Cargo review by Composite Acoustics

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  • Features: 10
  • Sound: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 10 Gem
  • Users' score: 7.3 (4 votes)
Composite Acoustics: Cargo
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Purchased from: Hubbards

Features — 10
First off apologies for any errors or omissions in this review. This is my first, please be gentle! Hopefully this can help people interested in this guitar.

The Composite Acoustics Cargo is a carbon fiber "travel" guitar. It has a scale length of 22.75" and is 14 frets to the body, and 21 frets in total. The frets are made of stainless steel (durability!) against a reinforced polymer fretboard. There is no heel where the neck joins the body (neck and body are one solid piece). This combined with the cutaway (and thin neck) makes the higher frets highly playable.

The tuners are "Ultra Precision" (18:1), not that you'll be using them much. The guitar is impervious to temperature and humidity. The guitar was tuned when I left the store, and has been in tune ever since (I play 1-2 hours a day on this guitar). For the record I've had the guitar about a month. This guitar simply doesn't go out of tune.

There are 2 models of the Cargo, both with and without electronic pickups. The one without electronics cost $999. The one I purchased has an L.R. Baggs Active Element pickup system. I don't own a good amplifier (I prefer acoustics), but I did plug it in to a small Epiphone practice amp. It worked fine and showed every one of my flaws as a player. Is it too much to ask a guitar company to make a guitar to cover up my shortcomings as a player? Probably yes...

I bought the plain black carbon fiber model. It looks like something Vader would play (plus I'm planning on getting Black Beauties when the Elixirs wear out). But you can opt for one of several colors. None of them looked good to my eyes, but I'm pretty spartan about stuff like that. Interestingly... Automotive paint is used on the painted Composite Acoustics guitars. This guitar came with a thick padded gig bag (about on par with Taylor's gig bags) with the emblem "Cargo" emblazoned on it. This fascist killing machine was proudly made in the United States.

Sound — 10
The sound from this guitar will shock you. It doesn't sound like a small guitar. Carbon fiber is more resonant than any natural wood. Plus this guitar doesn't have a conventional soundboard. Since the guitar is one piece essentially the ENTIRE BODY IS THE SOUNDBOARD. This guitar gets plenty loud even without plugging it in, but you can play it softly of course. The bass is outstanding (more satisfying than on my dreadnaughts). The top end is clear and sweet. Not as bright as my Taylor BigBaby (which is a wonderful guitar, btw) and more balanced (neither the bass nor treble overwhelm each other). It sounds great.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
The setup was perfect. Action was low and smooth all the way down the fretboard. There is no truss rod (it's not needed). The frets were perfect and smooth on the sides. The neck is thin and buttery. Fit and finish were outstanding. This isn't a wooden guitar with many pieces glued together. This guitar is one solid chunk of gear. The body and neck were in perfect shape with no noted scratches, dings, or other imperfections. My only beef with the guitar is with access to the electronics inside the guitar. The soundhole provides access but it looks like it might be a hassle for a sausage fingered freak like myself. Maybe I'll find somebody with smaller hands if I need to adjust anything.

Reliability & Durability — 10
I don't play through an amp so I can't testify about the reliability of the electronics, but I do know that the durability of the Cargo is, well, perfect. This guitar will outlive the cockroaches, assuming I don't break it in an accident. It's tough. Really tough. I was horrified when I dropped mine last week. It feel a few feet to the floor. I picked it up and examined it closely. Nothing. Not even a scuff. Plus... still in tune! I think under normal use that the durability of this guitar is not an issue.

Overall Impression — 10
I play mostly folk music, primarily fingerstyle. This guitar is close to perfect for me. I tend to play softly and the resonance of the carbon fiber helps my volume levels tremendously. I also tend to position my hand near the bridge. This reduces the volume on my other guitars which have center sound holes, but on the Cargo it's no issue. In fact the entire body of the Cargo is part of the soundboard (one piece).

The shorter scale length does present some difficulties to me when fingering higher up the neck. It's hard to put my fat fingers into those spaces sometimes, especially when using a capo. I can do it though and am getting better with practice. The slim neck with no heel, combined with a relatively thin body and the cutaway makes this a very easy guitar to play comfortably. Even my Taylor BigBaby, which isn't quite fullsize (15/16) feels awkward after playing the Cargo.

