Surprising dynamism, punch, and balance in a budget small-body flattop.
Surprising dynamic range for a small body. Great playability and personality, plus a sweet electronics package.
Gigbag isn’t the most protective.
Breedlove Pursuit Concertina E
Breedlove Guitars has always been known for their willingness to deviate from acoustic-design convention. Features like their pinless bridge and the JLD truss system (a dowel spanning the bridge and tail block that counteracts tension exerted on the top and increases sustain and resonance) helped distinguish Breedlove as a forward-thinking brand. But they also contributed to what many players classify as a more modern tone signature—an alternative to established mid-20th-century acoustic sound templates.
Breedlove is also known for specialized body styles. Last year, the company introduced a new platform: the Concertina, a 12-fret, small-body flattop that is clearly a response to the parlor guitar renaissance of recent years. Now, the Concertina is available as part of the affordable Pursuit series, which is designed in the United States and made in China. I checked out the Pursuit Concertina E, with its LR Baggs electronics, which sells for about $500 street, and it’s an outstanding guitar for the money.
Not Your Father’s Budget Guitar
While the Concertina’s relatively insubstantial gigbag didn’t make the best first impression (you may want to seek a replacement down the line), once I had the instrument in my lap I succumbed to its charms immediately.
The Concertina E is lovely, with a simple abalone rosette, black-and-white purfling, and tortoise binding. The solid western red cedar top has a rich, amber finish, and the laminated mahogany back and sides have subtle but beautiful beeswing figuring. The instrument appears to have been built with great pride and care, too. The body’s gloss finish is free from imperfections and areal attention to detail is apparent inside the body as well. Nothing about the Concertina screams or even murmurs budget guitar.
The guitar feels as good as it looks. It’s light and balanced, whether in your lap or in the standing position. (Conveniently, a strap button is installed on the heel). The 25" scale occupies a comfortable middle ground between Gibson’s 24 3/4" scale and Martin’s 25.4". With a relatively slim C-shape profile, the neck probably won’t appeal to traditionalists who favor fat V-shaped necks. But it’s extremely comfortable and fast, and perfect for beginners and players more accustomed to electrics.
The nut-width measures 1.69", and though some finicky fingerstyle players might find it cramped, it was more than comfortable enough for me to execute the complex chord shapes in the Bach arrangements I played on the instrument. The action is low, but not overly so. And it’s easy to imagine the relative satisfaction of a beginner learning their first F barre chord on the Concertina E. Half- and even whole-step bends are easy to execute on the upper strings, which blues and rock players will love.
Out on the Range
Overall, the Concertina has a warm, dry, and super-likeable voice that clearly communicates the qualities of the cedar-and-mahogany tonewood combination. It’s got a bit more punch and projection than I expected, which is always a welcome surprise for a small-bodied guitar. It’s also balanced and dynamic, with sensitivity enough to convey fingerstyle nuance and the headroom to accommodate forceful flatpicking.
The Concertina E’s dynamism also translates to surprising complexity. The Concertina E responded nicely to all types of chord voicings, from basic open grips to tightly voiced jazz chords. There’s a perceptible smoothness and note separation that certainly exceeded my expectations. Sustain is excellent, too, and single notes ring with a faint naturally reverberative quality. On the treble strings, the response is sweet, clear, and not at all plinky, like many guitars in this class. The midrange, meanwhile, has an appreciable bark.
Weak spots are few. I did find the low-end response to be slightly lukewarm at times on the 6th string. But I was easily able to compensate by picking the bass notes harder and strumming chordal accents more lightly, and weaker low-end response is typical of a small-bodied guitar—even expensive ones.
Pretty Plugged In
The Concertina comes complete with the EAS (Element Active System) by LR Baggs. This undersaddle pickup sounds excellent. It’s also physically discrete, with a single control—a volume thumbwheel knob—tucked away at the edge of the soundhole. Plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amp, the Concertina sounds warm and natural—very much like it does unplugged—without the compression and quack common among undersaddle pickups.
The Concertina E is one of those affordable guitars that remind you that we live in a relative golden age of guitar building, where real quality is available to even the most cost-constrained players. And while it’s affordable enough for a beginner, I suspect more than a few budget-minded pros would be thrilled by the potential of this little flattop.
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.