Conventional wisdom says you can't build guitars in anything but an hourglass shape and be successful. In spite of that limiting viewpoint, back in 1991 Breedlove designed and built some beautiful asymmetrical guitars and managed to be quite successful. Their cutaway guitars are simultaneously voluptuous and strange. Some guitarists see them as a curiosity, others are beguiled by these unique instruments. That they play and sound great does not hurt one bit.
I talked to "Crazy Pete" Newport, Breedlove's president, about the concept behind the new Oregon-based Custom Shop and the company's new American Standard Series. "Three or four years ago that guitar cost around $3000," he told me. "When the economy went down, a lot of craftsmen in our area were out of work, so we decided we were going to do something to address that. We ended up turning the factory inside out. These are the only guitars in the country that are made 100% in the US, fully customizable, and made of highest quality woods at this price [$999 street]. How long can we do that? We put a lot of fine craftsmen to work, and we're going to try to make it last as long as we can, but we're kind of taking the world by storm at this point. We've been out of reach for a lot of folks, but now we're really looking for more friends." In other words, get 'em while they're hot.
She's a Brick House
Our review guitar, the C20/SM, is from the American Series, entirely handmade in the 40-person Breedlove Custom Shop in Bend, Oregon, and sticks to the very familiar modified hourglass we know and love so well. It has a concert-size body with solid mahogany back and sides, and a hand voiced, graduated Sitka spruce top. The guitar is pleasing to the eye, as well as extremely comfortable to hold. The one-piece mahogany neck is also comfortable with a 1-3/4" nut and a 25-1/2" scale length. The action is low, fast, clean, and fingerstyle friendly. The C20/SM has a pinless rosewood bridge, and like all Breedloves, comes standard with the JLD Bridge Truss System.
The ornamentation is plain and simple, and makes this already attractive guitar a stunner. The black body binding, abalone rosette, and clean, simple position markers are just right, and the asymmetrical headstock with rosewood overlay and Gotoh 381 tuners caps it off with customary Breedlove flair. The three asymmetrical elements—headstock, fretboard markers and bridge shape—work together perfectly to make this guitar a standout. A deluxe hardshell case is included, as well as Breedlove's Lifetime Warranty, adding up to a heck of a deal. More compelling still, the C20 doesn't feel at all like a "budget" guitar.
The Breedlove You Know
Breedlove's original sound comes, in part, from four sources. Newport explains that the Breedlove four-stage system starts with the neck. "We've changed the neck angle to kick back about one degree more, so you get nice low action but you're also getting more power to drive the top. So you've got the neck angle, the pinless bridge with the bridge truss as reinforcement, and then we really control how that energy gets released to the top, back, and sides by tweaking the bracing and graduating the tops. All those things working together led to the original Breedlove sound."