Review: Cort T54 and Curbow 52 Basses

Cort Curbow 52 bodyThis review will cover two Cort basses, the T54, and the Curbow 52. These basses are not the Cort basses of years past you may remember when you went shopping for one of your early basses. For an entry level intermediate basses, I was truly impressed with the features, fit and finish, and the sound. It has been many a year since I even glanced at a bass in this category and a lot has changed for the better. We all remember those heavy, poorly balanced, muddy sounding and no frills designs from overseas companies that flooded the music stores vying for your hard earned summer money. These instruments, with a little extra TLC in the set up department, will prove to be good basses and an excellent buy for the price.

Manufacturing has come a long way with the advent of CNC milling, quality control, standardization of specification and the like, to bring down prices and lift quality. Labor is the expensive part of making an instrument. You would be surprised how FEW hours of hand work is in any high end, cherished well known production instrument, dare I say shocked….well under 10 hours in most cases. This includes acoustic instruments too! The playing field has been leveled another notch. Both of these basses reflect this trend in appearance, performance and mainly value for your dollar.

First up: the T54, a 4-string model with a modern styling and some nice features. This one is all black with white binding around the front of the arched top. Not arched like a carved jazz guitar top, but a gentle arch across the entire body, giving the bass a thinner edge thickness and contour. It’s sleek, clean and contemporary with a nod to Rickenbacker basses of years past. Well balanced both sitting and strapped on standing, and not heavy.

Cort T54 Bass

The Pickups are EMGHZ soap bars and active. The tone is typical to EMG’s and has that mid range clarity they are known for. Tone shaping on board is varied enough to allow for changing up at the guitar. The battery has a separate compartment from the control cavity, and no screw drivers are needed to change out the dead battery at show time.

The neck is maple with a satin finish and a slim profile, while the two octave finger board is rosewood. The dressing of the frets was tidy and smooth.

The tuners and bridge are good quality, and won’t need to be swapped out as an upgrade.

The set up of the bass was where someone would dismiss the instrument. It’s not a matter of shoddy work, but more of a cost consideration. It takes a fair amount of time to dial in any bass really, and it is the most subjective aspect from one player to the next. These companies competing for your purchase at the price tag forgo the expense of factory set up. Nonetheless, the bass plays well enough out of the case, just not set up for speed or finesse. Some attention from a skilled technician will have your Cort in fine playing condition and without much effort or expense. All run of the mill set up work and well worth it. The painted finish was absolutely flawless, and the tolerances on all milling was extremely tight and precise. Impressive!

Cort T54 Bass Specs:

  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Body: Agathis Body with Binding
  • Neck: 3pc Canadian Hard Maple
  • Binding: White(BK) / Black(WP)
  • Fretboard: Rosewood, 15 3/4? Radius(400mm)
  • Frets: 24 / Large (2.7mm)
  • Scale: 34? (864mm)
  • Inlay: White Dot
  • Tuners: Die cast
  • Bridge: EB7
  • Pickups: EMG35 HZ (H-H)
  • Electronics: EMG B-30 EQ / 1vol, 1blend, 2band
  • Hardware: BK (Black)
  • Strings: D’addario EXL165
  • Colors: White Pearl, Black

Now to the Curbow 52. This 5-string bass has many features found on more upscale instruments, and sports some of the styling too.

Cort Curbow 52 Bass

The body is carved in a stylized version of a carved arched top jazz guitar, but in a way that has some real depth and contour. The clear finish and star burst tobacco shading were smooth and well executed, again flawless. Body style is post modern Fender Jazz, but compact and thin, with good balance and low weight.

The neck is maple, satin finished, slim and comfortable, and the rosewood two octave fingerboard has fret markers only on the top edge, giving this bass a clean understated modern look with classic lines.

The fit and finish of hardware and milling were superb.

The electronics are Bartolini mk-1 active soap bar pickups, with typical 5-knob configuration, an active bypass switch and with a separate battery compartment. One nice feature is the recessed knobs in the body, keeping the profile clean and the knobs low but easily accessible. The sound was true to Bartolini pickups and the tone shaping range was far and wide. Again, the hardware is of good quality and should provide years of service and performance.

As with the above T54, the set up of the bass was not dialed in by any means, so expect to have some tweaking done. The end results will land you a great bass. Chalk one up to Cort.

Cort Curbow 52 Bass Specs:

  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Body: Soft Maple
  • Neck: 3pc Canadian Hard Maple
  • Binding: N/A
  • Fretboard: Rosewood, 15 3/4? Radius(400mm)
  • Frets: 24 / Large (2.7mm)
  • Scale: 34? (864mm)
  • Inlay: N/A
  • Tuners: Die cast
  • Bridge: EB10
  • Pickups: Bartolini MK1-5
  • Electronics: Bartolini MK-1 EQ w/ EQ on-off switch
  • Hardware: PT (Platinum)
  • Strings: D’addario EXL170-5 (XL 045~130) LONG SCALE 5ST
  • Colors: Brown Sunburst, Black

Being the bass snob that I am, I retain the right to be prejudiced towards exotic woods, top shelf electronics, fine craftsmanship and exquisite design concepts as a bench mark for comparison. But at the end of the day, a good solid bass with strong user friendly features at a fair price wins. Cort has provided those qualities with an eye on delivering a fine bass for the price and then some. This product review left me with that warm post review writing feeling of not having to be diplomatic about any opinions expressed.

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  1. Several references are made to value, but no prices are given. What do these retail for, or what is anticipated street pricing?

  2. I’ve owned a Cort Curbow 5 (the original, with Luthite body & Ebonol fretboard) since 2000, and it has been a real workhorse. I have it with really low action (Jeff Berlin style) and I can tell you, most basses can’t have it this low. As the writer said, all you need is to take them to a good tech to perform a setup, and they will give pricier basses a run for their money!.