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This article was originally published in issue #28
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The American guitar maker Breedlove produces top-end acoustics that are highly respected and priced accordingly. The man hours, materials and the craftsmanship that go into a Bend, Oregon produced Breedlove come at price, however, as they do with any high-end instrument, so to cater for the vast majority of players who either can't afford or just can't justify the cost of a US produced guitar, Breedlove has taken a leaf out of many other US guitar brands and arranged for some lower cost versions of its guitars to be made in China.
So far, this isn't very different from a lot of other guitars, like Epiphones, cheap Fenders and so on. But this Breedlove Discovery is actually a really good sounding and playing instrument for a silly low price - and it will do the job live or in the studio. In fact, once recorded and blended in a track, no one could tell the difference between this or an acoustic costing ten times more. Exposed to a critical side by side comparison with a top priced acoustic there may be a more of an obvious difference, and, yes, a high-end, hand produced, solid wood, nitro finished acoustic will get better and better with age, whereas a polyester finished budget guitar like this will tend to sound how it sounds now and forever. Then again, this Breedlove has a solid Sitka spruce top mated to its laminated sapele back and sides, so there should be some maturing with age. Either way, for a no-frills get the job done instrument, this Breedlove Discovery would easily pay for itself in no time.
The Discovery series of Breedloves includes a family of four slightly different body shapes with or without cutaway, each giving a slightly different character to the sound. The Dreadnought CE does have a cutaway and although it is labelled a Dreadnought, it is actually more rounded in shape and a tiny bit smaller than the usual Dreadnought size, the theory being you get the size and fatness of tone of a Dread but with the projection and subtlety of a Concert shaped guitar. Good in theory but I think these things come more from the person playing it rather than body shapes. Then again, this guitar does have a sound that is big but not boomy, so maybe there is something in it.
The neck is slightly slimmer than you often find on acoustics of this type, making it easier for beginners, and generally the set up on our sample was very good. I didn't feel the need to particularly tweak or change anything and felt at home very quickly, even though I prefer big fat necks. The fretwork on the nato neck's rosewood fingerboard seemed well done and comfortable and the string action was medium to low, so again no adjustments needed.
The onboard Fishman ISYS-T did a great job of reproducing the natural tone of the acoustic, too, although with our review guitar, there did seem to be a problem with the contour button, which is supposed to give a boost to the lows and highs, but instead caused the sound to break up and crackle even with a brand new battery. We're inclined to overlook this as most likely being a one-off problem, but you might want to make a mental note to check it out for yourself if you are thinking of buying one. It's so rare to find a fault with a Fishman that we're not even going to dock a quarter of a star of this guitar's rating.
So to sum up, the Breedlove Discovery Dreadnought CE gave a very good account of itself. It was easy to play, with good intonation in all positions, sounded really full both acoustically and with the on board Fishman pre-amp (contour button aside) and for the very low asking price, it punches way above its weight. It's incredible that a guitar this good can be made at this price.