Córdoba Stage: What is it?
Córdoba describes the Stage as something of a hinge moment in the proud history of the California-based brand – its first nylon-string electric guitar.
Note: not an acoustic-electric guitar, but electric. That tells us much about Córdoba’s thinking here and what we might expect from the guitar. In 2022, hybrid builds are not as radical as they once were.
Fender’s Acoustasonic models have changed that, and when it comes to blurring the line between the stage-ready functionality and playability of electric and acoustic guitar design, the likes of Godin have been proactive disruptors.
Córdoba has already dipped its toe into these waters, rolling out a thin-bodied version of its best-seller C5-CE that promised players an acoustic-electric performance without the risk of feedback.
The Stage goes one step further, dispensing with the traditional soundhole in favour of three small sound ports on the guitar’s shoulder, which is actually a functional work of branding, reflecting the brand’s logo, a design inspired by the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba arches.
You’ll find a pearloid version of this logo on guitars such as the Fusion model, a guitar from which the Stage takes a little of its design cues. Similarly, both look to offer dimensions and a playing experience that welcomes steel-stringers fretting their first notes in the brave new (old) world of nylon.
Hitherto, such bold new designs have largely been introduced at a pro price point, but, tellingly, Córdoba is debuting the Stage at a budget-friendly price point, aimed at amateurs and jobbing pros, who want no fuss, no feedback, no quack from their amplified nylon-string tones.
Arriving when next-gen guitar heroes such as Tim Henson and Scott LePage of Polyphia are leading a pop-cultural resurgence in the nylon-string guitar, the Stage’s timing could not be better.
Let’s talk about those proportions. With a 16” fingerboard radius and a 48mm nut width, the Stage offers a thinner platform for players. Be they steel-stringers or with smaller hands, this makes for a more accommodating and welcoming proposition.
The Stage’s chambered mahogany body makes for a lightweight instrument, that leans on its State pickup and preamp – co-designed with Fishman – for its sounds. Its top is a piece of solid spruce finished with a handsome figured maple veneer. The high-gloss poly Edge Burst finish brings out all the details in the veneer.
The mahogany neck is glued to the body, joining it at the 14th fret, with a cutaway – aided by a sculpted heel – exposing the upper reaches of the pau ferro fingerboard. Dot markers are applied to the side of the ‘board. The top is left bare. And pau ferro is used once more for the bridge, which is fitted with a bone saddle.
Under the saddle, you’ll find a transducer, with body sensors located on the guitar’s top. The Stage system allows you to use the source signal from both the transducer and body sensor individually or blended to taste.
Controls for the Stage pickup and preamp are mounted on the front of the guitar and positioned much where you might find them on an electric. There are dials for volume, EQ and Body Blend. The EQ is not a tone knob as you might find on a regular electric, rolling off high-end to taste, but rather takes the sound from a flat EQ profile to a scooped profile with bass and treble brought to the fore.
Córdoba Stage: Performance and verdict
Like other hybrids, the Córdoba Stage has players keeping score as to the electric and acoustic features. The bridge, the finish, the neck feel – the string feel – and the slotted headstock all give you that acoustic nylon-string vibe. The controls, the body’s subtle rib contour and neck heel, the proportions and how that body sits nicely balanced whether on a strap or seated, and the output jack, mounted on the side of the instrument as opposed to an end-pin jack/strap button, all point to an electric.
Not to mention that strumming this acoustically does not deliver the full-blooded voice of any acoustic we have played. Noodling alone at home is fine; this will do for practising, when, after all, it’s usually better the fewer people can hear you. But you’ll want to and need to plug in.
This is where the Stage excels. This is where it presents options. Those options first manifest themselves in how you want to play the guitar. Fingerstyles are of course welcome. But so too is the pick, and immediately you are aware of how this guitar really is a hybrid, facilitating fusion lines that skirt between jazz, classical and Latin styles, with a sound that makes sense of them all.
• Godin Multiac Encore Nylon
But this hybrid steel-meets-nylon design is not only highly practical, it's also classy looking and has an appealing feel - plus some excellent and highly adaptable, realistic sounds.
This is a new style of guitar for Córdoba, as such, finding new styles of playing is very much in tune with the instrument’s remit. With the EQ flat and the under-saddle transducer in play, there’s detail, with a particularly noticeable attack when played with the pick, which complements the soft edges of a traditional nylon-string sound.
Dial in more body and it is as though the sound has a three-dimensionality to it, more bass, more sense of space, as though you’ve close mic’d a classical guitar. This, with the body sensors at work, could service the percussive stylists a little better, giving them a neo-flamenco voicing to work with.
Having your controls mounted as per an electric guitar is an invitation to use them a lot more. And you will want to adjust as you go along, finding the sweet spot not only for your style, but for the room you are playing in, and whether you are performing live or sending your signal direct for recording.
The Fishman/Córdoba collaboration has borne fruit with a system that allows you to find those sounds, with the austere clarity of the under-saddle sounds given life and vigour when you bring in some body sensor in the mix. And all this comes without feedback.
We used the word radical earlier, but in truth, the Stage is more evolutionary, one step along from a crossover nylon string for those who will always be going into an acoustic guitar amplifier, whose preference is not to have a mic onstage – those looking for nylon-string tones in a live band situation, for instance.
MusicRadar verdict: It’s too good-looking to be called practical, but in so many instances, the Stage is exactly that, offering an approachable and fun playing experience and a top-quality amplified nylon-string experience that is ideal for live performance, and not to be underrated as a studio pinch-hitter either.
Córdoba Stage: The web says
"This nylon electro is well named, clearly designed to give a live performer a rather good and quite authentic nylon-string voice with complete absence of feedback in all but high-volume settings.
"Aside from rather scratchy fret tops, it’s well made and good looking without the bulk of a full acoustic body; the neck is much more manageable for the crossover player, too."
Córdoba Stage: Hands-on demos
Córdoba Stage: Specifications
- ORIGIN: China
- TYPE: Thinline cutaway-electro nylon-string
- TOP: Solid spruce with flame maple veneer facing
- BACK: Chambered mahogany
- NECK: Mahogany, glued-in
- SCALE LENGTH: 650mm (25.6”)
- TUNERS: Gold classical style with black buttons and rollers
- NUT: Bone
- FINGERBOARD: Pau ferro, 406mm (16”) radius with side dot markers
- FRETS: 19 (plus 3 partial), medium/small
- BRIDGE: Pau ferro with bone saddle
- ELECTRONICS: Fishman/Córdoba Stage pickup system with under-saddle and body (top) sensors, volume, EQ and Body Blend rotary controls
- OPTIONS: None
- RANGE OPTIONS: Córdoba’s C5-CET (£399) is a more classic-looking thinline electro and is available with various options. Other thinline electros include the Spanish-made 55FCE (£1,649), as used by the Gipsy Kings
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISH: Edge Burst (as reviewed) – gloss polyurethane
- CONTACT: Córdoba