the Cort Curbow / Retro Club is now a thing

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bass V, Jan 13, 2018.

  1. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    no doubt a small thing but seeing how the Curbow Club ''hates to be elitist'' we'll just have to have our own to praise or dis and examine the merits of Greg's fine affordable-to-all basses. no numbers, and as with my Epi / Toby Club maybe no other members, but still deserving. there's too little info on the Corts and especially the Retro so this may help concentrate the search by any with an interest in these models.
    my incentives are 2 yrs of researching the lucite versions only to wish there were wood bodies available to consider then discovering the Retro and increasingly jumping on that wagon. now I have one and it's been lovingly detailed here, including a few seller pix of this petite sonic monster; Cort Retro for Christmas!
    outside of bassmonkee here regarding his extensive mods, few have talked about their Retro and there's only one detailed review online so I'll show those as a reference point and history lesson.
    Anyone played the new Cort Curbow Retro?
    here's the lone extensive review that got me hooked with no idea who wrote it;
    ''Man, after reading what I typed, I sound like an ad, but I'm not. I just don't know of anyone that has this axe and am surprised it hasn't come around a little. For the money especially, it's a great bass.
    I actually was googling to find out if anyone had any comments on this bass because Cort isn't even advertising it on their site, only the original Cort Curbow. I find it much better than the original for my tastes. I saw it on Greg Curbow's site (which I got one from and he set it up personally), and on some Musician Friend type sites. Dunno if it is available in stores, so basically there is not much for anyone to go by (which is why I'm posting this).
    I am VERY impressed with the Cort Curbow Retro. I am a freelance bass player out of Nashville and any one who has tried mine has been surprised (many of which play with artists). I generally play music in the pop/rock vein, modern country, classic rock, an a little r&b. I take it out on gigs when I feel like using a ballsy four string or if I feel like sacrificing my B string so I can save my back (my five has some weight to it). If I am using a four, I'll use my '66 P bass, 70's Conrad hofner copy, and once and awhile my Warmoth. 70% of the time, the four I use is the Cort Curbow actually because of the good active tone.
    Though yes, the look of the bass (particularly the headstock) isn't the most pleasing to many people's eyes, this bass feels and sounds great. The headtock is a signature headstock that would show it's a Curbow type bass (which I've heard Greg's handmade basses are amazing). It's very light (8lbs) has a comfortable small neck, and surprisingly for the money ($300 or under) has active pickups. I chose the black with white pickguard as opposed to the sunburst with white pickguard. The headstock I just see comes with the package, I'm fine with it because I really Greg Curbow's work (the real ones). My real Curbow (five string) is just about done being made by Greg.
    The construction good for the price. Remember, it's a 300 dollar bass. It uses basswood with a rosewood fretboard as opposed to the luthite body (synthetic) with a ebonol fretboard. I personally REALLY liked the idea of the original Curbow (unconstraining feel and weight and small body for small dude like me) , but wasn't big on the materials and sound as much, felt sterile to me. The retro felt and sounded a lot more usable. Also, in comparison to the original, the bottom horn not being so far back on this one made in look more "normal" and help balance the bass out, especially when sitting down.
    It's very lightweight (like the original) at 8lbs. While posting this I stopped to weighed on the stepping scale here at home.
    The neck is small and very user friendly, I suppose maybe like the Ibanez Soundgear basses as for size. Greg Curbow did a great setup on the bass. It's worth having him set it up initially.
    I was surprised about the great active, especially for the money. I generally play a five string Squire Pro Tone with 2 active EMG humbuckers (18 volts) wide open which feels and sounds like a higher end bass. The retro rivaled it (which I definitely wouldn't expect). It is punchy, has some warmth and jazz growl. Again, it's active, so of course doesn't have that old passive sound of an old Fender Jazz (which I would like to have to supplement my 66 Fender P...ugh). It has a great modern jazz bass sound that compares with many basses I've tried four times the price
    As for the controls, there is a volume, blend, and tone switch. The tone is interesting is it is more of a bass boost. I generally put it just below the notch in the middle, meaning adding a touch more bottom. That knob (the one closest to the bridge) is pretty responsive. When more lows are added, the highs aren't sacrificed, HOWEVER at some point the bass end would be overkill and take away the some character of the bass. I wouldn't stray too far from the notch.''
    cort curbow retro - Google Search
  2. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    Im in for the Cort Curbow club. :) While I don't have the retro and have one of the luthite ones- Greg Curbow and his team has done a fantastic job on a unique and comfortable bass design for Cort. As you mentioned, it's important to keep in mind how much these basses go for -I'm a little uncertain if Cort is still producing them but see them every now and then in the used market, I seldom see the Retros though, quite a few of the luthite versions.
    Easily one of my more comfortable basses - it's full scale yet smaller in length due to the smaller body - complaints usually mention how the bass doesn't sit on the lap very well if played seated down but I don't seem to have that problem, must be the shape of my lap. I do wish I had the more recent two soapbar pickup version with wooden body, but I have to say, I have a little place in my heart for these luthite ones.
    I traded this bass several years ago, but it recently resurfaced in my local CL listings and I had to get it back as I regretted letting it go. It returned to me with Misfits decals on the fretboard, I've decided to keep these decals on there for now but the bass itself is in the exact same condition it was in when I traded it, in other words, thankfully the owner took care of it. Not going to make that mistake again and let it go.

