What’s named after the longest river in North America and packs a lot of tonal firepower? David Mead finds out…
We met Swiss-based Gary Levinson’s acoustics a couple of issues ago with the LS-58 OO and learned that his guitar ranges are named after rivers in the US. This particular dreadnought hails from the Missouri collection and takes its name from the longest river in North America that was known for marking the somewhat wild Frontier in that country during the 19th century. To you and me, though, this good-looking stranger in town just happens to be a cutaway electro dreadnought.
According to the blurb on the Levinson website, this guitar delivers bold dreadnought tone and the slight reduction of volume due to the presence of a Venetian cutaway is more than ably compensated by a tight treble response and fine tonal balance. Sounds reasonable enough to me – let’s get to know it…
As you can see from the picture, the LDC-25 follows the dreadnought blueprint virtually to the letter with a lower bout measuring in at approximately 394mm moving through a very slight waist to an upper bout of 295mm just below the cutaway.
The top is Sitka spruce which has been specially voiced by Levinson to provide optimum tonal response. It’s a fine looking piece of nicely bookmatched wood with a good amount of feathering crisscrossing the grain. Personally I’ve never been keen on this type of scratchplate, preferring either the transparent variety or none at all. But it’s a traditional feature on instruments of this nature and so I’m not going to make any undue fuss!
Back and sides are sapele, which as we know has become recognised as an able substitute for mahogany amongst builders worldwide and capable of delivering similar levels of warmth to a guitar’s sound. It’s worth pointing out that Levinson offer another cutaway dreadnought – the LDC-45 – with rosewood for its back and sides, if mahogany is not to your taste. There’s an attractive centre stripe running down the back of the guitar that Levinson call “vintage checkerboard” – take a look, you’ll immediately see why!
On to the neck now and this looks to be a single piece of wildly grained mahogany with a contemporary low C profile, as opposed to the more chunky vintage V option, for instance. The heel cap is ivoroid, to match the body binding and bears a strap peg – which always comes as a pleasant surprise in the days when this option is often omitted.
The front of the LDC’s headstock is ebony with Levinson’s distinctive flying fish logo which comes from the days when the man himself was studying coral reef ecology at college.
Heading back towards the body, we find a bone nut sitting atop the bound East Indian rosewood fingerboard which bears perloid dots in the accustomed locations. Rounding off the construction details, the bridge is Indian rosewood with a compensated bone saddle.
Everything looks excellently neat and tidy, both inside and out. Prying fingers through the soundhole tell me that the internal bracing is of the scalloped X variety and so it’s time to hear what all this adds up to in terms of tone.
Although I’ve always found dreadnoughts to be slightly too big for me personally, I have to say that the LDC is very nicely balanced and comfortable to sit and play. In the past I’ve played dreads that are either top or body heavy, but I can easily balance this instrument on my knee.
Sonically speaking, the LDC is everything you might expect from this particular body size. Chords are full and rich, although I did detect a slight dip in the lower midrange – not at all a bad thing, seeing as how a lot of dreadnoughts suffer from a hump in this exact place on the tonal spectrum. There isn’t quite the monster bass you can achieve from some dreads, either; but when you think that all of this can be offset by the fact that the overall output is quite nicely balanced, then I think it’s a fair trade. In any case, I found that strummed chords and fingerpicking both sounded fine on the LDC. It’s possible to detect the voice of youth in there – after all, this is a brand new guitar – but I think that a hint of the mellowness that will come with age will round off the tone nicely, making this guitar a solid investment for the future.
The LDC comes with a Fishman Presys Plus pickup system which sports a good range of control over your amplified tone. It includes a built-in tuner, bass, middle, treble, brilliance and a notch filter plus phase switch, too. Once through an amplifier, the LDC demonstrates a good amount of snappiness and zing – it’s a lively little beast, tonally speaking – and it’s here that you really do benefit from the lack of that midrange hump that I mentioned earlier. There’s a good deal of natural sustain and sweet resonance in the guitar’s acoustic tone and this is highlighted nicely via its amplified personality. All in all I would say that the unplugged tonal attributes of this guitar go a very long way in assuring that its electric voice is very useable indeed, the Fishman ensuring that you have a lot of scope in fine tuning, too.
We have to remember which price zone we’re in here. Just under £1k places the LDC at the very top of the mid price range but just below what you might want to call the lower top-end, in terms of factory built instruments. As such it would be unfair of me to compare this guitar to dreadnoughts costing twice as much, such as the staple Martin D18, for instance. Tonally speaking, if you were setting your sights that high, you may well end up being slightly disappointed – and understandably so. But if you’re looking for an electro dreadnought that doesn’t break the £1000 barrier, then you would be wise to add this model to your shortlist as you’re unlikely to find too many stage ready dreads sounding this good for the same money. If I had to make some sort of criticism I would say that I would like to see a case or sturdy gig bag included in the price as I think that would make the LDC a contender as a market leader in its field.
Model: Oregon Series C20/SMYE
Retail Price: £1,729
Body Size: Concert
Made In: USA
Top: Sitka spruce
Back and Sides: Myrtlewood
Nut Width: 1 ¾”
Scale Length: 25.5”
Onboard Electronics: Fishman Ultratone
Strings Fitted: High Quality USA
Gig Bag/Case Included: Hardcase
Pros: Great looker, certainly turns heads when you play this
Cons: Fret ends -– could do with a little more time spent here
Overall: Great guitar from Breedlove that’s full of inspiration
Contact Details: Rosetti