Cort G290 FAT II: What is it?
Today is as good a day as any to go shopping for what we in the electric guitar community like to call a ‘Superstrat’, a guitar carved into a shape inspired by the Fender Stratocaster but sporting a more beefed-up spec.
There has never been a better time because there is so much choice and many of these options – including from the original innovators in the Superstrat space, so to speak, Jackson, Charvel, et al – are quite affordable.
You can find a number of guitars for beginners that conform to this design idiom; humbuckers on a Strat-esque chassis, skinny neck for speed, double-locking vibrato for kicks. Or you can spend like the one per cent and get a super-premium instrument, something from the Ibanez Prestige line, or maybe Soloist from Jackson USA. But in the middle of those two budgetary extremes is where the real gold is buried, guitars such as the Cort G290 FAT II.
As the name suggests, this is a new G290 FAT. Not the sexiest name, from not the sexiest brand, not yet at least, but it might just be one of the best in its class. Not that anyone needs telling in the year 2022 that Cort is making some of the finest instruments for the money – Cor-Tek’s own brand has a reputation – but it’s worth noting again for the record.
And once more, for the record, the original G290 FAT is a big favourite of MusicRadar’s. It was a guitar that we thought could establish Cort as “a go-to contemporary affordable brand” and largely it has done that. Versatile, playable, and back then retailing for £549, it was a no-brainer, a mid-priced guitar with an air of the boutique.
Its successor comes from similar stock. It’s recognisably from the same lineage, with its offset double-cutaway body, topped with a very attractive figured maple veneer. This time around the body is alder as opposed to v1’s swamp ash, and the neck and fingerboard have been upgraded to caramelised or roasted maple.
With a 12 to 15.75” compound radius, the fingerboard proportions are kind to shredders, with the heel ergonomically sculpted to ease access to all 22 of the FAT II’s medium-jumbo frets. To prevent the fingerboard adventurist from getting lost mid-performance in poor lighting, Luminlay side-dot fret marks glow in the dark.
Supertrats and their ilk were a proving ground for the efficacy and musical potential of the Floyd Rose vibrato but they are not indicative of the species. Many, including this G290 FAT II, plump instead for a no-fuss two-post six-saddle vibrato. This has a push-in arm that’s tension-adjustable and when many players have no use for the braying squeal of a natural harmonic divebomb, this sort of thing will do just nicely.
Pickups-wise, this is exactly the same as the previous G290 FAT, which means you have a pair of Cort’s VTH-77 humbuckers in the bridge and neck positions, a five-way lever switch that offers both humbuckers individually or together, their outer coils combined in position 2, and the inner coils combined in position 4. That should cover a lot of bases.
Cort G290 FAT II: Performance and verdict
The G290 FAT II is one tidy-looking guitar. The Trans Black Burst finish is immaculate. The deeper colour of the roasted maple neck and fingerboard complement it nicely. This guitar looks good. If it didn’t have a price tag on it, it would be dangerous. We’d wager many players would pay over the asking price.
That’s value, and it comes from a performance that – once more – positions Cort as one of the must-audition brands for any player seeking out a mid-priced electric guitar that can do pretty much everything and, crucially, do it well.
Oftentimes, the compromises for affordability are obvious but not here. Certainly not on the fretwork, which is unimpeachable. The fingerboard edges are subtly rolled, adding to the suspicion that the guitar has been worn in a little, like a catcher’s mitt after a month in the field.
Cort’s guitar-making sensibilities favour popularism. The neck profile is a crowd-pleaser, fairly generic in the sense that it fills out from 21mm depth at the 1st fret to 23mm at the 12th, thin without feeling like it you need more to support your palm. The balance and ergonomics are superb, and likewise the tuning stability.
• Cort G300 Pro (opens in new tab)
A super-classy operator that's a cheap date and a great night out, the G290 Pro is a six-string charm offensive from a brand that consistently hits all the right notes and yet is still bubbling under. It'll handle whatever you throw at it, and has one of the all-time classic pickup combos.
• Charvel Pro-Mod DK22
A sophisticated S-style that balances a hot-rodded hi-jinks and a shred-ready feel with a tonal range that invokes rock of all decades from the '60s onwards. Bravo!
There is a richness to the full humbucker voicings that is consistent across both the bridge and neck pickup. Neither wants for body. They are well-balanced, too, with Cort once more flattering the guitar player of today’s tastes by having the slightly hotter-sounding pickup at the bridge and a more vintage and stately wind at the neck.
If this lacks novelty it is nonetheless superb in practice, and through an overdriven guitar amp, the G290 FAT II really sings. When it does go off-road into the aforementioned positions 2 and 4 on the pickup selector, it excels. Some players might have preferred a coil-tap for some straight-up single-coil tones but the coil mix here provides another two convincing voices, both with a lively Fender-esque bounce that could be used for funk, or for clean chorused sounds.
Like the original FAT, this is a do-it-all guitar. A high-performance guitar for the people, especially if said people happened to play in a wedding band or in any musical outfit with a sprawling setlist of stylistic peregrinations.
More than that, it would make an excellent first ‘serious guitar’ for any player looking to workshop their playing style and find their sound on an instrument that feels very much like a blank canvas. Maybe a little blank, a little genero-axe for those with musical specialisms. But that’s a matter of taste and what your sound needs.
MusicRadar verdict: An exemplary build and performance make the second-generation G290 FAT II a joy to play. Furthermore, it complements the full-fat cream served on draft via the humbuckers with two effervescent in-between tones that make this a guitar for almost all occasions.
Cort G290 FAT II: The web says
“New sounds? Not really. But, to our ears, the G290 FAT II is about getting the job done and – particularly when paired with a half-decent pedalboard – it pulls it off with style.
“It’s a guitar with great potential for the studying player or anyone needing to cover a lot of ground, with plenty of potential for upgrading, too, not least with some name pickups. That said, its voices are surprisingly good, especially the big fat ’buckers.”
Guitarist (opens in new tab)
Cort G290 FAT II: Hands-on demos
Riffs, Beards & Gear
Cort G290 FAT II: Specifications
- ORIGIN: Indonesia
- TYPE: Offset double-cutaway solidbody electric guitar
- BODY: Alder with figured maple veneer top facing
- NECK: Roasted maple, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Graph Tech Black Tusq/41.8mm
- FINGERBOARD: Roasted maple, compound 305-400mm (12‑15.75”) radius, black face dots with Luminlay side dots
- FRETS: 22, medium jumbo
- HARDWARE: Chrome-plated Cort CFA-III 2-post 6-saddle vibrato with push-in arm, Cort staggered-post rear locking tuners
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm
- ELECTRICS: Cort ‘Voiced Tone’ VTH77 neck and bridge direct mount covered humbuckers, 5-way lever pickup selector switch, master volume, master tone
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.67/8
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Trans Black Burst (as reviewed), Antique Violin Burst and Bright Blue Burst – gloss body and headstock face, satin neck
- CONTACT: Cort (opens in new tab)