Cort B4 20th Anniversary & Rithimic Basses Reviewed

July 21, 2014
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While Cort continues to gain traction in the brand-cluttered guitar/bass universe, in fact the company has been building import instruments for several well-established brands for many years. No names please, but it’s not a stretch to say you’ve probably played and dug a Cort-built instrument without realizing it. With a large catalog of offerings, the Cort bass lineup is varied in both design and price range, but these two new offerings are notable in that one is a limited-edition anniversary model, and one is a new signature axe built for Jeff Berlin.

B4 20th Anniversary Bass in black
B4 YOU ’CUSE ME

The B4 is a member of Cort’s Artisan series, a group of basses that follow the “Hyper J-Bass” platform. The body shape brings to mind a Fender Jazz that has been artfully carved to accommodate a 24-fret neck. The A models (there is also an A5 20th Anniversary model) are more premium-featured instruments, with “hippie-sandwich” through-body construction and higher-end electronics. The B series are solid, mid-level bolt-on instruments that cost significantly less. The 20th Anniversary B4 distinguishes itself with a lightweight, grain-enhanced swamp-ash body that looks very sexy with its gloss finish, and an African wenge fingerboard—an exotic hardwood usually found on more expensive instruments.

Like the standard B4 model, the 20th Anniversary bass has a five-piece, 24-fret wenge/rosewood neck. It’s powered by two Bartolini MK1 pickups and 3-band EQ, with passive bypass activated by a mini-toggle. The black Hipshot Ultralight tuners and A-style bridge are dependable choices, while the sculpted neck heel and countersunk neck bolts are typical of the features Cort builds into other companies’ instruments.

RITHIMIC TRAINING

Jeff Berlin is no stranger to BP readers, and those who have followed his career will notice that the Rithimic’s basic platform is similar to his previous signature models with other manufacturers. The eye-catching veneer of padauk and spalted maple blends in beautifully with the alder body, and the spalted-maple headstock cap is the coup de grace that makes the Rithimic a visual showstopper. The lower cutaway affords excellent access to the “no money zone.” Carved to Berlin’s specifications, the neck has a super-slim J-style profile, and a 15¾" fingerboard radius that makes advanced techniques like chordal playing left-hand friendly. The gold-colored hardware package looks snazzy against the multi-grain top, and paired with the ubiquitous Hipshot Ultralight tuners is a Babicz bridge—a piece of hardware that is winning followers for its elegantly sturdy and functional design.

The Rithimic has two Bartolini Jeff Berlin passive humbuckers spaced widely apart, with a simple volume/blend/tone control panel. The pickup placement is a key element to the instrument’s signature tone, and Berlin has been working these territories since he first modified his old Fender P-Bass with two “Hi-A” (Bartolini’s first brand name) pickups in the 1970s. The neck pickup is approximately 7.25"center-to-center from the string saddle, which is .25" closer to the neck than an early-’50s Fender single-coil P-Bass. The bridge pickup is smack dab in ’70s J-Bass turf.

CORT IN SESSION

The Rithimic’s pickups are set farther apart.
The Rithimic’s Babicz “Full Contact Hardware” bridge
Testing both axes in my “scream parlor” through a Genz Benz Shuttle 9.2 and Greenboy Audio F112, they represented two completely different tone spectrums. The B4 has the tight, compressed bite I’ve experienced with other wenge-neck instruments, and the MK-1 pickups have a bright response that places this instrument firmly in the modern palette. In passive mode, the output is respectable, but the lack of a passive tone control means you’ll have to warm up the sound at the amp. A loud pop accompanied my switching into active mode, but the preamp definitely gives the instrument the ability to produce a wide range of useful tones. The neck is slim and fast-playing; the body is well balanced and sits comfortably on a strap. There are many basses of this type on the market (many undoubtedly built by Cort), but the B4 20th Anniversary model is an attractive, competent alternative to other instruments in its sub-$600 price range.

The Rithimic is another beast entirely, both in concept and price point. As a passive instrument with a complex tone, playing through high-quality amplification is the best way to appreciate it. The front pickup has great oomph that could be tailored for any number of styles that require big, fat bass, while the bridge pickup has the clean, articulate voice that is Mr. Berlin’s calling card. Blending the two pickups together produces a mid-scooped tone that first led me to think the pickups may have been wired out of phase from each other. But closer inspection showed no faults—the wide spacing between the pickups creates a bit of a hollow, nasal quality that reminds me a bit of a two-pickup Danelectro, or a Lakland Jerry Scheff model. The neck profile is skinny and rounded in back, but the flatter fingerboard took a little getting used to. For the soloistic and chordal playing Berlin does, it makes sense, but if you’re a low-slung rocker, you may find a smaller (rounder) fingerboard radius more to your comfort. I liked the sound of the pickups individually, and the blend control made it simpler to dial in the sweet spot for each one. Favoring the bridge pickup produces a singing texture that works great for upper-register soloing, but rolling forward to the neck pickup with the tone slightly lowered gives a creamy, open tone that fills out the bottom nicely. I never warmed up to the tone of both pickups blended; there is a five percent attenuation at the center of the blend, and combined with the complex nature of the overtones present, it felt lacking. The Rithimic’s neck profile is designed specifically to Berlin’s taste, and while I found it uncomfortable, if you like a slim neck with a large radius, it may be just right for you.

There are signature models that are nothing more than a stock instrument with the artist’s favorite paint job, but the Rithimic is the result of many years of refining the preferences of a very particular player. If you dig Jeff Berlin’s sound, approach, and style of playing, the Rithimic will put you in the ballpark—at least equipment-wise.

SPECIFICATIONS

CORT

B4 20th Anniversary Bass
Street
$560
Pros Attractive, comfortable, versatile
Cons Top-heavy tone
Bottom Line Looks and feels sweet, a solid offering in its price range.

Rithimic
Street
$1,200
Pros Clear voice
Cons Pickup blend sounds honky, neck profile not for everyone
Bottom Line A well-built axe with a unique look, sound, and feel.

Contact cortguitars.com

SPECS

B4 20th Anniversary Bass
Construction
Bolt-on
Body Swamp ash
Neck Five-piece wenge/rosewood
Fingerboard Wenge
Radius 15¾"
Pickups 2 Bartolini MK-1 humbuckers
Preamp Bartolini MK-1 3-band, boost/cut
Controls Volume, blend, treble, mid, bass, passive switch
Tuners Hipshot Ultralight
Nut Graphite
Neck width at nut 1.5"
Bridge Cort
Frets 24
Made in Indonesia

Rithimic
Construction
Bolt-on
Body Alder
Top Padauk/spalted maple
Neck Hard maple
Fingerboard Rosewood
Radius 15¾"
Pickups 2 Bartolini Jeff Berlin custom soapbars
Controls Volume, blend, tone
Tuners Hipshot Ultralight
Nut Black TUSQ
Neck width at nut 1.5"
Bridge Babicz FCH4
Frets 21
Strings DR Strings DDT (.040–.100)
Made in Indonesia

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