For today’s review we have another instrument from the Eastman company. This time it’s a flute. Will it live up to the high quality we’ve come to expect of other instruments from the Eastman stable? Let’s see!
Many people will be aware of Eastman instruments through their highly praised string instruments, whether it be their excellent guitars and mandolins, or their line of orchestral string instruments. What people might not know, however, that Eastman’s founder is a flautist. Qian Ni founded the company in the 1990s after graduating with a degree in flute performance from the Boston University School of Music. It stands to reason, then, that he would have a particular interest in producing a line of high quality flutes.
In 2004 Eastman purchased the Wm. S. Haynes Company, one of the world’s most famous and highly esteemed flute makers. Haynes flutes are still made in Boston, USA, as they have been since 1888, and are priced up at the professional end of the scale.
In contrast, flutes bearing the Andreas Eastman brand name are made in Eastman’s factory in Beijing, China, and are pitched to student and intermediate players. The advantage that Eastman has over other Chinese flute makers is the tradition and knowledge that comes from sharing a stable with one of the oldest and most revered flute makers in the world.
The EFL 515 SE-BO
The Andreas Eastman flute range starts with their 200 series student models, which feature silver-plated headjoints, bodies and footjoints, Y-arm keywork and either open or closed hole keys. From there, the range progresses up through the 300 and 400 series with various upgrades, until we reach the 515 that we are looking at today.
This flute has all the bells and whistles: solid sterling silver headjoint, body and footjoint; open hole keys; French-style pointed arm key cups; offet G; split E mechanism; and a B footjoint with gizmo key. The only upgrade that some high end flutes have that is not present here is a C# trill key. That being said, I’m not aware of any flutes in this price range that have that feature. Besides, many flautists consider the C# trill key to be an unnecessary complication to the flute’s keywork.
The 515 comes with a sturdy French-style case with a plush red velvet interior, which nestles inside a durable vinyl outer case. The outer case is lined with white faux-fur, and has a shoulder strap and an external pocket containing a wooden cleaning rod and micro-fibre cleaning cloth. All good quality accessories.
Fit and finish
For the most part, the 515 is put together very well, with a high level of craftsmanship evident throughout. There are no signs of stray solder, which to be honest, is something I’ve seen even on much more expensive flutes. The 925 Sterling silver has a clear colour with no hint of tarnish, which sometimes even new flutes can exhibit. The yellow fish-skin pads are all intact and neat. The plateau keys have sterling silver resonators, whereas the open-hole keys have white nylon inserts to keep the pads in place
Straight out of the box all of the keys were perfectly seated and sealing well – with one exception. The only key that needed adjustment was the low C key. As it arrived, this key was seated on a slight angle, and as such was not sealing completely. While it was possible to make the low C speak by applying extra finger pressure, the low B would not speak at all until the C key was properly adjusted. It’s disappointing that this key was not closing properly, as it’s the only key on the instrument that wasn’t perfectly set up. Hopefully this was just an anomaly on this particular instrument.
Sounds and playability
Once that low C was properly adjusted, the 515 played with a clear, full tone across its entire range. Even the top of the altissimo register speaks clearly – something which can be hit and miss with many flutes in this price-range – and it doesn’t sound shrill or harsh up the top. The B-footjoint has a gizmo key to help the high C sing.
The keywork is excellent, with a uniform height across all keys. The springs respond quickly, making for a very smooth action. The embouchure hole is cut in a modern rounded square shape. These factors combine to make the flute comfortable, responsive and easy to play.
The intonation is spot on across the whole range. There are no notes which require bending into tune, and the different registers are in tune with each other. The headjoint cork didn’t need any adjustment at all. The A plays at 440Hz when the headjoint is pulled out about 15mm, allowing plenty of room for tuning adjustment in both directions.
The tone of the 515 is well-focussed, while being both bright and sweet. There is a roundness to the sound when you want it, but it has plenty of edge to project in loud ensembles – without becoming harsh or shrill. I would describe the tone as being reasonably transparent. By that, I mean that it doesn’t have such a strong timbral personality that the tone of the flute overwhelms the player’s own sound. Instead, the 515 allows the player to colour the sound as required.
Playing Bach, I found it easy to achieve a uniform sweetness across the range with precise articulation. Moving over to some Celtic tunes I was able to get the throaty “huff” which is such an integral feature of the Irish folk style. The 515 really came into its own playing jazz, where the variety of timbres on offer were a real asset when improvising. Bluesy bends and portamenti were easy and a lot of fun.
There is plenty of competition when it comes to flutes in the mid-level price range, particularly coming out of factories in the Far East. Having played flutes from many of Eastman’s competitors, I would stack the 515 up against any other instrument in this crowded field.
This flute is an excellent choice for serious students looking to step up from a beginner instrument to something more advanced, or anyone who is looking for the sort of features you’d find on a professional level instrument at an attainable price. With its easy playability and spot-on intonation, the Andreas Eastman 515 will be a particularly attractive option for woodwind doublers for whom flute is not their main instrument.
- Clear, even tone across all registers
- Excellent intonation throughout
- An outstanding flute for the price
- Low C pad wasn’t properly seated and needed adjustment
I have not been paid monetarily or in kind for writing this review. The thoughts and opinions expressed within are entirely my own.
One thought on “Gear Review: Andreas Eastman EFL 515 SE-BO flute”
Retired orchestral flutist here saying that the Andreas Eastman student flutes are SO excellent that sold my 1960’s Haynes handmade-flute (with old nonCooper
Brannon scale) and bought 2 of these Eastman EFL 210 flutes, of the serial numbers 1012-13500 made in 2011 (where it does not say where the flutes are made at all).
Why 2 ? Because if they are ever discontinued well, have one plus a spare (for parts, or as backup flute). They are exceptional flutes and the review of Aaron Searle’s is accurate. If you want a Haynes flute without the price…..but shhhhh…..not supposed to spill the beans on these Andreas Eastman flutes. The Andreas Eastman Co-Haynes told me the Eastman EFL 210 flutes were introduced in 2006 to now, they still manufacture the EFL 210 model of flutes in 2022.
The Eastman outplays Yamaha, Pearl, Gemeinhardt, and ConnSelmer(Galway Spirit flute), although very close to the ConnSelmer— similar scale. IF you like Haynes flutes, the warmer darker sound of their head joints, and prefer the feel of Haynes key mechanisms….then the Andreas Eastman flute is quite, quite amazing for the lowish-price. *As a former pro player, RESULTS with a flute are the thing, when all is said and done.