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This article was originally published in issue #26
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This month's Bassment interview subject, Jeff Berlin, really doesn't need an introduction. As one of the instrument's great personalities, as well as one of its highest regarded bassists, he isn't just listened to for what he plays but also as a brilliant teacher and clinician - which makes him a natural for signature products, the latest of which is this brand new bass from Cort, the unusually named Rithimic.
According to Jeff, the instrument is very much collaboration between him and Cort and it features some distinctive choices - to start with by being completely passive - there are no active electronics here. The pickups are Bartolini designed models with the input from Jeff to shape the tone. Further tonal options come from just a master volume, balance between the two pickups and a master passive tone control.
But really, I should have started with that fabulous looking choice of woods, in particular that wonderful top! A slice of spalted maple is expertly jigsawed into a slice of padouk for a completely unmistakeable appearance. The top sits on an alder body, by the way - a great tonewood for bass guitars in my view.
Hardware on the Rithimic comes in the form of ultra-light tuning keys from the superb Hipshot and Jeff has recently turned to Babicz as his choice for a high mass bass bridge. It looks and feels absolutely top notch with no sharp edges.
The construction of this bolt-on 34” scale instrument itself is, in reality, nothing fancy - but that's not the point of this instrument. Yes, it does look great but the key design for this instrument is that it has to play well and sound great. Jeff said so! As a consequence, the neck is made of hard maple with a rosewood fingerboard. On to that Jeff has chosen wider frets and each of these was installed perfectly on our review sample. It's hard to put neck 'feel' into words, but I'd describe this one as as skinny - nice! I like it and it's very playable. I think we can take it as read that the actual build itself was free from flaws. Jeff is renowned for being a perfectionist and Cort certainly hasn't let him down. By the way, the bass is very light and I'm pleased to say also very well balanced on the leg, with no neck dive to speak of.
As you can see it's all gold hardware and the bass comes fitted as standard with DR DDT strings to help bring out the best of its tone.
Acoustically, the bass has a warm yet not overly loud tone. But then again, we're not looking for volume here - it's that quality of tone in an electric instrument before plugging in that you want to hear. Incidentally Plugging in the bass to our studio rig, this time using a superb EBS Classic head, we were rewarded with a round, plummy tone when both pickups are matched equally in volume. How to describe the sound? Well, thankfully we have video, but I'd call it more vintage than Hi-Fi.
This is a really cool bass with a characterful sound. I liked the front pickup soloed and the bite of bass tone when the pan control is slightly favoured to the back pickup. Those split coil humbucking pickups do impart a fat tone, where every note is as full as it can be - courtesy of the passive design.
Jeff Berlin is quoted as saying he has been “wowed” by this bass and after playing the same bass for so many years he was not sure that another builder could develop something that he'd would love. He does love it and I think most bassists generally will too. It's a no-nonsense instrument, very plain and simple in many respects, and a far cry from some of the souped-up active instruments that you usually think of as top of the tree basses. But try one of these. This is a stylish, classy, surprisingly affordable, bass, designed to allow a great player to give his best and it does that very well indeed.