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Acoustic-electric mandolin offers great tone at any volume.

by Teja Gerken
August 18, 2015

An innovator in acoustic-electric guitar design, Canada’s Godin Guitars has expanded its thin-body line over the last several years to include a wide variety of non-guitar instruments, including ukuleles, ouds, cavaquinhos, basses, and this A8 mandolin we had a chance to check out.

The A8 shares its fundamental construction concept with other Godin A-series instruments. Its hollow body is routed from a solid block of mahogany and capped with a fully braced, solid spruce top. The neck is also made of mahogany, and is bolted to the body with four bolts, like a Fender-style electric guitar. The fingerboard is ebony, with pearl-dot position markers, and the A8 has a traditional metal tailpiece, traditional adjustable bridge design, and open-geared tuning machines.

Godin has long used RMC pickups for many of its models, and the company also chose this high-end option for the A8. Consisting of a separate brass saddle with built-in piezo sensors for each pair of strings, the RMC offers high output and excellent string separation. A custom onboard preamp with controls for volume, treble, mids, and bass is built into the bass side of the top’s upper bout. Output is via a standard ¼-inch jack.

The A8 is easy to play, with a feel not unlike that of a standard acoustic mandolin. It also has enough acoustic volume and tone to be satisfying to play without plugging in, but played through an amp (we tried a variety of AER and Fishman amps), the A8 showed its real strength, offering a great sound with a reasonably acoustic quality and no sign of feedback at virtually any volume level. This instrument could be a game-changer for players who struggle with the task of making their mandolin heard in a loud band setting.

Peghead Nation co-founder Dan Gabel took the A8 for a spin, and in this video, he demos the instrument played through a Fishman Loudbox Mini.

SPECS: Cutaway body. Solid spruce top. Chambered mahogany body. Bolt-on mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and adjustable bridge. 13⅞-inch scale. 1⅛-inch nut width. Gold open-gear tuning machines. RMC electronics. Made in Canada. $895 list. godinguitars.com


Tags: Mandolin, Godin
Category: Instruments & Gear

Comments and Discussion

Posted by Tom Hardey on
Any advice on proper set-up for the Godin A8? I've owned one for 2 years and have never found the right action to enjoy playing it. Some frets produce a frustrating flat sound. I typically used D'Addario medium strings and have set the adjustable bridge fairly high to try to remedy the problem. But, still haven't found the 'magic' in this instrument. I would love it to be my go-to mandolin for stage performances.
Posted by Kevin Parker on
Been using one for about 12 years now. Plugged in it is probably the best Mandolin sound you will ever get. Good controls from mellow to cutting bright. It is made to be plugged in for live concert work and should not be compared to a straight high end acoustic Mandolin; this is a high end electric Mandolin. Cheers.
Posted by Terence O'Shea on
I was wondering whether or not to get this and I see that rossa ó snodaigh commented! If it's actually the real Rossa, that's made up my mind for me!
Posted by TejaGerken on
Thanks for your comment, Rossa. I think the slight distortion you hear in the video is a result of some clipping in our recording, not with the instrument's pickup. The preamp in the A8 is designed to deliver clean sound at any volume, as long as the rest of the signal chain is also capable of reproducing that type of sound. I don't have access to the instrument anymore, but I wouldn't be concerned about it not being able to provide a clean sound, even with a strong attack.
Posted by rossa ó snodaigh on
Sounds very nice.
But at 4.34 the mandolin sound distorts despite all the faders being at the midpoint.
i saw another clip on youtube and the distrotion was also a feature. Is there any remedy for this?
Posted by Dan Gabel on
Good point, Pete. I should have included a bit of tremolo in the demo, particularly because the A8 does hold up well with the technique, generating little of that rumble that you might hear with other systems. That's one of the benefits for the RMC pickup and its separate transducers, which provide excellent string separation when playing tremolo, chords, or single lines. Thanks for the comment.
Posted by Pete Counter on
Where this review fails is that he did not play any tremolo which is a heavily used technic in all styles of mandolin playing, and also where most amplification systems for mandolin fail because most systems cause heavy rumbling during tremolo.
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