|Type||Privately held company|
|Founder||Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson|
|Parent||Two Old Hippies LLC|
Breedlove Guitars is an American acoustic instrument company based in Bend, Oregon. Breedlove produces acoustic guitars, acoustic bass guitars, and ukuleles.
Breedlove Guitars was established In 1990 by California luthiers Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson, who left their jobs at Taylor Guitars to create what would become Breedlove Guitars. Their intention was to produce guitars that merged traditional guitar making skills with modern technology. After moving to Tumalo, Oregon, Breedlove and Henderson began specializing in custom, fingerstyle six and twelve string guitars.
In 1991 the first Breedlove guitar model appeared, the shallow body C-10. At the 1992 National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) trade, Breedlove and Henderson unveiled five models and three body types. Around 1994, Larry's older brother, Kim Breedlove, joined Larry and Steve as a master craftsman and Larry returned to work at Taylor Guitars. Other master luthiers at Breedlove included Terry Myers, who also left Taylor Guitars in the early 1990s then returned, as well as later luthiers Jayson Bowerman, Aaron Adams, and Chris Lindquist.
In 1999, Breedlove suffered a financial setback and hired a new president, Peter Newport, who invested in the company and expanded the company's model lines. In 2001, founder Steve Henderson quit the company due to disagreements with Newport. In 2003, under Newport's direction, Breedlove launched its first series of Imported guitars, the Atlas line which was manufactured in Korea. In 2004 the company launched its first traditional designs not focused on fingerstyle playing, the Revival line which included dreadnoughts and orchestra models, which departed from Breedlove's history of original designs.
In 2008, Breedlove relocated from Tumalo, Oregon to Bend, Oregon. In 2010, Breedlove experienced its second financial setback when president and investor Peter Newport was unable to raise additional capital in the wake of the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008, and ultimately sold Breedlove to Tom and Molly Bedell's Two Old Hippies LLC of Bend, OR, which owned Tom Bedell Guitars and Great Divide Guitars, as well as retail stores. In 2012, the combined company moved to a larger facility in Bend, which produces about 2,000 guitars a year as of 2020.
In 2013, Breedlove completed the purchase of the world's largest collection of legal, CITES-compliant Brazilian Rosewood for use on the company's highest-quality instruments. Beginning with 2014 models, Breedlove changed its headstock logo from a stylized "B" to fully spelling out "Breedlove" in a script logo and made numerous changes to the model lineup, including launching several new series of instruments and discontinuing the Revival series of traditional body shapes. In 2015, Breedlove produced a limited run of 25th Anniversary guitars, including a Kim Breedlove Signature, a Brazilian Concert, an Oregon Concert, and a Pursuit Koa.
In 2017, Breedlove made significant strategic changes, including the announcement of the new Concerto and Concertina body shapes, the simplification of the company's model lines and body shapes, the introduction of a Sound Optimization process (replacing the long-standing bridge truss and graduated top design used on its premium models), and the introduction of the Tonewood Certification Program for sustainable forest practices.
In 2020, Breedlove announced a partnership with actor Jeff Bridges to produce a signature model guitar that was sustainably sourced. Later that year, two additional Jeff Bridges models were announced. In 2021, Breedlove announced a limited run of four 30th Anniversary guitars, including a Northwest Classic, King Koa, Focus, and Phoenix, each based on a different model from Breedlove's past.
First used on early Breedlove models like the C1 and C2, this steep cutaway provides excellent access to the upper frets and is still used on present-day models. The Breedlove CM (made from 1992-2017) also used a steep, angular cutaway from both sides of the fretboard.
While Breedlove makes guitars with traditional symmetrical headstocks, the asymmetrical design found on current Concert models provides a straighter path from the guitar's nut to the tuners, reducing the break angle at the nut and allowing the string to move in the nut more freely, avoiding the variance in string tension that comes with traditional headstocks.
The Breedlove pinless bridge routes the strings through the bridge from the back side, rather from the bottom. Consequently, bridge pins are not needed, the string stays straighter, and the string cannot come loose from the bridge as it can when using pins. There is also no need to drill six holes down through the top of the guitar for the bridge pins. Downsides of the design are the need to use layers of masking tape or a plastic pad to protect the top of the guitar when restringing it, and the inability to easily remove the strings from the bridge for soundhole access—strings must be disconnected at the tuners instead.
From Breedlove's first guitars through 2017, a winged bridge with a characteristic asymmetrical design was used on higher-end Breedlove models. It was phased out in 2018 on production models, but can still be custom ordered.
