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.