Cort GB74JJ Bass
By Phil O'Keefe |
Cort GB74JJ Bass
Cort goes active and doubles-down on all that Jazz
by Phil O'Keefe
- The Cort GB74JJ us a four-string bass with many familiar features, such as Cort's take on the classic double-cutaway, offset waist body shape, and the expected 34" scale length bolt-on neck.
- The GB74JJ has a three-piece swamp ash body. It is finished in gloss polyurethane and comes in two colors - Aqua Blue and Amber, which is the color I was sent for review. Both finishes are transparent enough to let the grain of the wood show through quite clearly.
- The front and rear of the body have contours for your tummy and right forearm, which help to make this a very comfortable bass to play. The offset waist further improves comfort, especially when you're playing while sitting down. The balance is generally good too, and there's no "neck dive" issues when you strap it on.
- Further highlighting the wood grain appeal of the bass is the clear pickguard, which allows more of the grain to be visible while still protecting the wood itself.
- The neck is a bolt-on, and is held in place with four bolts. It features a contoured neck / body joint, which improves upper-fret access over most traditional four-bolt neck designs.
- According to my digital calipers the satin finished Canadian hard maple neck is 1.475" (37.47 mm) wide at the nut, widening noticeably to 2.187" (55.57 mm) at the 12th fret. It's comfortably thin, with a depth of .809" (20.55 mm) at the first fret, and it has a classic C-shaped profile and a 12" (305 mm) fingerboard radius.
- Unlike some maple necked instruments, the fingerboard uses a separate piece of maple, and while it's finished in satin like the back of the neck, it's a more ornate piece of wood, with quite a bit of nice figuring and flame to it.
- The truss rod is installed from the top and then capped with the fingerboard, so there's no "skunk stripe" on the back of the neck.
- There are 21 frets on the flamed maple fingerboard. They're pretty average in size, and not particularly tall or wide, but they have all been nicely polished and the fret ends have been dressed - there's no sharp edges to be found anywhere.
- Basic black dot position indicators are included on both the fingerboard and on the side of the neck.
- The headstock front is fairly traditional looking (without risking any trademark violations), with a single round string tree to help keep the D and G strings pressed down firmly over the nut.
- The truss rod adjustment is at the heel end of the neck, but has been designed in such a way that it's not necessary to remove the pickguard or loosen the neck to get to it. Hooray!
- The Cort GB74JJ comes equipped with really nice Hipshot Ultralite Tuners. They help keep the weight down and they are smooth-feeling and hold their tuning really well.
- At the other end, the strings anchor into a beefy top-loading Omega Bridge. This heavy-duty chromed bridge seems to be very well engineered, with easy adjustability for individual string height and intonation. I also like the grooves built into it that keep the saddles from getting knocked out of alignment or pushed to either side.
- The electronics package is definitely another area where Cort has made some of those changes they were talking about. The GB74JJ comes equipped with two Voiced Tone VTB-ST pickups. These are J-style single coil units that are wound with 43 AWG wire, use beefy AlNiCo V rod magnets, and have a solid, punchy sound that is instantly familiar, but with a bit more weight and authority than you may be expecting.
- The Cort GB74JJ is an active bass, with an onboard preamp. The preamp uses a single 9V battery, with the battery compartment installed on the back of the bass. No tools are necessary to change the battery. The battery is connected whenever the bass is plugged in, so disconnect it whenever you're not playing to conserve battery life.
- Speaking of battery life, you can expect a fresh alkaline battery to be good for approximately seven hours of continuous non-stop playing in active mode.
- The four control knobs are knurled and have domed tops, which gives them a familiar, classic appearance and also makes them easy to grip, even if your hands get a bit sweaty as you're playing.
- The first knob (closest to the pickguard) is a Master Volume control. It has a push / pull switch incorporated into it. When pulled out, the active electronics are bypassed and the bass becomes fully passive. This is a useful feature not only for the tonal variety, but also in the event your battery dies in mid-set - this way, you can continue on without having to stop to replace it.
- The second knob controls the balance between the two pickups. The neck pickup is selected when the knob is turned "up" all the way and the bridge pickup is selected by itself when you have it turned fully down, which is the opposite of what I was expecting, but I adjusted to it fairly quickly. In between you can get whatever balance of the two pickups you'd like. It's not as fast to use as a pickup switch, but it's sonically more flexible.
- A center detent lets you know when you're at the middle position of the knob, where the output of both pickups is roughly equal. While I liked the sound of the pickups by themselves, combining them resulted in my favorite tones from the GB74JJ.
- The final two knobs are for the Bass and Treble EQ. As with the pickup blend knob, these are center-detented, and can boost or cut the Bass at 40 Hz and the Treble at 8 kHz.
- While the finish was generally very well done, I did spot some small imperfections at the very end of the headstock. It's hard to say it they are finish flaws or if they are the result of the bass being jostled around in shipping. Either way, they're very minor.
- While difficult to see in photos, there was also a few minor scuff marks on the clear pickguard.
- The Bass and Treble EQ controls are inactive whenever the Volume control is pulled out and the bass is running in passive mode.
- The Treble EQ can be fairly hissy at its highest boost settings.
- No case or gig bag is included with the GB74JJ, so budget accordingly.
There's a lot to love about the Cort GB74JJ bass. The neck is quite comfortable to play in all positions, and has no notable dead spots. I really like the feel of the satin finish on the back of the neck, although I'm personally not wild about the lack of tint that gives a bit of a bleached out look to the unstained maple. Your mileage may certainly vary on that - I personally feel it would look better with a bit more of a yellow shading to it, especially with the deep amber color of the body.
Of course that's only a minor cosmetic observation, and it obviously doesn't change how the bass plays - and it plays very nicely indeed, with the factory setup requiring only a slight tweak to touch up the intonation and no changes on the string action or truss rod were necessary, although the design of the bridge and truss rod adjustment would make both of those simple and straightforward to do. It's a very easy to play and fluid feeling bass, with solid bottom end and great definition in the upper mids courtesy of the swamp ash body and punchy single coil pickups. These are not wimpy J-style pickups - they have some power to them. I really like the preamp a lot too, and although I was less pleased to find the tone controls don't work in passive mode, it's nice to have the option of being able to run passively in case your battery dies. I imagine most players will want to run in active mode the vast majority of the time, so keep lots of batteries on hand. The GB74JJ's preamp, like the rest of the bass, has a high-quality sound. The treble can be a bit hissy when boosted to its highest levels but otherwise the noise isn't too terrible. The beef the bass EQ adds is something else - really fat and big, but not at all flabby or muddy. There's plenty of level on tap too.
With a comfortable, lightweight and beautiful looking swamp ash body, satiny-smooth neck that's neither too small nor too clubby, excellent tuning stability, punchy sounding electronics and its classy looking flame maple fingerboard, there's a lot to like about the look, feel and sound of the Cort GB74JJ. The affordable price tag makes it even more enticing. I'm sure a lot of players are going to agree - it should be a big seller for Cort. A bass of this quality level at this price point certainly deserves to be. -HC-
Want to discuss the Cort GB74JJ Bass or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Bass forum, right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Cort GB74JJ bass ($749.00 MSRP, $499.00 "street")
Cort's product web page
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.