Breedlove Cascade J-25Cre Jumbo Acoustic/Electric Guitar Review & Insight
The Breedlove Cascade J-25Cre Jumbo Acoustic/Electric Guitar
I have just received my new Breedlove Cascade Series Jumbo J-25Cre from Musician's Friend and man, is it a beauty. It’s a jumbo electric/acoustic guitar with LR Baggs Element VTC active pickup. It features a solid cedar top, solid rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck, gold Gotoh tuners with black keys, rosewood fretboard, rosewood winged pinless bridge, abalone rosette, gold(metallic)mosaic inlaid fret markers, rosewood binding and tusq nut and saddle which they call "Tonestone". It also included a hardshell case with the Breedlove logo. I was overwhelmed with the quality and craftsmanship that went into this guitar. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting it to be this good. It was a replacement for a Washburn that I had to send back due to a crack near the endpin jack. As it turned out, the damaged Washburn was a blessing in disguise.(Incidentally, Musician’s Friend was very understanding and courteous during the whole damage return affair and I was very satisfied with their customer service.) After consulting a friend, I decided on a low end Breedlove Passport guitar as I was looking for a cheap stand in for my Alvarez-Yairi JY-84 Jumbo to save it from the rigors of travel and the possibility of damage during gigs. My friend told me that Breedlove inspects and sets up it’s Korean line of guitars at their facility in Bend, Oregon before releasing them to customers. He also said that Crafter, a very well respected Korean luthiery, was making Breedlove’s Korean line. After perusing the Musician’s Friend online catalogue I discovered that they had their entire Breedlove Cascade line on sale and decided on the J-25Cre jumbo model. I’m a finger picker and volume is always an issue, so I figured a jumbo would be my best bet. I was not disappointed and very pleased with the setup on the J-25. Out of the box I found the action low and to my liking. It plays like a dream. The tone is deep, rich and resonant and as a result of the graduated sound board(top)thickness, the sound is extremely well balanced. The frets are finished beautifully and the neck is smooth and flawless. The construction on this guitar is rock solid and the attention to detail was meticulous. Previous to this experience I was not very familiar with Breedlove guitars. I had heard of them and I know Ed Gerhard plays one but that was about it. My aforementioned friend bought a Breedlove American about a year ago and raves about it. I’ve never even seen it and after he told me what he paid for it, I knew I could never afford one. As fate and good fortune would have it, I was wrong.
The Breedlove Cascade Series
While cross referencing Breedlove guitar descriptions between Musician’s Friend and the Breedlove web site I found the Cascade series of guitars were just below the American models. There is the Passport series which is the first tier, the better Atlas series which received rave reviews on the web, the Cascade, the American, the Voice and the Focus series. There are two remaining tiers, the Limited Editions and the Master Class. Both would require a lottery win for the average guy like me. The American, Voice and Focus models are attainable but not without a domestic dispute, likewise the Cascade, for me anyway. When I saw the MSRP on Breedlove’s web site of $1869, then saw that MF had them on sale for $799 I took the leap. With the inclusion of a hard shell case and MF’s additional 15% discount it was kind of a no brainer. I e-mailed Breedlove to verify the guitar I was buying was made by Crafter(More about them later). I had heard good things about them and I knew Damon Johnson from Thin Lizzy played one. Devin Percell from Breedlove responded immediately and assured me the guitar was indeed made by Crafter. He told me the Cascade line was being discontinued due to the fact that it was moving too close to the American series price point. Additional research revealed that the Cascade line was only two years old, introduced at the NAMM show in early 2011. It’s my opinion that Breedlove was paying a premium for the degree of craftsmanship required for the justification of a MSRP of $1869 for a Korean made guitar. Lucky me, right? Just this month Breedlove replaced the Cascade series with the Oregon series which is made in the U.S.A. for whopping $130 more on the MSRP. Perhaps Breedlove found the additional quality control requirements coupled with the import hassle wasn’t worth it in the long run. Regardless, the chain of events proved fortuitous for me because this guitar is over the top. I can only imagine what the Oregon and American series guitars have to offer.
