Cort AS-E4 Acoustic
This is my first acoustic after more than a decade of not even being in the same room with an acoustic guitar, let alone playing one. I got it as gift from my GF 🙂 The original plan was to get some cheaper smaller body guitar, like Cort L450C or one of 0/0/000 shaped Sigma guitars. We went to a local store, tried everything they got and this one was sounded the best and after stretching the budget a *little*, it fit the bill. I didn’t even hear about this model before trying it because it was originally out of my price range, so I knew nothing about it. It turns out to be their top of the line model that, at least on paper, has specs that match western-world made guitars costing several times as much. Of course, it’s made in China, like pretty much every acoustic under a thousand dollars/euros. I payed 405 euros for the guitar with the included hard-shell case. For that money, I couldn’t find a guitar with that specs anywhere in Serbia, considering the cost and selection of musical instruments here.
AS-E4 is an all-solid (AS is short of All-Solid, I suppose) wood guitar with bookmatched sitka spurce top, solid mahogany back which is also bookmatched and solid mahogany sides. Neck is one piece mahogany with maple bound rosewood fingerboard and rosewood headstock plate. Bridge is made out of rosewood. Unlike most far-eastern made guitars I’ve seen, which were built using pretty much random pieces of wood that are in most cases only good for making a fire, in this case, I can see that every piece of wood that eye can see was picked for its quality. For example, sitka spurce on the top has that silky look, sort of like 3D effect when you move the guitar around. That’s a proof that it’s a good quartersawn piece of wood that is much more stable and sought after. Also, you can see that pieces of mahogany used for the back, sides and neck have nice parallel grain without run-outs or knots. This makes for a more stable guitar.
As far as the bracing arrangement, Cort calls it “Advanced X Bracing”, whatever that means. All I know is that braces are scalloped, which should make the top less stiff and more responsive, providing more low end.
Neck and headstock are made from a single piece of mahogany, while the dovetail joint is a separate piece of mahogany glued to the neck piece. The neck has “C” profile and is about 20mm thick and 42mm (a little shy of 1 11/16″) wide at the nut. The whole body and neck are bound with maple. It looks good but I’m not a fan of putting light color woods anywhere near the fingerboard because it gets dirty over time and it’s impossible to clean. Also, there’s (what looks like) mahogany purfling around the top which visually makes the guitar slightly smaller.
I really like the way they shaped part of the neck that meets the headstock. It’s very similar to how Ibanez does it on Prestige guitars. It looks good and extra wood mass gives it more strength without looking terrible like that diamond joint used on some Martins. Tuners are generic looking closed-style with large black kidney shaped pegs which add some class to the look from the front. They work smoothly and do decent job in keeping the guitar in tune. Finally, nut and saddle are made out of bone and bridge pins seem to be either rosewood or ebony with mother of pearl and abalone inlays. There’s a spare plastic-looking saddle and one spare bridge pin in the case.
For my liking, the action was way too high out of the box, almost 4mm at 12th fret. I tightened the truss rod to have almost perfectly flat neck, but it still wasn’t enough to bring the action down to my liking. We had to take the saddle out and sand the bottom down a little to bring the action to comfortable ~2mm at the 12th fret and lowered the action at the nut very slightly using nut files. After the setup, it’s fun and pleasant to play. Frets were dressed well and intonation is very decent right out of the box.
Many far-eastern (except for Japan) made guitars come riddled with constructional and/or visual defects or imperfections. They rush the production to save time and costs and a the end the quality suffers. With AS-E4, being their top model, you can tell that they payed more attention to details. I inspected the guitar closely for any imperfections or signs of structural issues. I noticed that there are few pinhead-sized dark stains on the maple binding around 17th and 18th fret, as shown on the photo below. It’s probably possible to sand or polish them, but it’s not a big deal for now. I couldn’t find anything more serious than that.
Finish and Looks
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I’ll just try to lay out the facts and you be the judge. Body is finished with thin glossy polyurethane which looks nice with the sitka spurce top because it brings out that 3D silkiness quality that it has. Neck is finished with satin coating which is very comfortable for the hand. Headstock has a maple-bound rosewood plate with mother of pearl and abalone inlays. Fingerboard is marked with small classy looking abalone dots and rosette is also made from abalone. For me it’s just a perfect amount of bling. I’m not a fan of guitars with tons of abalone or mother of pearl on them, such as Martin 000-45.
One thing I didn’t like is the pickguard, which luckily isn’t installed by default. It’s an ugly looking faux tortoise shell rubber-like decal. If I’m ever to put a pickguard, I’ll definitely look for something better.
As said before, I’m not at all experienced with acoustic guitars at all, but I do know what I hear :). The guitar came with D’Addario EXP16 strings from the factory and in that arrangement has a very balanced tone. Low strings have that piano like quality. I broke a string the next week and restrung it with a set of Martin 80/20 SP which is noticeably warmer, especially on the lower strings. I still love the tone, especially for fingerpicking, but I’m eager to string it with EXP16 again and compare. I like that notes have some sort of bloom that’s hard to explain. I did not hear that with cheaper guitars which tend have sort of cardboard-like sound with pronounced midrange.
Sound clips to come…
I’m happy with this guitar. In USA I could’ve bought Taylor GS Mini or some other tried and true models, but given the choices here in Serbia, I think I got a great guitar for the money. It’s well built, looks nice and sounds good. Add a decent hard-shell case to that an it’s a winner. After getting this guitar I almost exclusively played the acoustic over electric. That means something 🙂 I’m not claiming it’s better than a decent Martin or Taylor, everything said is in the context of the price range.