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This article was originally published in issue #26
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The American specialist guitar maker Cordoba started producing guitars in 1997. The company's range includes a wide variety of classical and Flamenco guitars, with prices and specifications ranging as widely. One of Cordoba's stated objectives is to generate lightweight and resonant guitars combining traditional methods with contemporary ones. Winning characteristics are consistency in quality, tone, playability and attention to detail as well as the very wide price range. Whether you are looking for a studio guitar or a fine concert instrument, Cordoba will have a few different models for you to try and choose from and these qualities have made this brand one of the most popular classical guitar ranges in the North American market.
For some strange reason, Cordoba guitars are still not distributed in the UK, but they are available via European retailers, so if you want one it won’t be hard to get.
Cordoba's wide range includes a lot of very affordable guitars, eminently suitable for electric or steel strung guitarists who would like to add a modest classical style to their collection, but there is a top of the range Cordoba style too and this beautiful sample was from that end of the line-up. In fact it is part of Cordoba's core Signature range, in this case designed originally for the Gipsy Kings. It is handmade in Spain, which makes an interesting change from the many Far Eastern made guitars that are on the market today.
Straight from a HumiCase Thinbody Protégé Case, this handmade thin body Flamenco guitar has a stunning natural look, with contrasting wood colours and unique features: from the solid European spruce top cedar top, to the zircote back and sides. The latter, is one of the most stunning tone woods around and it particularly characterises this limited edition Gipsy Kings model. You can pay less and have one of the 'non limited' models but it would be a hard choice to make! By the way, it's the zircote's fabulous colouring that earns this version is 'Negra' tag.
Indian rosewood is used for the bindings and bridge and it features a natural inlaid wood mosaic rosette, while its Spanish cedar neck meets the upper bout in a fluid and ergonomic manner, and beautifully contrasting its Zircote back and sides.
Both the 50mm nut and the saddle are made of cow bone for an improved sustain. The neck is very comfortable to play, even with hard tension nylon strings. (Savarez Cristal Corum in High Tension 500CJ are the recommended strings). Its 4mm truss rod helps keeping a consistent action and augments its longevity and sturdiness, which is particularly important if you are planning to take this guitar on the road and, like the Gipsy Kings, do a serious number of gigs per year all over the world.
Being a Flamenco guitar, the 55FCE features a double transparent pickguard (aka golpeador), essential for playing with the Flamenco technique, but also if playing with a pick as it protects the spruce top.
The dark ebony fingerboard makes this a very resonant guitar, and even with its thin body, this guitar has a generous and well-balanced response all across its range.
This guitar features a Fishman Prefix Problend, which as you will be able to hear from my demo is a really good system, particularly as it enables us to blend the Piezo pickup tone with a built-in microphone, which helps reproducing the acoustic quality of this instrument in a faithful manner.
While the 55FCE was designed to play Flamenco, in my opinion this instrument is a versatile guitar, ideal to play and record Folk, Brazilian music such as Bossa Nova, Samba, and fingerstyle in general, particularly as the sound, although resonant, is not as bass-rich as a 4/4 classical guitar. It’s worth noting that a left-handed option is available.
It took me no time to tune it and to feel at ease with its action, with a very good set-up straight from the factory. Tuning was made easier also thanks to its accurate classical style Cordoba premium gold machine heads, which look and feel great.
Our sample was an unusual one in that it came without the usual Fishman ProBlend electronics, which are usually fitted, so I can't comment on that other than to say the Fishman system usually performs extremely well and I'm sure it will on this lovely guitar, too.
In conclusion, this is another great instrument from Cordoba! In addition to being great to play and having a fine sound it is also excellent value for money, especially considering it is hand crafted in Spain and features such exquisite woods. If you can't quite stretch to the zircote model, you can opt for a slightly cheaper variation featuring maple back and sides, but in either case I am sure you will be very impressed with these instruments - particularly at such an excellent price.