Breedlove Guitars: Something Different
The Breedlove guitar company has been around since 1990 founded by a couple of Taylor luthiers, Dave Henderson and Larry Breedlove. Their first Breedlove guitar was released in 1991 and featured the newly developed JLD truss system. This simple, unobtrusive device relieves the tension on the soundboard and redistributes it evenly, resulting in more open volume and balanced tone. As an added benefit, the JLD prevents a bellied bridge, a common problem on aging guitars. In 1994 Larry’s brother Kim joined the company as a master craftsman. I don’t know what transpired but Larry and Dave don’t seem to be involved with the company any longer. Maybe they still are I don’t know. Kim serves as the namesake for the company and is still it’s master luthier and designer. In 2010 Breedlove merged with Two Old Hippies a company owned by Tom & Molly Bedell of Bedell guitars. There has been much speculation about the reasoning behind the merger. I say who cares as long as Breedlove continues it’s tradition of finely crafted instruments. One key aspect of the Breedlove company that I find exceptionally admirable is their commitment to quality control. The other day my curiosity got the best of me and I went to a local guitar store and tried out their least expensive Passport model, a C-250Cme($500). Wow, it sounded as good as my new jumbo. Upon further inspection I found it to be an excellent build. It was clean, no excessive visible glue globules, the joints were tight and sound and the neck and frets were smooth and comfortably playable. It was worth every penny of it’s $500 price tag. I played a couple of other Passports that were equally as good. I also inspected and played some other brands, some famous maker brands, and the Breedloves proved far and away much better. The reason: quality control. I had read and heard about Breedlove inspecting their imports at their Bend, Oregon facility before releasing them for sale but only half believed it until I saw for myself that it was true. If there is one thing a guitar company or any company producing a consumer product wants to do to insure it’s future, it is to commit to and demand superior quality control. Unfortunately this isn’t the case with most guitar companies that import their lower end instruments. I believe part of the reason for this traces back to the countries they were imported from.
South Korean Imports
Over the past thirty years South Korea has transformed itself from a backward agricultural nation to a modern industrialized country soon to join the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD). There was a time when the average South Korean worker earned low wages and worked long hours much as their counterparts in Mexico and China do now. Over the years the institution of labor laws and unions have afforded the Korean labor force a more comfortable and modern lifestyle. Education and vocational training are highly regarded among the Korean populace. With this in mind, it is easy to conclude that Korean guitars would be of a better quality than those produced in countries like Mexico and China who are still in the low wage/sweat shop phase of their economic development. Crafter is a very well respected luthiery that started as the Sung-Eum Music Co. Ltd. in the basement of founder Hyun Kwon Park’s home in 1972. In 1986 Hyun’s son Jae took the helm and changed the name to Crafter focusing the company’s attention on craftsmanship. When Jae Park took over, Crafter entered the international market with a modest line of acoustic and acoustic/electric guitars in the face of it’s already established American and Japanese competitors. In recent years Crafter has achieved hard earned luthiery credentials along with a loyal following of acoustic artists.
I started this hub out as a review of my Breedlove Cascade J-25Cre jumbo but couldn’t help sharing all the research I had done before purchasing it. It turned out to be not only a review of my particular model, but of the Breedlove company itself and Crafter as well. I hope this hub will be helpful to those of you who are thinking about buying a new guitar at some point in the future. It might also be helpful to read my previous hub entitled: Things to Keep In Mind When Buying An Acoustic or Acoustic/Electric Guitar. You’ll find some redundancy in both articles but cross referencing is never a bad thing, especially in regard to your hard earned dollars. These articles come as a result of my disappointment in many of the acoustics I played while searching for a travel guitar, to save my Yairi from gig damage. In the end I found an amazing deal on an exceptional instrument and alas, the same fear that sent me on this quest returns. Stay tuned!
Mosaic Pin Fret Markers
Sound Hole with Abalone Rosette
LR Baggs Element VTC Volume & Tone Controls
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