It’s sexy and cream coloured and it looks like a monitor wedge, but is the AF60 as capable as it is pretty? Sam Wise finds out.
Cort’s factory churns out a lot of guitars with more familiar names on the headstock, but their own brand offering has always been reliably high quality, and utterly underground. You’ll see Cort instruments and amps in music mag adverts, and maybe you’ve even tried one, but they get little glamour or publicity. Could the AF60 be the amp to change all that, or will it be another well-kept secret?
Build quality and features
An accusation often levelled at acoustic amps is that they all look the same, and to some extent it’s true. Acoustic players are a conservative bunch, and as a result, some of the more extreme looks that our axe wielding cousins appreciate tend to go missing from amps targeted at us. The Cort however, whilst hardly outlandish, definitely has a look all its own. The cream vinyl is redolent of certain Fender and Vox models, but the lack of chicken head knobs avoids an overtly vintage look, and this is certainly the only cream coloured amp in a stage monitor wedge style that I have ever seen.
The AF60 is a fundamentally simple beast, as its £300 price tag implies it should be. The cabinet houses a pair of 8” woofers, though it looks big enough for a single 12”, which might provide better dynamic range. There are two channels, but they are not created equal in the sight of the guitar gods. Channel two, the main instrument channel, has a jack input, volume, four band graphic EQ, notch filter, an effect section featuring delay and chorus, and a separate reverb, whilst channel one, the mic channel, has nothing but a volume. It does have an input of course, which will take either XLR or jack input and has phantom power, but with no EQ and no effects, serious singers are likely to feel somewhat short-changed. Additional features are limited to headphone and aux mini-jack inputs, and a pre EQ output for direct injection into the desk. Nobody could call it an overloaded feature set, but it gives the average player everything he needs, and is very easy to get to grips with.
As far as build quality goes, the AF60 is probably not going to win any awards for innovative design, but the plywood cabinet is solid, the corners most likely to be impacted have reinforcement, and the controls all feel solid enough to withstand the rigours of playing live.
The first question to ask with any acoustic amp is, “What is it for?” and that question is hard to answer with the AF60. 60 watts is overkill for the bedroom, and anyway, acoustic guitars amplify themselves rather nicely in such situations, which draws into question the purpose of the headphone output. As a singer as well as a guitarist, I would not be happy to trust my vocals to any amp which doesn’t give me so much as an EQ, so using this as a sounds system for small gigs will only really be an option for solo guitarists. The final and perhaps most obvious application is as a personal monitor from which the guitar is fed into the front of house sound system, which is where the Cort offers the strongest argument.
Acoustic amps seem to be improving rapidly, and despite it’s relatively low cost, you can plug a guitar with a decent pickup into the AF60 with the EQ set flat and get a great tone without touching a thing. The twin woofers give a decent depth to the mid and low range, which is where things can go astray with smaller drivers, and there’s no hint of boxiness to the tone, as you’d hope with a cabinet which is both generously proportioned, and features less parallel surfaces than the average! When you do start to tweak around with things, you discover one of the AF60’s nicest features; the controls are more or less idiot proof. Many amps have EQ and effect controls which will take you far beyond the realms of useable acoustic tone, and into the zone of extra-terrestrial noises, and these controls tend to collect dust… Sensibly chosen controls such as these mean you can use the full range of motion, and also make it much easier to tweak your tone very subtly.
The effect control is a trifle confusing; it has three sectors labelled delay, chorus, and delay/chorus, but rather than being a three position switch, it actually sweeps around unobstructed, so that the further clockwise you in each section, the more of the effect is blended into the tone. This does a decent job of amalgamating two controls into one, but in a hurry on a dark stage, I can foresee occasional wrong settings resulting from trying to use the maximum of one effect, and accidentally tipping over into another. All that said, the three effects are very useable, and the fact that the reverb is separate is extremely sensible, since you seldom want to be without it.
This is a very decent amp, but it’s also a missed opportunity. With the addition of a simple EQ and reverb for the mic channel, it would become a real winner at this price point. As it stands, the AF60 will do a great job for solo guitarists, but it’s hard to recommend it to those who also need to amplify their vocals. That said, the unusual looks will certainly grab it some attention on music shop floors, and within its remit, it’s very worthy of that attention.