In recent years we’ve witnessed guitar builders, both large and small, begin to seek out more sustainable and less controversial materials for use in their products.
Alternatives to the more established timbers such as rosewood, spruce and certain strains of mahogany are being actively sought in the quest to find new champions with which to fuel our acoustic meanderings.
As such, we have come across woods with strange-sounding names that put our traditionalist tendencies to the test. But a healthy dose of open-mindedness is essential on everyone’s part if we’re really serious about putting the planet’s interests first.
We’ve certainly found some really first-class acoustic guitars recently where the woods initially seemed seriously off the beaten path, but the tones we heard from them confirmed their place in the pantheon of tonewoods.
As far as Breedlove is concerned, owner Tom Bedell has travelled far and wide to seek out timber that has been properly managed, taking the time to assess how its harvesting has affected local wildlife and the surrounding environment’s general health.
No clear-cut trees – that is, trees that have been harvested and replaced with man-made, non-environmentally sound plantations – are used. Salvaged wood or individually harvested trees from reputable suppliers is the name of the game hereabouts.
As the name suggests, Breedlove’s ECO Pursuit range epitomises the company’s green credentials and the guitar before us here is no exception. Designed in Bend, Oregon, and built in China, the Concert Sweetgrass is a handsome fellow and a large part of this is down to the timber used in its top. Breedlove has been a pioneering force with myrtlewood, the timber used for this acoustic’s top, having used it for more than 25 years.
Myrtlewood is also present in the guitar’s back and sides, but here it is a laminate on top of mahogany. As a tonewood, it combines the attributes of rosewood, mahogany and maple with rich basses, mellow mids and sparkling trebles. But before we commit to a single strum, let’s look at the other constituent parts of the Concert Sweetgrass.
The neck is African mahogany with a fingerboard of ovangkol that has been stained black, presumably to mimic the accustomed look of ebony. We’re going to assume that this must have been an aesthetic choice on Breedlove’s behalf in order that the colour sits well with the myrtlewood as ovangkol’s natural colour resembles rosewood.
Maybe it wouldn’t have looked out of place in its natural state? Who knows. In any case, it’s the same with the pin-free bridge, which is the same timber stained black. It’s easy to see Breedlove’s attention to aesthetic detailing here.
The copper-coloured tuners, position markers and fretboard side dots sit very easily with the paleness of the myrtlewood and darkness of the ovangkol. Both the body and neck are trimmed with plastic tortoiseshell, too, which adds to the instrument’s overall visual appeal.
Flip the body over to take a closer look at the neck and we can see it’s a three-piece affair with a separate heel and a scarf joint to the base of the headstock. It’s a satin finish, too, in contrast to the body’s high-gloss lacquer.
Quality of workmanship is well up to the standard we have seen coming from Chinese workshops these days, and coupled with the top notch design, this is a very well thought out and good-looking acoustic.
For amplified use, the ECO Pursuit comes with a Fishman Presys under-saddle pickup and preamp, the latter boasting a simplified set of controls and an onboard tuner. Just volume, contour and phase is all we have to play with.
The output jack socket is mounted on the guitar’s lower bout, with a built-in battery compartment for easy access. If you’ve ever had to do an emergency battery swap at a gig when the battery terminals are hidden away inside your instrument, you’ll probably want to stand and applaud this idea…
Feel & Sounds
Picking up the Breedlove we find that it’s a well-balanced affair that sits well in the hands. The feel of the satin finish neck is really quite appealing, too. It’s a nice C-shape profile: not too chunky, neither is it too thin.
We found that one or two of the tuners were a little stiff at first – this could merely be because it’s a brand-new instrument – but once we got the guitar in tune we didn’t have to touch them again and so they did the job faultlessly.
The guitar’s action might be a fraction higher than we’d like, but probably only to the tune of 1mm or so. Easily remedied, of course, and it could also have been due to atmospheric conditions. The guitar arrived with us in a cardboard box with no case or gigbag and so it has possibly been effectively open to the elements while in transit.
Sound-wise, we were in for a pleasant surprise as the ECO Pursuit really does have a very nice singing voice. There’s bags of bass but not of the boomy variety, with rich mids and sweet trebles – everything that was promised to us with the presence of myrtlewood, in fact.
Chords shine and shimmer with good sustain, and individual notes demonstrate a very capable dynamic range. Anything from moody and mellow ballad style to snappy and bright blues was accommodated with ease.
Testing the pickup through our AER Compact 60, we were happy with the sound we heard pretty much from the start. As we’ve mentioned, there are no treble and bass controls, just a contour push-button.
What happens here is effectively a mid-scoop and, once engaged, it has the effect of making the basses richer and the mids more transparent, while leaving the sparkle of the trebles in place. Despite the fact that there is no direct control over treble and bass as you may expect, the contour control was very effective and we didn’t really yearn for anything more.
This guitar ticks very many boxes for us. It’s a very good-looking instrument, the myrtlewood is a very attractive timber and will, of course, vary greatly from one guitar to the next, but Breedlove certainly deserves full marks on the design front. Build quality is, as we’ve said, very good with very obvious attention to detail on behalf of the Chinese builder.
There is the very slight niggle about the action height and the lack of a gigbag, and these are really the only points that keep the Breedlove from getting a higher score. Apart from that, this is a real winner from both sound and ecological points of view.
- PRICE: $749 / £869
- ORIGIN: China
- TYPE: Concert cutaway
- TOP: Myrtlewood
- BACK/SIDES: Mahogany/myrtlewood laminate
- MAX RIM DEPTH: 106mm
- MAX BODY DEPTH: 390mm
- NECK: Mahogany
- SCALE LENGTH: 642.6mm (25.3”)
- TUNERS: Breedlove copper w/ copper buttons
- NUT/WIDTH: Synthetic/43mm
- FINGERBOARD: Ovangkol
- FRETS: 20
- BRIDGE/SPACING: Ovangkol/ 55mm
- ELECTRICS: Fishman Presys I
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.9/4.2
- OPTIONS: None
- RANGE OPTIONS: There are 12 models available in the Breedlove Pursuit Exotic range with various tonewood combinations and body sizes on offer. Concert-size models include the Concert Companion Tiger’s Eye (£869), the Concert Edgeburst (£1,599) and the Concert Amber (£869)
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISH: Sweetgrass gloss
- CONTACT: Breedlove