Joel McIver puts Jeff Berlin’s new signature Cort through its paces. Thumbs aloft!
No, we don’t know what ‘Rithimic’ means either, but let’s not sweat the small stuff. Having witnessed BGM contributor and all-round bass legend Jeff Berlin in action many times and having gained a keen awareness of the great man’s style and gear preferences, we’re keen to give his new Cort a try-out, whatever its name. At £799 it comes at a surprisingly low price point for a bassist of Jeff’s calibre; most signature bass guitars come in too-cheap and too-expensive versions, so it’ll be interesting to gauge the playability of a bass which occupies that sweet spot in the middle. Let’s have it!
Lift the Rithimic out of its case and that red and gold finish fair frazzles your eyeballs. It’s pretty spectacular, and while we rather like it here at BGM’s secret rural lair, bassists with different tastes may not agree. It also comes loaded with gold bling in the form of the bridge, controls and tuners, which we think look pretty amazing, but again, who are we to judge? You may think red, gold and, er, more gold is just vulgar. We’ll have to agree to disagree.
However, we think everyone will agree on the actual mechanical quality of the Rithimic. With a body top made of seriously beautiful woods – spalted maple and padouk, yum! – and glossed to the finest possible level, this bass demands that you give it a stroke. The controls turn firmly and smoothly, with that essential centre detente which is so useful that we wonder why all luthiers don’t employ it. The Hipshot machine heads operate in that nice non-jerky way that expensive hardware tends to provide, while the tank-like Babicz bridge is a thing of industrial precision. Run a finger along the fret edges and you won’t feel a single edge. No arguments here: the Rithimic is made to the highest standards.
Jeff is famous for his preference for simplicity, playing four-string passive basses without the usual dozens of controls that high-spec instruments so often offer. This makes the Rithimic a straightforward review item: dial up a few tones, explore the range and you’re left with the job at hand – actually playing it.
The neck shape and finish are firmly in the middle of the usual parameters: not too glossy but not actually frictionless, slim in profile but not overly shreddy, with plenty of access to the 21 frets (Two octaves? Be off with you!) at the dusty end – not that it’ll remain dusty for long if you play anything like Jeff does. Cort have given the Rithimic a simple volume/tone/balance control configuration which comes as a breath of fresh air to us, having spent years playing basses with a million knobs and switches.
For a change, let’s start by rolling off all the top end and seeing what the Cort can deliver. Depending on the pickup balance of course, you’re provided with a subtle, woody tone that is perfect for fingerstyle and is not remotely muddy or ‘hidden’. Allow the top end to breathe a bit, with a tweak of the tone control towards that central detente, and you enter more extravagant territory, with a touch of honk coming into the sound. Whack the treble right up and the Rithimic gives you a crisp, front and centre tone that rewards pick and slap playing. As a passive instrument, it doesn’t supply that glassy, zingy, ear-bleeding, smashed-crockery sound that some players like, so be warned if that’s what you’re after. Instead, the Cort gives you a respectable amount of trebly zing and no more.
However, this doesn’t detract a jot from the fun you’ll have playing it with its maximum top end dialled in. The Rithimic pretty much demands that you give it a slap, hitting back at your thumb and finger-pops with enthusiasm. Its overall tone is definitely biased towards the honk, so slappers will have a field day with it. Fingerstyle is a joy too.
It’s easy to recommend the Rithimic. Eminently playable and boasting the full range of tones – unless, as we saw, your preferred sound is super, super trebly – this bass does its job with great panache at a surprisingly affordable price. Packed with quality and making the art of bass easier for anyone in need of a sympathetic instrument, this is one of the friendliest instruments we’ve tackled in ages.
What we think
Plus | Unputdownable! The Rithimic will make you feel twice as good a bassist as you actually are.
Minus | The body finish might not be for everyone; not great for super-trebly sounds.
Overall | For 800 quid, you’ll have a tough job finding a better bass.
Build quality | 9/10
Sound quality | 10/10
Value | 9/10
Price | £799
Made in | Indonesia
Body | Alder, spalted maple and padouk top
Finish | Rithimic Natural
Neck | Maple
Neck join | Bolt-on
Scale | 34”
Fingerboard | Rosewood
Frets | 21
Tuners | Hipshot Ultralight
Pickups | 2x Bartolini Jeff Berlin Custom Soapbar Dual Coil Humbuckers
Controls | Volume, tone, balance
Bridge | Babicz FCH4
Weight | 3.9kg
Left-hand version available? | No