What is it?
Breedlove Guitars is a relative newcomer on the hallowed block of US acoustic guitar builders, but it has already built a formidable reputation for super-playable and eco-conscious builds. It counts Jeff Bridges – the Dude himself – as its most high-profile endorsee.
Bridges has a number of fine instruments. There's the Gibson J-45 he played on Crazy Heart. He uses a Gretsch Country Gentlemen, Teles too, but his signature Signature Oregon Concerto Bourbon CE has stolen his heart. Wholly sustainable, it is has a body made from solid myrtlewood that has naturally fallen in the state.
This inventive, sustainable approach to materials and builds is typical of Breedlove. In a sense, being a newcomer, the company isn't saddled with the baggage of history, of a customer base that only demands one thing and more of it. That allows for a little more creative freedom, with materials, but with body shapes, too.
In old money, the Concertina body size sits somewhere between the 00 and 000 shapes. The neck joins the body at the 12 fret, with a generous cutaway all but plying you with a shot of something string and the stern instruction to play something fancy beyond the 15th fret.
And why not? The Concertina is a player's guitar. The music just falls out of it. But more of that in a bit. Let's walk through the build. The top comprises of solid Adirondack spruce, which immediately suggests some springy power and projection. On the back and sides, East Indian rosewood, while the neck is Honduran mahogany.
As with the Dude's signature model, the fingerboard here is African ebony, which is reprised on the bridge. The bridge is worthy of further attention. There are no pegs, just thread the strings through the bottom of the bride. Nice and neat.
At the other end of the guitar, you've got Breedlove-branded tuners, a Graph Tech nut, while an LR Baggs EAS VTC under-saddle pickup is controlled by the preamp discretely mounted in the soundhole, with a simple volume and tone control setup.
Performance and verdict
One of the Concertina's defining qualities is its ability to lean into the detail and nuance of fingerstyle guitar and bring them to the fore. It captures subtlety well but puts plenty of weight behind it. There is a complexity to the Adirondrack spruce, and power too.
The dynamics are incredibly musical. Nowhere do you find that midrange honk that can get the better of some small-bodied acoustics. There's depth here, too, a three-dimensionality that makes the Concertina sound like a larger instrument.
The playability and feel are exceptional. The neck is slim, and there is just enough roominess from the nut width to open the floor to all kinds of acoustic styles – though if you are looking for an acoustic to thrash into submission with big strumming and hard-picking, there are better options for that.
The LR Baggs Element VTC is a fine piece of kit, which is to say it amplifies the Concertina's tone and parks it there with little colouration. This is a sweet-sounding guitar – no need to over season.
• Martin SC-13E
Once you get past the radicalism of the design, the SC-13E may overwhelm you with its lightning quick playability and stage-ready electronics. Very cool indeed.
• Breedlove Oregon Concerto E
The understated look takes Breedlove’s appeal to a wider audience, and sonically, it’s a little different to the usual wood combinations, with a very useable tone that works for most styles.
• Martin 00-17S
Loads of good tone and power lurk within this diminutive wonder.
The preamp has volume and tone controls and no one but you will know it's there, such is its position in the soundhole. It has an analogue compression circuit that is activated below 400Hz. You'll get around a thousand hours playing from one 9V battery.
It is all very nice, but it comes at a price. Here we are looking at the price and it asks the question of whether you want to go with an acoustic blue blood or try something new. The advantages of the former are already well known. The latter? Well, fortune favours the brave, and the opportunity to spec the guitar how you want it is very appealing.
The Breedlove fit and finish, the imagination, and the charm of the Concertina makes a very persuasive case for pledging your allegiance to this innovative builder, perched out there on the Pacific North West.
MusicRadar verdict: The Concertina is all charm, nuance, and feel, with the power of Adirondack spruce lending it a beautiful, expressive voice that is a fingerpicker's delight, and a treat for anyone who values a small-bodied acoustic that goes big on dynamics.
- PRICE: £3,299 (inc case)
- ORIGIN: USA
- TYPE: Concertina acoustic
- TOP: Adirondack spruce
- BACK/SIDES: East Indian rosewood
- MAX RIM DEPTH: 102mm
- MAX BODY WIDTH: 375mm
- NECK: Honduran mahogany
- SCALE LENGTH: 635mm (25”)
- TUNERS: Breedlove branded, chrome-plated
- NUT/WIDTH: Graph Tech Tusq/44.4mm
- FINGERBOARD: African ebony
- FRETS: 18
- BRIDGE/SPACING: African ebony w/ compensated Tusq saddle/57mm
- ELECTRICS: LR Baggs EAS VTC
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.86/4.1
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISH: Natural gloss poly
- CONTACT: Breedlove