Godin takes a fresh look at a classic design. By Steve Henderson
Godin Guitars – one of the biggest guitar builders in the world – encompasses a number of brands. Across this ‘family’ of marques (which includes Godin and R.Godin, Seagull, Art & Lutherie, Simon & Patrick, La Patrie, and Norman), the company delivers a staggering range of guitars that address various requirements at various price points. They’re an innovative company, and that innovation is sometimes a matter of coming up with a “better mousetrap” rather than a whole new idea. Such is the case with the Session Custom LTD.
SAME, BUT DIFFERENT
The Session Custom LTD has a familiar look, to say the least, but it’s hard to ignore the really successful Strat/Tele/Les Paul/SG/335 designs when they “got it right” the first time around. These are still popular and still perfectly suited to the modern player. So, at the risk of stating the obvious, the Session Custom LTD is a Tele‑style solidbody guitar that features a few twists to the classic design. The bound body is made of Spanish cedar with a figured mahogany top. It looks great and, unplugged, produces a definite grrrang. But be advised: Spanish cedar is neither Spanish nor actual cedar – it’s a type of mahogany from Central America. It’s not as dense as Honduran mahogany, but it still has much of that rich midrange emphasis and smooth sustain that we expect from this timber. It’s capped with a figured mahogany top, so the Godin guys are clearly going after some thicker Tele tones.
The Session Custom LTD features a whammy, a two-point fulcrum vibrato unit that is super smooth to use and returns to tune every time. Combined with a very stable rock maple neck and high‑quality machine heads, the Session feels confident – there have been no tuning problems at all on the test instrument. The neck shape is the same comfortable C shape that we first saw on their Progression Series a few years back. It has 22 frets, a 25.5-inch scale length, a 12-inch radius and feels extra friendly right from the start. It’s attached to the body with a four-bolt system, contoured for an easy upper-fretboard reach.
DIVERSITY OF SOUND
Using a Mesa TransAtlantic into an open‑back 112 (C-90s), a Mesa Boogie Mk IV into a closed‑back 212 (G12-65s) and a Marshall JCM800 212 combo, the Session presented a rich rhythm tone with plenty of sustain and harmonic bloom after the initial attack. The back pickup is a Godin Custom Cajun pickup, which is earthy, woody and organic with a bright, but not shrill edge, plenty of gain and upper-mid grunt to effortlessly cut through a mix.
Through the amps’ drive channels and a couple of stompboxes (an old DS-1 and a Mesa FluxFive), the Cajun offers a harmonic grind that cuts though nicely with plenty of tight definition. This is a great rhythm tone, and an even better lead tone. The front pickup will be a real surprise to most: it’s a Seymour Duncan P-Rail, a killer transducer that covers a lot of styles. It’s a single coil blade pickup attached to a P-90, which can be combined for a full humbucker effect. The single coil is skinny – a little like a Tele rhythm pickup – so it’s a pretty authentic ‘neck’ sound.
The P-90 is an absolute killer rock tone – honkier than a Fender single coil because of its width, and brighter than a Gibson twin coil. If you’ve heard the fabulous guitar tones on The Who’s Live At Leeds, then you’ve heard Pete Townsend’s P-90-equiped SGs. The Duncan’s two single coils combine for a seriously rich humbucker tone. It’s a brilliant design that truly offers the best of all three pickup types. The pickup selector is a five‑way unit that offers (front-to-back) humbucker, P-90, single coil blade, neck blade and bridge.
All three sounds from the front pickup displayed their unique character, from a thwacky Strat-like snap to an “All Right Now” honk. Through the two pedals, there seemed no end of options. Roll off the tone knob and you’ll find Santana’s “Europa” tone (with the humbucker) and his Woodstock “Soul Sacrifice” tone (with the P-90). Bring up the tone circuit again and you’ll find Gary Moore’s front pickup sound (yes, even with a maple neck), with oodles of sustain and smooth midrange.
All this, and we haven’t yet engaged the High Definition Revoicer. Godin’s HDR is a kind of bass and treble accentuator that doubles the number of available sounds, without complicating the electronics. In the Session Custom LTD, which has such a variety of tones, the HDR is a nice little bonus that can be used as a lead boost, increasing the output just enough to kick through the mix a little more.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Session Custom LTD is a beautifully presented take on a classic guitar. The test instrument arrived in a substantial gig bag, required no setup to dive straight in and feels great in the hands from the first minute. Its vibrant body and neck have a built-to-last confidence, and all of the moving components (whammy, tuners, pots) are top quality.
In the sub-$4k price range, the Session Custom LTD is a real standout and represents exceptional value for money – especially when you consider all of its additional features. Its stylish presentation (how about that pearloid scratchplate?) and comfy feel are a reminder that North America can still deliver great guitars. Best of all, it plays and sounds like a pro guitar should, and that’s what it’s all about. Well, that and looking cool.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Mahogany body and maple neck
• P-Rail and single coil pickups
• Long scale (25.5-inch), 12-inch radius
• HDR system
• Professional gig bag
• Great quality and variety of sounds
• Super comfortable
• Excellent craftsmanship
• Not available in Paisely
Ph: (02) 9939 1299