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Cole Clark Hollow Baby P-90 Electric Guitar Review

Cole Clark Hollow Baby P-90 Electric Guitar Review

An Australian semi-hollow S-style with dual P-90s

Download Example 1
Both pickups, ran through a Fryette S.A.S. overdrive pedal
Download Example 2
Neck pickup on both guitar parts (tone rolled back on lead)
Clips recorded using Fender Pro Junior amp, Planet Waves Custom Pro cables, and Apogee Duet into GarageBand
When the Australian team of guitar industry veterans Adam Cole and Brad Clark founded Cole Clark, in 2001, one of their primary motivations was to make modern interpretations of classic acoustic instruments using timbers indigenous to their country. A decade later the Cole Clark line has grown to include not just steel-strings favored by the likes of Jack Johnson and Ben Harper, but also solidbody, hollowbody, and lap steel electrics that, while rooted in traditional designs, have a style all their own. For this review we checked out the Hollow Baby, a semi-hollow that beneath its familiar Strat-type shape hides a host of cool design attributes that expand the sonic versatility of this guitar.

Carved Halves, Greater Whole
Cole Clark’s construction, while not unprecedented, is an uncommon approach. The body on our review model is made from bunya—an Australian pine comparable to spruce but said to be slightly stronger (it’s also available in Queensland maple.) Whereas a typical semi-hollowbody, say a Gibson ES, is built from separate parts—laminated maple rims, top, and back, and a solid hunk of maple running through the middle—the Hollow Baby begins life as a solid hunk of wood that is cut in half, chambered, given a bass-side f-hole, and glued back together.

Made from quarter-sawn maple and capped with a slab of rosewood, the bolt-on neck on our review model is more traditional in construction. (Blackwood and maple fretboards are also available.) On the headstock, a curlicue carve looks like a nod to the pioneering designs of guitar pioneer Paul Bigsby. The neck also features an easy-to-access truss rod adjuster.

The Hollow Baby is outfitted with choice components: vintage-style six-in-line Grover nickel tuners, a Graph Tech nut, medium-jumbo Dunlop frets, and a proprietary two-point tremolo system, which offers more stability than a vintage six-screw configuration and incorporates a solid-steel sustain block and a push-in arm.

The Hollow Baby is available with a choice of fine single-coil pickups: a trio of Seymour Duncan Vintage Flat SSL-2s, Cole Clark Ultrasounds, Kinman Zero Hums, or a pair of Kinman P-90 Hxs like the pickups in our review guitar. The electronic components are made by CTS, Switchcraft, and OAK, and include a traditional three-way switch along with a master volume and tone control, connected with vintage-style cloth-covered wir-ing.

Overall, our Hollow Baby is well built and handsome. The fretwork is impeccable, the nut and saddles are tidily cut, and the neck sits snuggly in its pocket. More time could have been spent, though, sanding the f-hole and smoothing out the pickguard’s edges. While the sunburst finish is attractively colored and flawlessly applied, the nitrocellulose satin finish (standard across all of Cole Clark's guitars) feels a little cheap—especially given the care given elsewhere on the guitar. It's a personal preference, but I would liked to see it offered in gloss. On this model the crème pickup covers clash with the white pickguard. But all things considered, it’s a nicely done guitar.

Warm and Multifaceted
The Hollow Baby is a super light guitar—our review model weighed a mere 6.4 pounds—and comfortable to hold in both seated and standing playing positions. The neck is very comfortable as well, C-shaped and slim but not overly so. It has a Fender-style 25.5" scale length, but a relatively flat radius of 12"—more commonly encountered on Gibson guitars—allowing for wide bends without any danger of notes fretting out.

The Hollow Baby sounds loud and resonant before it ever meets an amplifier, thanks to its chambered build and thin nitro finish. Chords in all registers ring out with clarity, and single notes sound thick and snappy, with a pronounced midrange. The vibrato works well for adding subtle pitch-bending effects without disrupting the tuning.

With the neck pickup engaged and the tone rolled down, the guitar provides a warm Grant Green–like tone….with the tone turned up and the bridge pickup selected it has the twang of a Tele.

Plugged into a Fender Pro Junior, the guitar really comes alive. Overall, the guitar sounds warm with a great deal more sustain than that of a traditional hollow body guitar, and the pickups are indeed nice and quiet.

The P-90–equipped Hollow Baby sounds at home in a range of styles. With the neck pickup engaged and the tone rolled down, the guitar provides a warm Grant Green–like tone. In contrast, with the tone turned up and the bridge pickup selected it has the twang of a Tele, with both pickups engaged it has a Strat-like spank. The guitar also works well for rootsy type stuff from riffs in the manner of Elvis Presley’s Scotty Moore to slack-tuned strumming à la Creedence Clearwater Revival leader John Fogerty. One application that the Hollow Body might not work well for is in situations calling for ultra high-gain, but then again, shredders wouldn’t necessarily be drawn to this guitar.

The Verdict
Cole Clark’s Hollow Baby is a smartly designed chambered electric with a unique vibe that typifies the whole Cole Clark range. The guitar combines elements of Fender, Gib-son, and even Bigsby design in a unique hybrid. Best though, it’s featherweight and highly playable and offers a really wide range of hollow- and solidbody tones. And whether you’re a working pro or a weekend guitarist trying to cover as much stylistic ground as possible—short of metal shred—you can’t go wrong with a Hollow Baby.
Buy if...
you want a stylish chambered guitar that excels in a number of different contexts both in terms of playability and sound.
Skip if...
you're staunchly loyal to either Fender or Gibson.

Street $2230 - Cole Clark -