Published 5 days ago on March 17, 2023

By Jonathan Graham

Cort X500 Menace

MSRP (UK) £999  (US) $TBC


X500 is born again with a modern aesthetic and feature upgrades to become the new darker and aggressive X500 Menace, making it highly suitable for metal and extreme music guitarists. While maintaining the neck-thru-body construction for exceptional sustain and high frets access, the X500 Menace now features a more popular maple top on mahogany body combination, reverse headstock, 7-piece Maple / Purple Heart / Panga Panga neck and compound radius fingerboard. Nick Jennison tells us more.

I remember a hilarious piece of marketing blurb from back in the day. It was after Gibson’s buyout of Kramer, which saw the legendary brand laid low and sold via “MusicYo”. The infamous website said of the now sadly deceased Kramer Baretta: “some guitars try to all styles of music (country AND rock!)”. As statements go, it’s up there with “we play both kinds of music: country AND western”…

They were TRYING to say that the Baretta was a guitar that was laser-focused on doing one thing really well—a bit like the Cort X500 Menace. As if the name wasn’t clue enough, this sleek and aggressive guitar is a shred machine and it’s proud of it. There’s no fluff, no concessions to other styles - it’s a guitar with no “plan B”, and that’s what makes it brilliant.

Finished in a matte grey that’s somewhere between a battleship and a shark, the X500 Menace is a two-humbucker monster with a bunch of premium features that you’d normally only see on guitars that are much more expensive. Perhaps most impressive is the 7-ply neck-thru construction. For many, a neck thru is the absolute apex of playing comfort and high-end luxury, and it’s beautifully executed on this sub-£1000 instrument. It also sports a recessed Floyd Rose 1000 Series tremolo for screaming dive-bombs, gargles and warbles, along with a pair of legit Seymour Duncan Nazgul and Sentient humbuckers (aka, the “metal player’s JB/Jazz”).

Let’s start with the playability: The X500 absolutely RIPS. The thin, wide neck, tall frets and compound 12”-15.75” ebony fretboard all make for a playing feel that’s like a high performance car. If you have the skills, it’ll keep up with you no matter how fast and twisty your playing gets. There is a bit of a trade off with things like Mayer-esque thumb-bass chords and bluesy thumb-over-the-top bends… but if that’s your bag, are you really going to reach for a guitar named “Menace”?

Sonically, this guitar delivers the goods in the three key areas for a heavy guitar player - crushing riffs in the bridge position; smooth and articulate leads in the neck position; fat and chimey cleans in between. There are no coil splits, and no fancy wiring—even the inclusion of a tone control feels a little superfluous! It’s a refined and focused palate of tones that give shredders and purveyors of chuggy riffs the tools they need to to the job with no distractions.

The Cort X500 Menace is a guitar with evil intentions. It laughs scornfully at your Clapton licks and your weekend gig playing pop tunes at weddings. It wants to chug, it wants to shred, and it won’t take no for an answer. Less a “guitar for all seasons” and more “Seasons In The Abyss”, this is a guitar for a very specific kind of player—it that’s you, you already know it, and you need to check one out.

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