Two Months With My Godin A4 Ultra Natural Semi-Acoustic Bass – How Much Do I Love It?

Two Months With My Godin A4 Ultra Natural Semi-Acoustic Bass – How Much Do I Love It?

I absolutely LOVE this bass. It’s not perfect, and I’ll get into that, but it’s one of those instruments that I will never part with. How’s that for a statement of love?

OK, the first the most obvious negative: the guitar has terrific electronics with L.R. Baggs Piezo and a very sleek, low profile Lace pickup – that doesn’t sound like a negative yet – it also has some neat EQ controls on the upper bout of the soundboard, but there a bit difficult to figure out exactly how to use them. So you have to refer to the owner’s manual. This wouldn’t be a real problem if there was an owner’s manual, but there doesn’t seem to be one.

If you go to Godin’s web site (www.godinguitars.com) you’ll see a very impressive web site featuring the different instrument and amp brands in the Godin family, and you can download owner’s manuals. The manuals that exist that is. As I reviewed the list of downloadable manuals, the A4 / A5 weren’t there. Being a fan of Godin and Seagull Guitars, I noticed a number of models didn’t have owner’s manuals. They make great guitars, you’d think they could produce a mediocre manual.

Is that all for the negatives? Well, no. I’m not sure if this is a negative or just a fact to be aware of with this bass. It’s quite heavy. As heavy as a a maple solid body and that’s not what you’d expect with an acoustic or semi-acoustic bass.  The back and sides are chambered, silver leaf maple and so if you expect a light ride for your shoulder, this isn’t the guitar for you. If the normal weight of a bass isn’t an issue, this won’t be a problem for you.

One more cautionary note: strap locks are a much for this bass. I’m not sure if it’s the strap buttons, or the distribution of the weight, but this bass just shed straps and strap locks will cure that. I use a simple cam strap lock available at Stewart MacDonald (www.stewmac.com) whichis a great resource for all sorts of part, tools and supplies. These cam locks are inexpensive, pop on neatly and off neatly and require absolutely no installation or modification of the guitar. Dunlop has a great strap lock system too available everywhere.

Now for the many positive things about this beautiful  instrument.  Well, it’s beautiful. The top wood is either solid cedar or solid spruce (depending on the model, mine is solid spruce), the neck is maple, the fingerboard is ebony on the fretless (which is what I have) and rosewood on the fretted model. The look is understated, classic and very distinctive.

The playability is nothing shy of magnificent. On the fretless model, the flatwound stings give this bass guitar a sound that is so similar to the upright bass. The instrument is very well balanced.  The neck is a slim 1.5” at the neck and the fingerboard radius of 16” is a bit flatter than I’m used to, but very easy to work with. Your hands will love this bass.

The sound is amazing. Mine has an L.R. Baggs transducer and as I’m a fan of Godin, I’m also a big fan of L.R.  Baggs – who by the way has great customer service if you need help with any L.R. Baggs product, you get to actually speak to a knowledgeable human. It picks up the acoustics flawlessly.  My A4 also has the Lace low profile pickup which adds great depth and punch when needed.

With the flatwound strings, no frets and a great, slim neck, I move up and down with ease, get a great “thumpy” string bass sound and slide to get a sound like a trombone – fun and cool. I usually play this bass through my Yamaha  EMX512SC mixer with nothing but excellent results. Whe I use an amp, I think I get the best results with a Genz Benz Shenendoah  Jr. even though it’s an acoustic amp, it’s very versatile and the A4 plays great through that. There are separate ¼” inputs for a mixer and an amp on the A4 and that specialization seems to make a big difference. There also a 13 pin port so you can play through a synthesizer. I haven’t tried that yet and based on my history with high tech, I’ll hand it over to one of my technologically inclined friends for that. But it’s there and it can give you an incredible range of tonal possibilities.

Among the issues of sound, is a sound that this bass never makes: feedback. This is amazing to me. Having played acoustic basses, the big hollow bodies are a breeding ground for feedback. I’ve never had any feedback, not when playing right next to my amp, pointing the guitar toward a speaker or on a loud stage. Feedback is simply not a problem with the Godin A4.

The base model Godn A4 starts at around $1,170 anwhere with the 5 string version being about $50 more. It does up the Ultra, which sells everywhere for $1,245. If you’re in the market to buy one, I suggest you contact Musicians Buy (www.musiciansbuy.com) , call Bob and get a quote from him. I’ve dealt with Bob, he’s knows what he’s talking about, he’s honest in his dealings and he’ll get you a great price. They aren’t affiliates on this site, I get no fee from them, but it’s the truth. Musicians Buy doesn’t have every brand, in fact they’re a bit limited for an online retailer, but they have great brands at great prices and they’ll get it if they don’t have it in stock.

