The Guitars Behind The Music
creative's collection of six string favorites
Since we play these guitars for as many hours as we do, we thought a personal review on each may shed some additional light on their appeal for anyone in the market seeking out a new axe.
Many other guitars and brands were bought, sold, swapped and traded because they didn’t have a certain magic. These do. They've been hand selected and played for hundreds of hours. These are Creative's personal keepers.
For strings, we use flat wounds with .11 or .12 gauge on the top. The guitar produces incredible tone. We play it through a Fender Blues Junior and it takes any pedal with grace and ease.
The Kingpin II is beautiful in a minimalist sort of way. The non-laminate finish no doubt adds to the tone since the top board resonates like a vintage piece.
The tail piece isn't fancy, no decorative abalone on the neck ... and when you first pick it up it can give the impression that it is slow and too acoustic like in the feel of the fretboard. Our hunch is that round wounds will make it ring out more like an acoustic. We prefer it as a jazz box. The tuners are pro level - really great, precise ... they hold tune forever.
If you play one, plug it into a tube amp if you can. The warmth and clarity is fat and rich.
Can't imagine ever being without a Kingpin II.
Godin Kingpin II
The 5th Ave Series Kingpin II quite frankly took me by surprise. It's moderately priced at $995, yet performs exquisitely nonetheless . I would gig with this guitar any day of the week. The model is the Cognac Burst Single Cutaway with a pair of P90 pickups., which are just right on this archtop.
The guitar is light. The sound is warm and full.
D'Angelico Excel SS
What's not to like? I'll start there. The hardware is sweet and second to none. Huge iconic art deco stair step tailpiece adorns the bottom, magnificent head piece on top attached by an abalone trimmed fingerboard that is beautiful and smooth as butter to play on.
The guitar is thin, making it light. At a $2k price point brand new, it clearly competes for buyers entering pro class.
It brandishes a pair of Seymour Duncan Humbuckers which can make it warm or it can make it growl. This is a pro level instrument, the craftsmanship is first rate. The factory action feels just right.
It's a fast and smooth instrument.
It's in a league of its own.
Ovation Custom Legend
The Oh-vee. That's what we called them. When Ovations became popular, it seemed that anyone who could afford one - had one.
The Custom Legend was top of the line when this piece was made 36 years ago. Everything is original except the electronics. We're located one town over from the original Ovation Mfg plant, and a generous operations manager provided updated electronics on the house. He said it was part of the warranty since I was the original owner. More than 3 decades after the fact. Lucky. And Thank You!
In my humble opinion, the Ovations are not going to give you the woody twang of a Taylor or a Martin - the fiberglass bowl back produces a different, more versatile sound. Acoustic jazz, smooth jazz, blues ... all ring off this guitar with clarity, warmth and power. It's a well built, strong instrument that can do a lot.
If you considerate it more as a jazz blues, smooth jazz, fusion style acoustic electric, that's where it will meet your expectations. That's where it shines.
This particular piece, now with updated electronics, can provide a wide range of sound that is beyond the breadth of many other acoustics I've tried in its price range.
When you hear the fat, rich steel string acoustic arpeggios playing in the background of a track, It's the Classic Sunburst Custom Legend.
Godin Multiac Grand Concert
Godin 5th Ave Night Club
A guitar like none other I’ve played. Ever. It’s the Kingpin II on steroids. At first it was hard for me to truly define the variety of things that set it apart, yet after a few days with it, the standout features start to become clear.
I realized first that you don’t buy this guitar to replace some other guitar you have. This is not a guitar that is going to be like most others in your arsenal. You buy this guitar for a totally different playing experience – and to step up your game. Let me break it down and explain why.
The first thing that instantly struck me was the playability of the fretboard. It feels wider than it looks and the spacing of the strings along with the factory action allows you to play each note or chord with incredible articulation. The precision is second to none, and there’s ample room to grab the more complex chords more easily. It’s not the kind of guitar you want to be sloppy on, it’s pro level all the way. The extra stretch of the fingers is welcome in this case as it’s not overdone.
We went with D’Addario Chrome Excel flat wounds (.12 on top) … which feel like smooth cables that sound full of warmth, tone and bite. Up against a TV Jones single humbucker, this guitar is nothing short of a tonally superb instrument.
Most reviews will get into the aesthetics of the piece, we’ll let the picture do the talking. Suffice it to say the craftsmanship is world class. Godin is not known for cheaping out the build. They build guitars for serious guitarists.
Two side notes. The Bigsby is fun and adds so much even with just a subtle touch. The arm swings comfortably out of the way so it never becomes intrusive. The TV Jones pickup is amazing. It took a while to dial in the settings on the pedal set. The guitar is very warm. A slight brightening of the mid and high-end tones make it sing.
The guitar is very light and feels delicate. If you lean towards jazz and slowing down a bit to learn new phrases, this instrument should suit you perfectly. It’s beautiful in every respect and a keeper no doubt.
The Nylon String ... A Godin has been leading the way since the beginning.
The Grand Concert has some weight to it. There's a lot of wood in the body.
The first thing that got me on this guitar was the neck. The width and the feel of the neck make this guitar an absolute delight to play. It's synth ready with a 13 pin midi plug ... we don't use it since we're not synth fx heavy.
The guitar has EQ controls that allow you to narrow in to the precise nylon sound you are after. Like every Godin I've ever played, the electronics cannot be beat. What you hear is the nylon resonating off off the top board and captured then signaled to the output via piezo's in the bridge.
The guitar is smooth and fast. Godin seems to get it right every time. Just take it out of the box and go. We push it through a tube amp and a pedal set. When you hear nylon string guitar on any Creative Music Backing Track - it's this sweet & lovely instrument - just waiting for the next round.
Nylon string is a core element of what we do. This guitar was selected because it surpassed all expectations. Of all the classical guitars we have tried and owned, the Godin Grand Concert wins the prize. You can do anything with it.
The Taylor - so incredibly unique - the signature Taylor sound rings out loud with the 214 Concert Edition.
We originally went after the Taylor to get the bright acoustic twang we couldn't tease out of the Ovation. We wound up using it for most of the acoustic tracks, including the blues tracks.
The original intention behind the purchase was to create open tuning acoustic chord melodies. This is where the Taylor 214 CE stood out for me.
The balance across the tonal spectrum on this guitar is among the best I've played when it comes to acoustic steel string.
Strapping the strap to the back pin is a pain. The pin is oversized and part of the rear battery housing. It has a flimsiness to it, and you need the Taylor strap for the custom sized rear strap hole. Once on, you're good. Working it is a bit more of a nuisance than you would expect from a higher end acoustic.
If you're after a concert level acoustic sound, this guitar will not disappoint. It too runs off of piezo's in the bridge wired to EQ knobs found on the volume panel. It's a fine instrument. I hope they change the rear pin design.
Speaking of straps - we prefer Walker & Williams. Maybe we have a thing for genuine leather, craftsmanship and well engineered artistic design.
And they are not as crazy expensive as one might imagine. Click the header above this text and it will take you to their site.
The materials are genuine and heavy duty, the fit on the pegs feel tight and secure, the double layer padding and wider widths make performance level playing a joy.
These are simply hands down awesome straps with a wide inventory of diverse carvings.