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Eastman VB-95

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by sandboxer, Aug 10, 2012.

  1. sandboxer


    Jul 13, 2012
    Triad, NC
    Hoping to look at a hybrid Eastman VB-95 tomorrow. It's about 5 years old. Seller is asking $1500. It seems to be in perfect condition. Is this a deal or just average market price? I haven't found any pricing for used. Or, tell me an Eastman horror story, so I can slowly back away.
  2. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    I found $2695 for a new one on sale at FMI. So if the bass in question is in good shape and sounds good, $1500 is a great price for a quality hybrid, IMO. Make sure it is a 3/4. Have a pro check it out.
  3. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    I have a friend with a fully carved Eastman bass- it is a beautiful instrument that sounds amazing!!! :)
    It's also been completely trouble free- he LOVES it!

    I play with a guitarist who has two Eastman archtops guitars- loves 'em!

    I got to play an Eastman F body Mandolin at a trade show- it CRUSHED instruments that cost ten times more than it did...CRUSHED THEM!!!

    I have played an Eastman mando that was kinda "meh" at a local music store...maybe it needed a setup?

    My research shows the VB95 is a hybrid- plywood back and sides and a carved top. I don't know what they sell for new, but fifteen sounds like a great price to me- provided the bass is in good, solid shape and doesn't need any work.

    Do you play well enough to evaluate the bass? Got anyone who can ride shotgun?

    Please let us know how it goes! Good luck!!! :)

  4. sandboxer


    Jul 13, 2012
    Triad, NC
    This will be my first bass. I have very little experience behind one. Hopefully the owner can play, so I can hear the projection. I'll just have to trust my ear and my gut. Thanks! I thought this looked like a deal. To be continued...
  5. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    Good luck-

    Try to find someone to ride with you! Pay someone if you have to! Find someone who teaches and hire them!

    If you can't find anyone, here are a few things to look for:

    Check the seams- make sure that they are all sealed up- no gaps where they shouldn't be.

    Make sure the bridge feet fit the top perfectly! You should not be able to fit anything under the corners- a sloppy bridge fit means an el-cheap-o setup- fixable, but a bad sign. Make sure it's straight too.

    Listen for rattles and buzzes. Thump on the E string and listen!

    Look for wear on the fingerboard- like grooves created by the strings.

    Hopefully it comes with a soft case- if not pick one up ASAP! Bob Gollihur sells a really nice affordable bag.

    Bow? Too much to ask? Even a fiberglass job? :)

    Finally, get a teacher and take a few lessons. You'll see lots of folks say this here- it's sage advice because at best, it's a tough instrument, so it's easy to get discouraged, (a teacher can help) and at worst it is VERY easy to hurt yourself playing the DB if you do it wrong.

    Again, good luck!!!

  6. The Eastman brand enjoys a well-earned/deserved reputation for their stringed instruments . . . & while it's an apples to pears comparison, I know of several professional guitarists whose beloved Martins are gathering dust while they play their Eastmans ;)
  7. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    ...but in the DB world, I don't know of anyone who would leave a Martin aside for an Eastman. :)

    Yes, different Martin.
    Jake deVilliers likes this.
  8. sandboxer


    Jul 13, 2012
    Triad, NC
    SO!!! I bought the bass last night. Plays and sounds great. Not as loud as I would have liked, but very smooth and mellow. It was setup for bowing. I don't bow...yet. Turned out to be a VB90. No biggie for me, just not as pretty. One thing I thought weird: the "carved" top has a seam in it! It still sounded great (to my ears) and I'm just glad the search is over....for now. Thanks for all the advice....I checked everything very closely. The owner said it has been maintained every 6 months. Anyway....I'm happy.
  9. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    Congratulations on welcoming a new member to your family!!!

    Don't sweat the volume, or perceived lack thereof- first of all, it actually sounds louder away from you than it will to you. Secondly, as you gain technique you will learn to pull more sound out of the instrument, and thirdly..."louder" is what amplifiers are for! :D

    Don't sweat the seam either- Upright bass tops are almost always made out of several pieces of wood glued together. You may ask, "well, doesn't that make it a laminate?"

    The answer is no- what people refer to as a laminated top has thin veneers of wood sandwiched together- the sandwich is then pressed to take the curved shape that you see on a bass. A carved bass is different in that the curved shape is carved out of (or into, as the case may be) a slab of thick, solid wood.

    So with a solid top, you will see a seam (or seams) in the wood, but they will run from top to bottom (the neck to the endpin)- and there will be no sandwich layerings when viewed from the side (the edge of the top that is). It will also be thicker than a laminated top, if you have one to compare it to.

    Does that make sense? If not, I'm sure someone more eloquent than I will come along and explain it better! :)

    Regardless, enjoy your new bass!

