Córdoba Guitars is synonymous with high-quality, nylon-string classical and flamenco guitars, many of them offered at affordable price points. One of the Southern California company’s latest creations, the Stage model, delivers build quality and innovation in an instrument that could complement the quiver of any versatile guitarist. It’s easy to play, visually appealing, and possesses a state-of-the-art Fishman electronics system that delivers a full nylon-string acoustic tone—even when you push the volume.
When I first removed the Stage from its recycled nylon gig bag, I was immediately taken with the guitar’s visual charms. Its flamed maple veneer top has a vibrant grain pattern framed by a darker wooden binding that perfectly matches the pau ferro fretboard. Three trapezoidal soundholes (a nod to the maker’s graphic logo, which was inspired by the arches of a historic cathedral in Córdoba, Spain) at the upper bout aesthetically balance a trio of walnut control knobs at the lower bout. This motif is repeated in pearl inlays on the headstock—another classy touch. All in all, the details here are at once classic and modern, a delight to the eye.
Smart Design and Execution
The Stage’s thinline chambered mahogany body is sleek, measuring just 1-1/2 inches deep, with a solid spruce top underneath the maple veneer. A deep Venetian cutaway provides easy access to the highest notes of the fingerboard—the 19th fret on string 6, scooping to the 22nd on the top two strings.
The backside of the guitar reveals a nine-volt battery chamber, along with a control cavity cover, for accessing the electronics. The neck heel is cleanly seated against the body, and the back edge of the upper waist is rounded, to provide extra playing comfort. Overall, the construction is very clean, and close attention appears to have been given to every detail of the build.
I have long thought that any new guitar acquisition, whether modern or vintage, should be set up by a professional technician who is familiar with your preferences and playing style. The Stage is no exception. While the frets on the review guitar were snugly seated, the intonation was slightly sharp at the 12th fret, and I found the action a tad high as I ascended the neck. Additionally, the fifth and sixth strings had a mild buzz past the ninth fret—common out-of-the-box issues that are minor and can likely be corrected with proper setup.
The Stage is incredibly comfortable to play, whether sitting or standing. When I’m seated with the lower waist resting on my right leg, the guitar suspends itself in perfect balance. The instrument is outfitted with a pair of gold strap buttons—a small but convenient detail not commonly seen on nylon-string guitars—and it nestles right into my arms when I strap the it on.
With its C-shaped mahogany neck and radiused fretboard, the Stage handles more like a semi-hollow electric than a traditional classical or flamenco guitar, making it ideal for a steel-string player wanting to explore nylon-string sounds without any adjustment in technique. And as primarily an acoustic steel-string player, I admittedly find it a chore to navigate the wide nut of a typical nylon-string guitar. However, the Stage’s bone nut measures a relatively narrow 1-7/8 inches, and the string spacing is quite comfortable for playing chords of all types as well as single-note lines. I could even easily apply my go-to Django Reinhardt chords—those unconventional shapes requiring the tip of one fretting finger to cover two strings at the same time.
An Attractive Voice
The Stage is clearly designed to be amplified. When played unplugged, it is noticeably quiet—not unpleasant-sounding, but about a third of the volume of the typical acoustic steel-string. That said, it is tonally well balanced, with the bottom two strings providing just enough low end to blend nicely with the midrange and higher-register notes. Inevitably, an unplugged thinline will give you more string than body sound, but I only found this distracting when playing single note lines past the fifth fret on the top two strings.
To properly audition the Stage, I started by fingerpicking my way through the nylon-string standard “Malagueña” in first position. The bass was full and clearly articulated, while the treble maintained a bright, cutting presence. I then strummed through an Andalusian cadence in A minor just using my fingers. Pushing the tempo and attack, the guitar responded with well-balanced, robust chords that didn’t distort.
Turning back to fingerpicking, I improvised on the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” using chord shapes up and down the neck with a combination of fretted notes and open strings that rang together beautifully. The Stage truly spoke to me when I comped an original bossa nova composition. The tune’s chord progression covers a wide range of the fretboard, and the guitar delivered balance and note separation in each position.
I then picked up a plectrum and tried out a chord-melody arrangement of Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages.” The single notes sung out from the tops of the chords, but I had to be careful to avoid unintentionally bending the strings due to their lower tension (relative to steel strings). I ended the session with another improvisation, on a Willie Nelson–approved version of the Irving Berlin classic “Blue Skies,” and the guitar responded with an immediacy to the dynamics and articulations.
The crowning feature of the Stage is perhaps its electronics package. Designed in collaboration with Fishman, this two-way system combines an undersaddle pickup with an internal body mic and has minimal controls—just volume, blend, and tone.
When I plugged the Stage into my Henriksen Blu Six amplifier, the guitar came to life. With the blend knob, I could easily navigate between the pickup and mic in order to dial in the most natural sound. I found the single tone knob preferable to a several-band EQ, as it enabled me to more easily adjust the timbre on the fly. Most important, the three controls offer plenty of flexibility for dialing in a full acoustic sound in a variety of settings.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a guitar that is comfortable, easy to play, and can provide authentic nylon-string sounds in a variety of performance settings, the Córdoba Stage would make a great choice—especially if you are a steel-string player looking to explore new tonal colors. While this handsome guitar is, as the name suggests, clearly designed to be heard and seen on stage, it would also make an excellent practice guitar for those quiet after-hours sessions, or even a great travel companion—all for well under a grand.
BODY Chambered mahogany body with cutaway; 38mm (1-1/2″) depth; solid spruce top with flamed maple veneer; three-piece fan bracing; pau ferro bridge with compensated bone saddle; gloss polyurethane finish
NECK C-shaped mahogany neck (three-piece); dual-action truss rod; pau ferro fretboard; 16″ radius; 22 frets; 650mm (25.6″) scale length; 48mm (1-7/8″) bone nut; Córdoba 14:1 tuners
OTHER Fishman Stage electronics; Savarez 510AJ Alliance/Cantiga HT strings; deluxe gig bag
MADE IN China
PRICE $699 street
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.