Clip 1 - Pickups blended 50/50, active mode, EQ flat.
Clip 2 - Pickups blended 50/50, active mode, slight bass boost, slight mid boost, treble flat.
We’re all familiar with the sinking feeling of sticker shock—that sudden realization that an item you found and must have is out of your wallet’s range. It happens frequently in our perpetual state of gear lust, and too often prevents players from acquiring quality instruments. Lucky for us, more manufacturers are finding new ways of providing instruments with boutique characteristics at more budget-friendly prices. Cort is one such company, known for a wide spectrum of instruments to suit a variety of pocketbooks. And their new B5 Plus AS bass is an updated version of the B5 formula that combines stylish simplicity with a new preamp and professional-grade components.
It’s quickly evident that Cort sought to create an instrument with a balanced voice that celebrates the organic beauty of wood. The 34"-scale B5’s 2-piece swamp-ash body has a clean, contemporary shape and is protected with an open-pore finish that reveals the texture and character of the body’s grain patterns, which are pleasing to see and feel. Bolted to the body is a 5-piece wenge and rosewood neck that’s topped with an abalone-decorated rosewood fretboard. The neck’s mid-friendly woods are intended to fill the sonically scooped characteristics of the swamp ash and balance the tonal spectrum of the bass.
An oft-neglected quality of an instrument is its ergonomics, but the B5 Plus AS boasts a balanced, comfortable design. Our test bass rested comfortably against my body, preserved its playing angle with no neck dive, and the smooth shape of the well-carved neck offered effortless shifting.
The B5 Plus AS has a mix of old and new electronics. The familiar tones of Bartolini MK-1 pickups provide noise-free operation, while Cort opted for the new MB-1 preamp from Markbass to provide tonal shaping through its 3-band EQ.
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I plugged into a Bergantino B|Amp paired with two Bergantino HD112s to discover the B5’s sonic characteristics. With the pickups balanced and the EQ set flat in active mode, the inherent tone of the bass contained strong mids and cutting highs. The B5 was a tad shy in the low mids, but the lows it delivered gave my notes a full foundation.
The Markbass EQ enhanced the aforementioned characteristics. Bridge-pickup players will appreciate the voicing of the mid control, which contributes assertiveness to the rear pickup’s barking sound. To my ears, the bass control was voiced in a way that didn’t muddy the tone, but added some weight to the notes. And boosting the treble added presence that wasn’t too harsh, yet the B5 is capable of creating a biting attack when cranked.
In passive mode, the bass still reveals the aural qualities of the Bartolini pickups, with solid highs and mids. Still, I remained in active mode for most of my time with the B5 because the preamp complements the pickups so well with the thicker lows and low mids that can be dialed in.
Focusing my attention on the performance of the B5’s 5th string, I was pleased to pluck a tight string that delivered a solid fundamental. The half-step definition was precise and the notes of the first five frets rang clearly, with authority. I can safely say that the B5 Plus AS has one of the better sounding 5th strings at this price point.
I did find, however, that the .63" string spacing at the bridge was too narrow for my taste. I’m definitely not a fan of wide spacing, but string crossing on the bass was difficult at times. That said, the B5 Plus AS would be a good option for those with smaller hands, players who chord on a regular basis, or those who simply prefer more compact spacing.
Measuring the Cort’s ability to sit in a mix was accomplished with an 11-piece horn band. I used the same Bergantino rig at the show, which took place at an outdoor venue with professional sound reinforcement. While I typically use vintage-inspired instruments with this particular ensemble, the B5 Plus AS managed to hold its own for the timbres necessary for the Motown and R&B repertoire.
I soloed the neck pickup and slightly boosted the bass and mid controls for the Stevie Wonder classic “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.” While it didn’t completely replicate the familiar P-bass tone, it satisfied the song well. Busy bass lines on Incognito’s “Talking Loud” were hampered a bit by the tight string spacing, but I got the tone I needed by boosting the mids and adding a slight bass bump to push my sound to the front of the mix. For modern favorites like “Uptown Funk,” a boost of the B5’s bass and treble gave the catchy bass line plenty of presence and booty.
At the end of the night, I was thoroughly impressed by how comfortable the bass was to play throughout a three-hour show. There was never any shoulder or back strain. This B5 Plus AS is comfy.
Cort’s B5 Plus AS is a solid bass with features you might find in instruments that cost twice as much. Its woods, electronics, and hardware really do belie a price tag that’s just north of $500. The B5’s DNA will cover a spectrum of playing styles, and players with smaller hands or those transitioning from a 4-string will likely appreciate the tight string spacing. If you’re frazzled from experiencing sticker shock on your hunt for an ideal 5-string, Cort’s B5 Plus AS may ease your nerves.
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