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  1. #1

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    The Romeo is the newest semi-hollow body guitar in the Eastman line. It was announced at NAMM 2019. Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive from magazine writers, bloggers, vloggers, and retailers. And yet, not much has been written from the point of view of a jazz guitar player. So, I decided to share my my experiences here on the Jazz Guitar Forum, which has been a big part in my personal journey. For the record, I am a hobbyist. When I attend jazz camps, I am typically placed with the intermediate combos.

    I have no commercial relationship with Eastman Guitars. But I have a strong appreciation for them. I have owned five Eastmans since 2015 and have thinned the flock to three. In addition to the Romeo, I have an AR371 with a Creamery Charlie Christian pick-up; and a stock T386, which came out of the box dead-perfect. I also own the Gibsons to which these Eastmans are so often compared: the ES-175, and the ES-335.

    I bought the Eastmans thinking they would be lower cost, reasonable facsimiles I can jam, gig, and travel with, not worrying too much about damaging them as I would with the Gibsons. As it turns out, the Eastmans get most of the playing time in the house as well, due in equal parts to their craftsmanship and visual appeal, their exceptionally light weight and tone.

    It’s because I think so highly of this guitar, and the fact that it is in such limited supply, that I am taking time away from practice and playing to share my thoughts with jazz guitar players who may be contemplating a purchase but have hesitated because they haven’t heard from a jazz guitarist who has played one extensively.

    There is something about the Romeo’s design that captured my attention from the start. It is reminiscent of guitar designs of the mid-twentieth century. In an interview with Guitar World, D’Ambrosio described his design inspiration this way: What would the Telecaster of the archtop guitar world look and sound like? And how do we create a unique electric guitar that honors Eastmans carved body archtop roots?”

    The upper bout and horn design is similar to the Telecaster. Yet there is definitely a ES 335 semi-hollowbody look and feel to it. Unlike the 335, there is no center block. Instead, Eastman has tapered the solid, spruce top from 3/4” near the pick-ups, to 3/16” in the surrounding areas. Aside from a mahogany block under the bridge and tailpiece, it is fully hollow. And it’s thin (1.75”), very light (about 5 pounds), and perfectly balanced. The F holes are farther back too, beginning just in front of the bridge pick-up, giving the guitar a modern look.

    Compared to my AR371 and T386, it is a smallish guitar: 14.75” at the lower bout - compared the 16” T386. The neck joins the body at the 18th fret on the treble side, and the 16th on the bass side. The result is that the guitar feels perfectly positioned on my knee. With my arm straight at my side, my hand is positioned between the 5th and 8th fret. The one-piece maple neck has a C profile, and the nut width measures 1-11/16 inches, 1/16th-inch narrower than the T386. The ebony fretboard is unbound, slightly rolled and polished. The frets are medium, and I strung it with 11-47 TI Jazz Swing fiats.

    When Eastman introduced the Romeo, the company outfitted the line with Lollar Custom Wound Imperials. When I was in the market for one in the fall of 2020, I found that the majority were shipping with Bare Knuckle pick-ups (UK). I was told supplies from Lollar had dwindled as a result of the pandemic. The dealer I worked with confirmed that Eastman had selected the Bare Knuckle Stormy Monday model, which for me as a jazz player, delivers precisely the tone I try to get from my guitars: full, warm lows, scooped middle, sweet and mellow highs. And, I don’t have to roll-off the tone control to get the warmth.

    It’s the only guitar I own that’s wired with just one volume control and two tone controls - one dedicated to each pick-up. Initially, I thought to have it re-wired; I rarely if ever turn on the bridge pick-up; I use the selector as an on/off switch. But it’s nice to have the bridge pick-up dialed-in to add some additional clarity to the highs in the mix.

    Though its body is quite thin, its acoustic capabilities are a surprise. It doesn’t compare to the AR371, but it projects enough volume to play unplugged, which I prefer to do mornings when the house is quiet. Through my amp (a Quilter Micropro-8) the sound is is full and dark but clear. And it’s extremely versatile. My repertoire consists of popular tunes from across the decades. It handles it all.

    The Romeo has become my favorite guitar. I still enjoy playing all of them, but in many ways, they represent my journey as I strived to achieve the sound of another artist, from another time. The Romeo is the first guitar that I’ve owned in 10 years of playing jazz that is a reflection of my style and sound, which I am just beginning to discover.

