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Cort Core-OC Series review

Three tonewood flavours from Cort’s OC series offering top-quality at an approachable price

  • £499+
  • $499+
Cort Core-OC Series
(Image: © Future / Neil Godwin)

Our Verdict

Cort has spec'd up three immaculate OM cutaway acoustics that offer unbeatable value, easy playability and a variety of sounds that just go to show how the choice of woods affect an instrument's tone.

Pros

  • Each guitar has its own sonic identity.
  • OM cutaway is a body shape for all players to enjoy.
  • Great value.
  • Faultless, solid-wood builds.

Cons

  • Trans Black finish on the spruce will divide opinion.

Cort Core-OC Series: What is it?

Cort's Core-OC Series is all about paring the acoustic guitar down to the essentials, going easy on the abalone, gold leaf, Swarovski crystals and other unnecessary aesthetic flourishes to maintain the focus on playability and tone while keeping the price tag down.

All this is par for the course for Cort, whose contemporary lineup of electric guitars continue to impress us, with models such as the Cort G300 Pro spec'd for the serious amateur and professional but at a street price that's more than reasonable – certainly when compared to some of the eye-watering numbers bandied around in the boutique guitar market.

That said, the three Core-OC Series acoustics we have in for review are all easy on the eye, and present three different all-solid tonewood builds, with mahogany and spruce models joined by a more exotic blackwood model. Before you adjust your mobile device, that blackwood model is the ochre-and-tan Lightburst guitar, while the muted off-black model is the spruce-topped model, its Trans Black finish giving it a sort of charcoal look. The mahogany model is most recognisably mahogany, and all three arrive in an open-pore matte finish with an OM cutaway body shape.

All three have mahogany necks topped by ovangkol fingerboards, with 20 frets and a subtle dot inlay, and a 25.3" scale. The similarities continue with each equipped with a Fishman Sonicore/Sonitone pickup and preamp system, with a jack socket and battery compartment side-mounted and easy to access. 

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Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

The ovangkol is reprised on the bridge, which has bone saddles to match the nut. In terms of dimensions, again, these are peas in a pod, with 43mm nuts and 55mm spacing at the bridge. In terms of feel, electronics, and hardware (yup, all three have unbranded die-cast tuners with black buttons), there's nothing to separate them.

That brings us to the tonewoods. Whatever difference we hear is going to be down to the materials. The question as to how each build sounds in comparison to one another is a tantalising one, but so too is how the blackwood is going to sound. It's a tonewood we don't see that often, and this model is all blackwood, with nothing else to colour its sound.

For all its unorthodox stain finish, the spruce-topped model is quite conventional, with classic mahogany back and sides to – presumably – add depth and warmth to the spruce's bright articulate dynamics. The mahogany model, meanwhile, is just that: all mahogany.

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Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

The controls for the preamp are mounted discretely in the soundhole and are a fairly rudimentary affair with flat, ridged dials for volume and tone. No tuner here, and perhaps not the most inspiring acoustic guitar pickups on Planet Earth but nonetheless it'll see you through an open-mic night and presents all three here as stage-ready instruments.

Unlike Cort's complement of electric guitars, these are all built in China where the humidity is more conducive to acoustic guitar making. Sweetening the deal is a padded gig-bag that looks like it'll keep your guitar safe when on the move.

Cort Core-OC Series: Performance and verdict

Let's start with the spruce-topped model first. It is quite possibly the most commonplace acoustic tonewood recipe and yet you wouldn't know this one to look at it. The Trans Black stain is going to divide opinion. In a certain light, it looks colour-matched to Ed Sheeran's fire-damaged Martin that Eric Clapton gave him and Monty's was restoring. 

On the other side of the argument, it at least helps it distinguish itself and there will certainly be a market for that sort of grungy, muted colour. That lived-in feel is extended to the open-pore matte finishes, giving all the guitars here an eminently tactile feel, with the dimensions of the OM body (104mm/4" deep, 381mm/15" wide) offering a nice balance between manageable size and a loud and powerful voice. 

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Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Balance is what the spruce-topped model is all about. A few strummed open chords reveal that, with a lively top end underpinned by a warmth and authoritative low end. The OM cutaway format is something of an all-rounder, but there's no denying how impressive the strumming voice is here, with just enough sparkle and definition to tempt the fingerstylist.

Also consider...

https://www.musicradar.com/reviews/cort-gold-oc6

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Cort Gold-OC6
A very attractive cutaway electro-acoustic at a very attractive price. The Cort Gold-OC6 is a great strummer with an all-solid build that should be a ready and willing companion onstage.

Sigma GMC-STE+
The sense of balance with a resonant low end is still a surprise for a guitar at this price. It feels tactile for fingerstyle folk, rewarding the dynamics of touch and suggesting a guitar that could go the distance with a beginner. 

As for the mahogany model, there's a little more oomph in those lower registers, more width, and a modest boom that might be too subtle for those weaned on the bruising output of a dreadnought but nonetheless may prove tempting for those who appreciate the idea of that power but want a more compact guitar. 

Of course, when you think of an all-mahogany acoustic, the mind turns to the blues and those Delta fingerstylists who can tease out all that plummy warmth with dextrous power, letting the notes bloom nicely in with more of a mellow attack. There is a lot of potential for that sort of thing here.

