What is it?
The Cort Little CJ Walnut OP is a three-quarter jumbo that goes big on value and tone, small on price – and huge on ambition as it looks to offer an alternative to Taylor and Martin's much-loved compact acoustic guitars.
Built from a handsome open-pore solid spruce top with laminated walnut on the back and sides, Little CJ has a mahogany neck, carved into a very comfortable V profile, an ovangkol fingerboard and bridge, and Fishman Presys II electronics.
The finish is impeccable, as it should be if Cort is serious about making anyone think twice about superb electro-acoustics such as Taylor's GS Mini and Martin's Little Martin. Though, at £369, it proposes a saving that could well be decisive for many.
But what should you expect from a travel-sized guitar? Well, the obvious answer is that it's lightweight, compact and manageable – not just for the wayfaring Bob Dylans of the world, but for small hands and fingers, too.
There is a trade-off in tone, of course, with the three-quarter profile typically offering less in the bottom end, but compensating by way of a lovely detailed mid-range and expressive top end sparkle. That's what we are expecting here.
Performance and verdict
Out of the box, the setup is bang on, the quick low action getting the best out of that V-profile neck. Sometimes on a short-scale instrument such as this (Little CJ is a little 23.5” from nut to bridge), it can feel like a toy, but here the neck feel perfectly grown-up.
The 43mm nut width is similar to the Little Martin, and it likewise makes it very welcoming proposition to fingerstyle players – yet it is not so cramped as to put others off. Little CJ's voice is well balanced, if leaning towards the high end. Again, perfect for the fingerstyle players. But chords don't want for body. There's just enough meat in the mix.
• Taylor GS Mini
There's tonal depth, strength and resonance aplenty. It doesn't sound like something is missing: it has it's own voice and again we'd wager it would track on top of bigger sounding acoustics very nicely either live or recorded.
• Martin LX1E Little Martin
Like its acoustic voice, the Martin sounds very 'conventional' plugged – that's no bad thing. It does sound a little more 'piezo-y' than the Taylor, especially on higher position leads, but it's easy to dial, and a great option for the open mic.
That mix is amplified faithfully via the Fishman Presys II pickup and preamp system. All too often, at this price we are presented with the Fishman Sonitone – a reasonably piece of kit but not on the same level as this. Here you have bass, treble, a phase control to nix any feedback issues and an onboard tuner.
When amplified, the Little CJ can really fill the mix out. Tweaking the bass can bring in a little boom if required, and it shouldn't take you too long to find a sweet spot that accentuates Little CJ's midrange.
We can't think of a better-value travel-sized acoustic. Cort's quality control has been on point of late, and Little CJ looks an feels like an instrument twice its price. It is designed to travel, and naturally is excellent for younger players who have a bit of growing to do – but there's something about this small acoustic that would appeal to anyone really, even if you've no intention of ever taking it out of your practice space.
MusicRadar verdict: Small can be beautiful in the world of the acoustic guitar, and the Little CJ is a charmer with a big performance and superb amplified tone.
- TYPE: Mini jumbo ¾ size travel electro acoustic
- TOP: Solid Sitka spruce
- BACK AND SIDES: Walnut (laminate)
- BRACING: Advanced X
- SCALE LENGTH: 23.5” (597mm)
- NECK: Mahogany
- FINGERBOARD: Ovangkol
- FINISH: Open Pore Spruce (also available: Little CJ Blackwood w/ blackwood top, back and sides; Little CJ Natural w/ mahogany back and sides)
- ELECTRICS: Fishman Presys II with Volume, Bass, Treble, Phase switch, chromatic tuner; Fishman Sonicore undersaddle piezo
- HARDWARE: Vintage-style open gear tuners, ovangkol bridge
- LEFT-HANDED: No
- CASE: Gig bag
- CONTACT: Cort