    Below: The Three Amigos: AR371, T386, Romeo
    My experience with the Eastman Romeo-3-amigos-jpg
    Last edited by 3rdwaverider; 04-26-2021 at 09:32 AM.

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  3. #2

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    Good deal it's working for you, finding a sweet keeper is more of a journey than destination for many.

    I have one "no buy, take it off the radar screen" features, and the Romeo has it... controls forward of the bridge and one waaayyy to the rear. Well actually two, the second is no pick guard but that could be remedied while the control issue cannot.

  4. #3

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    I have the Romeo too and I also like it a lot. I have the Lollars, but I've heard good stories about the BK as well.
    The neck might have been a little bit less chunky for me, but the Romeo could easily be my only guitar if needed.

  5. #4

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    Thank you for such a thoughtful overview. Any chance of some pictures?

  6. #5

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    Please describe Chunky neck in terms of 1959 Gibson, or thinner like a 1960 Gibson profile? Thanks!

  7. #6

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    oh come on guys, I want to see some nice pictures of your Romeo's in a thread like this!


  8. #7

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    Thanks for the write up. I really liked the design when I first saw it and I'm glad to hear that it's working out so well for people actually using it in the real world.

  9. #8

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    I know these things are hard to describe but I'm curious about how it compares to Eastman's deeper body carved archtops. I hope they are carved thicker so the design is not just comfort vs tone trade off but a different concept all together.

    In some ways they are similar to ES 330's except they are carved instead of maple laminate. I also wonder how that affects the tone.

  10. #9

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    They have a little block under the bridge, am I right? Does the top have any additional bracing?

  11. #10

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    I wonder if they'll come out with a more slender version called "Juliet."

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    Please describe Chunky neck in terms of 1959 Gibson, or thinner like a 1960 Gibson profile? Thanks!
    I'm not really familiar with these profiles, but it's not 'chunky chunky'. I mean, I'm used to slim necks, like the PM100 and my thinline Tele. Compared to that, it's a little chunkier. I played an ES165 from 2001 a while ago and it's pretty comparable to that guitar.

  13. #12

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    My experience with the Eastman Romeo-img_6064-jpgMy experience with the Eastman Romeo-img_6065-jpgMy experience with the Eastman Romeo-img_6066-jpg

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    I wonder if they'll come out with a more slender version called "Juliet."
    Juliet is the tracker feature, when enabled it starts by chiming, "Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?"

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Jay
    They have a little block under the bridge, am I right? Does the top have any additional bracing?
    Yes, there's a small block.
    It looks like there is parallel bracing under the top.

  16. #15

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    I'm curious about this Romeo. Hadn't known much about Eastman, til getting a T64/V last year. Which continues to impress. Very resonant body, Lollar P90s, and the inspired touch, an ebony fingerboard. I've been wondering how the T64/V would sound with humbuckers. The Romeo is not quite the same, but could provide an answer.

  17. #16

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    I've had a Romeo since sometime last spring. Haven't been able to gig it out yet because of course no gigs.

    I picked it up from a local store as my experience with buying Eastman's online is somewhat spotty. The main thing I was looking for was dead spots on the neck and it doesn't have any. The neck is pretty fat, no taper as far as I can tell. Kinda like a slightly smaller boatneck. It's a bit thinner than the neck on my Fender BP Tele, if that helps any. Consistent C shape -- no hint of a V or U. It's one of my favorite neck shapes out of the many guitars I have in current rotation.

    The first thing I did was replace the neck pickup with a Fralin p92 as I don't like regular neck humbuckers. The Lollars it came with are actually great, but I always go for a much brighter, stringier tone and the Fralin just hits it right in the bullseye for me. I also replaced the pots with fast turning ones -- from Fralin again -- and use Tele knobs, cause I like to roll the controls with my pinky like a Tele. (I would not recommend trying to replace the pots yourself, as I borked it up pretty bad and had to take it into the shop and they had to redo it several times themselves to get it working. Weird wiring harness.)

