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BY EDDIE SCHER | FROM THE WINTER 2020 ISSUE OF UKULELE

Córdoba’s new 24C Spruce Concert and 24T-CE Spruce Tenor are attractive ukuleles that balance the affordability of a laminated body with the improved tone of a solid wood top and neck. In look, playability, and tone they remind me of classical guitars, which is no surprise given Córdoba’s reputation for building excellent classical and flamenco guitars. Indeed, the company is named for the ancient Spanish city famous for its luthiers and their classical stringed instruments.

Córdoba introduced the 24 series of ukuleles in 2016. The first generation featured solid cedar tops. This new generation, which debuted in 2020, features straight-grained solid spruce tops. On the interwebs, in case you missed it, there’s a raging battle of the top woods between cedar and spruce. Both have been used by luthiers for the soundboards of classical guitars and violins for centuries. This is a battle that is likely to continue as long as there’s an internet to host the fight, because, ultimately, it’s a matter of personal taste. 

The job of a ukulele top is to vibrate with the strings and amplify the sound. So in general, you don’t want a hardwood top because it simply won’t flex and vibrate enough. What you’re looking for is a wood that is soft enough to move sympathetically with the strings, but is also strong and durable. Spruce is a soft, straight-grained wood with a light blonde color and a slight golden glow. It is very stiff, yet highly flexible, with a very high strength-to-weight ratio.

Cedar, on the other hand, is not as strong as spruce. But the large amount of resin in the wood makes it highly durable and helps give an instrument a full, warm sound that tends to be darker than a spruce-topped instrument. 

On a ukulele, spruce is known for producing a bright, balanced tone and great sustain. And that’s pretty much what I found on these spruce-topped Córdobas. Strummed, these ukuleles ring out loud, round, and clear. They don’t have a strong personality; the tone is not colored the way other top woods, or older instruments, often can be. What you play is what you hear, which seems to be exactly the point of using spruce on an instrument. I appreciate the balance, clear definition, and ringing sound of these ukes, especially for fingerpicking.


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The back, sides, and headstock veneer are laminated spalted maple. Maple is a hardwood that is traditionally used for the back and sides of violins, though plenty of guitar and ukulele builders also use it. Spalted maple comes from a tree that was invaded by a fungus that leaves dark lines woven through the grain in dramatic natural designs. These ukuleles feature burgundy binding on the body, neck, and rosette of padauk wood, a bound mahogany neck, and a satin polyurethane finish.

Playing these ukes I could feel the classical-guitar influence. The necks are beefy and comfortable with plenty of room between the strings for my meaty fingers. I found the action to be high, and that may affect the tone and volume. There’s plenty of room to lower the bridge, though I would recommend giving the job to a luthier who knows how to wield a file.

The 24T-CE features a rounded cutaway and a simple, effective Córdoba-branded active pickup system. The side-mounted control panel has a slot for a 9-volt battery (which I prefer over a watch battery in these systems, because while heavier, they are easy to find), a low-battery indicator light, and controls for volume, treble, and bass. The built-in pickup system doesn’t add much to the cost of the ukulele but it makes performing at an open mic or recording as simple as grabbing a cable and going.  

In addition to these two instruments, the 24 spruce series also includes the 24S soprano, 24T tenor (without electronics), and 24B baritone models.

Specs

24C Spruce Concert
BODY S
olid spruce top; spalted maple back and sides; natural color with satin polyurethane finish; black and white ABS purfling inlay; padauk rosette; fan bracing; overall length of full instrument: 24″
NECK Mahogany C shape; composite fingerboard with pearloid inlay dots; 18 frets; Córdoba satin nickel tuners with black buttons
OTHER Composite bridge; bone nut; compensated bone saddle; Aquila New Nylgut Concert 7U strings
PRICE  $279.99
MADE IN China

24T-CE Spruce Tenor
BODY
Solid spruce top; spalted maple back and sides; natural color with satin polyurethane finish; black and white ABS purfling inlay; padauk rosette; fan bracing; overall length of full instrument: 26″
NECK Mahogany C shape; composite fingerboard with pearloid inlay dots; 18 frets; Córdoba satin nickel tuners with black buttons
OTHER Composite bridge; bone nut; compensated bone saddle; Córdoba active pickup with 2-band EQ; Aquila New Nylgut Tenor 10U strings
PRICE $249 ($199 without electronics) 
MADE IN China
cordobaguitars.com

FROM THE WINTER 2020 ISSUE OF UKULELE

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