introduced its Korean-built Atlas Series three years ago. The Atlas guitars are based on the American-made Performance Series but have more conservative styling, omitting, for instance, the familiar shark-teeth bridge design. The latest Atlas additions are a concise sub-range of Retros, styled on the Oregon company's Revival Series. Presently comprising just four models - two OMs and two dreadnoughts, all non-cutaway electros - they are fashioned on traditional Martin lines, even dropping Breedlove's distinctive pointy peghead for a vintage variety. The squiggly ‘B' logo remains, though, as an instant identifier.OM/SM
The cheaper of the two OMs - the other being the Engelmann spruce/rosewood OM/ER - the SM employs a body of sitka spruce and mahogany, the top and back being solid wood, while the sides are laminated. Bracing is a forward-shifted pre-war X pattern, as on all Retros. The body's cosmetic trim is attractively simple, including a small teardrop pickguard and tortie binding with multi-strip purfling, the latter echoed in the rosette's rings. The gloss lacquering is beautifully buffed, and the finishing both inside and out is very clean and precise.
Secured by a traditional glued dovetail, the satin-finish mahogany neck has a full 25.5" scale length (as opposed to Martin's slightly shorter 25.4"), and carries a slick-feeling black-bound rosewood fingerboard with discreet micro-dot markers. Up on the rosewood-faced headstock is a suitably retro set of chrome, open-back Grover Sta-Tites, and down on the heel sits a second strap button: good news. Thanks to its average width, depth and evenly rounded profile, the neck is a snug, easy player and picking is comfortably catered for by the 55mm bridge string spacing. Sharp corners on the nut (duplicated on the dreadnought too) are a minor irritation, but curable with a few strokes of a file.
The preamp on all Retros is LR Baggs' Stage Pro Element, a three-band system that also includes phase reverse, a notch filter and an efficient auto-chromatic tuner (which, handily, can also be used acoustically, too). Access to the volume slider on the recessed control panel is a bit cramped, but the unit is otherwise easy to work with.
These Retros are quite shrewd introductions on Breedlove’s part, not because of their subtle vintage vibe – heck, everyone’s playing the heritage card these days – but because the choice of non-cut electros is pretty limited regardless of price, and frankly far from all flat-top players consider a cutaway a must-have for plugged-in satisfaction. Apart from helping to fill that particular niche, the OM/SM and D/ER also happen to be rather nice guitars – very well made, affordable, with excellent necks and rewarding sounds including a sympathetic preamp system. That about fills the brief for us.