I did have the opportunity to compare this guitar to the other carbon fiber guitar that the store had, a Rainsong dreadnought. The Rainsong was very impressive, but the Cargo seemed far more solid. Playability wise there was almost no difference (except for the cutaway body)... both had perfect action with great necks. The more solid feel of the Cargo is what made the decision for me. I'm not planning on using the electronics in.

I once said I would never buy a $1,000 or more guitar. I played this guitar, fell in love instantly, and threw down $1400 without hesitation. I will never part with this guitar voluntarily. If it was stolen or destroyed I would probably opt for a GX dreadnought from CA (maybe a Rainsong), but I don't regret buying the Cargo. This is my main guitar now... not my Taylor, or my Seagull, or my Dean. This guitar plays better than all of them, sounds better than all of them, and is more likely to survive global warming than the human race.

22 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Kevätuhri
    Hey, since this be your first review, I'd like to point out a common mistake you made. And that is the straigth tens you gave it in every category. 10/10 review is not helpful. Reviews are supposed to help potential buyers decide between different options, and a one-sided review like this won't help. Why? Because this guitar isn't perfect. It's not difficult to soot obvious flaws that you really didn't address. Here are a few of them: Short scale. I know that it's a travel guitar, but such a short neck will be a huge negative impact for a lot of people. I think that the way the guitar feels will always triumph over the tone, and I know without trying that I'd hate that neck. Electronics. You gave it a ten in reliability and sound without trying the electronics? For all I, the reader, know it might sound like a turd with faulty electronics. And then theres the carbon fiber construction. I am sure that it sounds great and is nigh indestructible. But if something does happen, it's also pretty damn hard, if not impossible, to repair. Even a small scratch in the body might be a permanent problem. Not to even speak about doing your own modding or custom routing or the like, not going to happen. Last but not least, it's expensive as shit. I can get a guitar with a usable scale length (in other words a better guitar for me) for 200 bucks. I know that it's probably a great instrument, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you saying it's perfect for you is wrong. But you shouldn't give anything a perfect 10 rating, because no piece of gear deserves it. If you want to write a good review, you need to acknowledge the shortcomings and cons in order for it to be of any help.
    Velcro Man
    See, you're mistaking your own subjective opinions as legitimate flaws when...they're just things you PERSONALLY dislike. A review should review objective things like build quality.
    TobusRex
    @Keva: thanks for the constructive criticism. Regarding the 10 in reliability/durability, that was because of the durability. It most definitely is a 10 in that measure. I noted that I tried the pickup through a practice amp and it worked fine. I'm sorry I can't be more specific about how reliable the electronics are. Everything about the guitar, fit and finish-wise, tells me Composite Acoustics is unlikely to be a company that makes a great guitar and slaps bad pickups and wiring in it. Maybe I'm assuming too much here, but I don't think so. Regarding the "all 10s"...what can I say, I feel it's awesome all around. I'm not a big believer that one MUST produce negative points in a review. I know that is what they teach in High Schools and Universities about writing essays, but I never thought much of it. However I just remembered something that did annoy me a bit about the Cargo. The input jack is a bit tight. But I can't dock a guitar for a "tight" jack. It DID work, after all, and the fact that it was a tight fit is actually a good thing. Took more pressure to get it in than on my cheap Epiphone electric. Thanks again for the input. I do have a question though....why does a thin neck with low action bother you? Are you a slide guy?
    Kevätuhri
    I hope I wasn't too harsh, as I said I believe it's a wonderful guitar, but a straight 10/10 is a bit unreasonable in any case imo. And well, I like strat style guitars, in other words 25,5 inch scale lengths. It's not about the neck being narrow, I play Ibanez guitars as well and those are some seriously thin necks. It's about the neck being short. I feel uncomfortable with LP's and those are 24.75 inches. 22.75 sounds horrifying to be honest There's a clear difference in the feel and the tone between different scale lengths, and I've found that for me personally, shorter is worse. And I am a strict believer that negative points must be found, because it's common logic that nothing is perfect. The price alone (1400$ for a short scale travel guitar) should knock it down a bit because it's ridiculous, given that it's indestructible. I agree that there's probably nothing wrong with the guitar per say, but I still doubt it objectively really feels or sounds better than any wooden guitar. I'm still interested in trying one and possibly owning one in the future, at least if they'd come in full size.
    TobusRex
