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Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin Review

Godin''s 5th Avenue Kingpin archtop is a solid guitar that plays and sounds great for under $1000

Full disclosure right up front—I’m a huge fan of all things Godin. I love their attitude, their versatility, their environmental consciousness, and yes, they make some damn fine guitars. The newest addition to the Godin family is the Fifth Avenue Series of archtops, and the Kingpin is the flagship in the line.

Godin set out to create a great-sounding, great-playing yet affordable archtop guitar for those of us who don’t have between $3000 and $25,000 to drop on a guitar. With a street price somewhere between $700 and $870, the highly playable Kingpin is a dream come true.

The laminated wood top, back and sides are of Canadian Wild Cherry, and Godin’s Custom Polished Finish makes it look like it came forward through time from the fifties. The model I got for review was finished in the lovely “Cognac burst.” The cool vintage-looking pickguard and super shiny tailpiece are extremely tasteful, while the shiny black headstock is elegantly shaped with gentle curves. The simple chrome tuners balance the tailpiece perfectly. The rosewood fretboard is 1.72" at the nut, and the silver leaf maple neck provides a solid and smooth weight and feel. The volume and tone controls complete the classic vintage look. The signature Godin Kingpin P-90 pickup looks cool, and sounds fantastic. With a body around 20" long and just 3" deep, it’s perfectly comfortable to hold and light enough to play for as long as you want to. And trust me, that will be a good long time.

I was surprised at how much of an acoustic voice the Kingpin has. I’ve played a lot of the more expensive archtop acoustic-electrics and many of them sound too mid-rangey and lackluster unplugged, but the Kingpin has a little more oomph in the lows than I was expecting, giving the highs a much fuller foundation. Plugged in, however, it’s remarkably warm and rich. The P-90-style pickups, being single coil, are always a little noisy, but the tone is wonderful. I plugged into the clean channel of a Peavey Bandit 112, dialed the mids back to nine o’clock, boosted the bass to about 1:30, shaved a hair off the treble and got gorgeous, pure melted-chocolate tone. A little more mid-range and this guitar begs for the blues. A taste of distortion and you’re ready for some roots rock or rockabilly.

The only problem I encountered was with feedback, which is not unexpected with this style of guitar. Lovers of the archtop have devised a multitude of tricks over the years to fight the feedback beast, from balloons to duct tape to blocking the f-holes—with varying degrees of success, not to mention interference with the resonance of the top. That’s the only problem I had, and for my applications I don’t think it would be a deal breaker, and it certainly wasn’t an insurmountable issue. However, with that element a little more under control, I think this guitar could compete with guitars thousands of dollars pricier, especially for those who want or need to play at a lot higher volumes than I do.

Playability is excellent; it plays exactly like an archtop should—like butter. The rosewood fretboard is smooth and easy, and with six months to a year or so of regular play it will have a wonderful feel. The neck is comfortable and satiny, and much less bulky than some of the vintage instruments from which the Kingpin descends. The floating Graph Tech Tusq bridge makes for near-instant small setup and intonation corrections. Set up to your preferences, this guitar will play flawlessly and never give you a minute of trouble, which is a remarkable achievement at this price point. Great sounding and playing, this guitar earns a solid place in the archtop world. Simply and tastefully appointed with vintage cool to burn.

Video Review:
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Buy if...
You want to boldly step into the archtop world without blowing your budget, or you need a terrific gigging guitar so you can leave your handmade archtop at home.
Skip if...
You want to play extremely loud, or if you want something heavy, shiny and highly ornamental.

MSRP $825 - Godin Guitars -