Eastman E20OOSS/V and E20SS/V review

Vintage-style acoustic guitars for the 21st century at a price that reference the classics but have a vibe all of their own

  • £1949
  • $1869
Eastman E20OOSS/V and E20SS/V
(Image: © Future / Phil Barker)

MusicRadar Verdict

They might not be cheap per se but when weighed up against the vintage market and other boutique alternatives this Eastman pairing is a seriously impressive pair that are steeped in that pre-war vibe.

Pros

  • +

    Superb build and wonderful antique finish.

  • +

    Sweet sounds with power.

  • +

    Nails the aesthetic.

  • +

    Versatile and playable.

Cons

  • -

    No onboard pickup/preamp.

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Eastman E20OOSS/V and E20SS/V: What is it?

There’s no getting around the fact that the vintage guitar market is overheated. There are too few instruments and too many players wanting their hands on them. The prices are challenging for first-time buyers. But even so, a convincing case can be made for splurging on a vintage acoustic guitar

Of all those instruments worn by time’s hand, the years are most kind to the acoustic, the bodies drying out, accruing a magic shimmer, EQ’d by the calendar’s remorseless advance. 

Today’s manufacturers recognise this and have developed a range of techniques to artificially age their instruments. And so, when we are presented with high-end acoustic guitars such as Eastman’s E20OOSS/V and E20SS/V, there is a moment’s pause as the illusion of pre-war luthiery is sustained.

Eastman E20SS/V

(Image credit: Future)

In its three decades, Eastman has built a reputation for its high-quality range of acoustic and electric guitars inspired by classic designs, and these two are no different. Here the inspiration is once again Gibson, and sometime back in the dim and distant past, the ‘30s, early ‘40s.

The slope-shouldered profile of the E20SS/V calls to mind the J-45, a guitar with big lungs and plenty of songs in it, while the more compact E20OOSS/V has an L-00 vibe. The sort of guitar that, even before you pick it up, suspects that a capo at the 2nd fret would bring forth an almost ethereal fingerstyle experience. More of which in due course.

Eastman E20OOSS/V

(Image credit: Future)

The antique violin finish is sumptuous, barely dressing the Adirondack spruce top. The deep brown burst of the finish is complemented by an ivoroid herringbone trim that suggests a little nod to Martin but, if there is naturally a derivative bent to Eastman designs, it has augmented the menu just enough on these to make them feel more of an era than of a brand, with the slotted headstock of the E20OOSS/V adding a bit of vibe to what is a classy build. 

There’s some relic’ing going on here, too. It is subtly done, up on the upper bout where a player’s strumming arm would be causing friction, and it gives these guitars a lived-in quality without trying too hard. Eastman’s choice of pickguard – a tiger-stripe ‘Firestripe’ number – is sound.

Eastman E20OOSS/V

A slotted headstock adds to the vintage chic of Eastman’s smaller-bodied OO acoustic (Image credit: Future)

The Adirondack top is complemented by rosewood on the back and sides. The necks are mahogany, topped with 12” radius ebony fingerboards that are inlaid with unfilled Peal Diamond inlays that put some more distance between these designs and the classics. 

The bridge and saddle are ebony and bone. Scale-wise, these are a Gibson-esque 24.75”, and both guitars are fitted with a 43mm bone nut and a set of open-gear PingWell V93N tuning machines completing the look.

Eastman E20OOSS/V and E20SS/V: Performance and verdict

Eastman E20OOSS/V

(Image credit: Future)

There are many elements to guitar design but sometimes it is the fundamentals that make all the difference, as they do here with the Adirondack spruce and rosewood tonewood combination. They make for a voice that is loud and proud. The E20OOSS/V responds to open chords with a noise belying its compact frame; the E20SS/V sounds huge. 

And yet, this volume does not arrive at the expense of clarity and detail, and the shimmering sweetness you need to make your melodies pop. Both of these guitars give the players an option as to what they can play. The E20OOSS/V looks like a blues guitar and can play like one too but it’ll take a capo and an alternate tuning and reward the fingerpicker.

