Cedar sonics mean super value in a smooth-playing contemporary concert flattop.
Rich, balanced output. Smooth, easy playability. Excellent bass resonance for a concert-sized body. Great build quality. Excellent value.
In spite of great overall balance, midrange might be too strong for some. Modern styling might estrange some traditionalists.
Breedlove Discovery S Concert CE
Good affordable acoustics are wonderfully plentiful these days. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for a guitar like the $499 Breedlove Discovery S Concert CE to make an impression. It's surprisingly punchy and robust in the low-end, for a flattop of its size, and uses a solid Western red cedar top and layered African mahogany back and sides to achieve a balanced, colorful, and complex voice. It's also a pleasure to play—feeling fast under the fingers and as accommodating to haymaker blues leads as to a soft fingerstyle approach or rowdy strum-around.
Purebred Ply and Singing Cedar
One of the nicest things about Breedlove's affordable, China-built Discovery series is the option for a solid cedar top, which we selected for our review version. (Sitka spruce and African mahogany tops are also available.) Fondness for particular top-wood tonalities are as individual and subjective as favorite ice cream flavors. But I love Western red cedar's balance of warmth, reactivity, and focus on the bass side of the frequency spectrum—qualities that make it equally well-suited for a classical guitar top wood or a baritone acoustic. All three of these attributes can be heard and felt when you play the Discovery S Concert CE.
The back and sides are crafted from a 3-layer African mahogany laminate that Breedlove calls Eco Tonewood. Structurally, Breedlove's mahogany laminate differs from many other laminates in that the middle ply is African mahogany rather than a softer wood like poplar or a sheet of wood composite. It can be difficult to gauge the effects of such construction methods on overall tone and playing dynamics. But it's clear that the all-mahogany ply laminate is not a liability. It's easy to discern many classic qualities of a mahogany back—especially the pronounced midrange and focused overtones— working with the snappy and resonant top to create a very detailed composite tone and a dynamic playing experience.
The strength and complexity of the bass fundamentals and overtones are a nice surprise in a cedar-and-mahogany guitar of this modest size.
Bass With Backbone
Most of the bold midrange and pronounced-but soft-around-the-edges treble sounds you hear from the Discovery S Concert CE are representative of what a carefully designed and well-built cedar and mahogany concert-sized body can deliver. But the strength and complexity of the bass fundamentals and overtones are a nice surprise in a cedar-and-mahogany guitar of this modest size—not to mention its price category. In de-tuned settings in particular, the guitar exhibits low-end resonance that inhabits a near-ideal balance between the lowest and highest strings. It's a great guitar for fingerpicking, in this respect, but that balance also makes it shine as a strumming guitar. And unlike a lot of concert-sized instruments with similar tonewood make-ups, the Breedlove's output doesn't turn brash or into a messy, muddy overtone soup when you put a little muscle behind it.
Breedlove bills the Discovery S Concert CE as a beginner-friendly instrument. And while that's certainly true, the label might do a disservice to how complete and pro-friendly the guitar really is. It's very well put together. It's a smooth, easy player and feels fast, and if you're not dogmatic about traditional acoustic styling, you'll dig how much the cutaway extends its already impressive playability. If a jack-of-all trades flattop is what you're after, this Breedlove gets mighty close at a very appealing price.