A marriage of nylon strung acoustic and guitar synth, the Multiac might be an unholy chimera or a wonderful hybrid. Sam Wise finds out which.
Godin Guitars has been around since 1972, and the Multiac series were among the first instruments to pair the hexaphonic pickups needed for guitar synth playing with an instrument built to the highest traditional standards. In the wake of the cheap synthesizer boom of the 80s, quite a few guitars had been made out of plastic, often with electronics, synth modules and even onboard speakers built in. These were typically disappointing in practise, and serious players who were still interested wanted something more. The Multiac series continues to this day, pairing piezo undersaddle pickups with hexaphonic units (one output per string), and here we have a nylon-string model. Nylon strung guitars, of course, predate the steel-string models most of us play, so the pairing with the most current digital technology is a brave one.
Build quality and features
If you ignore the slotted headstock and wide, wide neck, the Multiac looks like a posh 80s Telecaster. The plain black finish disguises, to some extent, the lack of pickups, though the wooden string-through bridge gives the acoustic game away rather. The body is chambered maple, which is to say that this is not actually an acoustic guitar at all – it’s a solid body electric with some bits carved out. For context, although pictures of what’s under the Multiac’s top are hard to find, this is probably considerably less acoustic than, for instance, a Gibson 335. The top is solid cedar, but extensive tapping doesn’t reveal any significant body resonance, so the top wood may make little difference. The neck is mahogany, with a wide, thin profile very typical of classical guitars, paired with a broad, flat radius fingerboard with broad string spacing. The fingerboard is made of a substance called “Richlite” – a composite material made from layers of cellulose paper infused with phenolic resin to create a very hard, predictable, repeatable material. This stuff is used for tables in Boeing 747s, skatepark ramps, countertops, and here as an alternative to dwindling ebony and rosewood supplies. The neck is bolted on, Fender-style, and is topped with a simple slotted headstock with unbranded classical style open gear three-on-a-plate tuners.
The bridge looks, at first glance, like a normal acoustic bridge, but a closer glance reveals six individual metal saddles, which are necessary to get the six separate signals required to drive a guitar synth. That cute little dip in the tail hides a standard 1/4” jack and the 13-pin output which connects the beast to Roland or Axon guitar synths. On the top horn is a set of controls in disguise as a built in speaker (something this guitar emphatically does not have, thank goodness); the black controls set into a black top are hard to see, but simple enough to be memorable and useable. The five sliders are: guitar volume, three-band EQ, and synth volume – then there’s a two way slider for different mid profiles, and two rubbery buttons for selecting different synth voices remotely.
The guitar has an overall feel of excellent quality, but without any of the luxurious appointments you might expect for just over £1,000. The only real nod to luxury is the golden wood top binding (Godin don’t give much away about their instruments, including what this wood is), but otherwise, the Multiac feels like a high quality tool rather than a luxury toy for rich kids. It’s none the worse for that, either; one of Godin’s stated aims with their semi solid “acoustic” models is to make reliable tools which deliver on stage in a way that acoustic guitars don’t always. This is a pro tool, and it feels like it.
Sounds and playability
It needs to be stated right off the bat that this guitar’s neck is modelled on a classical acoustic. If you’re looking for a nylon strung guitar that feels welcoming to steel-string players, this is not it. The neck is broad, the fingerboard is flat, and the string spacing is wide, so it’s going to play like the real thing. That’s not a bad thing either; there are good reasons – related to lower string tension and therefore wider vibration patterns – why classical guitars are still built this way, so if you want to get that nylon tone, you’d better get used to it. Unusual neck aside, the guitar is welcoming; acoustic players will find it mighty skinny, while electric players will appreciate the slight chamfering where a real Tele has none – it’s comfy.
Acoustically, the sound is very quiet, much closer to an electric guitar than even a thinline eletro-acoustic, but whether it’s the strings or the body construction, it has a thicker, warmer unplugged tone than the Squier Tele we compared it to (for no better reason than the similar body shape). Plug it in to our standard reference Headway Shire King, and the tone is, while pleasing, not much like a nylon-string acoustic. With the EQ set flat, there’s certainly a nylon edge to the attack when you hit the strings but, overall, the tone reminds me of nothing so much as the neck pickup on my old 1962 Fender Jazzmaster. Make no mistake, that’s a very pleasing tone; plummy, rich and full, but not really like a high-end classical or flamenco guitar. That said, it’s unmistakeably nylon, as though I’d strung my Jazzmaster with nylon somehow, and I’m sure it’s not aimed at concert classical players, but at gigging pros, maybe electric players, who want a bit of a taste of nylon in their set. We at Acoustic are no experts on synth sounds and, of course, the Multiac doesn’t produce any of those itself anyway. Plug it into a Roland guitar synth, however, and you’ll find it tracks fast and accurately whether you’re playing single note or chord stuff. The blend control makes it easy to get just the combination of guitar and synth you want, and if you’ve got your patches set up right, the patch change controls will make stage work a doddle.
If this were a steel-string guitar, it would be hard not to recommend it. The tone is nice and very flexible, the guitar is beautifully put together and inspires confidence, and then there’s the synth access aspect. The nylon strings and wide neck don’t make it any less of a recommendation, just that the target audience is smaller. If a good nylon string that will perform well onstage and resist feedback is on your shopping list, try this. If you need to trigger a synth as well, accept no substitutes.
Model: Multiac ACS-SA
Retail Price: £1,099
Body Size: Tele-style
Made In: Canada
Body wood: Chambered silver leaf maple
Top wood: Cedar
Tuners: Unbranded slot-headed
Onboard electronics: RMC Polydrive with 13-pin connector and jack input
Nut Width: 1 7/8”
Scale Length: 25 1/2”
Strings Fitted: High quality nylon
Left Handers: Yes
Gig Bag/Case Included: Padded gig bag