Head to toe, this Xotic XSC really is its own instrument. With an obvious nod to one of the most famous body shapes in guitar, it retains its own character, bells and whistles and relic’d look. The neck’s profile is asymmetrical for maximum comfort. It’s not something you’ll notice immediately, but the profile, starting from a D-shape on the bass side and curving around to a C on the treble, inconspicuously makes this guitar comfortable and helps grab hold of solos and licks. Initially the neck felt big and round, but without getting in the way of your playing. It feels like a machine ready to take on whatever you’ve got for it, and the flame roasted finish is a very welcome addition. The flame roasting maple process allows for minimum finish on the neck itself to seal it, so this is as close to an unfinished neck as you can get. There’s no sticky gloss to hold you back, and it holds up better than a matte finish when playing for hours (which you will).
The neck is bolted to the body just above the three Raw Vintage single coil pickups and the 5-way pickup selector. Raw Vintage pickups are hand wound in the Los Angeles Xotic shop, and really deliver their own flavour. There’s something inherently Strat-like about them, but with an edge. Maybe it’s the roasted maple fingerboard, maybe it’s the design of the guitar or the Xotic tremolo bridge holding it all in place, but there’s a character, attack and spank that the Raw Vintage pickups deliver that I’ve never heard. Every setting of the pickups is very usable, something not all that common with triple single coil guitars. There’s usually a throwaway phase affected tone, but not here.
Playing the XSC is an absolute pleasure. Thanks to the neck profile you can really grab hold of notes and take them for a walk. There’s snarky response that feels fresh, clean and solid (it’s difficult to articulate any other way) something the XSC has no trouble doing even with delicate notes. The guitar makes you want to play, but doesn’t bog you down in a specific style. It responds phenomenally well to your playing, so it can work for really any style while retaining its own character. Admittedly, the fret edging is a little less rounded than I usually like for my personal taste, but that’s a small and very easy fix.
This Xotic XSC Strat has all the bells and whistles that you’ll never notice. The features and playability are integrated so masterfully that they just do their job, while you focus on the playing. I didn’t notice the asymmetrical neck profile until I read the specs, but I knew the neck felt great. I noted the Raw Vintage pickups sound like nothing else before reading about them on the Xotic California website. The guitar resonates and responds excellently, pointing to perfectly balanced, cut and assembled guitar. Even while writing this review the XSC distracted me. Anything from the XSC series of Xotic Guitars are your new ol’ faithful, and will never leave your side as long as you’re playing. Bury me with this one.