Review: Eastman T59/v-RD

Gibson might be ‘back’, but the competition aren’t resting on their laurels, either. Time to check out a thinline semi with a few ideas of its own.

Eastman T59/v-RD style shot angled

Eastman’s T59/v thinline semi has been around for a couple of years now, but Winter NAMM 2019 saw the company announce this updated version. Retaining the French-polished and aged patina pioneered in the company’s violin department, here the T59/v has gained a gorgeous Antique Red finish, a hand-made pickguard and a narrower headstock design.

At first glance, the T59/v is now even more classic in its appearance, but the changes aren’t all cosmetic: the more elegant slimline headstock has a much cleaner string path behind the nut than its predecessor, which is always good news for tuning stability. Meanwhile, the scratchplate certainly hasn’t been fished out of a parts bin – it’s hand-bound in grained ivoroid to match the body, neck and headstock.

Eastman T59/v-RD headstock
The headstock is slim, with a clear string path

Although the T59/v owes a great deal of inspiration to the ES-335, there are some important structural differences. Aside from the ebony fingerboard and headstock fascia, the neck is constructed from three pieces of maple with additional headstock ‘wings’. The maple laminate body features top and back sections with beautiful figuring on the centre-joined outer layers, while peering inside the soundhole reveals what appears to be a maple and mahogany centre-block, with a ‘window’ cutout to aid maintenance.

Eastman T59/v-RD fretboard

The neck is a nicely rounded ‘C’ profile that nods in the direction of the 59’s model name. Although the jack socket lives on the body edge and the bridge studs are screwed into bushings rather than directly into the body, for the most part, this guitar feels like ‘home’ for anyone familiar with old-style Gibson and Epiphone semis.

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Look closely and the T59/v lacks the laser-precision of some builders – there’s slight untidiness here around the neck join – but Eastman exhibits attention to detail where you really feel and hear it. The nibless fret-ends are nicely domed for player comfort and we’re able to take the guitar straight into a recording session without the need for so much as an action tweak.

In use

With much more maple than mahogany in the equation, not to mention the ebony ’board, you might expect the T59/v to possess a rather brash acoustic tonality, but the reality is more balanced. Notes have bags of sustain and sparkle with complex, shifting harmonics, while there’s an evenness across the strings as chords decay. Many great-sounding vintage ES-335s are a little banjo-like and underwhelming when played acoustically; this Eastman is not.

Plugged in is where it matters, of course, and like many unpotted humbuckers, the Seymour Duncan Antiquities do a fine job of translating the T59/v’s harmonic richness into the amplified world. These pickups are perhaps wound a little hotter than most 50s units, but you get three distinct tones that are very well balanced in terms of output. The individual voices also stack up very nicely in a band arrangement – a trait we often find in vintage instruments.

The bridge pickup can sometimes feel a touch undercooked in PAF replica sets, but here it has a pleasing blend of bite and power, while the middle setting is jangly and full of spank – a reminder that plenty of great funk records were made with semis rather than Strats. Just ask Leo Nocentelli. Meanwhile, the neck pickup is softer and smoother, but retains clarity and can still sting when you need it to. Great tones and every inch a pro tool.

Key Features

  • PRICE £1,679 (inc hard case)
  • DESCRIPTION Semi-hollow double-cutaway electric guitar. Made in China
  • BUILD Maple laminate top, back and sides with maple/mahogany centre block. Three-piece set maple neck with 12-inch radius ebony fingerboard and headstock fascia. Grained ivoroid body, neck and headstock binding. 22 medium-jumbo Jescar 47104 frets. Split parallelogram pearl inlays. Bone nut
  • HARDWARE Aged nickel Gotoh Relic series GE104B bridge with hard zinc saddles, GE101A aluminium tailpiece and SD90 1:15 ratio vintage-style tuners
  • ELECTRICS 2x Seymour Duncan Antiquity humbuckers, Switchcraft 3-way toggle switch, 500k audio-taper pots (2x volume, 2x tone)
  • SCALE LENGTH 24.75”/629mm
  • NECK WIDTH 42.3mm at nut, 51.5mm at 12th fret
  • NECK DEPTH 22.5mm at first fret, 24.6mm at 12th fret
  • STRING SPACING 36.9mm at nut, 51.9mm at bridge
  • WEIGHT 8lb/3.6kg
  • FINISH Antique Red
  • CONTACT eastmanguitars.com

Like this? Try these…

Gibson ES-335 Satin £1,999, Maybach Capitol ’59 Cherry Aged £2,660, Guild Starfire IV £980

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