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This article was originally published in issue #26
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The acoustic guitar market is awash with manufacturers producing high-quality instruments in the Far East for the budget market. In the Quiet Room we've regularly reviewed acoustics that 15 years ago would have astounded us - great sounding and playing guitars for what then would have been silly money and yet which today are quite common. But as the quality has risen and risen, so the competition to stand out from the crowd has grown and manufacturers are having to try ever harder to stand out. In the early days, just having a solid top was something special - now it's common. Next came all solid woods. Now, Cort has upped the ante in a major way with a new entry to its Luce series, made entirely of solid wood - a guitar styled like a pre-war vintage OM. they say it's made from traditional tonewoods in the traditional way and they call it the L300VF.
In keeping with its traditional styling, the L300VF features a solid mahogany back and sides and the all-important Adirondack spruce top, just as you would find on a pre-WW II US-made guitar. Adirondack spruce is also known as red spruce and was once used as the material of choice during the golden age of piano making. It was also adopted by CF Martin and others for pre-war guitar making and it's also the tonewood you will find on some legendary violins and mandolins from the 'golden age'. And yet here it is on a $600 guitar!
Not content with lavishing this fine wood on the top, Cort has also used the Adirondack spruce for the scalloped X-bracing inside the body, matching this with mock tortoise body binding for a clean and very resonant build. The neck is constructed from mahogany with a rosewood fretboard featuring 20 vintage style frets adorned with white inlay dots for a classic, vintage look. The headstock is a traditional three per side tuner design with Grover vintage tuning mechanisms, giving a high level of tuning accuracy and stability. It could be argued that the headstock is a little oversized for the design and that the parlour sized body might have benefited from a more traditional slotted headstock look, but it is certainly not an ugly design and looks good with the company logo and large inlay in the centre. The design is completed with a rosewood bridge, teardrop shaped pick-guard and Fishman Sonitone pickup system with tone and volume controls.
This body shape sits somewhere between a parlour and Folk guitar with a very comfortable body depth and width that is both attractive and functional. This is a guitar that would suit smaller individuals particularly well, whilst retaining a large enough body size to project the sound and offer a good to tonal response.
As with all the Corts we've tried, the build quality on our sample was superb, with not a single flaw to be found. The mahogany body and neck are finished with a light oil, giving the guitar a smooth feel without the sticky gloss coating chosen by some other manufacturers. The spruce top is also lightly oiled creating, a finish that will gradually look and sound better over time, complementing the improvement in sound as the tonewoods used also age over the years. This light oil gives the guitar a classy look that adds a sophisticated visual nuance to the grain of the wood on the back, sides and top. The neck is extremely comfortable and well finished with great fretwork allowing for an equally great set-up straight from the box. All the detail work, from the rosette around the sound hole, to the bridge pins and placement of the scratch plate are very nicely executed, making the guitar feel far more expensive than its budget price tag would suggest. Internally, the guitar is equally well made and was finished with very clean construction and no signs of glue, sawdust or corner cutting. Thanks to very high quality construction and finishing, intonation and tone are consistent across the fretboard, producing a guitar that is both aesthetically and tonally pleasing.
As mentioned previously the L 300 is a very comfortable instrument to play and this extends through to the neck shape which is, again, very user-friendly and approachable, making it perfect for those used to playing electric guitars exclusively. In use, DL 300 produces a very crisp and dynamic sound, with a great deal of resonance thanks to the quality tonewoods used and the oil finish, which allows the wood to vibrate freely. There is surprising amount of bottom end here giving a piano like a response that, once again, appears more expensive than the price tag suggests.
The L300 responds well to a range of techniques, excelling at single note lines and fingerpicking, where its fast attack gives a very pleasing quality to each note. Our review model featured the Fishman Sonitone pickup system which has proven to be a great performer at this price point and this rang true with the LV300VF also. Plugged straight into our PA system, the Sonitone offered a very realistic acoustic tone with no breakup or ‘quackiness’ and the onboard tone control gives a decent amount of flexibility in shaping the treble portion of the signal primarily. There’s no phase switches here or clever anti-feedback devices but, for the money, the Sonitone is very impressive in getting you up and running.
Cort is onto a definite winner with the L300. Even in a market flooded with good quality acoustics, this one really stands out due to its fine construction, high quality traditional materials and manufacturing methods leading to the resulting tone and projection. If it's this good now, you can't help wondering, what will it be like when it has aged for a few years?! All we can say is that it represents exceptional value for money and in a blind test could take on guitars selling for twice the price. Try one and see for yourself!