The last time I checked Musicians Buy did have a fretted A4 (basic model) on a closeout for an incredible $688. I haven’t seen any price close to that on a new A4.

If you’re looking for an acoustic bass, don’t overlook this unique instrument. And after you try it, let me know what you think about it.

This blog is Prof Dave’s Guitar and Bass Buying Advice. If you have a guitar or bass and you’d like to post an opinion, please write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com – if you disagree with my opinion or have an opinion or review on an instrument I haven’t reviewed, as long as it isn’t too foul (language that is) I’ll post it. I’d love to hear from all you guitar & bass heads. Prof. Dave

8 thoughts on “Two Months With My Godin A4 Ultra Natural Semi-Acoustic Bass – How Much Do I Love It?

  1. thanks for this review, i actually found this searching for the manual haha. At first i wasn’t sure about this bass but the more i play it the more it grows on me, Im thinking about purchising it. Once again great review.

    • Thanks for your comments Peter. I’ve had my A4 for about four months and I”m completely addisted to it. I use it everywhere, on all kinds of gigs. If you’re buying online, check out musiciansbuy.com – they had an incredible closelut deal on an A4, freeted model for $688 – and if you canll and talk to them, they’ll give you a deal on the phone that they don’t publish (competitors are always checking publised prices). Please let me know how you make out with this.

      Happy Playing, Prof. Dave

  2. I found the mediocre manual: http://www.godinguitars.com/hsheet10_a4a5ultra.pdf

    I absolutely love the bass. I have the A4 Ultra fretless. It took me quite a while to get it right though. I bought a used one, but it had been handled so badly it wasn’t playable so I returned it. The second one I bought new, but the neck was Rosewood, not ebony, and the electronic’s didn’t work. Third time is a charm though. I now have a new A4 Ultra that’s perfect, and you should hear it through a Genz Benz Streamliner. It’s exactly what I was looking for.

    • First, thanks for the link to the mediocre manual – very much appreciated. Also, thanks for your comment. You really needed to be persistent to land that bass. The first problem does happen with used, and sometimes even new instruments and the store you dealt with did the right thing by taking it back. The second one is an odd problem because all of the fretless A4 and A5 models have an ebony fingerboard and the fretted models all have rosewood. Someone in quality control was asleep or just hoped that someone buying it wouldn’t notice.

      A technique that I use and recommend, especially on the fretless bass, is to use small pieces of masking tape on the back of the neck behind the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th frets markers so you can judge where you are by feel and not by sight. I do this on all of my guitars because I’m blind, but I’ve found it helps sighted players too. A little add on to all fretless bass players: only use flatwound strings on a fretless bass. Roundwound strings will gouge the fingerboard.

      The more I play this incredibly bass, the more I love it. It’s a little more expensive than most other acoustic basses out there and it’s worth it. Thanks for writing. Prof. Dave

  3. I did some research on the Strap problem. I also have the Godin A6 guitar and an A8 mandolin, which have the same problem. I found a reference on the Godin site that says they use the Schaller locking buttons. You can use a standard guitar strap, you just have to buy the locks to go with them, or get the strap with the locks built in.

    • I love the idea of the tape on the back of the neck! I have some 1/8″ wide pinstripe tape from a car project I was working on that would be just the right! I think I’m going to do that tonight!

      • Hey Dan,
        I appreciate the feedback. I use masking tape only because I know it won’t harm the finish. On the down side, I have to replace it fairly often, but it’s cheap and easy to use. I’m not sure about the tape you’re using, but it sounds like it could be permanent once on there which could be a benefit. What I’d suggest is run an experiment with masking tape first and if it seems to work for you, then go for the long erm application. I’m going to forward this idea to my guitar tech – this could be an interesting, inexpensive and useful modification the way you’re suggesting it be used.

        Thanks again – it’s great to hear from you. Prof. Dave

    • Thankis for the comments and the research – I had strap locks installed last week and they’re great and they popped right on. My guitar tech recommended it to me. Strange that I didn’t consider asking him before since he’s very accessible to me – he works with me. I used cams that worked well, but were bulky and then tried a very inexpensive strap lock that looks like a plastic washer with a chunk taken out to slip over the strap button. It also worked but was also bulky. The solution that you suggest, seems to me to be the right way to get the job done.

      Thanks for your helpful input – Prof. Dave