You know what they say about small packages… Words by Steve Henderson.
Cort Guitars was founded in 1960 as a piano‑focussed business, but began making guitars (for other companies) in 1973. If you’ve owned a Squire, a G&L Tribute or an Ibanez, there’s a good chance you’ve had a Cort-built instrument.
The Cort marque first appeared on a headstock in the early ‘80s, and the company quickly established itself as a builder of affordable, quality instruments. In fact, their reputation for high-quality guitars at the right price has attracted boutique guitar builders looking to turn their designs into reality through limited production runs.
The quality of Cort instruments has also attracted some serious endorsers – most notably Matthew Bellamy, Jeff Berlin, and our very own Aussie‑kid‑made-good, Frank Gambale.
A CONFIDENT CORT
Cort’s own logo now adorns an almost dizzying array of models covering a wide range of styles. From jazz boxes to fusion thinlines to metal shredders to classic rockers, all the way to alt and country (and alt-country) pickers. If you play any style of rock music, there’s a Cort electric guitar tailored to your needs.
Cort’s acoustic guitar models have a similar number of variants, including torrefied tops, figured timber bodies, parlour and auditorium models, OMs and dreadnoughts, and even their own version of a vintage jumbo, in sunburst, with a soundhole pickup and top-mount controls. They’re all very cool.
The review guitar at hand, however, is none of the above. This little gem is Cort’s travel guitar, called an Earth Mini OP. Why review a travel guitar, you ask? Well, for a start, it’s not built like most travel guitars, which are generally made to a price and not a standard. The Earth Mini has some features that are rarely found on travel guitars.
A dovetail neck and body joint gives the Earth Mini an incredibly stable feel. It doesn’t feel like the neck will come away with the first stiff breeze or halfway through your late night rendition of “Hotel California”. There’s a confidence about the Mini’s physicality.
Then there’s the kerfing. This is the strip of machined timber inside the body that supports the attachment of the top or back to the sides. Most travel guitars just don’t have this (check out a Baby Taylor), and without it, a normally insignificant bump can pop the back or top off the sides – an expensive repair (which involves installing kerfing).
The Mini’s three-quarter dreadnought body has a solid spruce top, with an X-brace like the big boys, and real mahogany for the back and sides – all properly and very tidily braced. The back and sides are laminated, and this is a good thing – it’s a travel guitar, so it’s going to get bumped, and solid wood doesn’t take the same punishment.
The neck is also real mahogany, fitted into a proper neck block – there’s also a tail block – and topped with a real rosewood fretboard. The mini has 19 nicely crowned and trimmed frets, a 43-millimetre nut width (Cort’s, and Martin’s, standard on their full-sized guitars), a compensated saddle in a rosewood bridge, and a set of enclosed machine heads – chrome, with rosewood-coloured mini-Grover-style buttons.
THE CORT IS NOW IN SESSION
The whole package has a satin finish, open‑pored on the mahogany back and sides for more resonance. There’s no binding – just a nicely turned back and soundboard edge – but the soundhole rosette has some finesse; a classy multi-layer ring with a deep read mother-of-plastic centre stripe. It’s a lovely touch.
Looking at Cort’s attention to detail, it’s amazing that, at this price, they took time to route the bridge along the pin holes to increase the string break over the saddle, adding a little extra tension to the 22.8-inch scale. They also took the time to add a maple-coloured heel cap. Nice.
Next, it’s entirely playable. In fact, it’s infectiously playable. The fretboard is super nice to play and it just doesn’t feel like an extra short scale – although that Eadd9 is a whole lot easier to grab. The neck shape is a very accommodating soft V. It’s in the body that you’ll notice its diminutive dimensions. It sits very comfortably under the arm and you feel every resonance.
Then there’s the sound: the Earth Mini is a lively guitar. It has a parlour guitar balance with a bit more bass. The bottom end is there, but it’s tight and focussed, like a 000, and it’s not thin and empty like so many small guitars.
The sound hole is smaller than on most parlour or travel guitars, which means, theoretically, that it’s not as loud as other guitars. But the thing is, it has heaps of volume, and the smaller sound hole simply releases it more slowly. It has a kind of natural sustain – a bloom that is really nice to hear from such a small guitar.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Here’s a guitar that is so easy to play and so easy to lug. It comes fitted with D’Addario EXP-16s, and even includes a gig bag.
It’s hard to imagine a better portable package... Well, except that Cort do the same guitar with an Adirondack top and a Fishman Sonitone preamp with – get this – a USB output for interfacing with your phone of choice: process it, monitor is, record it, send it out again from your phone to you Fishman Mini or the mixing desk.
As it stands, the Earth Mini OP is a well-built, lightweight, ‘take anywhere’ acoustic guitar that sounds way bigger than you’d ever expect it to. And for such a low price, it really is a no-brainer.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Open-pored satin finish
• Solid spruce top
• Mahogany body and neck
• Three-quarter dreadnought
• Dovetail neck joint
• Super portable
• Lively sound
• Well built
• Really short scale may not suit everyone
Ph: (02) 9939 1299