From the May/June 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar | By Nick Millevoi
Classical guitar is an exceptionally rich tradition that requires a lifetime of patient dedication and study to master. Anyone who’s tried to take their steel-string skills and apply them to a nylon-string knows that the difference in playing technique and instrument design can be a serious barrier to entry, let alone the deep and detail-oriented repertoire you’ll face.
But none of that means that a steel-string player can’t have a little fun with a nylon-string. Chet Atkins, the masterful technician that he was, pioneered virtuosic nylon-string playing from a non-classical background, and plenty of folk strummers have been drawn by the allure of the nylon’s softer tone. For those wanting to add some nylon-string flavors to their sound, crossover guitars make the leap from steel-string a little bit easier, and the new Córdoba Fusion 5 is a great option that’s affordable and fun to play.
The Fusion 5 comes in a variety of colors, including our test model’s limited-edition Jet Black finish, which would surely look more at home amidst a rock band’s acoustic set than on the classical recital stage. Black tuners and a small pearl headstock decal play up the guitar’s finish and give an elegant and understated look, while a pearl rosette decal and composite off-white body and fretboard binding offer a nice contrast. Córdoba has undoubtedly focused on the things that matter most for sound and playability, so some of the finer details, like the fretboard markers on this demo model, are a little sloppy, but they still get the job done, so it’s a minor grievance.
Picking up the guitar, it feels distinctly different than a steel-string. But it’s certainly a soft transition, made easier by the guitar’s 16-inch radius, which is noticeably more forgiving than the flat fingerboard of a classical instrument. At 1-7/8 inches, the nut is slightly narrower than on a standard classical guitar, making it hospitable to players accustomed to the tighter quarters of most steel-strings. Another key crossover characteristic of the Fusion 5 is its cutaway, which allows for easy access to all frets.
I found it very comfortable to hold the Fusion 5, as its lower bout of 14-5/8 inches is comparable to that of a standard classical guitar. Whether opting for the common right-leg position or supporting it classical-style with the left leg, it’s easy to keep snug and secure, and its compact size makes it an ideal couch guitar.
A Player’s Guitar
As a guitarist who likes high-end instruments, I can definitely appreciate a luthier-made classical guitar, but as a non-classically trained player, I feel as though I have no business on a professional classical guitar. Playing the Fusion 5 checks all my nylon-string guitar boxes: I can do my best imitation of a classical player, pull off some flamenco-esque moves, easily play some fast scalar runs, and get into a Chet Atkins vibe.
The notes across the fretboard have an even sound and playability. It’s not the rich, resonant sound and feel of a high-end instrument that seems to sing with every note, but rather a simple, midrange-focused tone that is easy to play all along the guitar’s pau ferro fretboard. That’s not a bad thing though—it does the job well enough to give me what I’m looking for on a nylon-string guitar without the imposter syndrome that goes along with playing a Van Halen lick on a fine concert instrument. For that reason alone, I feel as though the Fusion 5 is a nylon-string that is exactly my speed.
Ready for the Studio or the Stage
I’ve used the Fusion 5 on a few recordings in my home studio and it has been fitting nicely into the mix, definitely making the case that I should have a nylon-string guitar around for the occasional recording project. At less than $500, the Fusion 5 fits the bill. It’s well made and functional enough to be used on a professional recording, but not so expensive that I have to baby it.
The Fusion 5 comes equipped with a Fishman Sonitone pickup. These electronics are discreet, with only an output jack and access to the battery compartment, so there are no knobs or other controls on the guitar. I didn’t miss the controls when dialing in a tone during some direct recording, and I’m sure outboard tone controls would work great in live performance as well.
The Bottom Line
For players looking for an entry into the nylon-string world, the Fusion 5 is a great utility guitar with none of the commitment that comes with a high-end instrument. It would be a great addition to the collection of any recording guitarist looking to add some nylon tones to their work, or any player who just wants to have fun with nylon-string guitar and doesn’t plan on dedicating themselves to classical playing.
BODY Fusion body style with fan-braced solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides; Natural, Sonata Burst, or Jet Black polyurethane finish; composite binding; pearl-style rosette decal
NECK Three-piece mahogany neck; 25.6″ scale-length; pau ferro fretboard with 16” radius; 1-7/8″ bone nut; silver tuning machines with black buttons
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OTHER Pao ferro bridge with bone saddle; Fishman Sonitone electronics; Savarez Cristal Corum 500CJ High Tension strings
MADE IN China
PRICE $469 street (Jet Black, Sonata Burst); $429 for Natural finish
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.