All the good stuff without the price tag? Really? Words by Steve Henderson.
Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #132. Subscribe to our print edition here!
The Cort CR250 is part of their Classic Rock range – one that includes some familiar shapes and sounds. The CR250 has that oh-so-familiar look, but with a couple of simple differences: the horn of the Florentine cutaway is a little pointier and the headstock shape (a copyright component) is different but similar, and just as elegant. It’s a timeless design, and just as relevant today as it was in 1952.
The CR250 features a set neck design, with a mahogany neck glued into a mahogany body. The body has a beautiful carved (not pressed) flame maple top, the neck has a bound rosewood fingerboard with 22 beautifully crowned frets, and the whole package is wrapped up in a classy vintage-style sunburst. And Cort have gone the extra mile with other appointments, such as the Graph Tech nut, the PAF-style humbuckers with Alnico II magnets, and the tulip button tuners: vintage looks with modern reliability.
Pick up the CR250 and first thing you’ll notice is the weight: it’s not excessive, it’s not
cumbersome, and it’s not flimsy. It’s… Authentic! Most Les Paul copies are light, because they’re made using lightweight timbers: cheap mahogany, ash, or even pine, with figured ‘anything’ that will pass for flame maple. But Cort have used real mahogany and real maple, and the result is a guitar that has a solid confidence and is a pleasure to hold.
The next thing, of course, is the feel: it sits just right, whether on a strap or on your thigh, and the neck has very a friendly shape – you can play this guitar for hours. It’s an inviting 1959 shape, as compared to the chunkier mid-’50s neck that Gibson brought across from their archtop range of that time.
There’s a slick rosewood fretboard with a traditional radius, medium frets, square pearl inlays, and a Graph Tech Nubone nut. The 24 3/4-inch scale length makes bending, vibrato, and other techniques a breeze, and the 12-inch radius means that single notes don’t choke out.
THIS CORT IS IN SESSION
Plugged in, the CR250 is alive with juicy humbucking tones. The folks at Cort seem to have tapped into the magic that makes good dual coils so inviting. There’s nothing thin about these humbuckers and there’s a clear tonal distinction between the front and back pickups.
The front is round, warm and jazzy; the back has bite and power but with plenty of mid presence and without the shrill of some comparable transducers. clean tones are big and bold, with a breadth that’s surprising for the price. There’s plenty of output to push a Deluxe into a sweet crunch, then back it off to about eight on the dial so it cleans up nicely.
It readily pushed a 50-watt Marshall half stack into clip and the sound remained deep and chunky. Playing through the lead channel on a Mk IV Boogie (is there a better solo voice than a humbucker through a Boogie?), through either a single 12 or an old Mesa 412, the neck humbucker was thick and juicy while the bridge pickup had a syrupy zing that was completely infectious.
Roll off the guitar’s tone control (but don’t change the amp) and you’ll hear Carlos Santana’s sound roaring at you; do the same with the front pickup and you’ll likely be reminded of Clapton’s “Woman Tone” that he used so effectively with Cream.
THE ‘B’ MIGHT AS WELL STAND FOR ‘BIG’
The CR250’s sustain is also quite surprising. Even acoustically, the notes ring for a long time and strummed chords hang together nicely without losing note definition.
Through an amp or an overdrive pedal, this is simply accentuated. I dug into “Europa” and Gary Moore’s “Still Got The Blues For You”, and the CR250 produced the kind of tone that helped make those songs the classics that they are. It’s an authentic sound, not an imitation.
Right along the neck, the sound has substance, and above the 15th fret, there’s still plenty of sustain and articulation. Notes don’t fade away too quickly, nor do they thin out as they decay.
Indeed, the CR250 looks, feel, and sounds like a serious professional’s instrument. The top’s two-colour burst (they call it Vintage Sunburst, while others call it Tobacco Sunburst) is really nicely done, and better than a lot of bursts we’ve seen from you-know-who.
It also comes in Trans Black (which is also a kind of a burst), which looks very cool (although I’d change the knobs). There are only two colours available but the broader CR range offers other colour choices – for example there’s an especially slick CR200 goldtop on offer.
The body and neck are a traditional dark mahogany colour and the top and fretboard have an aged cream binding. Very nice.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There’s plenty of attention to detail to be found on the CR250. Kluson-style tuners that work properly, a high quality tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece, pots that feel definite, and neat and tidy wiring under the back panels.
The CR250 offers a lot for a bargain price, and although that price would suggest it’s pitched at the beginner or intermediate player, it’s really a guitar for anyone. For the professional or the serious amateur, the CR250 is a great alternative to a high priced ‘original’ – especially since it costs literally thousands of dollars less.
My only concern is that people might be put off by the low price and not give it a go. Simply put, the CR250 is a killer guitar that leaves the competition way behind.
• Two pickups
• Set neck with single cutaway
• Maple-on-mahogany body and mahogany neck
• Plays very nicely
• Great sound
• Well built with a quality finish
• Limited colour choice
Ph: (02) 9939 1299