by Adam Perlmutter
Before playing a note on Breedlove’s new Legacy Auditorium, I notice the guitar is vibrating excitedly to the sounds of music played at a moderate volume on my desktop speakers. I take this not to be an indication that the guitar has a preference for Thelonious Monk, but as evidence that it’s a highly responsive instrument. A few open-chord strums confirms this and, more importantly, reveals the guitar has a beautifully balanced sound with excellent note separation and clarity—actually no great surprise, considering the celebrated name gracing the headstock.
A History of Innovation
At the 1992 NAMM show, two luthiers who had cut their teeth at Taylor Guitars, Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson, unveiled the first modest line of Breedlove guitars. At their little custom shop in Bend, Oregon, the pair would devise the structural innovations, like novel bracing systems and graduated soundboards, that eventually resulted in Breedlove’s signature well-balanced and highly responsive guitars. Now part of the Two Old Hippies family of stringed instruments, Breedlove is one of the major mid-sized companies. Its offerings include not just a comprehensive selection of guitars at all price points, but also mandolins and ukuleles, all built to be uncommonly playable.
The new Legacy series celebrates Breedlove’s history not only with the auditorium, but also with concert, parlor, jumbo, and 12-string models.
Hues of the Pacific Northwest
The Legacy Auditorium is a medium-sized guitar, having a lower bout width of just over 15 inches and a body depth of 3.75. It’s made from an interesting complement of tonewoods. The top is the standard sitka spruce, but the back and sides are fashioned of myrtlewood—a locally sourced species, plentiful in the Pacific Northwest, which is said to have some of the best sonic properties of rosewood and maple. More often used on electric guitars than on acoustics, eastern hard-rock maple makes an appearance here in the neck. These woods look splendid together—all have a warm butterscotch hue, giving the guitar a distinctive overall coloring. The myrtlewood is beautifully figured, especially on the back, where a chevron curl reveals itself at certain angles.
Two of Breedlove’s construction trademarks are found on the Legacy Auditorium. Most obvious is the pinless bridge, which makes string changing a breeze. This design also avoids the soundboard holes that customarily house the bridge pins. At least theoretically, this allows the strings’ energy to be transferred to the top in a superior way. Inside the box, there’s the JLD truss system—a thin dowel extending from a cedar post under the bridge to the tailblock, causing the top to vibrate more freely and therefore making for greater resonance.
Organic Looks & Top-Notch Craftsmanship
The Legacy Auditorium is a natural-looking guitar—the Breedlove literature mentions the landscape of Central Oregon as the inspiration for its cosmetics. Ornamentation is downplayed on the guitar, limited to ivoroid body binding, a simple abalone rosette, and delicate wave-shaped outlines for inlays on the fretboard. On the asymmetric headstock, fans of Breedlove will note a new logo: in place of the decades-old B is the company’s name spelled out in full. All in all, the Legacy Auditorium looks at once appealingly traditional and modern.
I try, but fail, to find any shortcomings of craftsmanship in the review copy of the Legacy Auditorium. It’s impeccably built from headstock to endpin. The medium nickel-silver frets are tidily seated and smoothly polished, and the bone nut and saddle are notched with precision. On the body, the finish is rubbed to a sumptuous gloss that is free from imperfection. All of the internal components are smoothly sanded and assembled, without a hint of excess glue.
Great Responsiveness & Tone
Breedlove is known for its highly playable necks, and the C-shaped neck on this Legacy Auditorium feels extremely comfortable. Players accustomed to big necks might not appreciate the slimness, but all along the guitar’s length it is easy to play barre chords and single notes, not to mention thumb-fretted notes. I play the guitar for 30 minutes without experiencing any fret-hand fatigue.
The Legacy Auditorium has a resplendent voice, articulate in each of its registers, with a sturdy bass, a present midrange, and a crystal-clear treble. Given its responsiveness, the instrument is perfectly suited for fingerpicking—it picks up the subtlest of nuances from the fingertips. But with a good amount of projection and overhead, it also stands up to forceful strumming with a plectrum. What’s more, the instrument’s general warmth and clarity make it suitable for practically any musical style.
Natural Amplified Voice
The Legacy Auditorium comes with an L.R. Baggs Anthem Tru-Mic electronics system. This includes a tiny microphone—mounted just above the surface of the bridge plate, so that it functions as if it were positioned outside of the guitar—working in tandem with a traditional undersaddle pickup that bolsters the low end of the sound. Mounted conveniently at the edge of the soundhole, the system’s controls include a master volume, a mic level, a knob for mixing the mic and pickup sounds, a phase-inversion switch for attenuating feedback, and a battery-life indicator.
Plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amplifer, with the electronics set to equal parts mic and pickup, the Legacy Auditorium sounds uncommonly faithful, without the artificiality traditionally associated with electric-acoustic guitars. Set to the mic only, the system is sensitive to transient sounds like a shirtsleeve rubbing against the soundboard—perhaps a plus for some players and a distraction for others. But with its great sound and flexibility, the electronics will work well for most live and recording situations.
A Good Go-to Guitar
The Legacy Auditorium is an excellent addition to the Breedlove line, boasting the company’s signature sound and playability in a package that cuts a fine figure. Its L.R. Baggs electronics produce detailed tones that are true to the guitar’s acoustic voice.
The design might not appeal to the staunchest traditionalists, but this guitar will be a good go-to instrument for the modern performer or studio musician who wants something a little different.
At A Glance
Auditorium size. Solid graduated Sitka-spruce top with solid myrtlewood back and sides. Gloss finish.
L.R. Baggs Anthem Tru-Mic
Eastern hard-rock maple. Semi-gloss hand-rubbed finish. Ebony fretboard and bridge. 25.5-inch scale length. 1.75-inch nut width. Chrome Gotoh SG381 tuners.
D’Addario EXP16 (.012–.053); deluxe hardshell case.
$3,332 list/$2,499 street. Made in the United States. breedlovesound.com.
Excerpted from AG 259 July 2014