Cordoba has built a very solid reputation by producing quality guitars in Spain with precision hand craftsmanship and fantastic attention to detail. Unlike most concert-quality classical and flamenco guitars--which commonly sell for upwards of $10,000--Cordobas deliver superb tone and playability for prices almost any serious student can afford. I played five Cordoba models and found each of them to be surprisingly sweet sounding and supremely playable. Given their price range, these are among the finest instruments I've played. All five models would be excellent for students and the 45FP, 55RCE, and especially Solista models would make excellent crossover instruments for professional steel-string players who want to incorporate some Spanish guitar into their repertoires.
For this review I received a Cordoba 32E, a 45R, a 45FP, a 55RCE, and a Solista Flamenca. They are light to the touch, all made with thin back and side wood for increased resonance and lively response. Guided by traditional design concepts, these Cordobas have been redesigned with such innovations as scooped neck blocks and buttressed top bracing to produce amazingly vibrant, free-breathing instruments. Their Spanish cedar necks are expertly carved to provide hours of playing comfort and easy fingering on difficult passages.
Each of these guitars impressed me with its obvious minute care in manufacture. Precision work on natural-fiber bindings and gorgeous rosettes is matched on the inside by careful joints and bracing noticeably free of rough edges and excess glue. I found no finish flaws on any of these instruments.
32E: I played this guitar first and remained deeply impressed with it even after I'd played the more expensive models. Though there was an evident increase in quality with the higher-end instruments, the 32E strikes me as the best value. Its tone is sonorous and sweet, lacking the unmodulated tinny timbre that too often plagues inexpensive student models. Special cosmetic touches include an added ply of ebony under the maple top binding, a rosewood headstock veneer and bridge, and a sapele heel cap to match the back and sides, plus gold filigreed tuning machines.
45R: It's immediately apparent where the extra expense went in the construction of the 45R as compared to the 32E. The money went into the woods. Gorgeous rosewood back and sides are enhanced by a maple/rosewood double binding including a back stripe and rosewood heel cap. The rosette is a gorgeous pattern of detailed all-wood marquetry (as is true of all Cordoba rosettes). The ebony fretboard and wide, flat neck carve are a delight to the digits. Canadian red cedar on the top provides sweet round tone with a dark sonority that does wonders with emotional compositions. The rosewood back and sides are lined with sapele, adding additional warmth and clear definition.
45FP: This flamenco guitar makes an immediate impression when you take it out of the case. It feels like stepping back into 19th century Andalusia when you tune the traditional-style ebony pegs. Tuning a guitar with pegs rather than tuners proved to be easier than I feared. And it was well worth the effort. The solid European spruce top, sycamore back and sides, and low neck angle generate the bright, kinetic, slightly buzzy tone that gives flamenco its unique sonic signature. This guitar really shone for percussive dance-oriented flamenco improvisations.
55RCE: While this instrument steps outside the realm of traditional classical guitars, its tone is worthy of the classics. A deep cutaway provides refreshing access to the higher scale and arpeggio registers, making it a true delight for modern improvisational styles. A narrower 50mm nut width and Fishman Classic 4 electronics make this a perfect choice for a professional stage guitar in modern settings. Its plugged-in sound is full and round. Gorgeous rosewood back and sides enhance the natural highs from the solid European spruce top. A heavy ebony fingerboard and ebony reinforcement provide a very stable neck while multi-ply binding and a tri-layer headstock veneer grace it with sublime looks. Cordoba also offers the 55FCE Gipsy Kings model, like the 55RCE with a thin body Fishman ProBlend Electronics, and Flamenco low neck angle.
Solista Flamenco:This is the creme de la creme. With its solid cypress back and sides and solid European spruce top, this guitar sings out brilliantly in both heavy contes jondos and light contes chicos. Its visuals are just as strong with multiple binding on the top, back, tie post, and even on the ebony neck reinforcement. The multilayer headstock veneer and gorgeous rosette are elegant finishing touches. This is an instrument even an accomplished flamenco player will appreciate.
Cordoba sent me a very impressive handful of guitars. I found all of them to be worth more than their modest price tags and I was truly inspired by the 32E for its amazing value, the 55RCE for its snappy versatility, and the Solista Flamenca for its sublime tone, light touch, and stunning looks. Clearly, Cordoba has hit the mark for affordable classical and flamenco guitars with genuine handmade character and phenomenal quality.