Pros: High quality, combines acoustic & electric tones, excellent neck/fingerboard, Synth access (Roland-ready).
Cons: No coil tap switch on the humbucking pickups.
This is a review of the excellent Godin xtSA electric guitar. These fine instruments are based in Quebec, Canada but they are assembled right here in New Hampshire by American workers. The company is owned by master luthier Robert Godin. Godin is truly an innovator and his guitars at all price levels represent innovation, quality and value which is a hard combination to beat. They call this guitar the "Jack of all trades and master of all of them" which is quite a boast, but then you buy one and play it for a while, and I have got to hand it to them, they are right. The quality is there too and they back it up with a LIFETIME WARRANTY.
Pretty much everyone sells the Godin xtSA at the around same "street price" of a hair under one thousand dollars. Unless you can find a short lived price fluke somewhere, or get a coupon somewhere, expect to pay a grand for this fine instrument.
I will preface the rest of the review by saying I have been playing guitar & bass for 35 years, used to play professionally, and own a number of vintage 1960's Gibson electrics both solid- and semi-hollow body as well as Gibson and Rickenbacker basses from that era. I know what a quality guitar is. I firmly believe the Godin xtSA is destined to be a "modern classic". And for the modern engineering tolerances and quality of the hardware dare I say it, the Godin xtSA is a better guitar in most respects.
The Godin xtSA is an excellent extremely versatile guitar in fact this has so many tones it can take the place of several guitars. The fingerboard is wide like a 1950's Les Paul but the neck is shallow and the fingerboard is very flat. It is 25-1/2" scale like a Fender, and has 22 medium-size frets that are niclely polished and bevelled at the edges. The combination of 2 humbucking pickups with a strat pickup in the middle makes for a huge variety of tones. Rumor has it the pickups are made for Godin by Seymour Duncan.
There is a five-position pickup selector switch like on a Fender Stratocaster. On the xtSA guitar you can select: rhythm pickup only, rhythm+middle, middle, middle+treble, treble only. About the only combination it lacks is the rhythm+treble pickups. You can get a very clean humbucking sound with this guitar extremely clean. The middle pickup gets Strat tones since it is the same kind of pickup, and the humbuckers sound like a Gibson Les Paul. The combination of middle+treble sounds very much like a Fender Telecaster Custom or let's say anywhere you would use a Telecaster in the middle position the Godin xtSA fits the bill. The only area where it does not cover is sounding like the treble pickup of a Stratocaster, it sounds like the middle position though given that the neck scale and placement of Godin's 'strat pickup' is a close match.
Then add to that the piezo bridge pickup which gets very convincing acoustic guitar sounds with a built in 3-band EQ and volume control. Then top it off with a hexaphonic MIDI pickup so you can control a guitar synthesizer with the xtSA. This guitar has it all. The action is very low on the guitar but not low enough to buzz. Just right. There is one volume and one tone control for the electric pickups, and a second volume control for the MIDI pickup. The piezo has its own volume control slider you can see the 4 sliders in the picture they are volume, treble, middle and bass. There are three output jacks: one for electric only, one for MIDI 13-pin connector to control a Roland synth, and finally, a jack that mixes acoustic+electric. The piezo and the preamp are powered by a 9-Volt battery that fits in the guitar, they say it lasts for more than 300 hours of playing. Even if the battery were to wear out it does not affect the electric guitar sound or the MIDI, just the acoustic sounds.
The shielding on this electric guitar is excellent. There is zero hum even from the single coil Stratocaster-type pickup. This is a superbly quiet guitar as far as noise and hum go. The xtSA is definitely set up as a "performer's guitar" in every sense of the word. And for what you get for the money they are more than giving Jackson guitars and Paul Reed Smith a run for their money. If you want to go higher up the Godin range beyond the xtSA you can get highly flamed AAA tiger maple tops that rival anybody's including a lot of custom shops. But, if you want the maximum features, tone and versatility the xtSA is definitely the "sweet spot" in the Godin lineup and has features even some of their own high end guitars lack ... like the Strat pickup in the middle position.
