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This article was originally published in issue #35
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Cort has had a tremendous year. With the Matt Bellamy signature guitar apparently flying off the shelves, it has also been upping its game right across the range and we have seen some impressive acoustics and basses as well as electrics. Bob Thomas checks out a new Grand Auditorium sized model to see if Cort can keep up the pressure.
Cort Guitars is one of the largest guitar manufacturers in the world, with factories in Indonesia, Korea and China. Although Cort’s main production focus is on manufacturing guitars for other companies, its own Cort brand has a well-deserved reputation for producing quality acoustic and electric guitars and basses at attractive price points and has recently been promoted more as a brand in its own right. Indeed, we've recently had a lot of Cort samples pass through GI Towers, as the company has been actively promoting itself and has been keen to show us what it's capable of. It's a pity some other manufacturers seem less self-confident!
Cort’s current acoustic guitar offering features dreadnought and OM-style bodies and its latest range, the Cort Grand Auditorium, sits in the middle size-wise between the two. Grand Auditorium-bodied guitars combine a large amount of the depth and power of a Dreadnought with the precision that the OM body is renowned for to produce an instrument that is equally at home being fingerpicked or strummed.
The Cort GA5 sits in the middle of the trio of guitars that make up the first releases in this new Grand Auditorium series. The base model features a laminated back and sides with a solid spruce top and a Fishman iSys + transducer, the top model has a more expensive solid spruce top with solid mahogany back and sides and carries a Fishman Ink system, while in the middle sits the version we're looking at here.
The review GA5's mahogany neck carries a bound rosewood fingerboard with diamond-shaped abalone inlays. In a nice touch, the 12th fret fingerboard inlay is echoed on the headstock facing. The fully-bound body features a solid cedar top and laminate blackwood back and sides. The rosewood bridge features a fully-intonated saddle and - in a feature that I haven’t come across before - a recessed area surrounding the bridge pins that gives the strings a fantastic break angle over the saddle, making available the maximum amount of volume and tone. Vintage-style open gear tuners and a bone nut complete the package.
Cedar is quite a common tonewood due to its warm and immediate sound, but blackwood is a bit more unusual, especially in a mass-production guitar at the GA5’s price point. The blackwood used on the GA5 is native to Australia and Tasmania and is a member of the acacia family. Often known as Tasmanian or Australian Blackwood, it is similar to koa in appearance and, soundwise, blends the punch of mahogany with the sparkle of maple and a little bit of the depth of rosewood. Paired with a cedar top, you’d expect to hear a warmth and precision that would particularly suit a fingerstyle player and a dynamic range that might tend to get a bit overloaded under heavy strumming.
Fortunately, Cort has taken note of the latter quality and the GA5 is equipped with a Fishman Presys undersaddle pickup system, the pre-amp of which features a 3-band EQ, phase switch, master volume and a built-in chromatic tuner. The battery sits on the rear of the pre-amp and can be accessed easily by hinging the preamp forward in its surround.
The GA5’s playability was very good indeed with smooth profile frets and it would take very little work on the nut and bridge height to make it play perfectly. Soundwise, the GA5 delivered the goods and its pickup accurately reproduced the acoustic sound of the guitar. It was great fun to fingerpick and the pickup gave plenty of volume without the need to push the GA5 to extremes.
Overall, the GA5 Grand Auditorium performed extremely well both when fingerpicked and flatpicked and comfortably delivered Cort’s signature value for money. The Cort GA5 is an impressive guitar that anyone on the lookout for a good electro-acoustic guitar at this price point should get their hands on to try.