The acoustic experts from Bend, Oregon, deliver a versatile, luxurious-sounding jack-of-all-trades.
Breedlove is one of the most original makers of acoustic guitars to emerge in the last few decades. Now owned by Two Old Hippies (which also owns the Bedell and Weber brands), the Bend, Oregon, outfit’s offerings include instruments that range from quality, affordable import models to extravagant, one-of-a-kind instruments built in the spirit of Breedlove’s original vision as a bespoke custom shop. The new U.S.-built Premier series sits somewhere in between the most affordable Breedloves and the most exclusive ones—although the Premier Auditorium Rosewood reviewed here often manages to sound custom-shop luxurious at a much more accessible price.
With its distinctive, asymmetrical headstock and unique take on the auditorium profile, the Premier Auditorium Rosewood is instantly recognizable as a Breedlove. Appointments are simple and unfussy: a single ring of abalone for a rosette, basic white body binding with black-and-white purfling around the top, and no back strip. Rather than the flamboyant, thunderbolt-inspired Breedlove bridge design of yore, the Premier uses the traditional-style bridge it introduced in the Atlas series several years ago. Measuring 15 5/8" at the lower bout, the guitar’s curvaceous auditorium body also somewhat fits the description of the popular mini-jumbo style.
Without a lot of distracting bling, the quality of materials and craftsmanship become the focus. Our review guitar passed that up-close inspection with flying colors. The Indian rosewood used for the back and sides has a lovely, three-dimensional quality and, while the spruce top had a few brown streaks, it also had really cool cross-grain and a bit of bear-claw figuring. The mahogany used for the one-piece, shallow-D profile neck (which is bolted to the body, and has a 1 11/16" nut) is also very attractive, as is the ebony used for the pinless bridge and the fretboard.
Despite the understated design, there are many thoughtful, elegant little design touches, like small abalone dot position markers with pearl centers—on the bass-side they follow the fretboard up to the ninth fret, and on the treble side they go past the octave. But the most impressive aspect is the craftsmanship: Calling it “perfect” is only a slight exaggeration. It exhibits excellent fit and finish throughout, right down to details like finely sanded braces and immaculately clean kerfing.
Like most Oregon-made Breedlove guitars, the Premier Auditorium Rosewood includes a licensed version of the JLD Bridge Doctor, which connects the bridge plate with the end-block by way of a dowel. This transfers some the torque force from the strings to the guitar’s sides, reducing tension on the top and making it safe to incorporate a lighter top and extremely scalloped bracing. Breedlove says this construction method lets the top vibrate a lot more freely.
Versatile Picking Partner
With a particularly nice Breedlove Ed Gerhard signature model that I once nearly bought in mind, I took the Premier on a fingerstyle excursion in standard tuning. Right away, I heard the unique sonic thumbprint that I’ve heard in every original-design Breedlove I’ve played: An incredibly resonant bass, and a depth that belied the instrument’s size, rattled my chest and found me wondering if I’d inadvertently tuned the guitar lower than I’d intended. Perhaps this is what Breedlove means when they say the JLD Bridge Doctor and thinner top lets the top vibrate more freely. Whatever it is, the Premier Auditorium is a low-end beast, and that dramatically expands the range of available tones. Not surprisingly it sounded rich and lovely in a solo context. Dropping into DADGAD enhanced these qualities, and I enjoyed using the guitar for Leo Kottke-style alternate-bass picking and more graceful Celtic tunes.
Small-jumbo bodies often display a jack-of-all-trades versatility, and the Breedlove was no exception. While it might not have the boom and punch to replace a dreadnought in a bluegrass jam, it’s loud and focused when strummed with a flatpick, offering a hint of natural compression when I dug in hard. In fact, the guitar sounded so good with a pick that I’d encourage Breedlove to install a pickguard—this guitar loves to be strummed!
Realizing that many of today’s acoustic players like to plug in, Breedlove includes a custom Fishman pickup system on Premier models. Using the company’s coaxial Sonicore undersaddle pickup and a soundhole-mounted preamp with volume and tone controls, the Ultra-Tone system is an active design powered by a 9V battery mounted internally on the back’s bass side. Plugged straight into an AER Compact 60 amp, the guitar sounded remarkably alive, with excellent string-to-string balance, and a pleasant amplified sound overall. I did hear a few fret buzzes that I didn’t detect while playing acoustically. I also found the guitar to be a bit more prone to feedback when I cranked the AER than other flattops with undersaddle pickups. This might be a consideration if you play with a loud band.
It’s hard not to marvel at the value you get with the Breedlove Premier Auditorium Rosewood. Getting a small-shop-built guitar with solid woods, excellent craftsmanship, and a very expensive-sounding and complex voice for under $2,000 is noteworthy. Judging by the quality of this guitar, I’d surmise that if the rosewood auditorium recipe isn’t your cup of tea, it’s worth checking out other Premier models. The electronics may not be perfect, there are few other settings in which this new Breedlove does not absolutely excel.