  10. Yes to every thing Joe has said. I have an Eastman hybrid (VB-125), and I love it. Except for an open seam when I moved into a place with central air, it has been trouble free for the three years I have had it. I have multiple seams in my top table, one right down the middle, as Joe described, and also on the lower bouts to add wings. A luther told me that these wings are added because it can be hard to find one piece of wood big enough to make 1/2 of the instrument! Does this affect the sound? I don't know, but I'm happy with the sound I have.
  11. By open seam, I did not mean one of the seams in the top table--the table is stable. It was one of the seams where the top meets the ribs.
  12. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Congrats on the bass! Man I wish my first bass was a Eastman hybrid instead of the Engel it was with a warped bridge.
  13. hairscrambled

    hairscrambled Commercial User

    Feb 1, 2006
    Albuquerque, NM
    Store owner, Grandma's Music & Sound
    I have a 3 year old VB95. It'll get louder and open up as it gets played. Mine is a small 3/4 with a 17" upper bout. I use it for places with problem acoustics. Nice bass.
  14. Dimmik


    Apr 16, 2012
    I use a VB-95 that I bought brand new for $2100 even because the music store owner thought it was a VB-80. I didn't tell him.

    Some problems I've seen with Eastmans is that the black dye on the fingerboards comes off on the fingers while playing. I'm sure it stops after a while but it's not supposed to come off at all. Fortunately, that does not happen with mine.

    The setup was bad on mine and I had to get a luthier to fix the bridge and move the soundpost and then the thing sounded great. But then the bridge started warping so I replaced that and had to get the luthier to carve it so it matched the contour of the top. Love that new bridge though!!

    It's fitted with Helicore hybrid mediums and an Underwood pickup. It stays in tune pretty well and has pretty decent sound. Overall, for the price I paid, it's definitely worth it.

    But still, before you buy, you need to have a pro look it over. I didn't do that and I lucked out but I would recommend that everyone should do that.

    Other than that, the bass is solid. No seams showing or anything and this thing is going on 4 years now. So I'm pretty happy with it.
  15. moles


    Jan 24, 2007
    Winnipeg, MB
    Yeah, I think for $1500 you probably got a decent deal.

    My VB-120 is almost three years old now, and just starting to really open up. I was a little disappointed with the volume at first too. A soundpost adjustment did help a little bit, and plenty of arco practice is helping that top to move.

    Strung with Evah Weichs, it's plenty loud now. I've got Spiro weichs on the E and A for a bit more growl, and they work great too. Regardless of how it sounds in playing position, I've gotten some really big recorded sounds out of it too.
  16. congrats...good deal,good instrument.
    go easy on the end block and check tuners from time to time, blades rattle and screws loosen. no biggie.
  17. I realise that this thread is old, (Zombie Alert), but I don't often find discussions on Eastman VB-95's. When I first purchased mine, it was not very loud at all. I felt a bit discouraged, but the tonal quality was good. As I played it more and developed my skill, it became somewhat louder.

    However, I still wanted more volume, so I broke down and just bought a set of Spirocore Starks (SS) to replace the Helicore Orchestral's (HO) that came with the bass. Although the Helicore Orchestral's have a sweet sound, they're made for orchestral bowing and not for jazz pizzicato.

    The Spirocore Starks increased the loudness considerably. They're probably the thickest steel strings sold and perhaps the highest in tension. I was concerned about the effect of the high string tension upon the belly, so I tuned it up slowly. So far, everything is fine. I miss the sweetness of the HO's, but the volume, presence and power of the SS is amazing. Although the SS tone differs from the HO, the SS have a nice tone of their own; not as mellow, but rather more brash. I understand that Ray Brown had used them often, and I think that they impart a hint of Ray Brown's iconic sound.

    Also, the increase in tension is noticeable when playing, but not severe. I may lower the string height from 9mm, but I'll try not to. I'm looking forward to next band rehearsal (a Dixieland Band), as I have been competing in volume with two electric guitars and a banjo, not to mention a trumpet, clarinet and trombone. I have not been using an amp, as it takes away from the New Orleans sound of a bass violin, so talk about callouses and post-playing-pain... even my rhythm suffered from plucking that hard to be heard.

    I measured the belly thickness of the VB-95 at just under 6mm. Perhaps the thickness of the carved spruce belly can easily support the tension level. Perhaps the heavy gauge SS set is moving the belly more than the HO set could, overcoming the resistance of the thick belly to movement and thereby making a bigger sound.

    I think this is the answer for the VB-95. Big cables to move the thick carved top.
  18. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Oh, then you'd probably love Evah Pirazzi regulars! Ray Brown played on starks? See here. Spiro mitts, Spiro weichs, Lycons, and others. :)

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