Blueridge BR-180A Review
One of the brands offered by Saga Music, the Blueridge name is synonymous with affordable quality. The authentic tone and vibe of the companyâ€™s line of budget-friendly, Martin-inspired flattops frequently raises eyebrows, but itâ€™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 itâ€™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 beginnerâ€™s guitar bracket.
nspired by Martinâ€™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 guitarâ€™s solid East Indian rosewood back and sides are very dark in color and have grain patterns that are rather nondescript. The Blueridgeâ€™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 guitarâ€™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 doesnâ€™t always reflect its tonal qualities, and our review guitar is a good example. Its extremely wide-grained and streaky top isnâ€™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 stringsâ€™ 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 doesnâ€™t strain the budget, and who donâ€™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. Dâ€™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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