Cort Headless Guitars
with bridges from Steinberger
I review these guitars with a certain amount of fear and trepidation for my fellow man... in particular the fellow man in charge of Cort's quality control who is likely to have his arse soundly kicked once this magazine hits the streets.
Every one of these guitars exhibited a serious fault when it was unpacked and plugged in. That's not serious in the sense of a major design error or unrepairable flaw, but serious in terms of irritation. If you picked one of these Corts off the wall of a shop, you'd think "oh, the wassname's missing", put it straight back and try another instrument instead, possibly from a rival manufacturer. And that, as far as the guitar business is concerned, IS serious.
Knowing that these faults could have been caught by a quality check, we'll get them out of the way now and review the guitars as they should have been. So, the headless Flying V bass which is definitely an instrument to be played standing up, had a missing strap button (believe me, it is not an easy model to rest on your knee). It also had a dodgy jack socket that all but fell out of the wood.
One of the saddles on the headless six string had no nick to hold the string, consequently the G was forever slipping out of place, colliding with the edge of the metal saddle and converting itself to a sitar.
Finally, the neck pickup on the last six string didn't work at all. However, let's be positive.
The major reason for interest on both the headless models is the all-black bridge, bearing the gold stamped words 'Licensed by Steinberger'. It is, indeed, a version of the Steinberger fine tune mechanism where the strings pass over the saddles from the neck then drop into ball-end holders which are then moved backwards or forwards by knurled knobs in a row at the far end of the bridge.
In the case of the bass, those knobs sit in the groin of the V (where else) and the six string has part of the body cut away so you can reach in and tune. The saddles are individually adjustable for height via two Allen keyed grub screws (but no overall height adjustment), and they're held together between the raised sides of a solid yet compact base plate. The sprung tuning screws are smooth and respond instantly, feeling more businesslike than normal machines. Though they are close together, I had no problems picking out the right one every time after only a couple of minutes of familiarisation.
Theories abound concerning the combination of a headless guitar and bodied-based tuning. It supposedly improves sustain as there are fewer vibration stealing angles for the string to bend around. It's also arguably more stable because the string is always pulled in a straight line and not wound around a machine pillar.
On the Corts, tuning was faster, easier and more certain... pluck the string, twist the screw and the note glides steadily to exactly where you want it, and stops. Drawbacks to the design are that you need special strings with ball ends top and bottom (becoming more common but by no means available in every make and gauge) and there are no intonation adjustment screws for the saddles.
Best you can do is slacken off the strings then drift the saddles into place by tapping them with a handy screwdriver/ball point/mallet. A disappointingly barbaric weakness on an otherwise smart slice of science. Accidental drifting in mid number will impress nobody.
Rival manufacturers have got around the intonation problem and made allowance for normal single ball ended strings. One final warning, if you unscrew the tuning knobs too far they'll fall out and be converted to Hoover food, so watch out.
The bridges are good... to be honest, they're too good for the guitars. The standards of these Korean built instruments really do not live up to the precision of the tailpiece units.
The three single coil pickups of the bolt-on neck six string are commanded by a five-way switch. You can tell because alongside is a black and silver sticker saying "5 way switch". The scratchplate has been brutally chopped to take the bridge unit and doesn't fit the neck or the pickups much better.
The one piece neck feels okay, but the action is high and none too willing to come down. Finishing along the fretboard shows signs of squeezed out glue or "gunk" as it is technically termed. Instead of the headstock there's a screw on plastic "stopper" that has slots for the other ball ends plus a hole through which you reach the truss rod and a hook to hang up the guitar.
It sounds adequate if not inspiring, with a wide enough range of tones to get you started, practising and improving, but looking eventually for a sweeter instrument when the money comes in. I think I smell a Strat copy that's been pulled back from the boat for the subtraction of headstock and wood, and the addition of zero fret and bridge piece.
The all-black, two octave necked, long scale V bass sounds twangy but lightweight and is mysteriously underpowered on the split, neck pickup. (The two split and single coils would look familiar to P and J bass owners.) Finishing is to a better standard, action's easier, and it's altogether a more successful experiment than the six string. Still get the feeling that it had a former life, though.
Finally the normal, twin horned, head-full (opposite of head-less?) six string. The body reminds me of early Vantage guitars, and the bridge has saddles first made popular by Washburn. The strings pass through the back of the body, up through a large round hole in the centre of the saddle then bend through a fairly sharp angle on towards the neck. The decorative black plastic strips give the impression of a straight-through neck, but in reality it's bolted on, and is perhaps not the snuggest of fits.
We finish on a bad note again, sadly, but it's one that illustrates the general problem with the Corts and their makers. The frets are fitted okay, but they've never seen the edge of a buffing tool. It's like pushing strings across a Brillo pad. Good ideas, fine materials (the "Steinberger" bridges are wonderful) but sloppy attention to detail that spoils the final story.
space arrow bass: £225
space stat: £185
Review by Paul Colbert
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