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Eastman Romeo LA review

A hot-rodded relative for an Eastman semi-hollow favourite that's got tones to burn and movie star looks

  • £1499
  • $1399
Eastman Romeo LA
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Our Verdict

An Eastman original reimagined with a bold finish and tones to match. The Romeo LA's Saturday night aesthetic might just make it the pick of the litter.

Pros

  • A versatile semi with some fantastic pickups.
  • Comfortable and playable.
  • Quality build and finish.

Cons

  • Well, you only have one finish option.

Eastman Romeo LA : What is it?

Everyone knows the Eastman Romeo, that lightweight and super-playable archtop with the sweet pickups, great tone and attractive price. To know the Romeo was to be swept off your feet. But wait – there’s another Romeo in the Eastman electric guitar family and it must just be even more charming.

The Romeo LA is like the original Eastman Romeo on Spring Break, dolled up in Celestine Blue disco finish, outfitted with Göldo vibrato and 3-Point-Vario ‘tunamatic’ bridge for wiggle-stick wobble, and the pièce de résistance – a pair of Seymour Duncan Radiator Phat Cat P-90 pickups.

Is this the archtop of the year? Maybe, maybe of any other year. At least, that’s what our eyes are telling us, and we like the sounds of that spec.

The Radiator Phat Cat P-90s are something to look at, a high-water mark for pickup aesthetics, up there with Duesenberg’s Phonico humbuckers and humbucker-sized P-90s for first place in MusicRadar’s ‘Electric Guitar Pickups We’d Exhibit In The Louvre’ category. That gold under the nickel? It's a total Louis XIV move from Seymour Duncan.

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Eastman Romeo LA

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
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Eastman Romeo LA

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

But let’s dig a little deeper; what makes the Romeo LA such a different fish? Well, it’s cheaper! Here we have a laminated spruce top with laminated mahogany on the back and sides. It has a very dark ebony fingerboard with pearl dot inlays. The neck is glued to the body and fashioned into what Eastman calls a ‘traditional even C’ profile. More on that in a bit.

The Göldo vibrato is complemented by Göldo locking tuners. In terms of scale and dimensions, the Romeo LA has a conventional Gibson-esque 24.75” scale and 12” fingerboard radius. At 6.2 lbs, it’s also a very attractive proposition for the lower back as well as the eyes.

Eastman Romeo LA

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Eastman Romeo LA : Performance and verdict

The Romeo LA wasn’t conceived as some show pony. The original idea that animated designer Otto D’Ambrosio’s imagination was to make an archtop that was comfortable, and comfort is the watchword here. Measuring 14.75” across its lower bouts, with a 1.75” rim depth, the Romeo LA is a touch more petite than an ES-335, enough that you will feel the difference.

The upper-fret access on semis like this is always compromised a little by the design but there’s a nice carve to the heel and everything here feels geared towards playability. 

Also consider...

Eastman Romeo

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Eastman Romeo
Lightweight and beautifully constructed, the Romeo is a dreamboat archtop of incredible playability with a pickup pairing that's hard to beat at any price.

Vox Bobcat V90
The V90's characterful drive and bright musical chime is addictive, and it is accessed via a very playable, very charming semi-hollow.

The neck is a Traditional C shape, 22.2mm at the 1st fret, 23.2 mm deep at the 12th. It fills the hand nicely, and with the rounded fingerboard edges, the tidy Jescar frets, the Romeo LA is a very tactile instrument.

The laminate build perhaps lends it a little more pop in the upper-registers, with the bridge pickup showing plenty of teeth and the neck position having a classically single-coil quality that could make an interesting alternative to a Stratocaster in a mix. 

The mix position is hum-cancelling and presents a sort of hybrid retro Americana sound that’s perfect for bright cleans and if you turn the bridge pickup’s tone control down a little that mix position will warm up nicely for some rockabilly and blues tones. Archtops always catch the eye of the jazz guitar player, and while the Romeo LA can hold its own in that company, it’s loud and bright enough to apply itself in a wide range of musical contexts – and maybe that Celestine Blue is a little bold for conservatoire jazz. 

Does it have the edge over the original Eastman Romeo? That’s a matter of taste and application. It certainly seems a little more exciting in terms of the design and is arguably more versatile, but that could be recency bias showing. The Romeo remains the original heartbreaker. But this, 500 bucks or so cheaper? That’s very tempting.

MusicRadar verdict:  An Eastman original reimagined with a bold finish and tones to match. The Romeo LA's Saturday night aesthetic might just make it the pick of the litter.

Eastman Romeo LA : The web says

"There’s going to be some serious sibling rivalry here. The original Romeo is a fine guitar, not least if you live in a jazzier, bluesier world. This LA version, however, not only slashes its price by around 25 per cent, it stretches out with a broader tonality that takes off from that first model and embraces pretty much anything you want, from rockabilly to much dirtier alt-rock, Americana and both old-style and more modern country."
Guitarist

"Although the Romeo LA took well to blues and even some jazz on the neck pickup, it really thrives in roots rock, contemporary-minded rockabilly, indie rock, and romping garage rock, where its gritty, raw, hot-rod nature is allowed to roar through naturally. As such, it’s a fun new offering amid an impressive Eastman lineup, and should find a home with plenty of adventurous players."
Guitar Player

Eastman Romeo LA : Hands-on demos

Guitarist

Eastman Romeo LA : Specifications

  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: Single-cutaway thinline semi-hollowbody
  • BODY: Spruce laminate top with mahogany laminate back and sides 
  • NECK: Maple, ‘traditional even C’ profile
  • SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”) 
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/44.65mm 
  • FINGERBOARD: Ebony, pearl dot inlays (with half circle pearl side markers), 305mm (12”) radius 
  • FRETS: 22, medium/jumbo (Jescar FW47104)
  • HARDWARE: Göldo vibrato (TLT2N), with Göldo 3-Point-Vario ‘tunamatic’ bridge (HW2GN) and Göldo rear-lock tuners (MGDBL33N)
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52mm 
  • ELECTRICS: 2x Seymour Duncan Radiator Phat Cat P-90 single coils, 3-way toggle pickup selector, individual pickup volume controls, tone control for bridge pickup only WEIGHT ˜kg/lb°: 2.82/6.2 
  • RANGE OPTIONS: Original Romeo (£1,999) features a solid spruce top and Lollar Custom Wound Imperial humbuckers; Romeo-SC (£1,950) swaps Lollar pickups for a Seymour Duncan Tele-style Vintage Stack at neck and full-size ’59 at bridge 
  • LEFT˛HANDERS: No
  • FINISH: Celestine Blue metallic (as reviewed) – Truetone gloss
  • CONTACT: Eastman Guitars