If you're reading this review, you've probably already played a Cort-manufactured bass guitar.
The South Korean giant not only produces its own instruments, but also manufactures for a huge number of other brands. This puts Cort in a unique situation where they can, in theory, use their size to create high-quality, low-cost basses. The manufacturer boasts a staggering amount of bass options, from a very basic introlevel guitar to custom shop models. The GB series comes in towards the intro level, with the GB74 four-string and GB75 five-string being the models we've got here. But can they cut it?
Cort is arguably the industry leader for producing great guitars at a great cost. Even so, the GB74 is something of a revelation. Out of the box, the open bore natural finish looks very classy, with the body shape working really well with the lines of the swamp ash. The natural wood finish gives the bass the look and feel of a much more expensive instrument. The bolt-on neck is inlaid with pearl-effect fret markers that complement the overall look well. One minor gripe is the slightly incongruous white strip on the side of the fretboard: keeping the entire neck natural would have maintained the illusion of expense better. The body and headstock shape are fairly uncommon, but you can imagine the bass appealing to both traditional players and the metal and rock fraternity.
Cort manufactures guitars well, and the GB74 is no exception to this rule - in fact, build quality-wise, the only thing that may put off more picky players is the Cort branding itself. What Cort lacks in brand name, however, it makes up for in build quality. But if the GB74 is a revelation, the GB75 comes as something of a disappointment. Five-string basses really do require a little more than a simple extension of dimensions to fi t the extra string. It could be argued that for even a basic five-string you'd need to spend a lot more than the modest £439 of the 'white blond' model on test. Where the four-string belies its modest budget, the five- string feels like an instrument built to a budget. Even the finish itself - a white body with black scratchplate - looks cheaper. And where the GB74 is nicely balanced, the GB75 feels cumbersome. It doesn't hang well in the strap. It's a real shame, as the build quality is obviously there in this series.
Sounds And Playability
If the GB74's aesthetics are spot on, so is its sound and playability. The dimensions of the bass make it a pleasure to play. It has a wide fretboard coupled with a slim neck, and lends itself to most of the styles you could think of - from slap and pop to plectrum work. The pickups are basic, but give a really strong, crisp tone and the multiple controls (volume, blend, EQ) give a lot of options for an entry-level bass guitar.
The bass is active, and the tonal variations you can achieve outperform its budget. The hardware is sturdy and it held its tuning well through a good thrashing. The tone pots have a wide range and are clear and not fuzzy.
An interesting addition to the electronics is the slap switch, a lever that helps accentuate the slap and pluck attack required for that style of play. This switch shouldn't pigeonhole this bass, though: the GB74 is not just an instrument for fusion and funk. The tonal qualities of the bass and the multiple control options mean this would also be an ideal starter bass for a rock or metal player.
It really is a bass that I didn't want to put down, and as a player, that's half the battle. Without painting the GB75 as a poor relation of the fourstring, the model does seem to let the series down in terms of sounds and playability. The B string is just a little too flabby: again, this is probably down to budget. It takes something special in a five-string bass body and neck to give the warmth and resonance necessary for a B string, while at the same time giving the tone and clarity of a G string. With budget comes compromise, and the GB75 seems to be a compromise too far. As a four-string, Cort pulls it off remarkably well, but as a five-string, it doesn't quite work.
Cort has a wealth of experience in making fantastic budget basses. What it lacks in terms of brand kudos, it makes up for in quality and playability. If you can get over the fact that your headstock doesn't say Gibson, Fender or Rickenbacker, then Cort is a brand worth checking out. With the GB models on test, it really is 'a game of two halves'. The GB74 is a plucky little fighter that out-punches and out-performs for its modest budget. Its good looks (although the natural finish is in a different league to the white blond), great tone and first-class playability make this a bass that could grace big halls and bedrooms alike. For under £400, this bass is superb.
The GB75, on the other hand, feels a little overweight and sluggish. If you really need the extra options of a five-string you would be better saving some more cash and looking at the wealth of options in the next price bracket up. It's okay in terms of budget for what it is, but that's all it is. And okay always disappoints in the long run.