    When I had the neck pickup out, the top seems to be full depth, i.e. like the body blank was left flat on the bottom and carved down from the top or some such. I didn't notice any braces, but then I wasn't looking for them either. There is a block under the bridge connecting the top to the back which gives it pretty much the same amount of sustain as a semi-hollow, though with much more of a hollow body tone to the note.

    The physical feel of it is like a 330 or Casino, the neck is set deep into the body which gives it a super compact feel.

    It's my favorite electric guitar and so close to perfect it makes me weep. If only it had a 25 1/2" scale and were maybe one more fret out of the body so it actually had the feel of a Tele as archtop, it'd be perfect.

    I just picked up a Sadowsky Semi-hollow about 1 week ago and replaced the neck pup with my favored p92. The sonic difference between the 2 guitars is stunning. The Romeo has air and wood and life in it's tone, whereas the Sadowsky is much more solid toned, less lively but still great. Completely different feels of course. The difference in feedback resistance between the 2 is actually not that much. Playing through a 5e3 and a fairly extensive pedal board, only when I use gain at stupid levels -- Skreddy P13 muff style fuzz -- does the Romeo start howling. The Sadowsky handles it better, but not quite as well as a my Guild Bluesbird.

    Both are extremely flexible and could be played in many different contexts, but for my tastes, the Romeo does swing and small combo jazz better, whereas the Sadowsky does fusion/blues/rock better. Go figger.

  18. #17

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    Great reviews and photos!

    Is the Romeo closer to fully hollow archtop guitars rather than semi-hollow ones, soundwise? I'm very curious about this model but no store carries it here locally, so there's no chance for me to try it in person. I once owned a Eastman T184mx, which was kinda like Romeo except a bit smaller (14 inches) and it was a solid carved model. It was quite resonant but I did not love its sound... maybe it was due to the pickups (SD 59). I'm wondering if Romeo has more woodiness in the tone and feels more like a jazz guitar.

    Also, do any Romeo owners here have any video of themselves playing it in jazz context?

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCjazz
    Great reviews and photos!

    Is the Romeo closer to fully hollow archtop guitars rather than semi-hollow ones, soundwise? I'm very curious about this model but no store carries it here locally, so there's no chance for me to try it in person. I once owned a Eastman T184mx, which was kinda like Romeo except a bit smaller (14 inches) and it was a solid carved model. It was quite resonant but I did not love its sound... maybe it was due to the pickups (SD 59). I'm wondering if Romeo has more woodiness in the tone and feels more like a jazz guitar.

    Also, do any Romeo owners here have any video of themselves playing it in jazz context?

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCjazz
    Great reviews and photos!

    Is the Romeo closer to fully hollow archtop guitars rather than semi-hollow ones, soundwise? ... I'm wondering if Romeo has more woodiness in the tone and feels more like a jazz guitar.
    I haven't found a semi-hollow that can replicate the sound of a hollow body arch top.

    I would describe the tones I get from my Romeo through a Quilter amp as warm and dark when comping using chords with sixth and fifth strings bass notes. Comping using the upper four strings produces sweet tones, not too bright, though I could easily dial that in with the tone knob, or by mixing in the bridge pick-up. Playing melodies and improvised solos is delightful. I am able to get tones that range from Pat Martino to Grant Green, if that helps.

    The fact that you didn't like the tone of your Eastman semi-hollow is a concern. You should play the Romeo before you buy. I suggest that you order one from a dealer that will allow you to return it within a reasonable period of time. I see you are in Switzerland. I don't know if it would be practical, but there is an Eastman dealer in Germany advertising a Romeo on Reverb that states they have a 14-day return window. Here's a link: Eastman Romeo 2021 Goldburst | Liberty Music - Ernst | Reverb

    Best of luck to you in the hunt!
    Last edited by 3rdwaverider; 04-29-2021 at 11:59 PM.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by 3rdwaverider
    I haven't found a semi-hollow that can replicate the sound of a hollow body arch top.

    I would describe the tones I get from my Romeo through a Quilter amp as warm and dark when comping using chords with sixth and fifth strings bass notes. Comping using the upper four strings produces sweet tones, not too bright, though I could easily dial that in with the tone knob, or by mixing in the bridge pick-up. Playing melodies and improvised solos is delightful. I am able to get tones that range from Pat Martino to Grant Green, if that helps.

