Blueridge BR-180A Review

AG 225 September 2011

Posted by Teja Gerken

One of the brands offered by Saga Music, the Blueridge name is synonymous with affordable quality. The authentic tone and vibe of the company’s line of budget-friendly, Martin-inspired flattops frequently raises eyebrows, but it’s one thing to impress with a guitar that sells for $500 or less (such as the BR-40AS we reviewed in February 2008), and it’s another to do the same with an instrument that has a list price of almost $2,000. Having spent some time playing the Adirondack-and-rosewood BR-180A we received for review, I can safely say that Saga has successfully negotiated its way out of the beginner’s guitar bracket.

nspired by Martin’s iconic D-45, the Blueridge BR-180A is heavy on the inlay. Abalone borders accent the top, back, and sides and continue around the fingerboard extension and neck joint. The fingerboard is adorned with snowflake-style position markers, and the headstock features white/black/white binding around the edge and the banner-style Blueridge name on the faceplate. The guitar’s solid East Indian rosewood back and sides are very dark in color and have grain patterns that are rather nondescript. The Blueridge’s craftsmanship was very good overall, with well-executed inlay work and precisely fitted parts. Inside the body there was some glue residue, and the Sitka spruce used for the bracing was quite streaky in color. The guitar’s high-gloss finish was uniformly applied and not too thick, but it had a slightly plastic-like sheen.

Most luthiers will agree that the cosmetic appearance of a piece of wood doesn’t always reflect its tonal qualities, and our review guitar is a good example. Its extremely wide-grained and streaky top isn’t exactly beautiful and offers no clue to the powerful sound of the BR-180A, which proved to be a strong bluegrass machine with a high volume ceiling. First-position G chords ring out loudly, but I am also impressed with the treble strings’ fat sound on single-note runs; they never became piercing, even as I ventured up the neck. The guitar also felt great, with a rounded and fairly shallow neck profile that owes more to Taylor guitars than prewar Martins, and a setup with action high enough to dig in, but easy enough to negotiate with nimble fingers.

For players who want a great rosewood dreadnought sound with 45-style appointments that doesn’t strain the budget, and who don’t mind wood that has some cosmetic character, the Blueridge BR-180A should be on the short list of guitars to check out.

SPECS: Solid Adirondack spruce top. Solid East Indian rosewood back and sides. One-piece mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. Forward-shifted scalloped X-bracing. Dovetail neck joint. 25.5-inch scale. 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 1/4- inch string spacing at the saddle. Gold-plated open-back tuners. Polyurethane finish. D’Addario EJ-16 light-gauge strings. Made in China.

PRICE: $1,895 list/$1,300 street.

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

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar September 2011

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