    Ah....I didn't think of knocking it on the price. That is a valid point, it is pricey. Especially for a travel guitar. That being said it sounded and played better than a $2300 Larrivee Dread (which was gorgeous, btw) a couple hooks over. That's punching well above it's weight. I highly recommend you try the full size models. I went to the store again and found they had restocked on CF guitars. I got to try the Composite Acoustics GX, and it was very nice. Not as comfortable as the Cargo, but played just as well and louder. If that guitar had been in the shop when I bought the Cargo I probably would have bought it (since I already had a smaller guitar). I think you'd really like them. These are really neat, well made guitars. So easy to play, and they sound great.
    Kevätuhri
    I'd love to try one, have to keep my eye on the local stores. Chances of them getting to Finland anytime soon are slim though
    logicbdj
    Composite guitars are expensive,but they sound incredible... and there's never any warping, etc. (you can play this in cold weather, humid weather, etc., and it always sounds and plays the same). I came close to buying one, but could not account for the price considering how much I play acoustic. But composites certainly are the wave of the future so that we stop cutting down our trees.
    HeidiCPascua
    I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do. www.wallstreet34.com
    TobusRex
    Great point about the trees. Carbon Fiber is the future of guitars. I was amazed at how good the carbon fiber guitars sounded, but the perfect action is what sold me. I almost opted for the Rainsong, and I'm sure I'd have been very happy with it as well.
    Glass_Ceiling
    Well, trees will grow forever, as long as this planet will exist. Don't worry about trees, you should worry about the amount of humans this planet will tolerate. Carbon fiber on the other hand, is a pain in the ass to recycle.
    TobusRex
    I hope trees grow forever on this planet. CF lasts a long time and presents significant challenges for disposal as well. That being said I'm going to enjoy my little space age guitar until I die in a few years.
    rickvolkerair
    I have had a Rainsong OM 1000N2 for a couple months. I have been at group functions where other players with Taylors and expensive Martins played my guitar side by side. I have to say that I preferred the Rainsong sound. The guitar techs at a large guitar store in my area could not put it down, and they have seen everything. They were enchanted by it. Sustain is incredible without an amp. Crystal clarity is marked in midrange and low treble, though most players noted that the sound is evenly balanced. I am a relative beginner, so can only personally compare the fretboard to my Mexican Strat- apples and oranges, sorry. But in attempting to learn Stevie Ray Vaughan songs, for example,the action on the Rainsong seems much better for my skill level and dexterity. After playing the RainSong, the Strat feels horrible . But then again, I am a nube! Carbon fiber and graphite is easy to repair, by the way. Done it with airplanes and kayaks. It would be hard to regain cosmetic perfection, but structural repair is strong. Look for a used one sooner or later. That should be a great buy, as they do not degrade like wooden things do.
    TobusRex
    I have to agree. I think the sound of the carbon fiber models is amazing. I played another Rainsong yesterday. They are wonderful to play on, such smooth buttery action. I'm a relative noob, as you are, and I really appreciate the action on these guitars. The Composite Acoustics bodies feel different to me than Rainsong's. Stiffer, maybe? Have you had any durability issues with yours? I saw a black ice looking Rainsong in the store that was stunning.
    rickvolkerair
    No durability issues. Always in tune. Buttery action. Much lighter than a wood guitar. The RainSong may be better suited to flat picking blues leads than a Composite Acoustics due to strength of treble. But this is only gleaned from listening to many reviews of both, with no personal experience with Composite Acoustics. RainSong is stiff enough to take all strings off at once without any deformation of neck. And tuning one string does not affect tuning of the next, suggesting stiffness is there. There is also a rod in the neck of the RainSong, in case the angles need to be changed.
    TobusRex
    I figured as much. Rainsong is in the running if I get the hankering for a Dreadnaught CF guitar. Great action and sound, but prettier than the Composite Acoustics models. Those CA paint jobs were butt ugly, lol. That's in the future though...I need to improve enough that I feel I should reward myself again.
    TobusRex
    I know the feeling Xomar. I fell in love with the thing when I tried it out. I shocked myself by spending $1400 on it and was worried about buyer's remorse. Still waiting on the remorse to kick in, but the shit eating grin on my face keeps getting in the way.
    Lord_Doku
    I wonder how much that guitar weighs compared to a guitar just as big that's made of wood.
    TobusRex
    I guess it would depend on the type of wood and such, but this guitar is only 1/5 of a pound lighter than my BigBaby (15/16 scale). I think it would be a lot heavier than a Baby Taylor.
    Xomar
    very cool but we gotta get that price down if these are ever gonna be mainstream. I'd love to get my hands on one but over $1k is tough
    arsalking38
    [deleted]
    arsalking38 · Nov 26, 2015 11:06 PM