Brock Dreadnought

February 14, 2012
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“I’ve got a wonderful builder named Brock Johnston, who is crafting these absolutely superior acoustic guitars for me,” stated Ronnie Montrose when GP interviewed him a few issues back. And, as often happens in the wacky world of music-gear journalism, a Brock Dreadnought recently showed up at the office.

Inspired by Bozo Podunavac’s designs for Leo Kottke, Johnston learned how to build guitars in 1981, producing models for friends and family. He turned pro in 2000, setting up shop near Sacramento, California, until moving to San Jose, California four years ago.

“I learned the old-world style of handcrafting guitars from Bozo, though I use more machines than he does,” says Johnston. “I also based my X-pattern bracing on Bozo’s, but I tweaked it by mixing parabolic and scalloped bracing to get what I wanted—which is a guitar with incredible volume that still delivers a balanced frequency range. Coming from bluegrass, I always hated that you couldn’t hear the guitar jump out of the instrumental mix, so my goal was to build guitars with really great amplitude.”

Johnston currently produces four Brock models: an SB (small-bodied fingerpicking guitar), an OM (orchestra), an SJ (small jumbo), and the D (dreadnought) tested here. All models have a base price of $2,850, and a case is included in the deal.

Workmanship

This will be a short assessment, because the Dreadnought’s construction is flawless and enchanting. From the stunning curly maple binding, to the pristine bracing and innards (no rough edges or slop anywhere), to the frets, hardware, and headstock, everything screams quality. Place this guitar on the seat of a Bentley or Rolls Royce, and there will be no hint of irony—it’s a superb example of the luthier’s art.

Tones

Because the Dreadnought produces high amplitude—as well as piano-like girth and resonance—I decided it would be the perfect choice for playing single-note rhythmic lines on a cover of “Beat on the Brat” for a Ramones acoustic tribute, Sheena Is a Folk Rocker? [Acoustic Fury Records]. The idea was to do classic Ramones downstrokes for the intro chords, but then to abandon barre chords completely, as I wanted to air out the sonic spectrum and pay homage to the crunchy melody riffs heard on Alice Cooper tracks such as “Muscle of Love.” An easy maneuver if you can dig in with ballsy overdrive— a little trickier if you’re wielding an organic, miked acoustic.

Happily, the Brock produced a tough and stout midrange that clearly articulated the lines. The tone was also feisty enough to go toe-to-toe with some absolutely pounding drums and bass without losing clarity or sonic impact. I doubled the lines for a stereo effect, and that was that—the Brock drove the track like a jet-propelled tractor.

As equally impressible as the Brock’s machismo is its dynamic voice. For obvious reasons, I really thrashed the strings to “punk up” the Ramones track, but the Brock also produces gorgeous fingerpicked timbres. You can lay way back and still get marvelous note clarity, or dig in for some snap and shimmer. Folky chords blossom nicely whether you play with fingers or a pick, and more aggressive, Townshend-like strumming rings out clearly with no evidence of low-end mud or compression. The Brock can negotiate just about any playing style and deliver clean, coherent, and expressive sounds.

Bottom Line

While the Brock Dreadnought is certainly not a budget- or mid-priced wonder, it’s absolutely a guitar to aspire to whenever your gear-acquisition budget expands to handle a $2,850 acoustic. Workmanship and tones are superior by any definition, and its beautifully aggressive volume level ensures your performance will be heard above almost all sonic impediments. This box is truly a dream machine.

Specifications

Contact Brock Acoustics, brockacoustics.com

Brock Dreadnought

Price $2,850 retail
Nut Width 1.75"
Scale Length 25.4"
Neck Honduran mahogany
Fretboard Ebony
Frets 20 medium
Tuners Gotoh
Body Sitka Spruce top, East Indian rosewood back and sides
Bridge Ebony
Factory Strings D’Addario EJ16, .012-.053
Weight 4.86 lbs
Built USA
Kudos Spectacular build quality. Loud, balanced, and articulate tones.
Concerns Can be a budget buster.

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