Córdoba Fusion Orchestra Review

AG 217 January 2011

Posted by Ruth Parry

Founded in 1997 by designer Tim Miklaucic of Guitar Salon International, Córdoba is known for building affordable nylon-string acoustic and acoustic-electric instruments. Luthier Kenny Hill is the chief designer and production manager of the Fusion series, which, from its beginning, has offered nylon-string guitars for steel-string musicians, with either 12 or 14 frets to the body and a single cutaway. The Córdoba Fusion Orchestra is the first non-cutaway guitar in the Fusion series. The Orchestra has the look of a traditional classical guitar, but its body shape is slightly smaller, and it has a thin, radiused neck with a 17/8-inch nut width, making it much more friendly to steel-string players than the usual flat fingerboard and 2-inch nut width of a traditional classical guitar.

Clean Lines and Comfortable Feel

The lines and materials of the Fusion Orchestra are clean and impressive, especially for its price. The guitar’s back and sides are made of Indian rosewood, the top is solid Canadian cedar (the guitar can also be had with a European spruce top for the same price), and it has a mahogany neck and ebony fingerboard. The rosette, multiringed and inlaid by hand, is made of all natural woods, with maple and ebony purfling outlining the soundboard. The body is accented with a binding of light-colored mahogany.

Like most classical guitars, it has 12 frets to the body and an additional 20th fret for the top two strings (B and E). The neck has a very comfortable feel. I played a variety of styles on it—jazz, Latin, pop, folk, and classical—to which it responded surprisingly well. No matter if I plucked it or strummed it (both with a pick and flamenco-style), the response was solid. I normally play a nylon-string guitar with traditional classical proportions, so it was necessary for me to make some adjustments in my attack and feel. But its narrow neck will be an advantage for players who are not accustomed to the hand stretches required on a standard classical, and the neck size makes it easy to capo without buzzing. The Orchestra’s intonation is quite good and the tuning machines work smoothly.

Versatile and Warm Tones

The Orchestra’s dark lows and nice highs give it an overall tone that adapts well to different musical styles, although the midrange doesn’t resonate emphatically. I performed with this guitar mostly as a soloist, fingerpicking pieces such as Django Reinhardt’s “Naguine,” Baden Powell’s “Apelo,” and the Irish traditional tune “Kitty Tyrell,” and I was impressed with its ability to project. I also performed with it in a trio setting (with bass and percussion), where it cut through well and retained its warm tone. When jamming acoustically with two steel-string acoustic guitarists, the Orchestra had trouble competing but it maintained its presence.

Simple, Effective Fishman Electronics

The Córdoba Orchestra comes with Fishman Sonitone electronics, which pairs an onboard preamp, mounted in the upper portion of the soundhole with rotary volume and tone controls and powered by a nine-volt battery, with a Sonicore coaxial undersaddle pickup. As a soloist and in the trio setting, I played the Orchestra through a Fishman SA220 amplifier, and the Sonitone worked extremely well. The rotary tone and volume controls were easy to access and adjust. I needed to boost the mids a bit at the amp, but other than that, I made no special amplification alterations. The Sonitone adds to the guitar’s overall weight a bit, but it was not overly noticeable.

Nylon-String for Steel-String Players

The acoustic clarity of the Orchestra is impressive, and I was pleased with its sonic consistency with and without amplification. The nonclassical guitarist who normally plays a steel-string acoustic or electric and is interested in trying a nylon-string guitar will definitely enjoy the experience of playing the Córdoba Fusion Orchestra. Its sound construction, solid woods, and reasonable price make it appealing in all respects. As the proportions are more in line with a steel-string acoustic, it provides physical familiarity and comfort, along with the benefits of the warm, nylon-string sound.

SPECS: Solid Canadian cedar top (also available with European spruce). Indian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony radiused fingerboard. Rosewood bridge. Bone nut and saddle. Fan bracing. 650-mm (25.59-inch) scale length. 1 7/8-inch nut width. 2 5/16-inch string spacing at saddle. High-gloss polyurethane finish. Der Jung silver tuning machines with ebony buttons. Fishman Sonitone electronics with Sonicore coaxial undersaddle pickup. Savarez Corum Alliance high-tension strings. Made in China. Left-handed version available.

PRICE: $750 list/$599 street.

MAKER: Córdoba Guitars: (877) 304-0909; cordobaguitars.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar January 2011

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