mm bass side, 2.5mm treble. Pretty warm on these settings. Trying to dial more treble out using guitar tone or more extreme EQ pedal settings makes it less natural and more farty..not worth it.

    Im glad because I was starting to question the purchase. It’s a very sensitive guitar to setup and amp but worth spending time with. No way this could be achieved sitting in a shop. I think I’ll prefer it even more at the next string change (planning to switch from TI bepops to swings).
    Unless you need the bright tone for use with other guitars, you might simply want to clip the bright cap in your DR - a very popular mod, as a lot of people dislike what it does...

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by RomanS
    Unless you need the bright tone for use with other guitars, you might simply want to clip the bright cap in your DR - a very popular mod, as a lot of people dislike what it does...
    My understanding is that the normal channel doesn't have a bright cap- probably why I prefer it for jazz with this guitar.

    Jazz tones are a funny thing. Ive been listening to a lot of my favourite Wes/ Kenny Burrell/ Grant Green tunes recently and the tones are pretty bright in many cases, often varying from song to song and album to album. I think I'm close to what I want with the EQ pedal and normal channel now. End of the day its (unfortunately) not a vintage L5 and never will be!!

  32. #31

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    Exactly!
    That's why I meant that you should clip the bright cap on the other channel - that way it would sound more like the normal channel, but you could use the reverb...

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by Humbuckr
    My understanding is that the normal channel doesn't have a bright cap- probably why I prefer it for jazz with this guitar.

    Jazz tones are a funny thing. Ive been listening to a lot of my favourite Wes/ Kenny Burrell/ Grant Green tunes recently and the tones are pretty bright in many cases, often varying from song to song and album to album. I think I'm close to what I want with the EQ pedal and normal channel now. End of the day its (unfortunately) not a vintage L5 and never will be!!
    I think once Burrell settled down with Super 400s and Twin Reverbs in the late 60s, his tone got a lot more consistent, but in his earlier days of switching between different single-coil and CC equipped guitars, his tone varied a lot and was pretty bright. But Wes and Grant, yup, often quite bright. People talk about Grant always turning the mids all the way up and bass and treble all the way down on his amps, but it doesn't usually sound that way to me.

    John

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    I think once Burrell settled down with Super 400s and Twin Reverbs in the late 60s, his tone got a lot more consistent, but in his earlier days of switching between different single-coil and CC equipped guitars, his tone varied a lot and was pretty bright. But Wes and Grant, yup, often quite bright. People talk about Grant always turning the mids all the way up and bass and treble all the way down on his amps, but it doesn't usually sound that way to me.

    John
    Indeed, I do wonder if Wes’ rig was actually super bright just tamed with that thumb. I suspect regular humans playing through the same rig with a pick would sound very different to him!

  35. #34

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    IMHO the L5 does tend to the bright side (mine sure does) so you may be right about the Wes sound being thumb-tamed. He did use pretty heavy flats, IIRC 15 on top. And often a Twin, which can be an ice pick.

  36. #35

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    Does anyone know the neck depth specs for the 503? Can't find specs at Eastman or anywhere else.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by HighSnows
    Does anyone know the neck depth specs for the 503? Can't find specs at Eastman or anywhere else.

    I just measured one that I have. I measured at the 5th fret fret maker. From the neck to the top of the fret board I measured 23 mm. Measured with a rule. I do not have calipers here. If this measurement is critical for you, I would have some one measure the guitar you plan to buy. They are hand made and I have in the past seen considerable variation from one guitar to the next for same model built in the same model year.

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by HighSnows
    Does anyone know the neck depth specs for the 503? Can't find specs at Eastman or anywhere else.
    Don't have callipers to measure mine but I can tell you its an exceptionally comfortable neck profile. I like the width afforded by the 1 3/4 nut and that adds to the feel too. I have a 58 reissue Les Paul with a pretty chunky neck- the Eastman is less deep but feels slightly wider. The Eastman is slightly deeper than my 61 start at the 1st fret but stays more even with less taper at the 12th.

    Ive taken the Seth Lover out of mine and put in a custom made Sunbear 59 PAF (a relatively new UK pickup winder). It has an A3 magnet, 7.5K and brass baseplate. It has rounded off the highs but maintained clarity and stays cleaner until a higher notch on the volume pot of my DRRI. I've fiddled around a lot with pickup and string height too, a very sensitive guitar to setup.

    With regards to earlier chat about amp settings, I don't think I was initially getting the best out of this guitar on the normal channel and treble/ bass rolled off. It could be the new pickup but I'm now finding it best on the reverb channel (bright cap unclipped) with volume 5-6, bass and treble 5-6 and guitar volume rolled off to round 5-6 (easy to remember!).

    It's my first arch top and really a completely different animal to what I'm used to but I think I'm getting close to some nice recorded arch top tones...think Kenny Burrel on the Sunup to Sundown album (with the bass and mids pushed a bit).