by Ronnie Brooks, Guitar Muse
Unbelievable – American made from American woods – at a believable price!
I love surprises. Let me clarify that: I love going into a guitar store and being pleasantly surprised by a guitar. And I had one of those nice surprises recently when I played all three models of Breedlove’s recently introduced Oregon Series acoustics. These American-made dreadnaught, orchestra and concert models – while sounding different from one another – all lived up to their press release (that’s a bit of a surprise in itself) and left me thinking that more people need to know about these guitars.
I’ll start by admitting I’ve been a fan of Breedlove for a long time. Using traditional and exotic tonewoods, and proprietary body dimensions, they produce impressive instruments, both sonically and visually. Their “C” (Concert) body shape can sound like the best of both Gibson and Martin together: an aggressive attack and punchy, controlled bass combined with a warm, woody sustain. And this new line delivers the Breedlove look and sound at an accessible price point.
The Oregon Series (made in Breedlove’s central Oregon factory) has a unique appearance in a number of ways. Backs and sides are made from solid myrtlewood, a beautifully grained, ash-blonde wood, harvested locally in the Pacific Northwest. The light color and grain are very different from maple, and with a hand-rubbed semi-gloss finish, the weathered amber color reminds me of French country farm tables (I’m sure you’ve all been keeping up with your designer furniture).
Breedlove was one of the first manufacturers to use myrtlewood – primarily on their higher-end offerings – so I was happy to see (and hear) it on a lower-cost instrument.
The tops are Sitka spruce, which I tend to prefer over more expensive species for its gold hue and bright-but-warm tone. Rosettes and top binding are trimmed with herringbone, coupled with black binding, to create a nice contrast against the lighter-colored woods. The tops feature a full-gloss finish, which not only looks great and protects the wood, but also helps make the guitar a little quieter in the studio (microphones are less likely to pick up the sound of picks or sleeves brushing across the grain).
A very comfortable, satin-finished Big Leaf maple neck with ebony fingerboard and matching pinless ebony bridge complete the profile. There’s nothing gimmicky or contrived here, but it’s a look you won’t see from every other guitar brand.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The myrtlewood translates well across all three models – think of the snap of maple combined with the sustain of mahogany – but there’s no mistaking the individual guitars’ voices.
The Dreadnaught model has the authoritative bass and power you expect from a traditional, square-shouldered instrument. Far from rumbling, it offers a balance across the full range (like mahogany) that makes this guitar great for vocal accompaniment either live or in the studio. The rosewood boom is missing, but engineers will thank you every time you plug in or play into a mic.
The Orchestra model delivers a more focused, defined tone aimed toward fingerstyle players. The shallow (3 7/8”) body is a little easier to hold and, as you’d expect, accentuates mids and highs. I tend to like a little more low end, but that’s often the tradeoff for the extra clarity and projection you get from an OM-sized instrument.
But hands down, my favorite of the three is the C20-SMYE Concert. According to Breedlove, the concert body is their best-selling shape, and I can understand why. It’s a smaller-width, curvier body, but with deeper sides (4 1/2”, like the dreadnaught).
Combined with a newly designed bracing pattern, the deeper body generates impressive mids and lows, complimenting its high-end clarity. It holds up well as a rhythm guitar, but speaks cleanly and warmly for solos or finger picking. This versatility will work great for players who switch between flat pick and fingerstyle. Either way, it’s a very rich, woody-sounding instrument with plenty of presence.
All Oregon models come with a built-in Fishman Ultratone electronics package and hard-shell case. List price is $1999, but many dealers are selling them for around $1499—very reasonable for a distinctive, great-sounding, American-made guitar.