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Godin Passion RG-3 Electric Guitar Review

Godin Passion RG-3 Electric Guitar Review

Godin brings their acoustic sensibilities to a chambered solidbody single-coil instrument.

Download Example 1
Tones from the 5-way switch, passive and active.
Download Example 2
Download Example 3
Tremolo bar, on active mode
All clips recorded through a USA Fender Hot Rod Deluxe (flat eq), mic'd with a Sennheiser e609, through Apogee Duet Preamp. 
Robert Godin has been building quality guitars since he founded the Godin company in 1972 in La Patrie, Quebec. He is an active owner of the company, which employs approximately six hundred workers in six different factories in North America, and continues to design most of the guitars that go to production. The Passion Series guitar sits at the pinnacle of the electric guitars that Godin has produced to date. Robert and his team do not shy away from exploring new design concepts with their guitars and the Passion Series RG-3 is no exception with features like its synchronized five tone chambers, High-Definition Revoicer (H.D.R.), GS3 pickups.

The Passion Series was designed with the serious musician and single-coil aficionado in mind. Taking at least eight weeks to manufacture from start to finish in the Godin Premier Atelier, where Godin says these guitars are touched by only a few select guitar makers through production, hand-picked from the best the company has to offer. These makers use the best technology and materials available to produce a truly remarkable instrument. We were able to get a hold of the Passion RG-3 with mahogany top and maple fingerboard to check it out.

First Impressions
One of the foundational design concepts for the Passion RG-3 was to incorporate ideas from sophisticated acoustic guitars into a Strat-style electric guitar format. As a result, the tonewoods used in this guitar—red cedar with mahogany or Sitka spruce with flame maple—are those more often found in acoustic guitars. The guitar we got our hands on has a solid red cedar back with a solid mahogany top, and it really does sound lively and full-bodied when you play it acoustically. You can feel the sound vibrating through the body and the neck—the harmonic resonance is strong and very present even without the amplification.

The body on its own weighs around 2.3 pounds, so the guitar is very light. The light weight can somewhat be attributed to the choice of wood, but is mostly due to the hollow chambers within the guitar body. The RG-3 has five tone chambers under the hood which are all joined and port into the single coil pickup cavities, and these chambers add to the acoustic quality of the guitar. All of the wood on this guitar is beautiful. If you’re a connoisseur of wood, you will enjoy the wood grains through the natural finish.

The top has a comfort contour for the right arm ergonomics and has a smoked wood binding rounding it off. The pickguard, outlined in simple wood purfling, is routed right into the body top so there isn’t really anything to protect your guitar from the pick, but is there really a need? It does add to the simplicity and elegance of design. The neck of this guitar feels smooth, and where the frets end, there is a small radius on the fingerboard edge to transition into the back of the neck. The frets are also polished and shaped to taper into the edge of the fingerboard so the feel up and down the frets is like that of a well-worn guitar.

On this model, the neck is two-piece maple. The fingerboard is a separate piece of maple, which allows the truss rod to be installed from the top of the neck and avoid the “skunk-stripe.” With a machine head ratio of 18:1, the Gotoh 510 tuners make it easy to dial in those last few cents while tuning. These tuners also have varied shaft heights to maximize the string tension against the Tusq nut as the string gauge gets lighter and farther up the headstock.

The overall craftsmanship of this instrument is elegant, solid, and of very high quality. The guitar comes with a hardshell, lockable, faux alligator tour case on plastic wheels with a gig bag that fits inside. You also get a certificate of authenticity for the guitar and a set of black bell knobs if you prefer that look over the stock chrome.

The Electronics
The electronics of the RG-3 really push the envelope of the electric guitar. You get the standard issue volume and tone knobs and the five-way selector switch, but these are the only things that you’ve likely seen before. The three GS3 pickups are made by Godin to specifically compliment this series of guitar and stand out with their large pole pieces. You’ll also notice that the pole heights are staggered and tuned which give a very even-tempered sound and volume across all six strings. Extra wax windings were added to the sides of the pickups in an effort to help reduce hum, but honestly I didn’t notice much difference in interference between this guitar and other single-coil guitars.

To compliment these pickups, Godin uses the High-Definition Revoicer (HDR) that provides a wide variety of different single-coil sounds to choose from. The HDR is activated by a simple and conveniently located switch that allows you to choose between an active or passive pickup configuration. This switch engages a preamp circuit that adds a new soundstage to the guitar. The term “high definition” is quite descriptive of the sound when you turn the HDR on. You get more pronounced highs as well as deeper lows with an even middle. Right hand pick dynamics also come alive with the HDR engaged.

Plugging In
As mentioned earlier, the first thing I noticed when I played this guitar acoustically was how much vibration I could feel through my hands and arms. As for definition and response, I think you will be hard pressed to find a better electric guitar. The choice of single-coils in this guitar with the harmonic resonance from the chambered tone woods make this a truly amazing sounding instrument with lots of sustain and available dynamics.

This guitar is very responsive to hand technique and pick pressure. Competing with a full band, it can cut through nicely with a solid and musical presence in the midrange frequency spectrum. Engage the HDR, and it speaks even more without getting harsh. My first impression of the HDR circuit made me wonder why you would ever want to switch back to the passive mode, but after a few days of playing with this switch, I found many exquisite and usable tones in both modes. I can’t say enough about the clarity and dynamics available with this instrument.

I checked the intonation up the neck on each string and it was spot on with the exception of one very minor string length adjustment on the stainless bridge (screw on the low E). It plays perfectly in tune up and down the neck. The tremolo arm setup on the RG-3 works remarkably well as it stays pretty much in tune right from the start. If you dive it hard, it will take a few cents on the strings here and there, as most other tremolos without locking nut systems will. But I found it to be very musical and definitely well above the average for staying in tune.

The Final Mojo
This guitar is beautifully crafted and built to allow the serious musician to explore and reach new heights. It pushes the envelope in form as well as electronics. If you are looking for something to inspire you to reach your potential, this guitar gives you that space. Great attention has been paid to the finer details of guitar-making and it looks, feels, and plays great. It’s an elegant instrument, and the more I play it, the more I love it.
Buy if...
you are looking for one exquisitely crafted single-coil guitar to rule them all, one that will inspire you to explore and push your musical limits.
Skip if...
you don't love single-coil guitars or don’t have the dump-truck load of beans to buy it.

Street $2795 - Godin -