No more dangerous headstocks, no more swoopy bridges: Breedloves Korean-made Retros hark back to the golden age of American acoustics. Review by Jerry Uwins
Breedlove introduced its Korean-built Atlas Series three years ago. The Atlas guitars are based on the American-made Performance Series but have more conservative styling, omitting, for instance, the familiar shark-teeth bridge design. The latest Atlas additions are a concise sub-range of Retros, styled on the Oregon company’s Revival Series. Presently comprising just four models – two OMs and two dreadnoughts, all non-cutaway electros – they are fashioned on traditional Martin lines, even dropping Breedlove’s distinctive pointy peghead for a vintage variety. The squiggly ‘B’ logo remains, though, as an instant identifier.
The cheaper of the two OMs – the other being the Engelmann spruce/rosewood OM/ER – the SM employs a body of sitka spruce and mahogany, the top and back being solid wood, while the sides are laminated. Bracing is a forward-shifted pre-war X pattern, as on all Retros. The body’s cosmetic trim is attractively simple, including a small teardrop pickguard and tortie binding with multi-strip purfling, the latter echoed in the rosette’s rings. The gloss lacquering is beautifully buffed, and the finishing both inside and out is very clean and precise.
Secured by a traditional glued dovetail, the satin-finish mahogany neck has a full 25.5" scale length (as opposed to Martin’s slightly shorter 25.4"), and carries a slick-feeling black-bound rosewood fingerboard with discreet micro-dot markers. Up on the rosewood-faced headstock is a suitably retro set of chrome, open-back Grover Sta-Tites, and down on the heel sits a second strap button: good news. Thanks to its average width, depth and evenly rounded profile, the neck is a snug, easy player and picking is comfortably catered for by the 55mm bridge string spacing. Sharp corners on the nut (duplicated on the dreadnought too) are a minor irritation, but curable with a few strokes of a file.
The preamp on all Retros is LR Baggs’ Stage Pro Element, a three-band system that also includes phase reverse, a notch filter and an efficient auto-chromatic tuner (which, handily, can also be used acoustically, too). Access to the volume slider on the recessed control panel is a bit cramped, but the unit is otherwise easy to work with.
These Retros are quite shrewd introductions on Breedloves part, not because of their subtle vintage vibe heck, everyones playing the heritage card these days but because the choice of non-cut electros is pretty limited regardless of price, and frankly far from all flat-top players consider a cutaway a must-have for plugged-in satisfaction. Apart from helping to fill that particular niche, the OM/SM and D/ER also happen to be rather nice guitars very well made, affordable, with excellent necks and rewarding sounds including a sympathetic preamp system. That about fills the brief for us.