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This article was originally published in issue #38
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Godin guitars, from La Patrie, Quebec, Canada are making their Bassment debut here but the company has over 25 years of guitar building expertise, not just with its own main brand, Godin, but also across a range of sister brands such as Seagull, Simon & Patrick, Norman, LaPatrie and Art & Lutherie. OK, so basses don't figure that highly on the list but as you can see, there’s not much that Godin don't make and past experience of the company's six string instruments at GI Towers gave us every reason to be hopeful. Another reason for anticipation was that we'd heard that no lesser player than Fleetwood Mac's John McVie is currently playing a four string version of one of these Classic Shifters and was spotted using it live on that bass anthem The Chain when the band was in the UK recently, actually displacing his habitual Fender!
Godin promises to meld traditional instrument design with modern luthiery techniques and doing some background research beforehand, I was interested to find out that even now, all instrument necks are finished by hand, including fretwork and sanding. Certainly the neck on this example felt really comfortable and had an almost ‘worn in’ feel to its profile. Hard to describe in words but much easier to put your finger on (sorry, terrible pun).
Of course the Jazz bass vibe is loud and clear with the Godin 5-string, although on the four string model you get a PJ pickup configuration instead. The Canadian Larentian basswood body and maple neck configuration means the bass imparts a familiar tone but it felt to me that the pickups in this review model were maybe a little hotter than average. Considering the other active basses we had in the studio at the time, I feel sure that the Godin held up well despite having no pre-amplifier on board. We’ll come back to tone in a moment.
Both the four and five string models have the option of rosewood or maple fretboards. I love maple on basses, personally, so that’d be my choice of the two. Indeed the maple fretboards look really tasty against both this the black burst satin gloss finish and a rather cool crème brûlée high gloss finish that is also available and just looks superb. From headstock to heel, we have a rock maple neck.
The Godin's hardware is sturdy; the bridge allowing for either ‘through-body’ stringing or front loading, whatever your preference. Our review sample here was loaded from the back of the body as you’ll see when I flip the bass over in the video.
Up at the headstock end are some classic ‘elephant ear’ tuning keys. Now, I’m actually a big fan of the longer stalks found on some basses, such as Japanese non-export Fenders, but I keep looking at the headstock of these Godin basses and wondering if those ears are a bit...well, you know...big? What do you think? Maybe a set of Hipshot Ultralite tuning keys would balance the look. That aside, they work perfectly so there’s no criticism there.
As I mentioned earlier, the Shifter uses passive circuitry (no batteries) and in the video I enthuse over the loud, organic tones it produces. It's a stripped-down simplicity that will appeal to many players, that’s for sure, with just single volume and tone controls and a four way switch that in addition to the obvious switching offers a ‘parallel wired’ configuration and the ability to switch to having both pickups in series for extra output and midrange push. Coupled to the passive tone control there’s the usual Jazz bass breadth of tones throughout the options but I have to say the Godin Shifter does impart a naturally big sound acoustically in the studio which it seems to transfer out to our amplification for a juicier more rounded output. If you're thinking of the obvious rival from Brand F, you really need to check this out as an alternative.
For my own personal taste, the action on our review sample could have been a little lower but that's easily remedied (and some players would prefer it as we had it in any case), and I enjoyed the neck, whose 16” radius fingerboard felt ‘just right’. The profile I’d say was C shaped, with a slightly bigger shoulder meaning that it felt larger than some necks I’ve played on 5 strings - but don't take that as any impediment to playing: it’s still a comfortable experience! Aside from that, I think there’s a really great bass here with enough interest to keep it high on your list and to make it stand out from the crowd. It’s a clean looking instrument without the need for busy electronics, extremely well made and at a cracking price.