    Certainly not a bass for everyone, but this is the bass I keep next to my amp- it may not be the best sounding one I have, but it's definitely the one I wouldn't mind playing for extended periods of time.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
    Bass V likes this.
  3. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    ah yes, my main man of support and contributions regarding the low priced Cort Curbows, welcome aboard, Sir, you knew you were most welcome and always appreciated! it's certainly nice to get a lost item back that we regret parting with, I recall your post showing the results and I like that rare color scheme. another upside for the Retro is it's more classic build which will help those who find the lap position for the lucites to be problematic while overall comfort is a Curbow trademark along with their exceptional playability.
    agreed, these may not be for everyone but we've not gotten everyone to try them out yet and this club supports that end goal as most detractions I've noticed focus on trivial aspects while approving of them in general if actually played. stories about the funny lucite smell seem legit, if inconsistent, and I'm sure if the Retro's pickguard had a simple stylized alteration it would have generated far more initial interest, but looks are important and some consider the bass fugly merely due to the bulbous guard. I had plans for that but now have no need to add a mudbucker twix the J PUs and add controls in that kinda blank area to obfuscate, I'm good with both the stock looks and basic sound.
    now to spread the Cort Curbow gospel!
    Maxdusty likes this.
  4. You can count me in.

    My own Cort and the side by side photo I posted a long time back. Thanks to @Maxdusty for locating that photo. Curbow Scale.jpg Curbow 1.jpg

    Attached Files:

    Bass V and Maxdusty like this.
  5. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    since we've got a tad of interest I might add that this club should include all non-original Curbows (anything the Curbow Club may exclude) like the the various knockoffs and offshoots stemming from Greg's designs such as the Tanglewood / Canyons and another company called Hudson, plus the very few other wood body basses Greg made (the rare 42 and 52 come to mind), or any prototypes. these too are undoubtedly equally fine basses and can add to the quality of discussion and discovery away from his top line offerings.

    it's suggested this be highlighted to stem any negative discourse regarding Cort Curbow history;
    Greg Curbow entered into a business deal with Cort to develope and promote his ideas. They had money, large production facilities, and wide distribution, 3 things Greg didn't. The result of this deal meant folks are still talking about Greg and his designs as we enter the 13th year of his passing.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
    kodiakblair likes this.
  6. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    with only a .055 G string swap plus a rough set up later I can't put this Retro down, it really delivers far beyond it's pay grade and in spite of my love / hate for the single coils there's a wide scope of quality vintage tones to discover just in passive mode. highly recommended even at twice the price looking for a fun purchase with a typical eye to customizing the PU / wiring as desired.
    you know you made a good buy when you want another one just like it just because it's so cool.
    as with the similarly superb $200 Epi Toby, these inexpensive gems are perfect platforms for upgrading madness. I'd yoink the Js off a 2nd Retro and mod them as twin HBs on this one, then put mudbuckers on the sacrificial lamb.
    that 9 volt bass boost would really shine then!
  7. Cleaned up my Curbow in honour of this club starting and restrung BEAD with Sadowsky Blue label flats.
    Verdict ? Sweeet :)

    With @Bass V opening up the club to Greg inspired designs,i.e. designs released after the patents had expired. I had the Tanglewood Canyon II fretless. Lovely bass and the build quality was outstanding :thumbsup: Not sure how these came about, Tanglewood are an English firm who contract their build work to China. Anyway it definitely use Curbow lines and is a prime example of the Chinese producing great work if allowed a decent build price.
    Tanglewood Canyon (2).jpg Tanglewood Canyon (3).jpg Tanglewood Canyon (4).jpg

    The Hudson Project bass is one I've never played but this fella Maartin Allcock seems to like his :)

