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Cort Curbow4 questions (history, value, etc). Found one at a thrift store...should I buy?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by dogbone, Nov 5, 2017.

  1. dogbone


    Nov 5, 2017
    I found a used Cort Curbow4 (red) at a thrift store

    (looks like this: Cort Curbow4 eltoro59 images )

    It doesn't have any strings on it, but appears to be in good shape otherwise without testing the electrical side of it. They are asking $124 for it. I tried to haggle down but they said the item just came in and they want it to sit on the floor for a month before they consider dropping the price. I've looked online (eBay, Reverb, Guitar Center used gear, Bluebook) for general pricing and it appears this bass will sell for $250+ at a minimum once you consider shipping.

    I can't find any more in depth info on this bass though. Does anyone know the history behind this? It appears the Curbow4 came out in 1998, other times I read 2012. I asked Guitar Center chat support what the original price offering new on it was and they couldn't help me. I've used the Archive.org wayback machine to look at Guitarcenter and Cortguitars.com for better info with no luck.

    Do you think I should snag this bass before someone else does or should I sit on it for a month and hope noone sees it and I can haggle down?

    Thanks for input
  2. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    Do a TalkBass search on the Cort Curbow.
    Then decide.
  3. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    Pretty sure the Cort Curbow came out in 1998-99. I had one of the early ones. I've owned about 5 of them the past few years, I don't have any of them now.
    I think the confusion with the dates has to do with the fact that a revamped Curbow did come out later (I believe it was 2012). I'll mention the differences below.

    The original Cort Curbows (1999- ) were made of luthite (a wood composite) ebonol fretboard, single pickup (Mighty Mite on earlier ones, Bartolini on later reiterations). I think these originally sold for around $400 new if I remember correctly. I never bought a new one. The big problem and main criticism about these basses was the pickup and the overall sound was particularly weak and underwhelming. It had 3 band EQ and a "slap switch" that made it sound more conducive for well, slapping. It was something like a mid cut switch. A few things about these basses from my personal experience - you can never quite get the action low enough, at least to the way I like it. Reason for that is the body is curved with the bridge at the bottom side of the curve and as such, angled upwards. The neck is super thin, comfortable. Some people have had problems playing the bass while sitting down because of the small body, I personally didn't have this problem.
    Because the weak sound output was criticized on the original, Cort felt it needed addressing....so here comes version 2.

    The revamped Cort Curbow (circa 2012) - Model 42 (4 string) Model 52 (5 string). NOTE- they were still making and selling the original luthite Cort Curbows when these revamped models came out.
    Big changes - body made of maple not luthite
    TWO Bartolini MK1 soapbar pickups (addresses the original model's weak output)
    Rosewood fretboard
    slightly larger body

    Here's my biggest criticism and piece of advice about the Cort Curbows especially the early ones. Watch out for the necks. One thing glared out at me in your post - that it had no strings on it. One thing I did notice about owning the five Curbow basses - the necks are very thin but suspect in terms of stableness. The would need frequent adjusting with temperature change, more so than any other bass I've owned (I've owned about 80 different basses so far in my lifetime). I was getting a little wary of the necks so it was at that point I jumped off the Curbow bus. Probably an overreaction but I had also seen and heard of some other Curbow basses with neck issues. So be wary of the neck, test the truss rod if you can to make sure first of all that it isn't broken and secondly, it still has room for adjustment.
    RSBBass likes this.
  4. MobileHolmes

    MobileHolmes I used to be BassoP

    Nov 4, 2006
    I don't know much about that particular bass, but with no way to see if the neck or electronics work, I wouldn't take it at any price.
  5. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    The one you ask about is the original Luthite version.
    Yes at least throw a single string on it at low tension just to test electronics.
    If it's in ok condition that price is very good, they are good basses.
    I owned the fretless version, the sound was good to me. Due to the synthetic fretboard and body they don't have a traditional tone though, quite modern sounding in a good way.
    The tiny lower horn which is in the wrong place for balance and too small to be useful means it will only sit on your leg if you press down firmly on the body top with your forearm and curl your wrist over, which causes bad arm posture and will probably eventually cause injury. No idea why anyone could find it playable sitting down without a strap. Luckily it is lightweight and compact so you can use a strap when sitting down no problem. It's a bass that always needs using with a strap.

