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Godin xtSA Multi Voice Electric Guitar (2020 model)
Review and Description
Godin xtSA Multi Voice Electric Guitar (2020) - Review and Description

Godin xtSA
Translucent (Trans) Black Flame
Multi Voice
6 String Electric Guitar

The Godin xtSA is an example of Godin's alternative thinking, with their "Multi-Voice" approach to an electric guitar.

Made in Canada and the northern USA, Godin instruments are well crafted, versatile and quite often feature innovative approaches to guitar design. Some relatively simple changes include, hybrid design classical guitars featuring a truss rod, narrower and curved fretboard, plus cutaway. The result is a classical style instrument that sounds, plays and looks superb.

There is also a selection of guitars with built-in guitar synth ready capabilities.

Some proponents of the Godin guitars over the years include: Bill Frisell, Brian May, Daryl Stuermer, John McLaughlin, Kris Kristofferson, Kenny Rogers, Marcus Miller, Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Waters.

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The Godin xtSA is an amazingly versatile instrument providing three separate outputs, with multiple output combinations. Three magnetic pickups, six individual Piezo pickups which can be used to emulate either acoustic guitar and/or provide a source for the 13 pin (GK3 style) synth output. All outputs are available at the same time, hence the tag 'Multi Voice'. This model has seen various incarnations over more than 10 years of production.

I came across the Godin synth capable guitars by accident really (though Godin had been suggested by a friend a few years earlier). I had been looking for another Maton electric (MS500 or similar) to which I could permanently attach a GK3 pickup. However, the few sellers of used Maton guitars out there were asking absurd amounts for even beaten-up old solid body Maton guitars, so that option just didn't appear to be practical.

After purchasing a new La Patrie Concert, and later a used La Patrie Performance (both nylon string / classical guitars), I was very impressed by the craftsmanship and build quality of Godin instruments.

When I came across a beaten up (and 13 year old) Godin xtSA for sale, at around AUD $1,500, I thought something like this might be a workable alternative. But definitely not an over-priced, previously hacked (upgraded?) instrument with a bunch of missing parts.

The universe must have smiled upon me however, because far away in Canada there was a brand new Godin xtSA on sale for AUD $1,650 delivered (with GST and import duties, that came to just over AUD $1,900, arriving within 10 days!).
... So now, you get to read about it ;-)

Just FYI: The general RRP in Australia for a new Godin xtSA is generally close to $3K (at the time of writing), assuming you can actually find one. These are not exactly a common guitar in Australia.

I should probably also mention that, if you are not into guitar synths, this instrument is quite possibly wasted. The hex piezo pickups Godin implement are purportedly industry best when it comes to tracking accuracy. If you don't need that (and the additional electronics that comes with), then your money could most likely be better spent on a different guitar and/or on other instrument features.

The Godin xtSA is therefore very much a specialist instrument, for the guitarist looking for the guitar equivalent of a high-end swiss army knife.

So lets get down to evaluating the Godin xtSA Multi Voice Electric Guitar.



Playability and Useability (8/10):

Once again I will state that this is a particularly subjective topic, and that the neck on this guitar happens to suit my hand. For reference, other commentators liken the xtSA neck to that of a strat. The scale is 647.5mm (25½"), with a generous and almost flat neck radius of 406mm (16"). The nut width is a nominal 43mm (1-11/16").

This guitar comes out of the factory completely 'Ready To Go'. It would still be in ex-factory condition if I hadn't changed the strings from their standard Godin .010 set, to my preferred .009 set. While the change was insufficient to require a truss rod tweak, it did require adjusting (reducing) the tension of the floating bridge to restore the action.

On the subject of action - the floating bridge makes action tweaks fairly straight forward. Simply remove the back cover and adjust the two retaining screws to suit. An action down to 4mm can be had without string/fret buzz.. The instrument will need to be re-tuned several times throughout this process as the string tension changes with each tweak.

The Richlite fretboard (my first) did feel a little 'different' at first. Godin have applied a highly polished finish which makes the fretboard almost slippery. This does aid string bends and sliding from note to note (some other guitar makers use slightly duller/coarser finishes).

For those who don't know. Richlite has the same hardness as ebony, but without the issues of grain, consistency and flaking when being refretted.
Richlite also requires zero maintenance (now there's a plus!). It is synthetic (paper and resin), nonporous and impervious to water, humidity, perspiration and skin oils.

While on the subject of string bends; the floating, three spring, 'Fender-style' bridge also makes string bends (even radical ones) considerably easier on both the fingers and the strings. The 'whammy bar' works efficiently, but I have noticed slight sticking on the return to normal tuning, sometimes requiring a 'pull-up' to properly correct. That's annoying.

The cutaway depth on the Godin xtSA is quite substantial, very useful and allows playing right up to the 22nd fret. That initially took some getting used to, along with muscle-memory retraining.

The Godin xtSA is well balanced and has a very nice ergonomic relief contour (upper back) making it a very comfortable guitar to wear. The weight is moderate (heavier than a strat, but not by that much and lighter than my Maton MS500). This reflects in the brighter tone of this instrument.

While the controls (covered in more detail under 'Sound') are minimalist (which I like), I really don't understand why Godin have not provided a 'Blend' control for use with the Piezo and Magnetic Pickups, for when using the 'Mix Out' jack. Having to jump back and forth tweaking the individual volume levels of the two sound sources, is nothing short of stupid, given that the two signals end up being mixed together anyway.

The tuners / machine heads (branded as Godin) are sensitive, smooth and reliable, while the Graphtech Nut allows for tuning without noticeable 'sticking'. Lastly, but not least ... the xtSA features front-loaded Locking Tuners for easy string change and better intonation.
Absolutely love them!!  I want them on all my guitars ;-)


Sound (9/10):

This is going to take a while ... but from the top I can say that the versatility of the Godin xtSA is really very impressive.

There are three basic functional options for sound output on the Godin xtSA (available simultaneously), derived from either the three Godin custom magnetic pickups ([][] [] [][]), or the six individual under saddle Piezo pickups. (Note: there have been previous versions of the xtSA guitar model with Seymour Duncan pickups.)

Magnetic Pickups
The magnetic pickups offer a fairly standard Humbucker / Single Coil / Humbucker arrangement, combined with a similarly standard five position switch. The outputs from the Godin pickups are well matched, so there are no nasty level changes when switching through pickup options. Actual switching is typically quiet.

The magnetic pickups are output via single, and very smooth, volume and tone control set. If anything the magnetic pickups are somewhat on the bright side when compared to my Maton MS500, for example.

The output from the magnetic pickups is available via a dedicated 6mm (¼") jack (labeled Electric) for connection direct to FX and amp (battery not required) ... or via the Mix/Acoustic output (battery required).

Piezo Pickups
The six under saddle Piezo pickups (gold colour) serve a dual purpose. They provide the signal for the 13 pin hexaphonic (to guitar synth) output, and also the signal for the 'Acoustic' sound/voice.



The Acoustic Voice is processed via the separate Volume, Treble, Mid, Bass controls located just above the neck joint (see below).



How acoustic the Acoustic Voice actually sounds is probably a matter of opinion. With some judicious EQ'ing, an approximation is possible. Obviously, due to the position of the Piezo pickups, this guitar will sound similar to most guitars with an under saddle Piezo pickup. Though I would add, probably lacking some warmth in this case, given that the Piezo elements are sitting on a mechanically disconnected metal plate (floating bridge) ... and not a resonating wooden soundboard.

It's all moot really, because a true acoustic guitar sound is what you get when you stick a mic in front of an acoustic instrument - just my take.

The provided centre-indented Treble - Mid - Bass tone controls do allow for a useful range of cut and boost. When combined with the volume control, the Piezo output can slightly exceed the output form the magnetic pickups. That said, I have never noticed any distortion, even at full output.

Suffice to say the Acoustic Voice is an interesting option to have, and not without some practical uses. Personally, I think the implementation could been better with a Blend Control to mix the Magnetic and Piezo signals at the 6mm (¼") Mix/Acoustic output. It's already an active system, so while the circuitry change would be minimal, the improved useability would be massive.

Guitar Synth - Hexaphonic (13 Pin) Output
After going over the technicalities of building a Roland GK3 pickup into an existing guitar, and after much careful consideration (concluding with that I really didn't want to go there), the 13 pin output available on the Godin xtSA was in fact a significant reason for purchasing this guitar.

That the additional Piezo/13 Pin related electronics have zero impact on the traditional magnetic output, is also a real bonus. It's nice to know that if all else fails, you can always fall back to your standard guitar effects and an amp, and just go for it ;-)

I have read claims that the Godin 13 pin output system provides some of the best tracking on the market, essentially even better than the Roland GK3. This is a claim that is difficult (if not impossible without rigorous testing) to subjectively quantify. The current generation of Roland/Boss devices (GR-55 / SY-1000) exhibit virtually zero noticeable latency and the SY-1000 delivers absolutely superb tracking with a GK3. The Godin xtSA matches that, and that's all I can meaningfully say here.