    Hudson PB4FL fretless bass

    Who's Maartin Allcock ? Ever hear of Fairport Convention or Jethro Tull ??
    Bass V likes this.
  8. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Greg certainly struck an international nerve in some circles, his designs and concepts hit a receptive note and I dig how it's fluid and his ideas are allowed to be expanded upon as we all move along. a great way to remember him.
    as depicted in the pix above every 'copy' I've seen has it's merits, the famed lucites are just the tip of the iceberg.
    I've got to get me some Sadowsky flats!
    kodiakblair likes this.
  9. Mwahy


    Jun 22, 2018
    Oo, can I join in? I'm not a bassist - or haven't been since I was made dreadful bassist in a hilariously dreadful band in the late 70s because I was the youngest - but on a whim bought a fretless Canyon III secondhand for £100 a few weeks ago. I can't put it down! I'm a guitarist and really should be relearning my minor 7 flat 5's, but my hands can't stay off this thing. I can't even play it properly! Starting bass on a fretless seems like the worst idea in the world, possibly it's misplaced double bass jazz aspirations. But somehow those lovely mwah sounds take me back to 80s bands and Jaco. It really does feel like a wholly different instrument to a fretted bass to me and *so* satisfying to look at and noodle on. Pic!

    When I bought I really wasn't sure if I was buying some awful cheap knockoff or something well made, but I'm pretty convinced by it already and consider it money well spent. Wasn't this £600 new when it came out? It came to me apparently without any of the problems some others have reported with wiring or crackly jack, and looks pretty much unplayed. The only problem is the 9v battery cover on the back keeps falling off which is quickly fixed with tape!

    The reason I just signed up now to join in is that I practically know nothing about my newly beloved bass, or even about Curbow and there's little online about this model, as I gather it's over a decade old? I'm also aware it's a copy of a Cort bass, or which there are several - I also see Hudson Project basses in a similar design, but I assume these are an entirely separate copy with different pickups, sound etc? East River pickup and only one present, but the range of sounds to this possible naive non-bassist impresses me.

    So I'd be interested in any information on this bass and its family, original and other copies. Is the pickup considered decent? Any other random tips on getting the best from it?
    ElBecko59, Bass V and kodiakblair like this.
  10. Nice one @Mwahy

    The Tanglewoods ran more in the £299 price range but that doesn't do them justice,Tanglewood put out very nice basses :thumbsup: Few year back the top end UK bass company Overwater were looking at a cheaper build to boost their profile.

    Tanglewood got the contract, the basses were that good it said Overwater on the front and "by Tanglewood" in tiny letters on the back.

    Anyway back to your Canyon III. Bloody lovely BTW :) Had the Canyon II flamed maple myself,also a fretless :cool: If memory plays me true the Canyons have Artec SE2 preamps, nice wee preamp and 1 I've used in a few builds. The battery box is easy replaced with one from eBay for about £2.

    I see no need to think about changing the pickup. That's a trap far too many folk just starting out make. Until you've played a few basses and work out what you do and don't like,how could you make an informed choice ? A change of string type will have much greater effect than change of pickup :laugh:
    Mwahy and Bass V like this.
  11. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    oh man, after all that you can be the King of the Club! lol what a beauty at any cost!
    sounds like you've tapped into the minimal family history on these and tho I've not tried this model you can 100% consider yourself fortunate to be starting off with such a magnificent fretless if it's set to go. I'd guess if anything the wiring instead of the PU could be improved but even as is it's probably a lifer. I'm unashamedly jealous.
    Mwahy likes this.
  12. Mwahy


    Jun 22, 2018
    Thanks for the info! I saw this so did wonder - allegedly RRP £799.99 but I guess it must be a mischievous (distinctly dodgy?) sales tactic.

    Oo! How do I find that - is it a generic case? Easily fitted? A bit of the plastic has just broken off the catch on the lid.

    Just to show my woeful ignorances of basses, I can't tell what strings are fitted, but they seem full of tone and untouched to me. As a guitarist I could tell on a Strat, but I'm guessing these are flatwound (very smooth to touch), and goodness what gauge as I have nothing to compare them with.

    I guess I might benefit from a string update but, don't yell at me, I'm playing it through a cheap 25W practice bass amp for now. Still sounds great!

