Sleek, stylish, affordable, and balanced, this compact, all-solid mahogany flattop excels in amplified performance situations.
Affordable. Balanced tone. Punchy midrange. Tasteful, sleek modern styling. Suited for heavy strumming and fingerpicking. Effective electronics.
Could use a bit more top-end resonance.
Breedlove Organic Wildwood Concert Satin CE
When it comes to acoustic guitar style, I typically prefer a classic approach—one where the instrument becomes a blank canvas for a performer's playing and personality. What I like about Breedlove's new China-made Organic Wildwood Concert Satin CE is how it manages modern style without imparting a modern tone agenda or sacrificing any room for personal expression. It's built around a classic all-solid mahogany tonewood recipe, comes with a very capable pickup/preamp system, and, at just less than $650, it delivers a lot of performance possibilities for a lower-mid-priced flattop.
Traditional/Modern Blends Form Bend
Guitars in the Organic Wildwood series features two different headstock styles: a traditional shape and Breedlove's more modern signature profile. The Concert reviewed here uses the latter, and it certainly compliments the equally non-traditional cutaway body shape and playfully suggests 1950s notions about futuristic industrial design. There are other non-traditional accents, too. Offset inlays are arrayed along the top and bottom of the fretboard, rather than in the middle. There's also a pinless bridge, which makes life a lot easier when it comes to restringing and looks pretty chic.
The solid, straight-grained African Mahogany top, back, and sides have an almost chocolatey hue, while the Indian Laurel fretboard with matching thin white purfling and rosette are a nod to the more traditional side of the design spectrum. It adds up to an unassuming look that quietly asserts its 21st century origins.
An Even-Handed Approach
Most of these design features help make the Organic Wildwood Concert a more playable guitar. The cutaway allows easier access between the 14th and 20th frets. And the modern, thin neck profile makes using the fretboard's whole length feel a lot more effortless. The action, meanwhile, is about as low as you can get without generating fret buzz.
The Concert isn't the most fantastically loud or resonant guitar, which isn't unusual for a compact, all-mahogany body. It has an even voice that balances high-end detail and low-end sustain with a strong presence in the midrange. As a player who likes to write riffs on the top three strings, it would be nice to hear slightly more pronounced and lively top-end overtones. But what the guitar might lack in high-end resonance it makes up for with balance and a round, punchy delivery. There isn't a dead spot anywhere on the neck.
The guitar is equipped with Breedlove Natural Sound electronics—a version of Shadow Electronics' Micro-Sonic VT HD undersaddle pickup and preamp. Two wheels for adjusting volume and tone are affixed to the interior side of the sound hole. It takes two AAA batteries, and the input jack is located in the endpin.
It's always nice to have a reliable acoustic pickup, and this one does not disappoint. It effectively communicates the guitar's even harmonic range without any adjustment to the tone control. It also has a cool, idiosyncratic, almost reverberative response to top tapping that I can see percussive players using to their advantage. The Natural Sound System's voice is also well suited to using effects, including gain. (And what's more fun than playing a steel-string acoustic with a little crunch?) But the real strength of the Natural Sound System is the excellent balance and detail that becomes apparent onstage. It effectively erased my misgivings about the overtones I missed in the high end. In fact, the guitar sounded even more balanced across all harmonic ranges when amplified, and when I really needed to dig in volume-wise, it had more than enough headroom to communicate detail without sounding brittle.
The Breedlove Organic Wildwood Concert is affordable, sleek, super-playable, and full of dynamic range. Even though the high end could be a touch more harmonically rich, it's a pleasant and responsive fingerpicking companion, as you can hear on the audio clip. It also rises to the challenge when you really need to dig in. That's not always the case with a compact, concert-sized guitar. But it's a challenge the Wildwood Concert eagerly and very stylishly meets.
Watch the First Look: