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The Godin Core P90 – A New Sound is Waiting for You

December 21st, 2012

In the interest of full disclosure, I do sell Godin guitars. Actually I sell quite a few Godin guitars, although most of them are the Multiac Electro-Acoustics and the Kingpin Archtop Series. These are guitars that are fairly unique in the marketplace, and for that reason do quite well. In the case of the Multiac series, there is probably nothing better for trouble-free acoustic sound in a live performance setting, especially with a loud band clattering away.

I also carry Godin solid body guitars too, but these often move much slower as buyers more often than not buy a Fender, Gibson, Epiphone, or if a younger guitarist an ESP or Ibanez. This is too bad, as Godin makes as nice a solid body guitar as anybody, and they are made in the USA and Canada to boot. But the lure of the brand is a very powerful thing, and to some degree why buy a Stratocaster-shaped Godin when one can buy a Stratocaster from Fender, and depending on your price point pay anywhere from $199 to $4000?

But instead of having the Fender-versus-the-world discussion, how about trying a guitar that really can really do something different for your tone and your playing? What I’m talking about here is the Godin Core P90. Yes, it is shaped very much like a Les Paul, and yes it has two P-90 pickups, but the world is not choking on P-90 Les Paul’s like it is Stratocasters. So while the Core is derivative, it’s derivative of something that is not all that common in the marketplace. That’s sounds like a questionable marketing plan, but bear with me.

The Core P90 uses a chambered mahogany body with a flat maple top. The chambered body keeps the guitar around 8 pounds, and the maple top gives the guitar a nice high end response. Although it’s not a carved top, it still looks pretty, and besides this is a guitar that you can score for around $850. It’s got a mahogany set neck with rosewood fingerboard, Gibson length scale, a GraphTech wrap tailpiece with adjustable saddles, three-way switch and individual volume and tone controls for each pickup. All good stuff, none of it screams high end, but it’s all far from budget or cheesy.

For pickups the Core uses a Seymour Duncan SP90-1 in the neck and a hotter SP90-3 in the bridge. I’ve heard more than one person remark that they don’t like P-90 pickups, and there are several reasons for this, and some quite justifiably so. A P-90 pickup can sound muffled and dark in an all mahogany guitar. The great exception to this is when they are used with a dog ear mounting like the Les Paul Junior. Getting the pickup up and out of the body really seems to help. Another reason for P-90 disdain is that there are a lot of lousy ones out there. There is temptation to wind them too hot, creating dark nasal pickups that are one-dimensional and have no harmonic qualities at all. Stick these in an all-mahogany guitar and all you’ll want to be is Pete Townsend at the end of the show so you can smash the damn thing to pieces.

So after some initial trepidation upon reading the specs on the Duncan’s, I was more than happy with how they sounded. No doubt helped by the maple top and chambered body, the neck pickup was clear and clean with good note definition, and a midrange that was fat enough to punch but still had a little bit of scoop to it when played up the neck. Single notes had enough girth to stand out, but the overall tone was not so thick as to discourage heavy strumming. Great for the blues, me thinks.

The SP90-3 bridge pickup is considerably hotter in output than the neck, but again I was pleasantly surprised with its overall clarity and lack of harshness. A P-90 in the bridge is the quintessential recipe for classic rock tones. The fat midrange works great with pedals or low powered amps, and the high end is ample enough to produce a lot of sparkle without getting icy or brittle like — you guessed it — a Stratocaster. Whether dialed in to a level of mild crunch like AD/DC or with heavy distortion, a good P-90 is an indispensable rock weapon.

But wait, there’s more. Unlike most of their guitars, Godin very wisely equipped the Core with individual volume and tone controls. This is not a guitar you should just play with everything on ten: With both pickups engaged, small adjustments of volume, tone, or both create varying shades of bright, dark, warm and cool that can expand your playing in ways that you’ve never considered. Neck a little too dark? Blend in some bridge. Bridge not thick enough? Add a little neck. Roll down the tone a little on one of the pickups and you get an almost out-of-phase growl. If you thought a 5-way switch was versatile, you’re in for a real treat.

And if you are a fan of Fender amps, your day just got even better. P-90’s love Tweeds or Deluxe style amps, where the leaner tone of the Fender circuits complement the chunky nature of the P-90. The Core P90 sounds magical through our Bassman Ltd, and positively rips when plugged into the gain side of the 6V6 powered Andrews Para-Dyne 20.

So while most of the world is buying another Stratocaster thinking it’s going to be radically more awesome than their other Stratocasters, here is a guitar that will give you some seriously good tones — different tones — for not a lot of money. The set neck and shorter string length will also provide a different feel and response than a bolt-on 25.5″ string length guitar. There is of course nothing wrong with a Strat: It’s the world’s most popular guitar design. But different guitars make you play differently, unlock different tones and musical thoughts, and expand your range of creativity.

With their Core P90, Godin is building a great guitar that not many people are paying attention to. This chambered maple top P-90 guitar is lean enough that Strat players won’t freak, thick enough that Les Paul players will still dig it, and flexible way beyond its 3-way pickup switch. Does it need anything? Maybe a good wiring kit with better caps and a treble bleed on the volume controls. The tuning machines are nothing fancy, but there are no issues with them either. There are plenty of cork-sniffer P-90’s out there, but for my money I like the sound of this guitar more than their Lollar P-90 equipped Icon 3. Of course that has a mahogany top and an ebony fingerboard, which slides it more to the dark side. No, it really does not need to be “improved” right out of the box. As I sometimes say to my customers, “Be secure enough to spend less.” This is one of those times.