Myrtlewood (Umbellularia californica) is a large hardwood tree native to coastal forests and the Sierra foothills of California, as well as to coastal forests extending into Oregon. Harvested Myrtlewood typically has intense figuring that is unique to each piece and is easy to work with as a luthier. Tonally, it is a stiff yet lightweight wood with strong clarity, sustain, and high volume, similar to Mahogany and Hawaiian Koa. Breedlove pioneered the use of Myrtlewood in guitars in the 1990s and still uses it extensively today.
In 2017, Breedlove announced a Tonewood Certification Program with four principles:
Since then, Breedlove has announced several models that use ancient and reclaimed tonewoods, including a 3000-year-old Sitka Spruce log that was buried underground.
Historically, luthiers tapped the wood pieces they planned to use for instruments to listen for their tone. In 2017, Breedlove expanded on this concept with a process of measuring the frequency response of the top and back woods of the guitar, and then adjusting the shape of the bracing and thickness of the wood, effectively customizing each guitar's sound based on the resonance of the pieces of wood that are being used for that particular guitar. This process has been used on all Oregon-built Breedlove models beginning in 2017.
From the early 1990s until 2017, many Breedlove guitars featured a patented JLD bridge truss system to stabilize the bridge. The truss incorporates a lever which applies pressure on the tailblock to counterbalance string tension on the top of the guitar as well as various bracing techniques designed around this system. The bridge truss was originally designed as an aftermarket product to repair guitars with damaged tops. In Breedlove guitars, it connects the bridge plate to the tailblock with two wooden dowels, sending tension to the guitar’s bottom side and allowing the top to move with reduced stress. Breedlove marketed this as a means to allow for thinner guitar tops that produced enhanced sustain and overtones.
A graduated top was combined with the bridge truss, where the guitar tops were hand-shaped to have a thicker treble side and thinner bass side, enhancing bass response and providing a warmer, more resonant tone. The reduced tension on the top from the bridge truss allowed for this level of thinning of the top. Graduated tops were also used on some models that did not have a bridge truss, including many Revival series instruments.
Models with the bridge truss can be identified by a circular plug in the center exterior of the guitar's bridge about 8–10mm in diameter. Some larger-bodied models may have up to three of these bridge plugs. However, if the bridge plug was well-matched to the color of the bridge, it may be difficult to see, so the only way to confirm for certain is to look inside the guitar and see if there is a truss mechanism under the bridge. The bridge truss was not used on Revival models but was used on both Oregon-built and Imported models.
In 2017, Breedlove phased out the use of the bridge truss system in favor of traditional bracing combined with a patented sound optimization process. Starting in 2018, Breedlove no longer mentioned the bridge truss or graduated tops in sales literature.
As of 2021, Breedlove offers four guitar body shapes in ascending order of size:
Breedlove's Masterclass, Legacy, Premier, and Oregon models, as well as some premium Signature models, are made in Bend, Oregon and are hand-voiced using the Sound Optimization System.
Breedlove's Organic, Solo, Pursuit, and Discovery series are made in Asia, typically in South Korea or China depending on the model and year. They do not have hand-voicing using the Sound Optimization System but have designs based on Breedlove's research on this system.
From 2004 to 2013, Breedlove used the name "Revival" to distinguish the classic designs of OM, Tenor OM, 000, and the square-shouldered Dreadnought from Breedlove's "Original" styles, which included CM, Concert, Auditorium, modern-style Dreadnoughts, and Jumbos. The Revival name signified body shape only, and was appended to both high-end, Oregon-built models, such as Masterclass Revival, and low-end Import models, such as Passport Revival.
Additionally, "Limited Edition" and "Limited Run" models were made for many of both the Oregon-built and Imported series, typically using different tonewoods and/or finishes.
Oregon-built models carried a lifetime USA warranty from Breedlove.
The Pro and Roots series models were partially built (30%) in Korea then completed in the USA from global parts sources and carried a lifetime USA warranty from Breedlove.
Breedlove used an alphanumeric naming system for many of its models up through 2013. The system uses several characters, a slash, and several more characters. They can be decoded as follows:
First character: Body Style
(note that S-series models have an S prefix, such as "SA" for an Auditorium)
Second character: Body Depth
Third character: Cutaway Style
Fourth character: Laminates
First character: Top Wood. Note that in some cases the top wood code is not included, for example with "MH" with mahogany back/sides or "MP" with maple back/sides.
Second character: Back/Sides Wood