Also consider

Atkin the Forty Three

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Atkin The Forty Three
The Forty Three nails that wartime acoustic vibe and presents a worthy alternative to the J-45 if you are looking for a round-shouldered dread with attitude.

Epiphone Slash Collection J-45
You needn't be a GNR fan to appreciate the charms of Slash's signature J-45. It offers a superb, all-solid build for under a grand and looks the bee's knees. 

Something similar is going on with the E20SS/V, which has the volume, but also the complexity to add an organic quality to your fingerpicking, as sounds as though parched wood is responding to your attack.

The necks on both are described as a ‘Traditional Even C’ and that means they fill the palm nicely, offering support, but without feeling like you’re wrestling wood to fret a chord. It goes without saying the finishes are exemplary. 

It is a balancing act to give a guitar a lived-in feel without calling attention to it but Eastman’s approach with the antique violin finish does exactly that, creating the impression that these are premium instruments from a bygone era that have been loved over the years.

Eastman E20OOSS/V

Adirondack spruce is the top wood on both models, delivering a lively set of dynamics (Image credit: Future)

They’re not, however. They are premium instruments from this era, both of which offer old-wold acoustic tones and a super-comfortable playing experience, and a sound that could pair nicely across many styles.

The vogue is very much for compact acoustic guitars, and on that score, there is something extra charming about the E20OOSS/V – particularly when it has such oomph too – but then there will be those occasions where you just want the slope-shouldered dread to take it on home. The only difficulty is choosing between them.

MusicRadar verdict: They might not be cheap per se but when weighed up against the vintage market and other boutique alternatives this Eastman pairing is a seriously impressive pair that are steeped in that pre-war vibe.

Eastman E20OOSS/V and E20SS/V: The web says

“The L-00 has an association with the blues, of course, and the Eastman delivers heaps of Delta mojo like a true pro. The rosewood back and sides were an inspiration on Eastman’s behalf, too, as they add a helping of bass response where it counts while the trebles sing loud, sweet and clear.

“Of the two guitars on review, the E20SS/v is the real eye-opener. If we thought its little brother packed a punch volume- wise, then the dread really is something outstanding. It roars – but in a good way.”
Guitarist (opens in new tab)

Eastman E20OOSS/V and E20SS/V: Hands-on demos

Peach Guitars

Acoustic Guitar Magazine

Acoustic Letter

Eastman E20OOSS/V and E20SS/V: Specifications

E20OOSS/V specs

Eastman E20OOSS/V

(Image credit: Future)
  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: 00 Size
  • TOP: Adirondack spruce 
  • BACK/SIDES: Rosewood 
  • MAX RIM DEPTH: 101mm 
  • MAX BODY WIDTH: 375mm 
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE LENGTH: 628mm (24.75”) 
  • TUNERS: Open-gear PingWell V93N 
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43mm 
  • FINGERBOARD: Ebony
  • FRETS: 20 Jescar-FW43080 
  • BRIDGE/SPACING: Ebony/55mm 
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.81/4 
  • OPTIONS: None
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No 
  • FINISH: Antique violin

E20SS/V 

Eastman E20SS/V

(Image credit: Future)
  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: Dreadnought
  • TOP: Adirondack spruce 
  • BACK/SIDES: Rosewood 
  • MAX RIM DEPTH: 114mm 
  • MAX BODY WIDTH: 406mm 
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE LENGTH: 628mm (24.75”) 
  • TUNERS: Open-gear PingWell V93N 
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43mm 
  • FINGERBOARD: Ebony
  • FRETS: 20 Jescar-FW43080 
  • BRIDGE/SPACING: Ebony/55mm 
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.99/4.4 
  • OPTIONS: None
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No
  • FINISH: Antique violin
  • CONTACT: Eastman Guitars (opens in new tab)

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