From the December 2016 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY ADAM PERLMUTTER


Play a Bristol BM-15 or BD-15 and you get the warm, midrange-forward tone you’d expect from a high-quality, solid-wood, all-mahogany guitar. But these instruments feature laminated soundboards, backs, and sides, and sell for only $200—about the same price as a decent hardshell case alone. Both guitars are a reminder of how good even the least expensive imported instruments can be these days.

The BM-15 and the BD-15—a triple-0 (auditorium) and dreadnought, respectively, share the same appointments. Each guitar has a mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard and a thin satin finish that allows the wood to vibrate more freely than the thick glossy finish often found on entry-level instruments. The appointments are minimal, but the headstocks are graced with an elegant torch motif inspired by fancy prewar instruments.

The fit and finish on both of these hogs are consistently excellent. The frets are cleanly crowned and polished and smooth at the fingerboard’s edges; the black ABS plastic nuts and saddles are notched with precision. Things often get messy on the insides of inexpensive guitars, but not here—the braces and kerfing in both guitars are cleanly sanded and fitted.

Bristol is the budget line of Saga Music, the distributor of Blueridge guitars, and shares the same attention to detail and tradition for which Blueridge is known.

bristol_bd-15-bm-15

Superb Players

Both the BM-15 (right) and BD-15 (left) have necks that are sleek and highly playable. The factory-set action on the guitars is optimally low, which will make learning that first barre chord easy for a beginner. While on the narrow side, the
1 11/16-inch nut still offers plenty of room for the fretting fingers, and the string spacing is ample for fingerpicking as well.

Overall, the guitars share a warm tone, but with different body sizes they have contrasting voices. The BD-15 has slightly greater low-end response than its cohort—this is to be expected of a dreadnought—and sounds great for strummed accompaniments in standard and open tunings in all styles. The sound, heavy on fundamentals, is nice and uncluttered. It’s satisfying to strum along to a country-folk classic such as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and it performs just as well when tuned to open G for a song like “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones.

The BM-15, with its smaller 000 body, is slightly more responsive to fingerpicking than its companion, and it has a balanced and transparent voice that makes it suitable for a range of styles, from country blues to modern jazz. It feels just as good to play Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” on the BM-15 as it does a jazz and pop standard like “All the Things You Are.” But the guitar also responds well when strummed with moderate force.

They’re not fine all-solid-wood instruments, but at $200 each, Bristol’s BM-15 and BD-15 give you a whole lot of hog for the money. Whether you’re buying a first guitar for a beginner or scratch pad for a working professional, both instruments are winners in their class.


At a Glance

Bristol BM-15

Body

000 body size

Mahogany top

Mahogany back and sides

Indian rosewood bridge

Satin finish

Neck

Mahogany neck

Indian rosewood fingerboard

25.6-inch scale

1 11/16-inch nut

Chrome enclosed tuners

Satin finish

Extras

Optional hardshell case

D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze Light strings (12–53)

Price

$249.99 list/$199.99 street

Made in China

sagamusic.com


At a Glance

Bristol BD-15

Body

Dreadnought body size

Mahogany top

Mahogany back and sides

Indian rosewood bridge

Satin finish

Neck

Mahogany neck

Indian rosewood fingerboard

25.6-inch scale

1 11/16-inch nut

Chrome enclosed tuners

Satin finish

Extras

Optional hardshell case

D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze Light strings (12–53)

Price

$249.99 list/$199.99 street

Made in China

sagamusic.com


This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

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