REVIEW: Godin Velocity

Godin guitars remind me of comedian Rodney Dangerfield: they both don’t get no respect. In Rodney’s case this was part of his shtick. For the Canadian guitar maker, it’s one of the unexplained mysteries of the guitar world. Why are their instruments so highly prized among top name players like John McLaughlin (read my interview with him here), Richie Blackmore and Bill Frisell, yet they haven’t broken through to the forefront of brand consciousness? It’s a bit of a mystery to me: through teaching and as a repair tech I’ve found their guitars to be brilliantly constructed, cleverly designed and very easy to play. I can only conclude that they’re that one standout model or endorser away from staking out a solid corner of the hallowed turf occupied by the Big Guitar Makers.

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The Velocity model may look like a bit of a shred machine at first glance, but look a little closer and it has more in common with the boutique output of makers like John Suhr than the hepped up metal axes enjoying a resurgence today. The pickup scheme is the first clue: a pair of Godin GS-1 single coils in the neck and middle positions, and a Seymour Duncan SH-5 Duncan Custom humbucker in the bridge. The current shredder’s market tends to favour neck humbuckers and often omit a middle pickup altogether, but the H-S-S layout is still in great favour in more, let’s say, refined designs.

The next hint as to this model’s design heritage is its vintage-style tremolo bridge. While other Godin tremolo models feature either two point fulcrum bridges or Floyd Rose locking systems, the Velocity puts its faith in the classic operation and unique attack characteristics of this 50-something-year-old design. I guess the assumption is that the kind of player this guitar is aimed at has no need for wild whammy bar antics, but may indulge in the occasional David Gilmour or Hank Marvin moment. Certainly at this price point the Velocity doesn’t need to use a vintage bridge to cut corners, and it’s no surprise that tuning stability on this model is as good as can be expected as long as you don’t try to pick the guitar up by the bar to perfect your Steve Vai wiggle-stick tricks.

The Velocity’s body is made of a silver leaf maple center with poplar wings and a solid high-flame maple top. The neck is rock maple, with maple or rosewood fretboard. The 12” radius fretboard is comfortable for complex chords, yet won’t fret out on wild bends. Electronics consist of a 5-way switch, and master volume and tone controls. Tucked down by the tone knob is a small black switch. This is Godin’s High-Definition Revoicer (HDR). This circuit is powered by a 9v battery accessed through the back of the guitar, and when engaged it revoices the frequency range of each pickup, boosting the output and amounting to a conversion from passive to active pickups at the nudge of a button.

The single coils have plenty of bite and gutsier output than I expected, especially combined with the visionary HDR system. In fact, the middle pickup was more than adequate as a main pickup in situations where one might otherwise choose the humbucker. The Duncan Custom is fat and rich, and the HDR bumps it up to EMG-like levels of gain. Thanks to the HDR you can certainly get metal tones out of this guitar if you’re seeking them, but the Velocity is also very happy with mildy overdriven crunch tones and smooth distortion. The tone is warm yet bright – just enough treble bite to add an edge to your sound, but with a full body too. There’s good note separation for open chords, and some nice midrange overtones when you move up the neck to play single notes.

If you’re using a valve amp, you can even use the HDR almost like an amp channel switch to push your crunchy preamp into overdrive. Turn off the HDR and back down a little on the guitar’s volume pot and there’s yer clean sound. Cool!

The Velocity is a versatile entry to the ‘SuperStrat’ stakes, and is a little more ‘Strat’ than its ‘super’ looks might initially appear. If you haven’t experienced a Godin before, the Velocity is a great place to start.

BODY: Silver leaf maple, poplar, flame maple
NECK: Rock maple with rosewood or maple fretboard
ELECTRONICS: 1 volume, 1 tone, HDR switch, 5 way switch
PICKUPS: 2 X Godin GS-1 single coils, 1 X Seymour Duncan SH-5 humbucker