Godin has always been a great example of just how capable the Canadian guitar industry really is – and guitars such as the 5th Avenue CW (Kingpin II) are tangible illustrations of what can be produced this side of the Pacific on a sensible budget. With this affordable hollow-bodied guitar, Godin wanted to offer ‘the soul of a 1950s archtop’ but with a few mod cons to make life for the guitarist a little easier. Sounds worthy of a closer look!
There’s a definite North American flavor to the 5th Ave CW. It’s made in Godin’s facilities in eastern Canada, while the body is crafted entirely from Canadian wild cherry. This lovely wood is finished in one of three very attractive colors – either the natural, which shows off the grain beautifully; a lesser-seen burgundy finish; or a delicious ‘Cognac Burst’. Of course, the fit and finish of this midrange model is top notch – we’d expect no less from a Godin.
This body itself features a single-cutaway shape that really suits vintage archtop guitars, while the detailing adds to the timeless feel. The top features classic f-holes, there’s a tortoiseshell floating pickguard, and an appealing cream binding around the entire body.
The 5th Ave CW has a set neck joined at the 14th fret, made from silver leaf maple. This sports a rosewood fretboard with 21 frets and simple dot inlays, while the back sports a smooth semi-gloss finish.
In terms of hardware, Godin took a more modern route. Usually, these guitars will feature a wooden compensated bridge, but the Kingpin II comes with an adjustable sustain-enhancing TUSQ bridge made by GraphTech, paired with a standard chrome tailpiece. At the other end, you will find a set of sealed chrome tuning machines, with a bass side gear ratio of 18:1 and an ultra-precise treble side ratio of 26:1, which completes the package very nicely.
Keeping with tradition, Godin chose to install two of their P90 Kingpin single-coils on this bad boy. These pickups have proven their worth several times and prove the right choice for this guitar. These are wired to a pretty simple set of controls, comprising one master tone and a master volume knob, along with a three-way toggle switch. The fact it comes with its own deluxe heavy-duty TRIC case adds to the overall value of this excellent archtop.
Tonally, we can only praise the level of authenticity and detail Godin have managed to deliver with the Kingpin II. Affordable single-coils are something many guitar players are weary of, especially when it comes to jazz.
Yet, this vintage axe is one that breaks this stereotype quite nicely. It offers a surprisingly good low-end, that isn’t a traditional feature of archtop guitars, while the trebles are nicely balanced. With good clarity and warmth when clean, it provides a smooth tone for jazz guitar. When a bit more gain is present it offers great twang for delta blues, and even early rock.
At the end of the day, the Godin Kingpin II sounds great, it looks the part, and is a reliable and versatile instrument. What’s not to love? For the midrange price tag, it proves a great deal, whether you are looking for a great jazz guitar, a solid performer for vintage blues guitar, or simply want a tried-and-tested entry into the world of archtops.