With an impressive blend of elegance and potential aggression the T184MX is a wide-ranging and expressive performer.
An elegant take on the carved-solid-wood archtop thinline, yielding everything from rich jazz tones to aggressive rock
The neck dimensions might feel a hair wide to smaller hands, but so it is for many Eastman models
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Tested through a Fender Deluxe Reverb and a Friedman Mini Dirty Shirley combo (with JHS Bonsai and Tsakalis Six overdrives for dirt), the T184MX displays how Eastman Guitars eschews the copy-and-clone approach, taking inspiration from classic forms while thoughtfully seeking to improve the designs in the process.
Considering Eastman got its start building quality carved-top violins and cellos, the T184MX is right out of the company’s wheelhouse.
Following the popular format of guitars based on a reduction of the traditional ES-335 body size, it’s a variation on a model the company has offered almost since its introduction of electric guitars.
Despite its looks, this one is built in the tradition of fine acoustic archtops, though in a thinline body that’s hollow but for a mahogany block beneath the bridge and tailpiece, the presence of which allows for the use of the body-mounted Tune-o-matic and stopbar.
The arched top is carved from solid flamed maple, with back and sides of solid mahogany, and there’s natural flamed-maple binding, with multi-ply black/white/black/ white purfling, on the body front and back, and the f-holes.
It’s all dressed in an immaculate high-gloss Gold Burst finish in thin nitrocellulose lacquer.
The neck is carved from solid mahogany, with an ebony fretboard adorned with small pearl dots and multi-ply binding – with a flamed-maple outer layer again – which extends up and around the headstock.
This model has a 25-inch scale length, a 1 ¾-inch nut width, and a “C” profile inspired by late-’50s Gibson neck shapes.
All Eastman necks are carved by hand, so there will be some slight variation between them.
For pickups, Eastman’s international sales and product development manager Pepijn ’t Hart and master luthier Otto D’Ambrosio selected a pair of U.K.-made Bare Knuckle Old Guard custom humbuckers, wired through a traditional four-knob control section with three-way switch.
This all comes together in what is simply a gorgeous instrument, one that plays beautifully and expresses a confidence-inspiring quality of sound even unplugged.
The neck might be a hair wide for some hands at 1 ¾ inches, but that’s a design choice rather than a flaw, and it’s very comfortable regardless.
Through the test rigs, the T184MX elicited the contemporary jazz guitar tones that its designers were aiming for in the neck position, delivering a classy performance with what, to our ears, was an optimal marriage of warmth, clarity and harmonic bloom.
’t Hart commented that, because of the solid woods “this model is, of course, less versatile than the laminate ones, but it’s got such a smooth thick jazz tone, and it still can rock with the best.”
That presents one matter on which we disagree: we found this guitar extremely versatile, and while it doesn’t replicate the laminated-construction tones of a traditional ES-335, it subs more easily for a Les Paul once you kick up the gain and really does rock like a demon when you want it to.
From lively jangle in the middle position to meaty twang from the bridge pickup to the aforementioned richness in the neck – it’s all there, and without a hint of mud.
There’s an impressive blend of elegance and potential aggression in the T184MX, making it a wide-ranging and expressive performer, and an Editors’ Pick Award winner.
We’ve been impressed by Eastman’s guitars for several years now, and the company’s work continues to improve. It makes sense that a team of craftspeople aided by thoughtful designers, all of whom strive to do more exemplary work, day after day, would turn out continually better guitars.
It’s difficult to imagine a buyer of a similar new guitar from a boutique manufacturer being disappointed to open the cases and lift out this beauty.
Chalk one up for positive U.S.-China relations and check out this Eastman model if you get the chance.
- NECK: Mahogany, Traditional Even “C” profile
- FRETBOARD: Ebony, 25” scale, 12” radius
- FRETS: 22 medium-jumbo
- TUNERS: Gotoh SD90
- BODY: Thinline hollowbody made from deluxe maple laminate
- BRIDGE: Gotoh Tune-o-Matic and stopbar tailpiece
- PICKUPS: Two Bare Knuckle BC Old Guard custom humbuckers
- CONTROLS: Two volume, two tone, three-way selector switch
- FACTORY STRINGS: D’Addario NYXL .010-.046
- WEIGHT: 6.7 lbs
- BUILT: China
Visit Eastman Guitars for more information.
Dave Hunter is a writer and consulting editor for Guitar Player magazine. His prolific output as author includes Fender 75 Years, The Guitar Amp Handbook, The British Amp Invasion, Ultimate Star Guitars, Guitar Effects Pedals, The Guitar Pickup Handbook, The Fender Telecaster and several other titles. Hunter is a former editor of The Guitar Magazine (UK), and a contributor to Vintage Guitar, Premier Guitar, The Connoisseur and other publications. A contributing essayist to the United States Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Board’s Permanent Archive, he lives in Kittery, ME, with his wife and their two children and fronts the bands A Different Engine and The Stereo Field.