Bass Review – Cort A5 Ultra Ash 5-String Bass
In 2020, I got my hands on the Cort A4 Ultra Ash bass for a test video. With the overwhelming feeling that this was a superb instrument that I had received for review, I remember thinking that Cort should definitely make a 5-string version of the instrument. I forget if I put pen to paper to share my thoughts, but my dreams have come true, as Cort announced in their “new for 2021” series the addition of a 5-string model to the Ultra line.
I can’t imagine that I had any influence on the decision to produce an A5 Ultra, but it’s great to see nonetheless, and my hunch was, as you can see from my review, right on the mark .
Despite my love for the simplicity of an age-old Precision Bass, I’m still driven by impressive design, aesthetics, and ergonomics in musical instrument form. I think Cort’s progress in this area is not to be sniffed at. I have followed the GB and Artisan ranges for many years. The Ultra series here is feature-rich and for the money represents a cracking bargain; yes even for us in the UK where import costs are high and everything has 20% more VAT.
Overall, the bass balance is very good while maintaining a tasteful outline. I’m picky about doll shapes, and while that doesn’t affect your own choices, at least with Cort’s Artisan dolls, there’s a good reason for their design. First of all, it’s short, which means less overhang, which means less weight on the shoulder. The small Hipshot® Ultralite® tuning keys don’t need as much space as the full-size tuners of the 60s/70s either. The headstock is angled back to facilitate the break angle on the nut and therefore does not need a string tree (which can sometimes interfere with tuning).
Anchoring the strings to the body using the “strings through the body” or “top loading” methods is a chunky Hipshot TransTone bridge, complete with locking steel saddles. It has a string spacing of 18mm. I think the black hardware is a good choice, given that the pickups and face-grain are also dark, adding to the contrasting look of the bass.
Panga panga, as I understand it, is in the same genus as wenge, interestingly, it’s a choice of wood that Cort has used on previous models – an older A6 that I recently owned at as an example. It is a wood that is said to have good tonal qualities in the mids and lows in acoustic instruments, not a million miles from how wenge is described as a tonewood. Cort opts for a contrasting five-piece laminate collar on the Ultra models.
The panga panga unfinished grain is defined. The pores are open, which can mean a coarser texture than some woods. The Cort Ultra’s finish has a certain organic feel to it which I like. It is not micro-polished and glassy. I would use the word “natural”, and this graininess stands out. You can almost smell it.
Speaking of feel, it’s always hard to describe a sculpted neck on a review instrument. I think this neck may have slightly more rounded shoulders, so maybe giving the illusion that it’s a little bigger, but the depth from front to back is not a concern. It’s not lean and flat though, so if you prefer a little more meat on the bone, this one’s a bass to check out. I remember Stuart Spector telling me that he didn’t like to do skinny necks, because they don’t sound as good as more solid models.
The neck design goes under the bridge. Mahogany wings compose the shape of the body which is surmounted by an “engraved” ash top. Hey, if you want to have a grit, let’s point it out – and there’s no arguing here, it’s eye-catching, isn’t it?
Now, please accept my apologies: sometimes I can get pretty excited when doing these video reviews. Honestly, it’s the best job in the world; I love it. On this occasion, however, I may have missed a minor detail in my video and will ask Tom (our outstanding editor) to insert an image for me: