Review: Xotic California Classic XSC-2 Guitar

(Image credit: Xotic)

For a long time, I only knew Xotic to be an effects company that specializes in wickedly great preamp and boost pedals. I have seen many players whom I respect use Xotic’s revered AC and RC Booster pedals and the very popular BB Preamp in their pedalboards because of their incredible transparency in tone.

But surprisingly, I didn’t know Xotic also makes vintage-inspired guitars and basses, all of which are hand built in Los Angeles, California. I recently had the opportunity to check out the Xotic California Classic XSC-2, which combines Xotic’s proprietary Raw Vintage pickups and hand-selected tonewoods for a completely modded S-style guitar with classic looks.

For players who love Superstrat guitars with modern vintage appointments, the XSC-2 will feel instantly familiar. This particular guitar arrived in a desirably retro sea foam green with aged checking and a fair amount of heavy distressing on its very thin nitrocellulose lacquer finish.

The guitar features a premium ash body and an outstanding roasted flame maple neck that has a beautiful caramel patina. What’s important is that the roasted maple process on the neck allows for a natural wood feel and adds enhanced stability. The guitar also features a 9.5-inch fretboard radius, 22-Jescar jumbo frets, mint green three-ply pickguard, Gotoh vintage-style tremolo and vintage-style locking tuners. Xotic’s proprietary Raw Vintage pickups are hand wound, and this XSC-2 comes with a humbucker (RV-PAF) and dual single coil (RV-50) configuration. Keep in mind, the California Classic Series can be ordered online with a select variety of options.

Out of the box, the XSC-2 possesses a flawless setup. Everything about the guitar, from its perfectly cut nut, flat fretboard radius, fret and string height, contribute to its fluid playability, intonation and tendency to stay in tune. The pickup height is also properly compensated so that as you select between humbucker and single coil settings on its five-way switch, there is no inconsistency in output, making each setting nicely even in volume. In addition, the medium-size “C” profile neck shape feels instantly comfortable in hand while the back of the neck feels so smooth it’s like sliding on glass.

Using a variety of Vox and Fender amps, the XSC-2’s Raw Vintage pickups deliver big time in tone. There is little doubt the pickups are voiced toward vintage specs; however, there is certainly more detail and fullness. The RV-PAF is a low-output humbucker that exhibits a warm midrange and full-bodied roundness when overdriven.

It’s great for rock and blues licks that need just the right amount of rich sustain when playing loudly. But I must say, the RV-50 single coils charmed me the most. Playing in the neck position or the “Strat Quack” fourth position (neck and middle running in parallel), the guitar sounds incredibly open, with a juicy fatness that has plenty of bite. For a guitar that has all the right custom appointments, the XSC-2 is a hard one to put down.


• The roasted flame-maple neck of the XSC-2 feels buttery smooth and provides rock hard stability.

• The RV-50 single coil pickups and the RV-PAF humbucker are sonically matched to provide stellar classic tones with great definition and clarity.

The Xotic California Classic XSC-2 is one of the finest hand-built S-style guitars with modern refinements, wide-open tones and total vintage mojo.

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Paul Riario

Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.