What is it?
Godin has long been associated with innovative hybrid acoustic guitars and an electric guitar lineup that augments the traditional paradigm with multiple voicings, features such as the High-Definition Revoicer (HDR) circuit give the Canadian brand a future-forward boutique sensibility.
It was an early Champion of Richlite for fingerboards, not simply because it was a more ecologically sound alternative to rosewood or ebony, but because it was – in Robert Godin's opinion – more stable, reducing the need for neck adjustments.
When he spoke with MusicRadar in 2019, he said described a guitar building philosophy that required a close watch on trends in gear, and on what players demanded from their instruments.
”For sure, we have to adapt to the younger generation," he said. "They don’t learn in the same way as we did, that’s one reason why I’m in the field all the time, watching what they like and don’t like. Now, guitar playing is a hybrid between acoustic and electric. If you make just the same thing as people did 50 or 60 years ago… wow, things have changed!”
If the Multiac hybrid acoustic remains arguable Godin's most famous build, it should be noted that Godin makes at least as many electrics as it does acoustics, and takes a similarly forward-thinking approach.
But sometimes it pays to revisit history and reimagine it anew. That's what Godin's Radiator series is all about. First introduced in 1999, it was an entry-level series that eschewed the switching options of its stablemates for a more retro-styled instrument.
The shape was a single-cut SD profile, relatively conventional, with a 24-fret bolt-on maple neck and a body that was heavily chambered. It had a pearloid pickguard that all but covered the whole top of the instrument, a pair of single coils, dual volume and tone controls.
The Radiator we see before us has some similarities – it too is chambered and a singlecut, though the 2020 model conforms to the Summit Classic body shape.
Godin offers the 2020 Radiator in three finishes. Ours comes in Trans Cream and has a tortoiseshell pickguard covering much of its face, but you can have Matte Black with matching 'guard or a Bourbon Burst number with a high-contrast pearloid pickguard.
The pickguard aesthetic is reprised on the headstock face, and you have to wonder what kind of guitarists Robert Godin goes to see play that they need all that protection on the guitar.
The Radiator is equipped with a pair of Godin humbuckers, with the GHB1 in the bridge position, the GHN1 at the neck, and there is a 3-way toggle pickup selector, and individual pickup volume and tone controls. Pickups are made in South Korea, have nickel-coverings, and are mounted on the scratchplate.
Gone is the bolt-on neck. This 2020 Radiator has a set neck carved from silver leaf maple, matching the silver leaf maple of the chambered body. There are 22 medium frets, a 24.75" scale, and for hardware we've got some nickel-chrome tuners and a tidy looking wraparound bridge.
Performance and verdict
For 800-odd bucks, this is quite a guitar. There's always a sense of luxury with Godin, no matter the price point. Much of that is down to the quality of the production, but here the components are not too shabby either. Here we have some tuners with a reassuringly smooth action and a high ratio, with 18:1 on the bass side and 26:1 on the treble side. You will hardly need to touch them, though. The Radiator holds its tuning well.
The bridge is a minimalist wrap-around style, with a pair of steel bolts for adjusting intonation and preset ridges for saddles. It's clearly modelled on the old-school Gibson wraparound idea, and while it might be a difficult proposition for the intonation fanatics it is certainly suited to banging out rock 'n' roll, open chords with a heavy attack.
That hardware's nickel/chrome look is reprised on the knurled volume and tone controls, and a is a nice contrast with the tortoiseshell 'guard. Again, like the pickups, these are mounted on the pickguard.
The brown-stained silver leaf maple neck makes a nice contrast to the Trans Cream body and is carved into what we'd say is a generic C profile, measuring 21.5mm at the 1st fret and tapering out to 24mm at the 12th. There's a little cognitive dissonance in that it feels like the sort of profile you might find on a contemporary Fender but is glued to the body nonetheless.
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On the bridge pickup, you'll find quite a bit of heat, a bit of growl that works very well with an overdriven tube amp. There's a rumble and a bark there that gives the Radiator a hot-rodded voice that's ideal for classic rock styles, and maybe even something more aggressive should the occasion call for it.
And it's not like the neck is a shrinking violet either. It cleans up nicely but excels for Clapton-esque overdriven sounds. Combined, you can get quite a few nice shades in between, but we can't help thinking that a coil-split would really augment the Radiator's tones nicely, just to have a brighter-sounding option in there would be the bee's knees.
As it stands, the Radiator is extremely impressive. Many like the idea of a lighter weight guitar but worry that feels too unserious. That's not the case here. Besides, even with all that extensive chambering, the Radiator weighs in at 7.7lb.
Where the original Radiator felt like an indie-rock curio, built for jangle, the extra muscle in the humbucker voicing – not to mention the set neck build – makes 2020's version a very different beast, albeit one in similar dress.
Out of the box, or rather the deluxe gigbag, the playability is a joy. It's hard to put down. For the money, the level of craft on show here is exceptional, but we'd also note that this is the sort of guitar that would wear upgrades to pickups and hardware well.
MusicRadar verdict: Godin turns up the heat for the 2020 return of the Radiator series, with its dual-humbucker format offering a performance that is tailor-made for rock players – all the better if they are after a guitar with a retro-boutique vibe.
- ORIGIN: Canada
- TYPE: Single-cutaway, solidbody electric
- BODY: Silver leaf maple, chambered
- NECK: Silver leaf maple, glued-in
- SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Graph Tech Tusq/42.79mm
- FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, pearloid dot inlays, 305mm (12”) radius
- FRETS: 22, medium
- HARDWARE: Wraparound bridge, ‘High-Ratio’ tuners (18:1 bass side, 26:1 treble) – nickel/chrome-plated
- STRING SPACING/BRIDGE: 52mm
- ELECTRICS: Nickel-covered Custom Godin humbuckers (GHB1 bridge & GHN1 neck), 3-way toggle pickup selector, individual pickup volume and tone controls
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.5/7.7
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Trans Cream (as reviewed), Matte Black, Bourbon Burst
- CONTACT: Godin Guitars