Review: Breedlove Oregon Concerto E

As part of Breedlove’s “Big Sound” debut for 2017, the Oregon Series guitars—available in Concert, Dreadnought, and Concerto body styles—feature solid myrtlewood for the sides and back, and are paired with either a solid Sitka spruce or myrtlewood top.
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As part of Breedlove’s “Big Sound” debut for 2017, the Oregon Series guitars—available in Concert, Dreadnought, and Concerto body styles—feature solid myrtlewood for the sides and back, and are paired with either a solid Sitka spruce or myrtlewood top. If you’re unfamiliar with myrtlewood, it’s a tonewood with a visually striking grain that grows primarily in a 90-square-mile area along the Pacific coast. These trees take around 100 years to mature, and the varying climatic conditions, as well as the mineral composition of the soil, play large roles in what gives the wood such a distinctive appearance and quality of sound.

The Concerto on review here is a finely crafted guitar that features a gloss-finished body and a satin-finished maple neck that is topped with an ebony fingerboard carrying 20 nicely worked frets. The graining of the wood looks stunning, and the décor is tastefully rendered via a sweet looking herringbone rosette, an ebony headstock facing, and black binding with herringbone trim on the top. The guitar tuned up easily courtesy of the sealed, nickel-plated machines, and the compensated bridge, in concert with a Tusq nut, provides excellent intonation. Capping things off, a spot-on factory setup gives the Concerto a super-nice playing feel along with tuneful intonation in all regions of the fretboard.

Our review Concerto has a Sitka spruce top that has been Sound Profiled to work efficiently with the myrtlewood back (see sidebar for a closer look at Sound Profiling), and the result is a big, gratifying tone that’s balanced, complex, and endlessly musical. It sustains well and delivers a surprising amount of volume given its relatively compact size (15" wide at the lower bout, 9" at the waist, and 3.75" deep). The Concerto’s quick response and firm, stringy presentation makes it well suited for fingerstylists and flatpickers, and a highly capable performance tool whether you’re into solo playing or working in an acoustic ensemble. I should mention that the L.R. Baggs Element Active System is a great choice for this guitar, as it uses an ultra-thin film transducer that responds to the top’s motion instead of depending on downward string pressure from the bridge, so there’s minimal “quackiness,” even when striking the strings hard. In tandem with Baggs’ Class-A discrete endpin preamp, which has soundhole-mounted Volume and Tone controls, it’s snap to get a natural tone though standard and dedicated acoustic amps, or when running direct into a P.A.

An impressive instrument on many levels, the Oregon Concerto moves the value needle northward for its excellent sound, playability, and craftsmanship. Attractively priced, too, for an American-made guitar, it’s an easy choice for an Editors’ Pick Award.

Oregon Concerto E Sitka Spruce-Myrtlewood

PRICE $1,999 street
NUT WIDTH 1.75" Tusq
NECK Hard rock maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Ebony, 25.5" scale
TUNERS Breedlove nickel-plated with ebony buttons
BODY Solid myrtlewood back and sides, Sitka spruce top
BRIDGE Breedlove Delta, African ebony
CONTROLS Volume, Tone
WEIGHT 4.7 lbs
KUDOS Superb sound and playability. Excellent construction.

Breedlove’s Sound Profiling

Operations Manager Miles Benefield taps a set of top wood to capture frequency readings via computer software.

Ever wonder why acoustic guitars—often the same model made by the same company—all sound a little different, with some being more “magical” than others? You’re not alone. Many builders and researchers have pondered the same question, and most agree that part of the answer lies in the fact that woods vary in consistency from tree to tree, and even differ in what part of the tree they come from—for example, the lower areas are typically denser and harder than wood from the higher sections. This poses a potential problem when trying to determine the ideal thickness for such critical parts as the top and back, as obviously holding to one specification isn’t going to work optimally all the time.

Breedlove’s answer to this is a process called “Sound Profiling,” and all of the company’s “Big Sound” guitars made at its Bend, Oregon, factory undergo this procedure to allow the tops and backs to work as harmoniously as possible. So what is Sound Profiling? Basically it involves tapping the top sets by hand to activate their frequency readings, which are then captured in a computer program. By analyzing the data and doing some calculations based on the density of the specific set, Breedlove knows precisely how thick each soundboard needs to be in order to achieve a desired resonant frequency. A similar process is applied to the back set, and the end result is essentially a “marrying” of the top and back to maximize the instrument’s efficiency, which not only results in more volume and projection, but also a more complex and nuanced tone. The process adds time to construction, but Sound Profiling ultimately allows for improved tone and greater consistency between all of Breedlove’s Big Sound series guitars. —AT