    The intonation I found a little tricky first: I gather that where manufacturers put side dots in relation to theoretical frets varies. I'm fussy about intonation and the best result I could get pushed the G string as short as possible and the E at its maximum length (as per picture). This results in consistent intonation working across the fretboard and strings with fingertips placed a little before the dots (checked with various harmonics). Is the same true on your Canyon II? Neck looks straight as a die to me, visually at least. Maybe it needs to be a little bowed. I realise an experienced fretless player will adjust finger position anyway but a starter needs that help with intonation.
    kodiakblair likes this.
  13. Mwahy


    Jun 22, 2018
    Thank you! Very pleased for the confirmation that my fingers aren't lying to me! And the spalted maple on the Canyon III does look wonderful.
  14. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    I'm glad you confirmed it's wood instead of synthetic as I have more interests in the woods vs luthite. how lucky we are to have the many Curbow designs to discover and it's cool to see his influence reach to small but admirable degrees! even the knockoffs seem to retain top 'player' value.
    Mwahy likes this.
  15. @Mwahy

    I certainly don't remember seeing them priced at that,makes no odds what the RRP says you've got a bloody nice bass or "Braw" as I say up here in Scotland :)

    There's a few different types of battery box, mostly rectangle or rounded. Think it's the rounded you'll want,just 2 screws and you slip the battery connector through the slot. Here's the fella :thumbsup:

    9V Battery Cover Battery Box Case Holders Compartment for Guitar Accessories fo1 | eBay

    Flatwounds are my preferred string for both fretted and fretless. They improve with age,folks go 7 year without changing them :jawdrop: Just as well cause they're expensive, think £40 a set . Course it's peanuts considering the lifespan. Some sets like D'Addario Chromes are said to be brighter, I go for Thomastik jazz flats which are low tension. For a woody thump ? tapes are good,since Status Graphite discontinued their Hot Wires I've been using La Bellas. I take it you're in the UK ? If you browse the Basschat forum there's a market for 2nd hand flats and it's a good way to try different brands :thumbsup:

    Folks say You'll get more 'mwah' from rounds but too much vibrato will eat into the fingerboard. There is truth in that but it doesn't happen over night. Boat varnish or super glue will protect the board.

    This intonation thing ? I'd say don't concern yourself overmuch, if you were swapping between different basses then OK it's a hassle. With the one bass it's not important,the more you play the more your ear will develop and so will your "muscle memory" ie your fingers will know where to go for the correct note. I never look at side dots and fret markers or "lines" are useless to the person playing.

    Most of all ENJOY that marvellous bass:bassist: The Tanglewood is no slouch :) It's a well made bass by a company who know their business.

    One last thing. As you're a guitar player,do you have a chorus pedal ? A wee bit chorus added to fretless sounds great:cool:
    Bass V and Mwahy like this.
  16. Mwahy


    Jun 22, 2018
    Scotland here too :) Bought it just down the road from you!

    Thanks for the link to battery cover - perfect, looks identical. The battery cover is the only cheap-feeling part of it, and I was wondering if this could be upgraded, but at that cost I won't bother trying and just buy it.

    I apologise for ruining this thread with newbie questions so won't labour it too much. Thanks for the information on strings and intonation, I didn't realise the cost or strings or that they "age" - coming from the 6-string world I'm used to £6+ strings you have to replace regularly. To my naive ears they mwah beautifully right now, and I'm boosting middle to bring it out a little more. The fingerboard has a very few signs of very light wear - just press marks in the ebony - but it almost looks like they would polish out anyway and certainly nothing deep.

    Actually not! I never like it much on 6-string but I see now a lot of fretless players use it yes. Might try!

    One last newbie question if I might? I've never even had an active pickup - my last 9v battery lasted weeks but seemed to suddenly drain while I left it plugged into an amp with the bass volume set to zero. Will it continue to draw power always with a jack plug plugged in, even if the amp is off overnight?

    Many thanks to all your responses. You've made me love it even more.
    kodiakblair likes this.
  17. Always unplug your bass when not using it. The cable makes to connection to "on" as there's no on/off switch.

    If you think of any questions just send me a PM. Keeps ma auld brain tickin o'er :laugh:
    Mwahy likes this.
  18. Mwahy


    Jun 22, 2018
    I should confirm that it is indeed very woody! Lovely carpentry and is admired as a piece of furniture by non-players. Maple, mahogany, and walnut veneer.
    Bass V likes this.
  19. The word veneer doesn't quite do justice to the thick slabs of timber used on the Tanglewoods :) The maple cap on my Canyon II was 1/2" thick :cool:
    Bass V likes this.
  20. Mwahy


    Jun 22, 2018
    Very true! And I remembered I have one of those Zoom G1On multiple effect pedals and tried chorus and it sounded great, even bearing in mind I'm guessing it's a pretty synthetic sound on this thing. Thanks! Also adding a little reverb.
    kodiakblair likes this.
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