by Casey Cantor
I was very excited when we started carrying the Godin Empire line. Initially, we ordered just one from the Canadian maker-the Black Empire-and we sold it the first day we had it on display. T he second one we got in stock, the Cream Empire, had a very similar story – again it sold within a short time frame. I never had the time I wanted to fully get to know this new model. Now we carry three models of the Godin Empire, the Black, the Cream, and the Mahogany. Both the Black and Cream have a low noise single coil neck pickup and Custom Godin Humbucker on the bridge. The Mahogany, however, is my personal favorite. It has two Godin Kingpin P90 single coil pickups in the neck and bridge positions. I’m reviewing these two awesome guitars because I think they are my favorite electric guitars in the shop right now that combine affordability with superb playability and tone. In other words, they present a tremendous value.
While the electronics of the three models vary (single coil/humbucker vs 2 P90’s), the appearance and playability of the series is rather similar on each of the models. The Empire does not fight the player. Bends are very forgiving and easy to execute with the 24-3/4″ scale length. The fretboard is just narrow enough, and the mahogany neck feels great against up and down. Unlike the Black and Cream Empire, the Mahogany Empire has an all mahogany body (vs maple), which gives it a subtle, yet defined added warmness.
The body has a beautiful shape; almost SG-esque. The controls are simple. Just a tone and volume knob, as well as a pickup switch. Its simplicity does not rob the guitar of versatility, which can often be the case.
The guitars are rather similar in their playing style and appearance. However, once you amplify them the difference between the Black/Cream Empire vs. the Mahogany Empire is huge. At first I had been playing all three unplugged just to get a feel for the playability, not really thinking about the sound of the electronics yet. Other than the aesthetic appearance of the Empires, I felt they were all in the same ballpark of quality. Once I had a good idea of what the instruments felt like I plugged them into a Vox AC15 and the illusion of similarity melted away.
Don’t get me wrong, the Black and Cream Empires are awesome. They are super fun to play, and the pickups are solid. The single coil neck pickup lets the low end cut through very nicely while maintaining a warm sound, and it also rounds out the highs so they aren’t screaming in your face. The bridge pickup has the classic humbucker sound, giving your guitar a fat, wide tone that rocks with complete sufficiency.
I enjoyed the Black and Cream Empires a whole bunch, but in all honesty it is the Mahogany Empire that is the king of the group. The mahogany body and two P90 pickups make a world of a difference in sound. The Mahogany model is approximately $95 more expensive than the Black and Cream, but in my opinion the difference in sound quality is worth twice that. The sound is so full, the sustain is so long that just strumming a simple E chord lets you know your playing a professional level instrument. Even on my stratocaster at home there are small issues with keeping sustain on high bent notes, almost like my guitar gives up on me. Not only did Mahogany Empire not give up on the note, but it also felt like it was pushing the note forward, singing with crystal clarity for an impressively long while.
The Godin Empire is a guitar that is hard to put down. It’s just so damn easy to play! It captures the essence of a what a rock guitar should look and sound like. It can be angry and dark, but it also has a distinct clarity with every note played that makes it an overall smooth sound. Don’t hesitate to come try these out before it’s too late!