Blueridge BR-72 Review

AG 221 May 2011

Posted by Avril Smith

Blueridge has earned a solid reputation for building quality guitars at affordable prices, with a long line of models inspired by classic prewar Martin and Gibson body styles. Although best known for its traditional prewar-style models, Blueridge, a division of Saga Musical Instruments, also has a line of more contemporary designs all its own. The new Blueridge BR-72 is inspired by the Martin 000 body style, but the 12-fret neck joint gives it an unusual look. For example, rather than extending the upper bout of the guitar to the 12th fret, the bridge is set farther back on the lower bout to accommodate the long 25.5-inch scale. Also, a solid headstock with the Blueridge insignia inlaid in a mother of pearl scroll is used in place of the slotted headstock often found on 12-fret guitars. This distinctive combination of the 12-fret neck, 000 body, and unique bridge placement makes this guitar stand out in a crowd. Legendary flatpicker Norman Blake helped design a similar guitar for Martin Guitars in 2004, the 000-28 Norman Blake Signature Edition.

Blueridge Bling and Solid Style

The BR-72 is constructed with a solid Sitka spruce top and laminated Santos rosewood (also known as pau ferro or morado) back and sides. The top has hand-carved parabolic bracing in the prewar forward-shifted X pattern, the nut and saddle are bone, and the guitar is finished with a very thin natural high-gloss polyurethane finish.

When it comes to appointments, the folks at Blueridge are not afraid of a little (or even a lot) of bling. The BR-72 has pearl and abalone inlays on the fingerboard, body, rosette, and headstock as well as a wood marquetry center strip down the back of the guitar. The flashy appearance may not be for everyone, but if you appreciate a guitar that is always dressed up for a party, the BR-72 delivers. Given the amount of detail work, it’s noteworthy that there are no obvious aesthetic flaws in the appointments or construction.

The BR-72’s solid one-piece mahogany neck has a relatively slim profile and a 13/4-inch nut width, and our review guitar arrived set up with very smooth action that creates a good balance between ease of play and projection. The vintage-style open-back tuners—gold-plated with butterbean-style buttons and a 14:1 ratio—work smoothly as you move the guitar into alternate tunings like D A D G A D or even C G C G C D. While the guitar remains in tune up the neck, even in low tunings, it requires a significantly lighter touch to avoid buzzing in dropped tunings, especially on the higher strings. But if you commonly drop your high E down to a D, you could simply raise the action slightly to reduce or eliminate any buzz.

The 12th-fret neck joint may take some getting used to for players familiar with 14-fret necks. But after playing a few tunes, I made the adjustment quite easily and found that it added another level of comfort because of the closer position of my left hand and arm relative to the body of the guitar. Also, the slim neck profile and smaller body style add to the guitar’s playability.

Balanced and Powerful

With smaller-body guitars you often give up some amount of volume and bass response, compared to a dreadnought, in favor of a more balanced sound. The BR-72 is no exception, with a balanced sound across the strings and up and down the neck. That balanced sound came through when I played fiddle-tune melodies like “Ragtime Annie” and “St. Anne’s Reel” both in open position and up an octave. It projects well, although it doesn’t really want you to bang out the chords. The guitar is responsive up to a point, but the sound did begin to break up a bit when I used a more aggressive attack on the classic rock standard “Layla.”

The BR-72 really shines as a fingerstyle guitar, thanks to the clear note articulation across the strings. I got an especially satisfying thump in the lower register with a thumb pick playing the traditional song “East Virginia Blues” using D A D G A D tuning, and the guitar becomes more bright and punchy as you move up the neck.

But even with its smaller body profile, the BR-72 works well in a flatpicking context, with plenty of volume for backing up a Bill Monroe classic like “Rawhide” and clear note projection for single-line playing. The BR-72 will ensure your G-run is heard above a band. If you sat down with an insensitive banjo player, you might run into some trouble, but the guitar definitely has sufficient projection for a medium-size jam.

The BR-72 also performs well as an accompanying instrument supporting a vocalist. It has a good dynamic range for backing up everything from a sensitive folk ballad like James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” to an alt-country rocker like “Right in Time” by Lucinda Williams.

Affordable, Punchy 12-Fret 000

The BR-72 certainly lives up to the Blueridge reputation for combining high-quality construction with the performance serious players require—all at an affordable price. Overall the BR-72 is a small-bodied guitar that packs an impressive punch and has the articulation and versatility to shine in a folk setting or a folk-rock and bluegrass jam.

SPECS: 000 body size. Solid Sitka spruce top. Laminated Santos rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck. Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Forward-shifted X-bracing. Bone nut and saddle. 25.59-inch scale. 13/4-inch nut width. 21/4-inch string spacing at saddle. Thin high-gloss natural polyurethane finish. Vintage-style 14:1 ratio gold-plated open-back tuners with butterbean-style buttons tuners. D’Addario medium-gauge EXP strings. Made in China.

Price: $895 list/$560 street.

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

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar May 2011

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