Test Drive: Godin Montreal Premiere

October 23, 2013

FOR THE NEW SIGNATURE SERIES Montreal Premiere, Godin set its sights on creating a toneful and affluent-looking thinline built on the North American continent that would be within the reach of players who don’t have offshore bank accounts. To get there, Godin chose laminated Canadian wild cherry for the top, back, and sides—an abundant, sustainably sourced wood with a luxurious figured grain that belies its affordability—and they gave it a “breathe-through” carved spruce core that is designed to deliver maximum resonance from the svelte, slightly arched body.

The Premiere’s set neck joins the body at the 15th fret. Its C shape and medium profile provide excellent playability whether you’re “cowboy” chording in the first position or doing Hendrix-style, thumb-over-sixth-string maneuvers and slinky string-bending licks. The polished frets are free of sharp ends, and the intonation is tuneful throughout the span of the fretboard. The body’s cutaway provides decent upper-register access so long as you don’t need to reach much past the 15th fret.

A quick glance is enough to appreciate the Montreal Premiere’s striking high-gloss, trans-red finish. It’s fun to whip this guitar out of its gig bag at a club and watch players take second and third looks as they ponder a guitar that exudes a classic Gretsch archtop vibe, but with a single cutaway like a Les Paul and a thinline body akin to a ES-335’s. The Montreal Premiere hangs nicely on a strap and feels sturdy and well balanced. The optional Bigsby vibrato on this review model features rolling bridge saddles to prevent binding, and even vigorous manipulation of the bar did not send the Premiere into tuning disarray. I also like its sensitive response, which allowed me to use this musical-sounding vibrato to subtly embellish chords, harmonics, and single-note lines.

Unplugged, the carved spruce core provides a tone that is exceptionally resonant—and that’s especially notable considering cherry wood is generally not as vibrant and punchy as, say, spruce or maple. Tested through a ’66 Fender Pro Reverb, an ’83 Fender Super Champ, and a Vox Night Train in practice, studio, and onstage situations, the Premiere delivered a range of intriguing sounds. In the neck position, dark jazz timbres and bold, chunky funk tones abound, while the bridge setting yields a wealth of gritty, bluesy tones that sound great for solos and crunchier rhythm parts. Both humbuckers clean up well when you roll back the Volume control, and together they blend beautifully into an airy, almost acoustic tone. Both are on the mellow side compared to the ’57 humbuckers in my Gibson ES-339 (this guitar is almost an even swap volume-wise with a Strat), but getting more biting tones from the Montreal Premiere simply involved turning up the amp and adding some treble. Fortunately, the Premiere is not prone to outbursts of feedback when cranked up.

Godin always delivers a lot of value for a fair price, and any player looking for a stylish and versatile thinline semi-hollow guitar that satisfies the soul without breaking the bank should consider the Montreal Premiere.



PRICE $1,700 street (includes gig bag and optional Bigsby vibrato); $1,500 street without Bigsby

CONTACT godinguitars.com


NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
NECK Mahogany, set, 243/4" scale
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 12" radius
FRETS 22 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Godin vintage Kluson-style high-ratio chrome
BODY Canadian wild cherry top, back & sides with double-bound binding and “breathe-through” carved spruce core
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic style w/roller saddles
ELECTRONICS Godin custom humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS Godin E-10 High-Definition Nickel Regular Light .010-.046
WEIGHT 7 lbs
BUILT Canada
KUDOS Stunning looks. Impressive craftsmanship using sustainably sourced woods. Versatile tones.
CONCERNS A little low in output.

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