Fifth Avenue Kingpin
BY GAYLA DRAKE PAUL
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 per-
fectly. The rose-
is 1. 72" at the
nut, and the
silver leaf maple
neck provides a
solid and smooth
weight and feel.
and tone controls com-
plete the classic vintage
look. The signature
Godin Kingpin P- 90 pick-
up looks cool, and sounds
fantastic. With a body
around 20" long and just 3"
deep, it’s perfectly comfort-
able 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,
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
from balloons to duct
tape to blocking the
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.
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 hand-made archtop at home.
You want to play extremely loud, or
if you want something heavy, shiny
and highly ornamental.
Click the play button to watch
our video review of the Godin 5th