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New JGT Review: A Guitar That Should Be On Everyone’s List Of Contenders



Jazz Guitar Today contributor Brad Jeter reviews Godin’s 5th Avenue CW Kingpin II HB Cognac Burst – a winner by any standard.

The Godin 5th Avenue CW Kingpin II HB Cognac Burst (from here I’ll just refer to as the 5th Avenue) is all about value and playability. If you are looking for a first time jazz box that won’t leave you eating instant noodles for the rest of your life, you have a great option here. Maybe you would like a worthy backup for that one you’re nervous about  taking to a bar gig and leave unattended on break. Or, maybe you are just a player who loves guitars and would like to add a high quality, good value instrument to your collection. If you fit into any of the above categories, the Godin 5th Avenue is one that should be on everyone’s list of contenders. 

The Godin 5th Avenue CW Kingpin II HB Cognac Burst

Godin has been making excellent quality instruments for quite some time–five decades and counting–in Quebec, Canada. I first became aware of and impressed by their guitars when I purchased a used Seagull acoustic in the mid-90s. It was a great playing guitar for very little money that took a semi-permanent position on my couch. Casual strumming or adding some background acoustic to tracks, it never disappointed. I became a fan.

The 5th Avenue lies solidly in the crowded arena of instruments hovering around the $1000 price point. There is a lot of competition (an understatement) especially with the rise of well-made, good playing imports. If you are not too finiky about ultimate fit and finish you can purchase a decent guitar for under $1000 and, often well under that.

In my personal experience, as good as these imported guitars can be, I always have parted ways with them after the honeymoon phase of, “Wow! How can they make this for so cheap?” Why? Because the “cheapness” factor–no matter how it is manifested–rears its ugly head and I quickly see the forest for the trees. By this, I mean, the enticement of price overshadows the bigger picture of it being an assemblage of compromises that ultimately lead me to disappointment.

Let’s get on with the review at hand and I’ll start with my initial impressions. Straight out of the box, the 5th Avenue is a handsome instrument. It is not flashy in any sense, rather, it immediately exudes a visage of quality and a “Come hither and play me!” vibe. The quality of the body wood is excellent given the price. Top, back and sides are Canadian Wild Cherry. The top is a carefully matched two-piece and it is a good indication of the pride of workmanship the build team at Godin aspire to. The same quality is true of the back and sides. The double-bound body adds a nice touch to the aesthetics and the subtle, thin satin sunburst finish is, in a word, classy. 

The 5th Avenue sports a well finished, compensated wood bridge and I am happy to report that it was well intonated right out of the box (I believe this was a production model with no special set-up for review). It is a full hollow body design so the top and back are unfettered which contributes to a full, rich tone acoustically. As I have mentioned in previous reviews, I always play electric guitars for a while before plugging them in–if they have good acoustic qualities relative to their construction (solid, semi or hollow) I believe they will be worthy plugged in. The 5th Avenue is close to what I describe as a cannon. It is responsive, even toned and loud acoustically. If nothing else, it makes it an almost perfect couch guitar–one you want close at hand for just having fun or more serious work.

I do like the minimal controls–a shared volume and tone for the two full size humbuckers. Personally, this to me is ideal for a jazz guitar.

I rarely use the bridge pickup alone and never care to fuss with “balancing” the two together. Again, a personal preference. Speaking of the pickups, they are Godin branded and are up to the task. I like their balance and they are neither too hot nor are they anemic. They are what I describe as fairly neutral. Pleasing is the word I keep coming back to when playing this guitar through an amp. The faux tortoise shell pickguard is a great choice that adds a bit of sophistication to the look. It is easily removed with only a small hole barely visible near the neck pickup for those inclined towards the “naked” look. One last thing about the body before moving on to the neck. The F-holes are not bound but are very nicely cut with no rough edges or micro-chipping–again, an indication in the care and skill of the build team. 

The neck should appeal to a majority of players and styles. It is neither chunky nor is it too thin in profile. The neck is made from solid maple with a rosewood fretboard. It is a very comfortable profile that has gently rounded shoulders and just the slightest whisper of a D-shape. The fretboard in not bound and has ever-so-slightly rolled edges. The quality of the fretboard rosewood is very good and sports a “fast” 16” radius. Fret wire is what I would call somewhat small in profile both in width and height. Absolutely no issue there given the 16” radius. The nut is a well cut and finished Graphtech that I have always liked. Another interesting feature–especially at this price point–is that Godin has put 18:1 ratio tuners on the bass side and 26:1 ratio on the treble. Seriously, this is going above and beyond and something that might not be obvious but is a wonderful and practical addition. Finally, the headstock has a surprisingly handsome face that, again, adds to the overall pleasant aesthetic . The truss rod cover is made of the same faux-tortoise shell as the pickguard.

In conclusion, without reservation, I would recommend this guitar to any player from beginner to seasoned pro looking for a no-frills, no fuss guitar.

It does everything well and Godin hasn’t cut corners to meet a price point. I think it is so important that instruments of this quality are available at such a reasonable price. It is very well made, it plays and sounds great and should offer many, many years of playing enjoyment. Highly recommended!

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