Blueridge BR-160 Acoustic Guitar Review
The Blueridge BR-160 Historic Dreadnought Guitar has been called the "Poor Man's Martin" and now I know why - Thanks to the Blueridge BR-160 you don't need to be rich to own a guitar that rivals Martin's top end guitars in sound, quality, craftsmanship, sound projection and playability.
Of all the guitars I reviewed under $1,000, this is only 1 of 2 that boasts a solid back and sides made of East Indian Rosewood (my #1 pick is the acoustic-electric Yamaha A3R) for the deepest bass projection (not laminated like Taylor's or Martin's "under $1000" models), giving the fullest and highest quality classic Rosewood sound of all "under $1000" models I reviewed, and certainly the most "Martinesque" of them all at a significantly lower investment.
We have found that thanks to Blueridge, anyone can get a Martin quality guitar and Martin sound without paying a Martin price. This Blueridge BR-160 Model offers a Martin Quality Sound at less than half the price of a Martin with similar tonewoods and craftsmanship.
Honestly, a while back, I had never really given Blueridge guitars much notice because they were simply not on my radar. Then some of my readers here at Strumviews continued to ask me to take a look at the Blueridge BR-160 and give some honest feedback. Wow, was I ever surprised that this Blueridge BR-160 Model would quickly become one of my top picks for the highest quality guitar with the absolute best sound projection under $1,000.
Although this BR-160 Dreadnought is a bit more historically stylish with the ornate Abalone inlays and other historic features, the sound quality is too good to pass with it's forward bracing pattern, Dreadnought body size and Solid Indian Rosewood sides and back that it has been called the “Poor Man's Martin” on guitar forums worldwide. While many people swear by Martin Guitar's standards, this Blueridge BR-160 is like getting a Martin quality dreadnought at easily less than half the price. It's no wonder that it has consistently received 5 stars at Amazon.com and other online acoustic guitar shops.
Here are some of the fine Blueridge BR-160 Model specs to compare
- Solid, top of the line solid Sitka spruce top with heritage/traditional herringbone rosette and purfling.
- Handcarved parabolic top (soundboard) braces in authentic, Pre-War, forward-X position.
- Nut and saddle made from authentic bone.
- Rosewood peghead overlay with Mother of Pearl (M.O.P.) and abalone inlays.
- Dreadnought (full standard) body style for full sound projection and full bass supporting bell-like mid and top range.
- Highest quality hand-selected, solid (not laminated) East Indian rosewood back, sides bridge and fingerboard with Pre-War "split diamond" abalone snowflake markers..
- Delicate wood marquetry backstrip and white protective and structural body binding.
- Nickel-plated 18:1 geared tuners.
- Traditional "Dovetail" neck joint
- Trussrod for neck set adjustment
- Slimmer Mahogany Neck for easier fingering, playability and chording
- High quality enclosed tuning machines (Kluson Style) with vintage "Butter Bean" Knob shaped tuners
The Blueridge BR-160 boasts the most common and popular body size & style today since Martin first invented this no-nonsense size (the "D-size" guitar) back in 1916, and then mass produced beginning in 1931. The Blueridge Br-160 Dreadnought will give full bellowing lows because of the Dreadnought body size, the forward X pattern bracing, and the solid East Indian Rosewood back and sides. The forward X top bracing also allows the top to "sing" for all playing styles, giving clear, crisp, bell-like tones and great resonance for harmonic playing. Moreover, because the back and sides are made with solid wood and not laminated wood (which you will find in Taylor's and Martin's "under $1000" bunch), you can expect that this guitar will open up and give even more quality balance tones and overtones as the guitar ages. Other competing lamintated guitars cannot "mature with age" in this fashion.
The high quality tonewoods
When buying any guitar, name brand does not mean nearly as much as quality of craftsmanship and the quality of tonewoods used. Many high end guitar makers, like Gibson, Taylor and Martin have begun making cheaper models with decent sound, but they cut costs by using laminates and more abundant, less expensive alternative tonewoods for the sides and back, such as NATO. Although NATO is not a low-quality wood, it is less desirable by advanced guitar players and is unable to give the dynamic range, overtones and depth of response that one would get from Mahogany, moreover, Mahogany cannot give the same dynamic and EQ range one can achieve with the richness of the Rosewood family (mostly East Indian Rosewood as Brazilian Rosewood has been an endangered and protected species since Nov. 6, 1992 - being illegal to trade). This BR-160 by Blueridge boasts a Solid Sitka Spruce top (the highest of sound velocities for top woods) giving the most strength to weight ratio, making it light, strong, and the most responsive of top (sound board) woods.
Alongside the quality top, the back and sides are made of solid (not laminated) East Indian Rosewood which gives the widest EQ range of any of the acoustic guitar tonewoods and is the choice of high end professional models for many guitar makers (luthiers) worldwide. Rosewood is the choice because it beats Mahogany, Sapele, Maple and other tonewoods, and laminated sides and backs for the deepest bass projection, overtone richness, overall volume projection and distinction across the EQ spectrum (Low - Mid - High) giving it the most classical "wood and steel" sound that you would expect from a rich steel 6-string guitar. Putting another "brand name" of higher end guitars on this model, and one would expect to pay in the neighborhood of $1,800 - $3,000 easily, yet Blueridge has consistently offered this BR-160 model for around $700-$800 depending on the top wood used, cutaway options and onboard electronics.
The High Gloss Finish
Along with the Dreadnought Body Style, the high gloss finish allows the mid and treble notes to come through with a more crisp edge, while also accentuating the bass notes giving this acoustic guitar great projection and distinction when finger-picked, strummed or flat-picked. The High Gloss finish also gives it a great look and image under stage lights if one was to use the Blueridge BR-160 for performance. When buying an acoustic guitar, the finish has almost as much influence on the "crispness" and "distinction" of the sound as the tonewoods (though it is secondary to tonewood effects). In other words, if you were to purchase a guitar with high gloss, satin, and flat finish, the projection and distinction or crispness of sound would diminish as the amount of gloss in the finish diminishes.
2 other Blueridge model options that are very similar to this model are:
- Left-Handed Blueridge BR-160 Historic Dreadnought Guitar
- Right-Handed Blueridge BR-160 CE (cutaway) with Fishman electronics
- "You will find it hard to find a bad review on any website about this guitar. The rosewood body of the Blueridge brings the sound so very close to a Martin. It comes down to biting the bullet and spending $1800 on a Martin or buying this great guitar."
- "The tone is in the class of some guitars I've sampled at guitar center costing $2000"
- "There's a lot of support out there on the forums for this guitar--and most of it is true:
-awesome bass from the rosewood back and sides. . ."
- "Martin purist don't like this guitar because you are getting very close to the same result for about 6 times less."
- "If there's a better guitar for the price, I don't know of it."
- "I own a Martin OOO16TR, I have had it for 14 years and love it but I find myself going back to my Blueridge to play. Have a friend that owns quite a few different models of Martins, he was so impressed he has purchased a BR160 because it sounds as good as his Martins."
There's an old saying that "you get what you pay for", but in this case, with the Blueridge BR-160, you will easily get twice (or more) the quality craftsmanship and sound quality /projection than what one would expect from a guitar this modestly priced.
Get this Blueridge BR-160 Historic Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar for the lowest price available here at Amazon.com.
(We searched several online music shops, including SamAsh, Musician's Friend, Guitar Center and other online guitar shops and found the most reliable delievery, largest stock and certainly the lowest price here at Amazon.)