Bedell’s commitment to building guitars from sustainably harvested woods is highlighted by the Earthsong series of Dreadnought, Orchestra, and Parlor models, which are made in Bend, Oregon. These guitars feature 100 percent American-sourced woods: Salvaged Sitka spruce for the tops, Western big-leaf maple for the backs and sides, Eastern hard-rock maple necks, and walnut for the bridges, fretboards, and peghead overlays. And if you think there’s nothing glamorous about this cellulose brew, the Orchestra model on review could change your mind. In fact, this beautiful instrument demonstrates just how nicely these homegrown woods can look and sound. Despite the Sitka top being harvested from a fallen tree on the forest floor, the speckled graining that’s revealed under a gloss-nitro Root-Beer-Burst finish is magnificently soulful. A color matching satin-nitro finish on the back and sides transforms the normally pale maple into a most appealing shade of brown. Cosmetics include black binding on the top and back, mother-of-pearl dots on the fretboard, and a dark walnut ring around the soundhole. The smooth open-gear tuners with their aged-brass parts look great too, and conveniently, the guitar comes with a front strap button installed.
As the mid-sized model in the Earthsong series, the Orchestra is a nimble guitar that offers inspiring playability thanks to its super-smooth C-shaped neck, well-attended frets, and excellent setup. The thin finish and lightweight construction contribute to a tone that is vibrant, expressive, and touch-sensitive. This guitar sounds great for fingerstyle playing, as there’s lots of depth and stringy character in its voice, and it responds to a pick with snappiness and volume that belie its modest 15"-wide body. It has the punch and presence to handle an acoustic gig, and if you need to be amplified, the Orchestra’s passive K&K pickup (which uses multiple transducers mounted under the bridge plate) delivers an honest sound that’s nicely balanced and free of harsh artifacts even when played hard. Though the absence of volume or tone controls was a bit limiting, the guitar sounded very good through standard tube amps as well as some new Fender acoustic combos, proving the K&K system to be the right choice for this instrument.
Bedell’s excellent workmanship and quality control help to make the Earthsong Orchestra a great choice for anyone looking for a hip-sounding and affordable acoustic guitar from a U.S. maker. That it also boasts completely sustainable materials should also make it mighty appealing for the eco-minded too. Well done on all counts, and most deserving of an Editors’ Pick Award.
Earthsong Orchestra ES-O-SK/MP
PRICE $1,790 street
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16", bone
NECK Eastern hard-rock maple
FRETBOARD Walnut, 25.5" scale
TUNERS Bedell open-gear antique brass
BODY Western big-leaf maple back and sides, Sitka spruce top
BRIDGE Walnut with bone saddle
PICKUPS K&K under-bridge transducer system
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario Phosphor Bronze
WEIGHT 3.8 lbs
KUDOS Super toneful. Sweet look. Plays well.
CONCERNS No volume or tone controls.