Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

Breedlove Oregon Series C20/SMYe Acoustic Guitar Review

Breedlove Oregon Series C20/SMYe Acoustic Guitar Review

Bound to appeal to a wide swath of fingerstylists and singer-songwriters, Breedlove''s new Oregon Series C20/SMYe has enough range to sound feather-delicate or downright propulsive.

Ever since Breedlove Guitars formed in the early ’90s, the company has emphasized forward-thinking design and alternative materials. Larry Breedlove, after all, was a former Taylor employee, and as such had learned a few things about modern acoustic-guitar construction. But Breedlove’s adopted home in central Oregon, and the wealth of wood from the region, seems every bit as big an influence on what the company’s guitars would become. And emphasis on sustainable materials and an outside-the-box view of tonewoods like walnut and myrtlewood led to unique and evolutionary instruments that helped put Breedlove on the map.

In the years since, Breedlove has explored more traditional designs and materials, too. But the C20/SMYe from the new Oregon series feels like revisiting the company’s earliest, more radical design impulses, and it possesses a distinct personality and voice that is bound to appeal to a wide swath of fingerstylists and singer-songwriters—particularly those with an understated and nuanced touch.

Left Down Myrtlewood Street
Even at a distance, it’s hard to mistake the C20/SMYe for anything other than a Breedlove. The company’s signature headstock, which tends to be a polarizing factor for some players, is a dead giveaway. But the concert-sized body also speaks to Breedlove’s go-your-own-way styling sense. It’s a little more curvaceous, pinched at the waist, and wider at the bass bouts than a traditional concert-sized guitar like a Martin 00. Instead, the 15" body and more dramatic shape make it more akin to a Taylor Grand Concert or a fatter Gibson L-0. The less formal styling is tempered in small measure by touches like the herringbone-like binding. In general, though, the guitar is a showcase for more modern design sensibilities. Past the 12th fret, the pearloid dot inlays on the ebony fretboard are on the treble side of the fretboard and between the high E and B strings. Below the 12th fret, the dots are situated between the 5th and 6th strings. At the 12th fret, the offset dots suggest a sort of figurative hand off between octaves—an easy detail to miss, perhaps but a thoughtful touch.

The blonde-on-blonde look of the Sitka spruce top and myrtlewood back and sides may not be as typical of a match as the spruce top and maple back and sides on a Guild or Gibson jumbo, but the earth-and-stone hues of the myrtlewood lend the guitar a sort of organic visual cohesiveness.

The Middle Way
The first thing you’re likely to notice about the Breedlove’s playability is how instantly agreeable it feels. The action is pretty low despite a saddle and bridge design that creates a considerable break angle behind the saddle—a nice combination when you consider long-term maintenance. The lowish action makes chording easy, but it’s also very friendly to fingerstyle maneuvers—making hammer-ons, pull-offs, and legato phrases relatively effortless.

If the C20/SMYe’s playability makes it seem like a natural fingerstyle machine, the prevailing tones make it feel doubly so. This is a very midrange-y guitar, and if you’re the kind of fingerstylist who works with a nuanced, delicate touch, you’ll savor the detail, dynamics, and overtones you can coax out of it with very little effort. These applications reveal the similarities between the Breedlove’s spruce-and-myrtlewood composition and sounds commonly associated with spruce and maple—bright, warm, and not too bossy. The union of warmth and articulation makes it a great guitar for the studio. It can be both compact and present in a mix as fingerstyle accompaniment to a vocal, or yield a bounty of rewards for players who use a thin pick and/or light touch for propulsive Jeff Lynne/ELO/Wilburys-style strummed rhythms. In these contexts, the Breedlove sits both succinct and airily spacious in a mix—adding bounce, atmosphere, and an almost 12-string- or Nashville-strung-like presence.

Ratings

Pros:
Beautifully responsive and articulate for nuanced fingerpicking work. Excellent high-mid presence for rhythm work. Unique voice. Great studio guitar.

Cons:
Not much low end.

Tones:

Playability:

Build/Design:

Value:

Street:
$1,499

Company
breedlovemusic.com

If there’s a flip side to the beautiful, harmonic responsiveness to light picking, it’s that the C20/SMYe can be equally unkind to a heavy hand—at least when set up with the low action the guitar seems meant to have. The compact body and myrtlewoodand-spruce recipe produces a lot less bass thump. In fact, in standard tuning, the low E doesn’t generate much at all. The way the guitar is set up, tuning down to C–G–C–F–A–C or even DADGAD did little to summon much additional low end. For players who value the exquisite midrange attributes, the lack of big, resonant bass may be a plus—especially in the studio. But if you’re used to the low-end of, say, a rosewood OM or a dreadnought, the absence of that boom can throw you for a curve.

Plugged in, the C20/SMYe’s Fishman Ultratone undersaddle transducer can help you dial in a little more bass, but you’ll likely have to augment it via your amp’s (or mixing desk’s) EQ, because while the pickup does a very good job of communicating the guitar’s ample midrange content, rolling back its tone control too much shaves off some of the gorgeous detail. Dial up the right amount of low end on your amp, though, and the Fishman gives you a little more bass without substantial sacrifice in high-mid articulation.

The Verdict
While it may not put a lot of low-end tonnage at your fingertips, the C20/SMYe has enough range to sound feather-delicate or downright propulsive—and it feels positively slinky while doing either. If you can’t live without the low end of your D-28, this Breedlove probably won’t do the trick. That said, players who love the C20/SMYe’s warm and bright myrtlewood tones but miss the bass might well find a solution in the Oregon Series dreadnought. But if you’ve already got a boom box in your collection and you’re looking for a less rough-hewn voice for fingerstyle and strumming, the C20/SMYe would be a great addition to your quiver.

Featuring FET instrument inputs, "Enhance" switch, and innovative input stage, this pedal is designed to solve challenges like poor feel, setting levels, and ease of use.

Read MoreShow less

Ted’s to-go kits: the silver box and the Big Black Bag.

Traveling with a collection of spare essentials—from guitar and mic cables to extension cords, capos, tuners, and maybe even a mini-amp—can be the difference between a show and a night of no-go.

Anyone who’s seen a spy flick or caper movie knows about go bags—the always-packed-and-ready duffles or attachés filled with passports, a few weapons, and cash that’s ready to grab and run with when the hellhounds are on your trail. As guitar players, we also need go bags, but their contents are less dramatic, unless, maybe, you’re playing a Corleone-family wedding.

Read MoreShow less
Caleb Followill's Kings of Leon Live Rig Explained
Caleb Followill's Kings of Leon Live Rig Explained by Builder Xact Tone Solutions' Barry O'Neal

The Xact Tone Solutions chief pedal puzzle solver Barry O'Neal goes over the gear in Caleb Followill's rack and explains all the ins and outs of its configuration to pull off the Can We Please Have Fun tour hitting U.S. arenas this summer and fall.

Firebirds came stock with a solid G-logo tailpiece, although Bigsby vibratos were often added.

Photo by George Aslaender

The author’s PX-6131 model is an example of vintage-guitar evolution that offers nostalgic appeal in the modern world—and echoes of AC/DC’s Malcolm Young.

An old catchphrase among vintage dealers used to run: “All Gretsches are transition models.” While their near-constant evolution was considered confusing, today their development history is better understood. This guitar however is a true transition model, built just as the Jet line was undergoing major changes in late 1961.

Read MoreShow less