Words by James Callanan
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Based in Oregon, Breedlove have been making meticulously handcrafted guitars for 30 years now. Besides meeting the obvious goals of constructing quality acoustic guitars that are optimized for both playability and sound, Breedlove also have a passion for nature – a passion which is epitomized in their Eco Series.
These qualities are all tangible in the Pursuit Exotic S Concertina; a small-bodied yet big-sounding acoustic guitar that is constructed from sustainably sourced tonewoods, marking this as an ideal option for the guitarist who cares about their impact on the world – whether it be musically, or from an environmentally conscious standpoint.
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Eye-catching is a term that immediately comes to mind when describing the aesthetic of this Breedlove Concertina. The deep, alluring grain of the solid myrtlewood top is coated with a transparent tiger eye finish that once again asserts the earthy image that represents the values of Breedlove guitars. The back and sides are composed of layers of myrtlewood again, as well as African mahogany, which is the wood also used for the neck of this guitar. Black-stained Ovangkol wood is used for the fretboard and the bridge, which interestingly has a pinless design; making for a sleek, modern look. The top, back, and fretboard are all decorated with a stunning Tortoiseshell-look binding – a call back to the look of some classic acoustic of years gone by.
As an offering from the Eco Series, Breedlove have put a lot of thought into the selection of materials that are used to produce the Pursuit Exotic S Concertina. The woods are sustainably sourced, originating from individually harvested timber, as well as from salvage, in an effort to reduce the impact on the forest that building guitars might otherwise have. In a nice touch, a detailed list of the origin of all natural materials used to build this guitar is transparently available on the Breedlove website.
With a concertina shape, the Pursuit Exotic S Concertina is one of Breedlove’s small-body offerings, taking the place of what would traditionally be a parlor-style guitar, albeit with markedly improved comfort and sonic characteristics. Using Breedlove’s Extensive Sound Optimization engineering and EcoTonewood, this guitar is said to be optimized to have materials that perfectly match the shape of the guitar. With a scale length of 24 ¾”, and a nut width of 1.69″, this guitar has familiar playing dimensions, and the inclusion of a cutaway to improve access to the higher frets makes the Pursuit Exotic S Concertina a comfortable piece of gear to play .
In addition to the compact dimensions, the overall shape and craftsmanship of the Pursuit Exotic S Concertina make it a breeze to play. This guitar bears a classic Breedlove neck; one which has a slimmer profile and boasts a semi-gloss finish, meaning that playing spanned chord shapes is less of a burden, and there are no friction issues in traversing up and down the fretboard. While the body joins the neck at the twelfth fret, the cutaway makes it reasonably comfortable to play almost every available note on the fretboard, even for guitarists with smaller hands. Emphasizing the intention of this guitar to be one for the players is the pinless bridge design, which makes changing strings easier, and enables a lower profile at the bridge that is conducive to muting techniques.
Putting the Pursuit Exotic S Concertina through its paces, it was highly comforting to find that the pursuit of a sustainably sourced and manufactured guitar did not result in compromised sound quality. After all, the beautiful resonance and dimension is what draws us to play the acoustic guitar to begin with. The overall frequency response is fairly balanced, highlighting the sweetness of the performance without getting muddied up by unwanted sympathetic resonance.
In line with the design intent, this guitar does a fantastic job at providing the player with what is essentially the modern take on a parlor guitar. The general tonality is bright and articulate, allowing all of the nuances from either the plectrum or the fingers to be propelled out of the soundhole and into the listeners ears. While low-end levels were not near as high as what a dreadnought might produce, notes of the lower register were clearly audible, and had an organic depth to their sound. The Pursuit Exotic S Concertina produced some nice warmth within the middle range, noticeable when strummed hard, gently plucked, or rhythmically Travis-picked. Rhythm guitar playing produced sounds that were particularly pleasurable – a nice complement to the slim neck profile.
To add a layer of versatility to this rich-sounding, sustainably sourced guitar, Breedlove has fitted it with Fishman Presys I electronics. This system offers a range of handy features for the playing guitarist, such as a built-in tuner, and switches to adjust the parameters of contour and shape. While a recording studio session would definitely benefit from the use of a condenser microphone to capture more of the body’s warmth, the provided electronics do a sufficient job of enabling clear amplification of the Pursuit Exotic S Concertina for any live situation, from open mics to large gigs.
The Breedlove Pursuit Exotic S Concertina is a thoroughly thought-out acoustic guitar that delivers the player a high level of playing comfort and sound quality – while impressively having little detrimental impact to the environment in doing so. With a balanced sound, smooth playability, and a versatile pickup system, this is a great choice for players of all levels who are after an attractive, small-bodied acoustic guitar.