Fueled by reader requests for an overview of currently available small-body guitars, Acoustic Guitar invited manufacturers to send us samples of their small-body instruments with list prices between $500 and $1,000. We ended up with 11 guitars that are surprisingly diverse in sound and feel, some inspired by vintage instruments and others with more modern body and neck shapes, materials, and appointments. In checking out these guitars, I was assisted by Pete Madsen, a San Francisco Bay Area fingerstyle blues guitarist, teacher, and frequent Acoustic Guitar contributor. Here’s our review of the Blueridge BR-163.
A pioneer in combining American designs with Chinese manufacturing, Saga Music’s Blueridge brand has enjoyed widespread success, and the BR-163 is a reminder of why the company is respected for its ability to offer great-sounding guitars at affordable prices. The guitar clearly takes inspiration from Martin’s 000-28, though at 15 1/4 inches wide, its body is a tad larger. Blueridge also chose a long 25.5-inch scale (original 14-fret Martin 000s have a 24.9-inch scale), which would make it an OM, but it keeps the 000’s narrower neck and string spacing. The quality of materials and craftsmanship on our review guitar is excellent. The Indian rosewood back and sides have rich chocolate hues and the spruce top is tight-grained and even in color. With a rounded shape, the guitar’s slim neck feels more modern than vintage, and Madsen described it as “fast.” Tonally, the BR-163 impressed from the first strum. The guitar sounded big and rich, with an excellent dynamic range and fat trebles. Played softly, the Blueridge displayed great detail, and when we dug in with a pick, it got louder and louder, without compression. The guitar’s tonal complexity made it the most vintage-sounding instrument in our roundup.
SPECS: Solid Sitka spruce top. Solid rosewood back and sides. Three-piece mahogany neck with dovetail joint. Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Scalloped X-bracing. 25.5-inch scale. 1 11/16-inch nut width. 2 1/8-inch string spacing at saddle. Chrome open-back tuning machines. D’Addario light-gauge strings. Made in China.
PRICE: $995 list/$695 street.
MAKER: Blueridge: (650) 588-5558; sagamusic.com.
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