If I had to search for a nit and believe me on this fine instrument you have to search long and hard to find one, it is that the humucking pickups do not have a 'split coil' switch. Having said that I own several guitars that do have them and I hardly use the thing, but it is worth mentioning.
You get a huge palette of very interesting and unique guitar tones by blending the piezo (acoustic guitar) sound with the sound of the electric pickups. This is an area where the Godin xtSA really shines.
The sustain and the tone of the wood are excellent at the $1,000 price range and easily competes with the $3,000-$4,000 Gibsons. In my opinion the sound of this thing as well as the build quality blows away the Fender guitars in the $1,000 range. It is not even close. Fender makes a "Roland-ready" Stratocaster guitar that uses the Roland synthesizer pickup, but the RMC pickup on the Godin xtSA tracks the notes much better than the Roland pickup. This is for guitar synthesizer enthusiasts. But the synth access is just the icing on the cake, and the other 90% of guitarists who do not use MIDI processors at all are still getting a great value with the Godin xtSa.
The fit and finish on this guitar is excellent. The overall presentation exudes quality. The neck is mahogany, the fingerboard is ebony a very nice ebony, frets are well dressed, intonation and action are set up perfectly. You do not have to set up this guitar it plays perfectly right out of the box and is in tune all the way up the neck. The locking tuners keep the tuning very stable. I like the look it is professional looking without excessive flash. This is definitely a pro quality instrument. The maple veneer top is nicely figured though not perfectly book matched. My wife who knows nothing about guitars but is a professional artist, commented the guitar looks very nice and it does. The whammy bar is in the case. The body is solid maple with poplar wings. The neck is mahogany with an ebony fingerboard. The neck is a bolt on but it feels, sounds and plays like a set-neck guitar so it is the best of both worlds. It has an extremely tight fit on the neck to body joint. It feels like you could remove the bolts and keep playing it there is no visible gap.
The strap pins have the Schaller Straplock system installed and I recommend getting a strap with them. The back of the neck is finished in a matte finish very smooth but not shiny. Very quick neck to play on both for chords and leads and easy to reach the high register. It is like a Les Paul neck but in 25-1/2" scale. The frets are medium size and should suit almost anybody. There are no dead spots on the neck at all and the sustain is marvelous. This is a fairly heavy guitar. This is a very non-tiring guitar to play I can play it for hours.
The strings are widely spaced like an acoustic guitar; this is marketed to both acoustic-electric and electric guitar players. It comes with Godin brand .10 gauge strings. You can definitely do fingerpicking style playing on this instrument. I am primarily a blues player and there is plenty of room for bends and double stops. A lot of jazz players as well as country artists use the Godin xtSA because they are capable of extremely clean guitar sound. Likewise for praise and worship music. It is so unusual to find a guitar that crosses to many types of music.
I like the red finish better than the sunburst that is just my taste though, but that is the one I bought. It looks like the old red on the early 60's Les Paul Jr. guitars but a tad brighter and the wood shows through better. I bought this one sight unseen since I got it through the Internet but was not disappointed in the least. It looked better than I expected. It is a single cutaway solid body but does not look like a Les Paul clone, it has its own distinctive body shape that is modern looking and sets it apart as a Godin. More people seem to buy the sunburst model but the look of the transparent dark red finish to me is the nicer looking. They also make one in black.
My xtSA guitar came with a very nice well padded soft case much better than the usual gig bag, having several carry handles and straps and multiple pockets. There is a padded riser in the case that holds the neck gently and safely with Velcro straps. There is a whammy bar (vibrato bar) in the bag which I have not yet attached. You can get a Fender-style rectangular hard case for about $90 street price but I do not need it.
I have not tried the Synth access yet using the 13-pin Roland interface pickup, but I will in the future and update this review accordingly.