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Cort Motor Oil 1 and Earth 100

February 7, 2012
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Two recent introductions by Cort serve to underscore the breadth of this company’s 6-string offerings. The hot-rod looking Motor Oil 1 from the new Fuel Series recalls some of the iconic visuals of 1960s motoring with a striking graphic treatment by guitar designer Stephen McSwain. At the other end of the spectrum, the Earth 100 acoustic is an affordable, dreadnoughtstyle guitar with the sound and feel of a more costly instrument. Though designed to satisfy players with very different needs and tastes, both are great examples of Cort’s commitment to building quality, eyecatching guitars that offer a lot of performance for the money.

Motor Oil 1

Picture a vintage motor oil can with checkered flags and the like that has been flattened out and applied over the top of a guitar, and you’ve got the essence of the Motor Oil 1. Reflecting a design ethos that was commonplace in auto parts stores of the 1960s, the cosmetic treatment certainly reinforces the notion that cars and guitars have a spiritual connection.

But the The Motor Oil 1 is hardly just a wall hanger for a guitar nut’s garage. The basswood body has a distressed black satin finish, and it holds a pair of humbuckers with metal covers and surrounds that are chemically “aged”—a treatment that is also applied to the Tune-o-matic bridge, toggle-switch tip, jack plate, strap buttons, and the Volume and Tone knobs, which, by the way, are cleverly shaped to look like lug nuts.

The auto theme continues with the slender bolt-on maple neck, which revs things up with hex-nut-shaped pearl fretboard inlays, more car-inspired graphics on the headstock, and a set of aged, diecast tuners. The 22-fret neck feels great thanks in part to its satiny finish, the intonation is solid, and the action and setup needed no help whatsoever.

Tested through a Dr. Z EZG-50 combo and a Mesa/boogie Royal Atlantic head and 4x12, the Motor Oil 1 delivered clean tones that offered nice warmth and clarity from the neck and dual-pickup settings, and a crisp, punchy response from the bridge ’bucker. In overdriven modes, this guitar assumes a snottier attitude, with tones that cut well while maintaining a nice fatness and sustain. This is not an overly bright guitar to begin with, but some may still like how the highs relax a bit when you roll down the Volume control. Also, the Tone knob’s voicing provides useful shades if you’re going for mellower clean sounds or a Clapton-style “Strange Brew” distortion tone.

All in all, the Motor Oil 1 is a hip looking and good playing guitar that packs a lot fun for a fair price. No one could go wrong slinging it in a hard-rock band, and what could possibly look better hanging on the wall next to your ’67 Camaro SS? Well, perhaps two Fuel Series guitars, since Cort also offers an identically priced companion model called the Gasoline 1.

Earth 100

The very affordable Earth 100 is a dreadnought- style acoustic that features classic construction details such as a dovetail neck joint and advanced scalloped X-bracing. The back and sides are crafted from laminated mahogany, and the top is solid Sitka spruce. Contributing to the visual flair are a nice looking abalone rosette and a diamond-shaped headstock inlay with an abalone center. The gloss-finished body is trimmed in neatly applied ivoroid binding, as is the fretboard, back stripe, and the heel cap.

The Earth 100’s three-piece mahogany neck has a smooth satin finish and is topped with rosewood ’board that wears 20 lightly polished frets. The C-shaped neck feels excellent, though some setup work would be warranted to get the strings a bit lower for easier playing. The Earth intonates well—a result of attention to detail on the notching of the bone nut and the compensating of the bridge saddle— and it tuned up easily and stayed in tune quite well during our testing.

If you’re looking for a big-sounding acoustic, you’ve come to the right place. The Earth 100 has the booming voice of a good dreadnought, with a richness that can be attributed to, at least in part, the mahogany construction. There’s plenty of top-end clarity and crispness, and the fact that the mids and lows sound a little rounder and sweeter than might be the case if this was a rosewood guitar, could be just fine for a lot of players.

Whether you mostly play rhythm or also need to do some single-line picking, the Earth 100’s warm, punchy voice and abundant volume will get the job done in any acoustic setting. And if you need to amplify, consider the Earth 100F ($335 street), which is the same guitar with a Fishman Classic 4T Sonicore pickup/ preamp system.

Specifications

CONTACT Cort Musical Instruments, (847) 498-6491; cortguitars.com

Fuel Series Motor Oil 1

PRICE $539 retail/$379 street

NUT Width 1 11/16"

NECK Canadian hard maple, bolt-on

FRETBOARD Rosewood, 24 3/4" scale

FRETS 22 medium jumbo

TUNERS Die-cast

BODY Basswood

BRIDGE Tune-o-Matic style with through-body stringing

PICKUPS Cort ClassicRocker-II humbuckers

CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way selector

FACTORY STRINGS D'Addario, 010-.046

WEIGHT 6.3 lbs

BUILT Indonesia

KUDOS Great look. Delivers kickass rock tones. Plays well.

CONCERNS None.

Earth 100

PRICE $379 retail/$265 street

NUT Width 1 11/16"

NECK Mahogany

FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.3" scale

FRETS 20 medium jumbo

TUNERS Die-cast w/black buttons

BODY Mahogany back and sides

TOP Solid Sitka spruce

BRIDGE Rosewood w/compensated bone saddle

FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, USA EXP16 Light

WEIGHT 4.6 lbs

BUILT China

KUDOS Impressive price/performance ratio.

CONCERNS Sharp edges on the nut.

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