Another first for a brand on the Got A Ukulele pages, although actually a musical instrument brand I have known for many years through their guitars. This week I am looking at the somewhat clumsily named UKE-BWC-OP Blackwood Concert Ukulele from Cort Guitars.
Whilst some of you might not know the Cort name, the Korean brand is actually one of the largest guitar makers on the planet. As well as making a dizzying number of their own instruments with a reputation for good quality at good value prices, Cort also act as a builder for brands like Fender Squier, Ibanez and G and L, so they have quite a reputation. Their ukulele range circles around three fairly recently released solid blackwood models in soprano concert and tenor. Each are made in China to very traditional looks and specs.
In this review we are looking at the Concert flavour model, although the specs are pretty much the same across all three. What we have is a very traditionally shaped double bout all solid Blackwood ukulele in the concert scale that immediately reminds me of traditional ukes from Martin. Blackwood is a type of Acacia which hails from Australasia, but thankfully it has it's own name and nobody chose to call it something utterly silly like "Australian Koa" as some brands have done with European Acacia. It's Acacia, as is Koa, but it's not Koa. It's Blackwood.
And they are nice pieces of wood, darker than I would expect from Acacia and not massively stripy, but it gives off a look to me of mahogany. In fact the whole range look very like the three Martin clones from the Sigma brand I looked at recently. Not just in the overall look, but in other details that I will touch on below. And trust me, that is no bad thing at all. The Sigma I looked at was, after all, terrific for the money. In fact, aside from the differing tonewood, the two brands are SO similar visually it does make me wonder whether there is a connection in the building process. Back to the build of this Cort and the top and dead flat back appear to be made of single pieces and the sides are in a pair.
The whole body is finished in a flat satin coat which feels nice and leaves and open pore feel, and decoration is provided in the form of black edge binding to the top and back, with black and white purfling on the top. In addition we have a somewhat stark looking black and white sound hole rosette that is inlaid in the top wood.
The bridges on these were originally Rosewood, but Cort have moved them to Ovangkol to avoid CITES issues with international shipping. It's very much the same as a standard Martin slotted style bridge, with a bone uncompensated saddle in an individual slot that is extremly tidily finished. Nice.
Looking inside and it's very neat and tidy too. No mess, simple bracing, notched linings and the Cort logo embossed on the back with the model number embossed on the neck block.
Up to the neck and this is made of a single piece of Mahogany with a typically far eastern rounded profile and an average 35mm nut. This is fitted with an Ovangkol fingerboard which is a bit variable in colour, but otherwise nicely finished if unbound. It has 17 nickel silver frets with 12 to the body joint and they are dressed well. We have outward facing dots at the fifth, a double at the 7th, and one at the 10th. These are complimented by side dots which have extras at the 3rd, 12th and 15th. Another nod to Martin. And in yet another nod, the end of that fingerboard has the same Martin shaping to a point above the soundhole.
Beyond the bone nut, we have a very simpled shaped headstock completed with the Cort logo in a white plastic inlay which I think looks very stark and stands out too much. I'd have much preferred this in a darker colour under the finish.
Tuning is provided by unbranded open gears with small black plastic buttons. Yes, even though it's a concert I would still have preferred friction pegs on this on, but then again, you DO get them on the soprano version. Still, these work just fine and are very much like Grover open gears.
So as you can probably tell, I am liking this one quite a bit so far. The build is excellent throughout, it looks classy and just works for me. That follows through into the feel of it, as the build is solid but not heavy and is nicely balanced to hold. The setup is also just about spot on too so no complaints there either.
But whilst it looks like a mahogany ukulele will it sound like one? The answer is no, as it has much more of an acacia voice with more breadth to the range giving it a nice rich jangle and bigger highs. Couple that with some great sustain and volume and there is really not much to dislike here. I particularly liked it when fingerpicked when it gives off a real bell like tone with tons of clarity, but it's no slouch when strummed and oozes character.
The whole package is really hard to fault and comes together as a very sympathetic version of a Martin classic that sounds and plays as reliably as it is built.
There are those people who assume that all ukuleles made by guitar makers will be terrible. And of course there have indeed been some howlers from the likes of Epiphone and Ibanez, but remember that Martin, and indeed Sigma are guitar makers at heart. Cort are clearly one of those makers who know how to do things properly with a ukulele, and I think they have done that here. It's certainly on a par with the Sigma version and I think probably need a close look if you are in the market for a new Martin S1 or C1. At £210, why wouldn't you? Very much recommended!
Very good build
Great rich broad tone
Good volume and sustain
Really very few
Stark logo and rosette
Would prefer friction pegs
Looks - 9 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10
OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9 out of 10
UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW
© Barry Maz
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