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This article was originally published in issue #45
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Cort is doing well as a brand. In the past couple of years it has launched successful guitars, basses and acoustics with major name endorsers (Jeff Berlin, Matt Bellamy and Frank Gambale) and every single Cort we have seen at GI Towers has impressed.
In previous Quiet Room sessions we've mostly at the lower price range guitars from Cort but the favourable review Tom Quayle gave Cort's very impressive Luxe Frank Gambale model in GI 43, opened our eyes to the company's ambition to move its image up-market. When brands do this it's often a good time to get on board as they pitch a lot of effort into shifting buyers' perceptions and tend to do so at very attractive prices (think how Lexus started!). Which makes now a good time to be looking at the AS series, which is Cort's flagship line of premium acoustic guitars, claimed to be made with only the best materials, components and workmanship.
Well, this is certainly a great looking acoustic, with a cool dark 'open pore' natural finish and a good looking headstock. The looks don't flatter the quality either, because the fit and finish throughout was great, with no seeping glue, blemishes, or sharp fret edges. The diecast tuners are good quality, smooth and adjustable should they start to come loose over time and the mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard was a pleasure to play, a comfortable size making barre chords and harder stretches a breeze, mainly thanks to its modern V shape.
20 frets and a generous cutaway make the upper end fairly accessible, the set-up on our sample was spot on with a perfect action that made it easy to play, but didn’t sacrifice tone and sound quality, there were no issues with fret buzz anywhere on the board. Impressively this model has a solid mahogany top, back and sides, so you should be assured that the guitar will age and mature over time, which a laminated guitar will not.
An all mahogany guitar like this can be expected to have ample bottom end response – and it does, delivering that very fashionable all-mahogany sound which seems to be very popular just now. To some ears, as a style it's possible to argue that it lacks a little top-end sparkle, not so much this Cort, but most all-mahogany guitars, but that really comes down to personal taste. Naturally. Cort offers plenty of spruce topped models if that's more to your taste and it is certainly a good reason why you should take some time before buying to try the different types side by side. Indeed, one point to note is that this is a new introduction to Cort's line-up (you won't find it on the company's website at the time of writing) so you may need to track one down to audition for a few weeks yet.
Getting back to its performance, you are unlikely to be disappointed. Not only does it sound good but it's also highly dynamic and responsive and resonates very well. You can get back some of that high end sparkle just by altering your picking hand position, for example.
Although not a Dreadnought sized acoustic and having a cutaway, thanks to the wood choice it didn’t lack anything on the volume front, and in fact I would go as far as to say it’s one of the loudest acoustics I have played for a long time, comfortable in many different acoustic styles.
As well as good quality wood you are also getting an electro-acoustic at this price. The electrics on this model come courtesy of a Fishman Sonicore EQ. Putting a pickup in an acoustic is always a troublesome issue as you tend to lose some of the natural tone but the system worked well on this guitar. It's a soundhole mounted pickup with just a volume and tone control. You have to delve a finger into the soundhole to make adjustments, and I've always found them rather impractical to use on the fly. That being said, this is a fine pickup and didn’t suffer from any feedback or thinness of sound, it also keeps the guitar looking neat with no big pre-amp system screwed to the top of the body, but of course you don't get a built in tuner, 3 band EQ etc., so it’s a toss up as to what you require.
This is a handsome guitar at a good price for what it is. The Rosewood bridge, scalloped x-bracing, premium abalone rosette, great set-up, Fishman transducer, fine tonal performance and playability all add to the overall high quality of this guitar. Even though the acoustic market is saturated, and it's hard for manufactures to really stand out, this Cort model does manage it, not only for its looks, but for the high end finish and attention to detail throughout. The acoustic tone is also top notch, thanks to the high quality wood used and great set-up.
I have no doubt that in a blindfold test people would struggle to tell the difference between this Cort and other better known high end acoustics with far bigger price tags, so definitely add this to your audition list if this is the style of acoustic electric you are next thinking of.