Harking back to the good 'ol days of Rock 'n' Roll and Rockabilly, the Cort Sunset I and II are vintage styled guitars with some modern features that should appeal to a wide range of 6-string slingers. Tom Quayle donned a large quiff, his crepe soled shoes and started to rock…
A fact not widely known is that Cort is one the biggest manufacturers of guitars in the world. Producing instruments under its own brand name and for others, it has developed a reputation for delivering quality at very attractive price points. Recently, Cort has started to gain a wider profile under it's own name, so now seems like a good time to check out two of its latest models.
The Sunset I and II are designed to appeal to a vintage-minded Rockabilly or Rock and Roll player, yet certainly have enough modern appointments and tonal variety to make them attractive to others beyond these genres. We were supplied with both guitars for this review, with the higher-end Sunset I being first up for examination.
The Sunset I features a chambered (not fully hollow) mahogany body with a maple top finished in resplendent Candy Apple Red and it sports a slight sparkle to the paintwork. The set in neck is all mahogany with a rosewood fretboard, white binding and super-comfortable 12" radius. The traditional 24 ¾" scale length makes the guitar feel immediately like home and all appointments, from the Bigsby roller bridge, Grover tuners and rectangular white pearl inlays feel and look like quality. A set of TV Jones Classic and Classic Plus humbuckers have been chosen for the neck and bridge positions respectively for an authentic tone and add a modern versatility to the design with a wide range of tones available from the three way switch and single volume/tone knob configuration.
These pickups need discussing in a bit more depth as it seems to be a hallmark of Cort that where a lot of Far Eastern guitar and bass companies will simply clone a suitable cheap single coil or humbucker for a new instrument, Cort goes that extra mile and sources its pickups from experts, as it has here with these TV Jones models and did with the Curbow bass Dan Veall reviewed in our last issue, which came with Bartolinis. For the uninitiated, TV Jones made his name with Gretsch and his pickup users now include a who's who of Rock nobility, apparently including Billy F. Gibbons, David Gilmour and Joe Perry! This isn't, it has to be said, the kind of quality you expect to find on what is quite an inexpensive guitar.
Perhaps the most impressive element of the Sunset I (and Sunset II for that matter) is the flawless construction on our review models. The Candy Apple Red paint job is perfectly realized and the binding, fretwork and general construction are of a very high quality - again, impressive for a guitar in this price range. The neck profile is comfortable and should be an instant hit with Gibson or Gretsch owners but the smaller body shape gives a more modern and sleek profile that should please those looking for something a little different. Tuning was generally good for a Bigsby equipped guitar and the Grover tuners were very responsive, adding mass to the headstock, creating a very nicely balanced instrument for both sitting and standing players that is lightweight but resonant.
Tonally the Sunset I is a pretty versatile performer thanks to those lovely pickups. Whilst the electronics are simple, careful use of the controls can elicit twangy Rockabilly tones, dark and warm Jazz tones or jangly Beatles-esque strumming sounds if required. Both pickups perform very well with overdrive and have a slightly more modern tone than their vintage looks might imply but still retain the hollow characteristics of the body design and have a warm, mahogany bite.
The Sunset II is essentially a very similar guitar to its sibling, featuring the same chambered mahogany body, maple top, mahogany neck and general appointments. Unlike the Sunset I, the II features a Tonepros Licensed bridge with a stop tailpiece and a pair of TV Jones Ltd humbuckers. Available in the same Candy Apple Red and Black colours, our review model had a similar flawless level of construction and finish, again unexpected at this price point. The factory setup was very good with a low action but bags of sustain, thanks to the fixed bridge and quality construction.
The Sunset II is definitely a more modern looking instrument and Cort has been very clever in keeping the main elements of the design but producing an instrument that will appeal visually to a wider audience. Tuning was slightly more stable than the Sunset I but that's to be expected given the stability of the Tonepros bridge in comparison to the Bigsby.
Plugged in, the Sunset II has a slightly more modern tone with more output from the TV Jones LTD's than the Classic and Classic Plus, but is still voiced in the traditional/vintage realm. This is an equally versatile guitar, allowing easy access to great clean and overdriven tones suitable for all manner of genres. The chambered body gives a lovely resonance and obviously aids the weight and balance of this great instrument.
My experiences with Cort guitars have always left me thinking that they represent a particular asset often missing from other guitar brands - that feeling that you got more than you paid for. The Sunset I and II certainly left this impression on me and go a long way to showing just how good many of the guitars coming out of Indonesian factories are these days. If you're after a very well priced and quality Pop, Rock 'n' Roll or Rockabilly guitar, the Sunset I will be right up your street. For everyone else the Sunset II will be well worth checking out. Highly recommended!