Godin Multiac ACS-SA Nylon USB Review

AG 223 July 2011 Cover

by Gino Robair

Canadian luthier Robert Godin has been crafting high-quality guitars for nearly four decades, and the company that bears his name (and also produces the Seagull, Richmond, Simon and Patrick, Art and Lutherie, and La Patrie brands) was one of the earliest to offer MIDI-compatible, highly playable acoustic-electric instruments. Godin’s Multiac series gives nylon- and steel-string players an instrument that can be used at high volume without feedback, thanks to the piezo-based bridge pickups and active preamp that lend the guitars a natural tone.

We recently had a chance to check out one of Godin’s latest innovative models: the Multiac ACS-SA-USB (SA stands for “Synth Access”), which includes a hexaphonic RMC pickup wired to a 13-pin output that can be used to trigger Roland and Axon guitar synthesizers. Godin has offered such connectivity for years, but this model goes a step further by sending the guitar signal directly to your computer via USB for instantaneous recording and processing.

Solid-Body Feel, Classical Attitude

The ACS-SA/USB is gorgeous, with a flamed maple top and high-gloss “lightburst flame” finish, giving it the attractive 3-D look you’d expect from a flamed maple top, although I didn’t expect it on a guitar in this price range. The single-cutaway body is made of silver leaf maple, which Godin believes has a sound, density, and weight similar to mahogany. Overall, the instrument feels solid, yet remarkably lightweight. The ACS-SA/USB is a chambered solid-body guitar, though the chambers aren’t as deep as you’d expect due to the thickness of the maple top. The body itself is two inches thick. The back and sides have an attractive glossy finish, with caramel-colored binding that helps frame the flame pattern on top.

Ergonomically, the Godin sits comfortably on your leg like a solid-body electric, but you may be surprised by the wide ebony fingerboard, which feels a lot like that on a classical guitar. The satin-finished, bolt-on mahogany neck has a 16-inch fingerboard radius, created with the company’s proprietary Ergocut shaping technique, which bevels the frets and fingerboard toward the center of the neck. The roomy fingerboard and string spacing is perfect for fingerstyle playing, making it very easy to get around the neck. The only issue I had was that the outer strings are easily pushed over the side of the neck while playing. Nonetheless, the overall playability of the instrument is superb, and the instrument stayed in tune remarkably well, even with aggressive Latin-style playing or lowered alternate tunings, including one with a low C. Because the body is chambered, the ACS-SA/USB has more acoustic volume than a solid-body instrument. The amount of sound it projects is perfectly acceptable for practicing at home when you don’t want to disturb the neighbors, and the acoustic tone is remarkably satisfying.

Pump Up the Volume

Multiacs are designed to be versatile and sound great amplified, and the ACS-SA/USB doesn’t disappoint. Like all ACS-SA instruments, it has an RMC Poly-Drive hexaphonic system with six individual saddles, each of which has a piezo-based pickup that gives you exceptionally accurate, low-latency note tracking without artifacts such as false triggering or doubled notes. The guitars are designed to work with products supporting 13-pin inputs, such as Roland’s GR synths and the Axon AX 100 MK II and AX 50 USB sound modules. Of course, you can also plug the instrument into an amp using a standard guitar cable and play it like any other acoustic-electric.

The guitar’s built-in preamp includes an active three-band EQ, which affects the USB and 1/4-inch outputs, and the onboard controls—five sliders, two buttons, and a switch—are conveniently located on the upper bout. The three EQ faders control high, mid, and low frequencies and are indented in the middle so you can begin with a flat setting. The two-position slider switch above the mid band sets the center frequency at either 700 or 1,200 Hz. The EQ sounds smooth and is useful for sculpting a guitar tone that sits in its own space in a mix with other instruments—handy for both studio and stage work. The buttons are used to change synth patches when you’re using the 13-pin output, while the outer sliders handle volume levels—guitar volume on the top fader, synth level on the bottom fader. With the onboard faders, you can blend the guitar and synth tones in real time from the instrument itself (no need for pedals or reaching down to the floor to make adjustments), because the 13-pin cable also carries the unprocessed guitar signal.

To test the 13-pin output, I connected the ACS-SA/USB to a Roland GR-30 guitar synth running into an AER Compact 60 acoustic amp. The synth response was tight and accurate on both single-line and chordal playing. There was very little difference between the unprocessed guitar sound from the 1/4-inch jack and the GR-30 when the synth volume was turned down. The tone from both outputs was warm, full, and remarkably loud, one of the best piezo-amplified nylon-string guitar sounds I’ve ever heard.

Direct to Disk

The USB output is also great onstage and in the studio, particularly if you’re interested in processing the guitar live through a computer. Note that only the guitar sound is transmitted over USB; it does not send MIDI data, and therefore cannot be used to play a guitar synth or for entering notes into a notation program (you’ll use the 13-pin connector for those applications). To use the USB connection, you’ll need a USB cable with a flat USB A connector on the end going to the computer and a square USB B connector for the guitar; Godin doesn’t supply one, but it’s a common item that is frequently used for printers, etc. The USB port is below the other output jacks and cleverly placed so you can have USB and 1/4-inch cables attached and still put the guitar on a stand. (You must plug a 1/4-inch cable or dummy jack into the instrument for the USB output to work.)

Direct connectivity opens up a new tonal world because you can use your DAW’s audio processing plug-ins as effects. The first thing I did was call up IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube 3 and dial in some reverb and rotary speaker effects. The only tweaking I had to do was to set the input and output buffers low enough on my recording app that I didn’t hear a significant delay when I played. The USB output had the same solid tone I got from the 13-pin output.

Plug, Play, Repeat

No matter how you use it, the ACS-SA/USB responds nicely to dynamic playing and works well with fingerstyle, Latin, jazz, and pop music. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about the technology inside the guitar. The ACS-SA/USB is about as easy to use as it gets, giving songwriters a convenient and affordable way to plug into their computers and get their ideas down quickly, but with a pro-level sound and feel.

SPECS: Acoustic-electric nylon-string. Chambered silver leaf maple body with flamed maple top. Mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard. 25.5-inch scale. 17/8-inch nut width. 25/16-inch string spacing at saddle. High-gloss finish. Slot-head tuning machines. RMC Poly-Drive pickup and active electronics. 1/4-inch, 13-pin, and USB outputs. Godin D’Addario nylon strings. Made in Canada.

PRICE: $1,395 list/$1,195 street.

MAKER: Godin Guitars: (514) 457-7977; godinguitars.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar July 2011

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