Breedlove graduates the tops by making them around .010" to .015" thinner than conventional tops on the bass side, and that much thicker on the treble side. "You really end up with a broad voice for each guitar, and a nice note balance up the neck and across the strings," says Newport. By reinforcing the bridge with the Bridge Truss System, Breedlove ended up with a stronger anchor point over the saddle. According to Newport, "The strings end up vibrating longer, which generates more sustain and allows more time to energize the top. This creates a nice bloom of tone. We call it the Breedlove Original Sound, or Complex Sustain."
The aforementioned pinless bridge is a JLD Bridge Truss System. JLD got started with their Bridge Doctor, a solution for stabilizing tops that have begun to collapse in front of the bridge. The folks at JLD noticed that installing their device altered a guitar's tone. The instrument sounded louder, bigger, and more brilliant, and developed more sustain, so they approached luthiers about installing the Bridge Doctor in new guitars as a way of enhancing their sound, as well as preventing those guitar beer bellies.
Breedlove was a very early adopter of the JDL Bridge Truss. Back in the early '90s, Breedlove was the repair center for Taylor, and got to see first hand how abused guitars could be restored and returned to full usefulness. "So, we played with it, continued to modify the guitar design to take advantage of that bridge truss, and it's become one of four major tonal attributes to the tops of our guitars," explains Newport.
Play that Thang
The C20 is a lively sounding little thing, brilliant as well as rich. It sounds great. In open tunings this guitar really sizzles, and it will drop down to a C-tuning without breaking a sweat, thanks to that nice long scale length. The tone has all the stuff you want: warmth, richness, clarity, and character. You can tell the woods are all solid, all high quality, and you can really hear the care and love that went into building this guitar.
There is a "but" here, though I'm not sure it's a bad thing. The treble really jumps out at you. I mean really jumps out at you. Like, "Holy moly, that's got high-end happening." It's not unpleasant, but wow, it's in-your-face on the treble side. And again, it's a great sounding guitar, and I'm not even remotely suggesting that it doesn't have bass, because it does. I mentioned that to Newport, and he said that it's likely I'm the first person to play that guitar, besides the folks doing the setup, so it's simply that brand-spanking newness I'm hearing. After a few days the treble will become more integrated into the overall sound. Using a capo seemed to balance out the high end, and didn't cause the guitar to choke.
The Final Mojo
Breedlove guitars are beautiful works of art, and the C20/SM offers extremely high value for the dollar. Elegant looking and easy to play, this brilliant sounding guitar is a solid contender in the new push for lower cost, high quality, professional-class instruments. Newport informed me that you can get an LR Baggs Active Element pickup installed for $200 more, and that makes the C20/SM a stage-stealer.
you want a brilliant sounding, professionally voiced, handmade guitar that doesn't feel, play, or sound "budget friendly," but is.
you love the darker side of the acoustic spectrum.