    The fact that you didn't like the tone of your Eastman semi-hollow is a concern. You should play the Romeo before you buy. I suggest that you order one from a dealer that will allow you to return it within a reasonable period of time. I see you are in Switzerland. I don't know if it would be practical, but there is an Eastman dealer in Germany advertising a Romeo on Reverb that states they have a 14-day return window. Here's a link: Eastman Romeo 2021 Goldburst | Liberty Music - Ernst | Reverb

    Best of luck to you in the hunt!
    Thank you very much for your reply and advice! I already have three wonderful guitars (including two Eastmans and a Sadowsky archtop) and this is more than enough, although I know that this is nothing compared to some people's collections But the Romeo really intrigues me...

    I do prefer trying a guitar before buying it, it's always the best. Unfortunately the guitar market seems to be quite small in Switzerland (I used to live in Holland before). I'm aware of the stock at Liberty Music and I've been contemplating but I'm just not sure how easy it'd be to return it or resell it here in case it's not for me. Another concern is the neck - I hear that it's on the thicker side and I've got very small hands. I guess I'll have to be patient and wait until the pandemic is over and I can travel freely to Holland or Germany again.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCjazz
    Thank you very much for your reply and advice! I already have three wonderful guitars (including two Eastmans and a Sadowsky archtop) and this is more than enough, although I know that this is nothing compared to some people's collections But the Romeo really intrigues me...

    I do prefer trying a guitar before buying it, it's always the best. Unfortunately the guitar market seems to be quite small in Switzerland (I used to live in Holland before). I'm aware of the stock at Liberty Music and I've been contemplating but I'm just not sure how easy it'd be to return it or resell it here in case it's not for me. Another concern is the neck - I hear that it's on the thicker side and I've got very small hands. I guess I'll have to be patient and wait until the pandemic is over and I can travel freely to Holland or Germany again.
    I think you must be Jieun Choi...

    You're welcome to visit me over here in The Netherlands if you can't find a shop that has the Romeo in stock.
    I have a T64 too and the neck on the Romeo is considerably chunkier. I have long (but slim) fingers and I have no trouble with it. The T64 has more thunk, less sustain and is more prone to feedback.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeontheguitar
    I think you must be Jieun Choi...

    You're welcome to visit me over here in The Netherlands if you can't find a shop that has the Romeo in stock.
    I have a T64 too and the neck on the Romeo is considerably chunkier. I have long (but slim) fingers and I have no trouble with it. The T64 has more thunk, less sustain and is more prone to feedback.
    And you must be.... Joeri, right? Thanks for the offer! I haven't been able to visit Holland at all since Covid19 Hopefully all this will be over soon!

    Your Romeo looks great. But the neck... that might be a deal breaker for me. I'd still love to try one in the future.

  24. #23

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    Yes, I am.
    You'll just have to try it. Necks are very personal. Compared to a classical guitar, it's still very slim and maybe you really like the C profile. The T64 is really slim, comparable to my PM100.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeontheguitar
    Yes, I am.
    You'll just have to try it. Necks are very personal. Compared to a classical guitar, it's still very slim and maybe you really like the C profile. The T64 is really slim, comparable to my PM100.
    Yeah, luckily my T64/v's neck works very well for me. I think this is the guitar (perhaps the only one) I can say I'm very much in "love" with. I predict it will probably stay with me for a long time. It's not a perfect instrument, but it has some kind of magic to it. It's special. Maybe it's the P90 pickups....? I don't know. I tried a couple of Gibson es 330 VOS versions and to be honest I wasn't that impressed by them. This Eastman spoke to me right away.
    (Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to try a vintage es 330 yet. Wouldn't mind owning one, but the price tag....)

    Eastman guitars are awesome.

  26. #25

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    Hey Jieun, jij ook hier! My experience with the Eastman Romeo

    Eastman guitars indeed have something special. Played both the Romeo and the T64 umamplified next to eachother in the local music store last summer and really liked them. The Romeo has a nice compact feel to it and somehow felt a little bit like a hollow telecaster but with a Gibson neck next to to the T64. Both had great playability.

    If it wasn’t for the fact that I was already building my own ES-330 clone at that time I might have ended up buying either the one or the other!

    Grtz, Jasper