Price: $569 list/under $400 street
Just about everywhere you look these days, manufacturers are devising new spins on the single-cutaway solidbody. Cort has been a player on the import scene for decades and, with its Zenox-series Z44, shows it’s serious about being a player in the world of the single-cut.
The Z44 is a stylish, modern take on the Les Paul archetype. It has a beefier cutaway, a slightly elongated upper bout, and it adds modern flair with a stylish headstock that has a natural-wood “scoop” at its tip and minimal ornamentation on the fretboard, aside from a composite/mother-of-pearl Z inlay at the 12th fret. Black EMG pickups, natural-wood faux binding, an array of recessed knobs and an unusual, slanted cable-jack insert give it a sleek look and feel. The body is contoured with a gently arched top and back, and comfort cuts provide an ergonomic feel.
This Cort has a set-neck construction and an almost-seamless heel. Materials include a mahogany neck and body, rosewood fingerboard with 22 large frets and a 12″ radius, and a Gibsonesque 243/4″ scale. Other treats include a bridge licensed by Tone Pros, a string-through-body setup, die-cast tuners, and two Volumes, plus a Tone knob with a push/pull coil-tap function. The EMG HZ-H4 is a passive humbucker, unlike its active-powered cousins.
Plugged into a tube head and 2×12 cabinet, the Z44 proved a hard-rockin’ guitar. Its neck is flat and wide, like an ’80s shred axe, but where you might have paid over $1,000 for this guitar 25 years ago, you can get a Z44 with a similar setup for under $400. It’s impressive, and further evidence of the triumph of mid-priced Asian guitars (the Z44 is built in Indonesia). Certainly, it’s made for the heavy rock/metal crowd and performs extremely well in that context. The humbuckers do their job and, with the liquid-fast fretboard, shred runs and drop-D riffing are a breeze. Bring on your favorite metals riffs!
The guitar’s debits are minor; some rough finish edges around the input jack. The coil-tap’s effect is modest – don’t expect real single-coil twang; it’s more just a simple midrange cut. Also, the guitar has a bit of heft, but that’s to be expected from a single-cut. All told, the Cort Z44 is a fine guitar, especially considering its affordable price. Add its killer looks and hairy tones, and you have a winner.
This article originally appeared in VG August 2012 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.