As for the blackwood model, it arrives with few expectations. Most of us will be familiar with blackwood. As a tonewood for the back and sides, it's well renowned for being tight and powerful, but it's a novelty to find it used for the soundboard as well. It certainly has no shortage of confidence; it's dynamic and loud. Hit it hard and it responds. Tonally, it's something of a blank slate – especially when played amplified – and as such, it plays the percentages and has the potential to be a great all-rounder.

Cort Core-OC Series

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

That, in a sense, is what Cort has been doing all along with this Core-OC Series. The OM cutaway body is unlikely to offend the devout jumbo and dread community with an overabundance of timidity, yet it marries this volume to a suppleness that fingerstyle players will like.

It's hard to pick a favourite here. Were it not for that finish, you could easily recommend the spruce-topped model as the best all-rounder, the one that makes good with a classic tonewood cocktail, perfectly mixed. But it's a question of what sort of tonal response you want from your instrument – dark and warm like mahogany, balanced with clear highs a la the spruce, or something a little different in the blackwood model.

Whichever you choose, the build quality, and by extension, the value is undeniable. Indeed, it is hard to think of another instrument in this series' class that has the same attention to detail on the finish. And the best is yet to come. With all solid woods used on the builds, these are only going to sound sweeter with age.

MusicRadar verdict: Cort has spec'd up three immaculate OM cutaway acoustics that offer unbeatable value, easy playability and a variety of sounds that just go to show how the choice of woods affect an instrument's tone. 

Cort Core-OC Series: The web says...

"The workmanship that we’ve seen recently from Cort has been top notch, and the same is true here. Even under the close scrutiny that accompanies these reviews, we couldn’t find a hair out of place... We ought to consider the price. If these guitars all sat in the $/£750 bracket we wouldn’t be too surprised, but the fact that they circle the $/£500 point is very good indeed."
Guitarist

"The strummed response is also impressive. No-one takes a pick to a mahogany OM expecting D-28 levels of power but the Core-OC can pump out enough volume to support solo vocals unplugged, despite  losing some of its sheen when digging in hard with a heavy pick. If you need more power, the Fishman Sonicore under-saddle pickup, replete with soundhole-mounted volume and tone controls on the Sonitone preamp, will get you there."
Guitar

Cort Core-OC Series: Hands-on demos

Cort

Guitar

Justin Johnson

Cort Core-OC Series: Specifications

CORT CORE-OC MAHOGANY

Cort Core-OC series

CORT CORE-OC MAHOGANY (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
  • PRICE: $/£499 (inc padded gigbag)
  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: OM cutaway
  • TOP: Mahogany
  • BACK/SIDES: Mahogany 
  • MAX RIM DEPTH: 103mm 
  • MAX BODY WIDTH: 381mm 
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE LENGTH: 643mm (25.3”)
  • TUNERS: Unbranded die-cast/black buttons
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43mm 
  • FINGERBOARD: Ovangkol 
  • FRETS: 20
  • BRIDGE/SPACING: Ovangkol/bone saddle/55mm 
  • ELECTRICS: Fishman Sonicore/Sonitone
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.66/3.65 
  • OPTIONS: None
  • RANGE OPTIONS: Basically what you see here is what’s available: all-mahogany, spruce/mahogany, and blackwood FINISH: Black Burst – open pore matte

CORT CORE-OC SPRUCE

Cort Core-OC series

CORT CORE-OC SPRUCE (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
  • PRICE: $/£499 (inc padded gigbag)
  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: OM cutaway
  • TOP: Spruce
  • BACK/SIDES: Mahogany 
  • MAX RIM DEPTH: 103mm 
  • MAX BODY WIDTH: 381mm 
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE LENGTH: 643mm (25.3”)
  • TUNERS: Unbranded die-cast/black buttons
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43mm FINGERBOARD: Ovangkol FRETS: 20
  • BRIDGE/SPACING: Ovangkol/bone saddle/55mm ELECTRICS: Fishman Sonicore/Sonitone
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.71/3.76 OPTIONS: None
  • RANGE OPTIONS: See Core-OC Mahogany 
  • LEFT˛HANDERS: No
  • FINISH: Trans Black – open pore matte

CORT CORE-OC BLACKWOOD

Cort Core-OC series

CORT CORE-OC BLACKWOOD (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
  • PRICE: $549/£525 (inc padded gigbag)
  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: OM cutaway
  • TOP: Blackwood
  • BACK/SIDES: Blackwood 
  • MAX RIM DEPTH: 103mm 
  • MAX BODY WIDTH: 381mm 
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE LENGTH: 643mm (25.3”)
  • TUNERS: Unbranded die-cast/black buttons
  • NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43mm 
  • FINGERBOARD: Ovangkol 
  • FRETS: 20
  • BRIDGE/SPACING: Ovangkol/bone saddle/55mm 
  • ELECTRICS: Fishman Sonicore/Sonitone
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.65/3.63 OPTIONS: None
  • RANGE OPTIONS: See Core-OC Mahogany
  • LEFT˛HANDERS: No
  • FINISH: Lightburst – open pore matte
  • CONTACT: Cort