Blueridge guitars, in particular the all-solid wood Historic and Prewar series, have attracted much praise over the years. This hasn't been just for sound quality and the instruments' vintage-Americana aesthetics, but also because their high-grade specifications are offered at sensibly affordable prices courtesy of Chinese manufacture.
Hallmark cosmetics like amber-tint tops, 'dalmatian' pickguards and elaborate pearl-inlaid pegheads also help make the Historics and Prewars distinctive parts of the Blueridge catalogue. Until recently Blueridge's line-up - based almost entirely on dreadnought and 000 designs - was a wholly acoustic one. Now, however, a few selected models are being added as electro-acoustics, including this Historic series cutaway 000.
The official website specifies a Fishman Prefi x Plus system but our sample carries the cheaper Classic 4 preamp. Nothing wrong with that - it's a straightforward, dependable system.
In general construction, design, finish and electro system the BR163CE is the same as the 143CE, including the forward-shifted bracing and the elaborately inlaid, Grover-toting headstock. However, you'd expect a bit more for your extra 100 quid, and that's what you get.
The back and sides become solid rosewood, while adornments are notched up a gear. Taking the cue from Martin-like trim, the top carries 28-style herringbone purfling with white rather than black binding, and the white-bound book-matched back bears a wood-mosaic centre strip whereas it's omitted on the other guitar.
Up on the rosewood fingerboard, the 143's simple pearl dot markers are replaced by decorative abalone ones, starting at the first fret and reminiscent of Martin's early 45- Style. Cosmetically you could say that the BR163CE is the deluxe to the 143CE's standard. Save for a smidge more depth further up and a slightly higher action, the 163's neck is identical to the 143's, so earlier comments regarding handling and so on apply 100 per cent here.
That pertains pretty much to performance too. The BR163CE greatly impresses with its acoustic muscle and dynamics, and powered up the Fishman does an equally laudable job. The difference relates to tonal shading. The rosewood contributes a slightly denser midrange, so although there's a little less of the 143's appealing 'scooped' buoyancy, it does add some extra meat and kick to the projection - not that the 143 is lacking in this respect.
It really must be stressed that these are subtle divergences, and it will simply be down to which tonal character you personally prefer.