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A REVIEWER’S DILEMMA

Breedlove Asks Seasoned Guitar Reviewer Justin LaForte to Compare his Beloved Oregon Dreadnought to a New Eco Collection Concerto

There are some questions you just shouldn’t ask, like which of your kids is your favorite? Or, do you love your dog or cat more? No one should be asked to pick favorites between items so close to the heart and soul. But that’s exactly what we asked of veteran guitar reviewer Justin LaForte, who has long been loyal to a Breedlove Oregon Series Dreadnought crafted before the advent of the new Eco Collection Concerto – a guitar crafted with an updated body shape designed to replace the traditional Dreadnought in sound, comfort and feel. Given this challenge, how did he judge the new ECO Collection Concerto – crafted with the same Oregon myrtlewood tonewood – against its predecessor?

LaForte first picked up a guitar at his local music shop 22 years ago, eventually becoming a performer and teacher. That promptly snowballed into getting a degree in music from Loyola University in Chicago, earning a good reputation as a guitarist in the Windy City area and, eventually, becoming an integral member of the marketing department at zZounds.com, the online music equipment retailer. LaForte estimates that he has played and reviewed at least a thousand guitars.

“If we sell it on the zZounds website, there is a good chance that we’ve at least done a demo on it or that we’ve been sent models by these companies just to try out,” LaForte explains. “Over the years, I have worked and played on all sorts of guitars — such as the pre-built model Concerto that Breedlove sent me.” With his personal guitar having long been a Breedlove Oregon Series Dreadnought, LaForte is the ideal person to review the new ECO Collection Concerto, which is made with myrtlewood like his Dreadnought and which was designed to replace the Dreadnought body shape head to head.

It was in 2017 that Breedlove officially introduced the Concerto body shape to replace the traditional Dreadnought. When we set out to create a guitar that would surpass the classic big-body sound of the Dreadnought, we didn’t just want it to be loud. We aimed to bring out more tonal complexity, as well as to offer a much more comfortable playing experience. We designed the Concerto to be loud, textured and supremely satisfying.

Since its release, the Concerto has duly become one of Breedlove’s most popular guitars (after our flagship Concert model), even among those players who have long loved our Dreadnoughts, like LaForte. “The Oregon Dreadnought, that was my go-to guitar,” he says. “I’d play it in almost every musical theater performance, if the production called for acoustic guitar. It always cuts through sonically with these theatrical shows. In my experience with the Concerto guitar, I was also pleasantly surprised at the bass output on it. It had way more bass than I thought it would. And it feels defined, not flubby.”

LaForte wasn’t just impressed with the Concerto’s bass — he also loved its concert-ready treble, which balances the low-end output. “The core definition was really nice,” he says, “and it felt like there were good notes and separation, and it wasn’t too fluffy in any one register.” He was equally taken with the comfort of the body, finding it more comfortable in some ways than his Dreadnought. “I feel like I’d almost be cheating on my Dreadnought to pick the Concerto now, but it’s just way more comfortable. The ergonomics make a difference because sometimes I get ‘guitar shoulders’ from playing my Dread, craning over a big body for hours at a time. But the Concerto has the kind of fit where it’s just big enough and kind of puts my shoulders in the right spot.”

The Eco Collection’s Concerto also possesses some favorite qualities from LaForte’s Dreadnought — especially Breedlove’s quintessential use of Oregon myrtlewood, which is used on the back of his Dreadnought. He said it always catches people’s eyes. “Everybody would ask me, ‘What’s that on the back and sides of your acoustic? That has the most interesting grain on it.’ It has this very beautiful, swirly pattern. That look initially drew me to the Oregon, but the tone of myrtlewood has always been what keeps me coming back to it — it’s a blend between a dry tone and a harmonically rich sound. It’s kind of like a mahogany sound, but less dense and with a good snap to it.”

From a performing standpoint, LaForte sees the new Eco Collection Concerto as an ideal option — for its robust sound, striking beauty, comfort during long gigs, and sheer versatility. “This guitar suits a bunch of different situations and venues,” he said. “It doesn’t produce a polarizing sound. It doesn’t pigeonhole itself.”

You can watch Justin Laforte’s full video review of the new Eco Collection’s Concerto model here in the Summer Magazine. For more reviews from Laforte, go to Justin’s author page on the zZounds.com blog.