BY ADAM PERLMUTTER | FROM THE SPRING 2020 ISSUE OF UKULELE
In guitar circles, the name Breedlove is synonymous with forward-thinking designs, such as graduated soundboards and bridge truss systems, as well as the use of sustainable tonewoods. The company was founded in 1990, when luthiers Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson set up a small workshop in the desert town of Bend, Oregon. Since then, Breedlove has grown from a small custom shop into one of the leading mid-sized makers, with offerings at all price points, built both in Oregon and in China.
For many years, Larry Breedlove’s brother, Kim, who joined the company in the mid-’90s as master luthier, made ukuleles in his home garage for fun, and the company has produced ukuleles now and then. Kim Breedlove is now retired, but Breedlove recently introduced a fresh range of his ukulele designs in concert and tenor sizes, with and without electronics, all of which sell for well under $500. I checked out a pair of these instruments—the Lu’au concert and tenor CE models, each with a cutaway and electronics—and found them to be sweet-sounding and highly playable.
Beautiful Design and Build
The Lu’au duo’s myrtlewood soundboards, backs, and sides make a smart first impression. Breedlove has made extensive use of this tonewood, which grows prolifically in the coastal regions of Southwestern Oregon. In terms of tonal properties, myrtlewood falls somewhere between rosewood and mahogany, and its coloring tends to be richly variegated. That’s certainly the case with our review models, on which the myrtlewood’s natural beauty is highlighted by Breedlove’s subtle sunburst finish and contrasted by tortoise binding.
Both ukes feel a little heavier than expected—no doubt due to their internal electronics—but they are very well built, which is hardly surprising coming from Breedlove, which has a longstanding reputation for quality instruments. Things are spick and span throughout, aside from just a hint of jaggedness at the fret edges. The finish on each instrument has been buffed to a faultless gloss, and things are similarly clean inside the soundboxes, where the bracing appears to have been carefully applied and there are no traces of excess glue to be found.