Blueridge BG-2500 Review

March 2013 Cover

by Adam Levy

A subsidiary of Saga Music, which also produces guitars under the Durango, Gitane, and Regal brands, Blueridge has offered a wide selection of guitars for more than 25 years. While many of the company’s models are based on classic Martins, Blueridge also frequently looks to vintage Gibsons for inspiration, as is the case with the BG-2500 we recently received for review. Styled after Gibson’s late-’30s Super Jumbo (later rechristened the J-200), the BG-2500 features maple back and sides and plus-size proportions that include a 17-inch wide lower bout.

Art Deco Details

Although the inspiration behind the BG-2500 is clear, Saga made some bold design choices that set the guitar apart from other jumbos. From top to bottom, the BG-2500 is adorned with art deco–style appointments—the sorts of things you might expect to find on a jazz-era archtop rather than a modern-day flattop.

Perhaps this guitar’s most striking feature is its bridge—a solid piece of ebony cut to give it a tiered look, with two stairsteps on either side of the central element. The dark wood is accented with eight white inlays made from genuine mother of pearl—three on each side of the saddle and two behind the bridge pins. The pickguard is another standout piece of design. It is substantially thicker than the pickguards found on most flattops, and the faux tortoiseshell here is bound in white/black/white strips around its periphery. You might expect to see such a thing on a Gibson Super 400, but I can’t think of another flattop with such an elegant pickguard. Other cosmetic touches further complement the art deco aesthetic, including a fanned headstock shape, full-figured pearloid fingerboard inlays, black/white/black/white purfling around the front and back, and a checkerboard marquetry strip down the middle of the back.

Classic Construction

Of course, finery doesn’t shape a guitar’s sound, so let’s take a look at the nuts and bolts of the BG-2500’s construction. The top is solid spruce, with a gloss finish highlighting its honeyed hue. The back, sides, and neck are flamed maple. Then there’s the guitar’s sizable body, which is 21 inches long and 17 inches wide at the lower bout (by comparison, the body of a typical 14-fret dreadnought is 20 inches long, with a lower bout of 155⁄8 inches). This all adds up to a guitar with a big voice that speaks with immediacy and clarity. Hit a chord and bang, the whole guitar chimes like a church bell.

The BG-2500’s neck is heftier than most but feels appropriately proportioned to match the size and shape of its body. Open-position chords were comfortable to play on the fingerboard, as were full- and half-barre chords all the way up the neck. The medium-size frets are cleanly installed and evenly dressed, and the guitar intonates nicely in every register.

The review model I played looked good overall but was not cosmetically perfect. While it was clean inside, with nary a drop of stray glue to be seen, there was a noticeable amount of polishing compound residue around the bridge. Also, the dark stripe along the back of the laminated-maple neck didn’t quite meet the matching dark finish on the back of the headstock at its central point. These minor flaws don’t affect tone or playability, of course, and considering that the Chinese BG-2500 sells for roughly half the price of most American-made jumbos, it’s easy enough to overlook.

Power a Plenty

To appreciate the BG-2500’s full sonic potential you have to be willing to dig in pretty hard. Even if you’re already a heavy hitter, you can probably go a bit harder on this guitar. The BG-2500 can take it and—up to a pretty high threshold—sounds better when pushed. Perhaps that’s why its forefather, the Gibson J-200, has long been the acoustic guitar of choice for the Who’s notorious power-strummer Pete Townshend. I played the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” on the BG-2500, and the guitar sounded loud but refined. To try something a little quieter, I tuned down to D A D G A D and played a bit of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Mountain Side.” (Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page originally recorded the song on a J-200). I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Blueridge sounds convincing as a fingerstyle folk guitar, with ample midrange honk as well as balanced upper and lower frequencies. Then, just for fun, I played one of my own tunes—a midtempo country waltz—and the BG-2500 worked equally well for that.

Superb Super Jumbo

With its jumbo proportions and fetching art deco styling, the Blueridge BG-2500 seems designed for rhythm work in a high-class Western swing band or acoustic jazz combo. But after putting the guitar through its paces in a variety of styles—from folky fingerpicking to unplugged rock ’n’ roll—I found the BG-2500 to be much more than a one-trick pony, with a winning combination of substance and style.

SPECS:  Super jumbo body with 14-fret neck. Solid spruce top. Solid maple back and sides. Tapered X-bracing. Three-piece maple and ebony neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.5-inch scale. 1 11⁄16-inch nut width. 2 3⁄16-inch string spacing at the saddle. High-gloss finish. Gold-plated tuners with pale green plastic keystone-style buttons. D’Addario light-gauge phosphor-bronze strings. Made in China.

PRICE: $2,495 list/$1,746 street.

MAKER: Saga Music: (650) 588-5558; sagamusic.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar March

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