    The Luthite has a slight but unpleasant synthetic odour, try sniffing around the pickups or inside the electronics compartment. If you are sensitive to chemical smells it will irritate you.
    I sold mine because i like to play sitting without a strap, but also because of the smell and not enough strings (4).
  6. lowdownthump


    Jul 17, 2004
    I had one in blue . One of my biggest bass regrets . Smell made me sick to my stomach , very sterile sounding , and the neck was a pain in the butt.

    Only thing I liked was the blue color and the light weight.
  7. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    To be honest with you, I didn't have a problem playing it while seated, but I can see how it may be a problem for some. As to the smell, I didn't notice it on my basses perhaps because I had bought them and also didn't open up the electronics compartment. It's not a bad bass, but my pet peeve were the necks on these- the sound quality or lack thereof being the other. I imagine the revamped Cort Curbow version the 42 and 52 addressed a number of these issues, hopefully the neck as well.
    kodiakblair likes this.
  8. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    Instruments sitting a while with no strings can be a problem, unless they have released the tension on the truss rod. Be careful. Mine had the single mighty mite, and it was the only bass I've ever dimed B, M and T to get a tone. It's a peculiar bass, and not being able to try it would make me steer clear.
    4StringTheorist likes this.
  9. Never noticed any smell but if I was in the habit of sniffing my basses I'd be talking to my doctor :laugh:
    Regarding playing seated, just copy the position of classical guitar players and it rests there easy.
  10. dogbone


    Nov 5, 2017
    How low could you get the action on it? At the 12th fret for example? Cort's bass manuals say all of their basses should set to 2mm at the 17th fret. Be weird if they sold basses that don't even meet their requirements.
  11. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    Wish I had one of them around to measure for you but all I can remember is that I could get the string action to an acceptable string height but not low like I could on my other basses- one workaround was to raise (shim) the neck a little bit (I did this to one of my Curbow basses) but doing that would increase the height above the pickups and the area where you would slap on the strings - it didn't feel right so I nixed the idea and just left it as is. Here's a pic of the bridge and the curve of the body it's attached to. Probably better if Cort routed the bridge area so the bridge would be level to the neck rather than simply attaching it to the curved surface.
  12. @dogbone
    My 4 string Curbow hasn't been played in a long time. Just dusted it off and got the ruler. 1.5mm on G and 1.75 on E measured at the 17th. No shim has been fitted, with the climate in Scotland being kinda constant that may help attaining a low action.
  13. 4StringTheorist

    4StringTheorist Supporting Member

    The wooden ones (The 42 and 52) are pretty slick though.
  14. Five String

    Five String Supporting Member

    Will they let you string it up and get the neck under tension, to see what kind of shape it's in? As things stand I think you don't really have any way of knowing what you are getting into. Sure, $124 is a good price, but it's possible you would be literally throwing it away.
  15. CORBS


    Dec 28, 2010
    I played a number of these back when they were first floating around and was not impressed in any way. They were too light and sounded bad. If the body is damaged, it will fracture in a way that is unrepairable. Bartolini MK1 pickups are not a solution for anything, they are one of the biggest problems. The MK1 electronics are awful in a mix. I would recommend against getting one.
  16. dogbone


    Nov 5, 2017
    I went for it and bought the bass. I was able to put some test strings and try it out and everything is in good shape and it sounds great. I tightened the truss rod just a tiny bit and lowered the saddles to as low as they can go and I've got the action to a very playable height, just slightly above 2mm on the 12th fret for the low E. The low G is about the same. I'm not sure how to get the action to as low as KodiakBlairs. The neck relief is about as flat as low as it can go (about .010) without going completely flat and buzzing. My only guess is to either shim or find another set of saddles that sit lower. I'd like the action to go down another half mm or one full mm, but all in all its great. Another question I have is with slap bass. I don't have a picture of the one I bought at the moment but this photo (https://reverb-res.cloudinary.com/i...90,w_620/v1416937556/z3nq7tb21i9uzuvt7j0z.jpg ) is a good example: the neck where it joins the body kinda sticks up below the G string so when I attempt to slap my index finger keeps hitting the neck that sits up there. Is that an issue with my slap style? I've looked at other pictures and it appears this is how the Curbow neck sits normally.

    I appreciate everyone's input so far on this. Thanks a bunch

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