One of the reasons for buying a new'ish 2020 model xtSA was that the electronics have undergone several revisions over the years. I decided that I would rather get a guitar with latest spec components, rather than rebuild/upgrade and older guitar - for which there are actually a few 'how-to' articles on the net.

The available controls are essentially the same as what you will find on a GK3 installation. There is a synth volume control and two switches.

Much of the synth tracking functionality actually comes down to setting up the receiving devices (e.g. GR-55, SY-1000, etc.) to accept a guitar's 13 pin output (hint: select Piezo G - 'G' for Godin?). A complexity that I admit, I am still mastering. It is notable (and regrettable) that there is NO documentation specific to this process. A very serious over-sight all round.


Build Quality (9/10):

The Godin xtSA looks and feels like a generous amount of quality workmanship has been invested into the build. A high level of attention to detail seems to be a feature of Godin guitars in general. That's not to say that it's perfect. This is a production instrument, not a hand made one.

That said, the general finish is excellent. The neck and frets are flawlessly smooth. The quality of the parts used is exceptional. Nearly everything attached to the guitar comes with a Godin logo, so they are obviously very proud to put their moniker out there.

The original action could have been a tad lower, but that's more a personal thing (and to be honest, may have changed in transit - it's a long haul from Quebec to Tasmania) ... and, I really don't get why anyone puts .010 - .046 gauge strings on anything as the default standard any more ;-)

Warning !!
The strap pin / holder at the neck end, should have been located further down and around the horn. If you play at a high angle and/or use a loose strap, you may find your expensive Godin xtSA slapping the floor in the blink of an eye. The Strap Pins are on the small side, you have been warned.


Durability & Reliability (---/10 Not Rated):

Having owned the Godin xtSA Multi Voice Electric Guitar guitar for approximately years (purchased Dec. 2020), it will be a while before I can reasonably comment on the durability and reliability aspects of this instrument. I believe at least 12 to 24 months is needed to provide a meaningful comment. That said, the build quality suggests that any report will ultimately be favourable.

Warranty Information

Warrantees are at best somewhat questionable, with the list of caveats usually so long that they become largely useless. I have been unable to find an actual warranty statement on the Godin web site, other than the FAQ material paraphrased above. Given that I ordered my Godin xtSA from a store Quebec, Canada, a warranty claim would be somewhat, well, impractical ;-)


Available Documentation and Support (5/10)

The provided single page PDF specification sheet hasn't been updated for a while and the specifications therein can't be trusted (e.g. there is no mention of the current Richlite fretboard). The user manual is similarly out-of-date, being from around 2005 ;-)

I find that kind of thing both disappointing and annoying, given that this instrument is much more than just a guitar.

 

The Godin HDR feature is Not available on the xtSA
A Godin guitar that is equipped with the High-Definition Revoicer (H.D.R.) system is like having 2 sets of pickups in 1 Godin guitar. The H.D.R. augments and revoices the frequencies of each pickup with a zero-hum, noiseless high-definition sound, which gives players that extra bite along with a dynamic response that accentuates the natural nuances of the instrument.

It is revoiced with an active preamp, which enables you to essentially go from passive to active pickups by the simple push of a button, located between the tone and volume knobs on select Godin electric models. This “true bypass” system maintains the voicing integrity of the passive pickups, while allowing them to become active without affecting tonal quality.

 

Value for Money (7/10):

This is always a challenging decision, given that we'd all like to have the very best gear for the least expenditure. For the flexibility, build quality, playability and sturdiness versus financial outlay, I'm inclined to go for a 7 out of 10.

Godin guitars are by no means cheap or 'low budget' instruments. However, from a buyer's perspective, they benefit from several factors. Firstly, they don't have the 'brand recognition' or market penetration that allows them to get away with charging absurdly high prices (yet). Though many Godin guitars are quite high tech, they are generally affordable and many Godin designs are also quirky enough to 'stand out' from the crowd.

Due to the production techniques and automation involved, I wouldn't exactly call Godin guitars 'hand-made', though they are absolutely 'well crafted' and still involve considerable human intervention.

Godin guitars are certainly not mass produced by comparison to Chinese made instruments. Being wholly constructed in Canada and the Northern USA, does imbue these guitars with a greater sense of integrity and transparency. We know, for example, that the people who are making these guitars are actually being paid a 'real' wage to do so. There are also YouTube videos showing the Godin factories' operation and the various production processes.

The Godin xtSA comes standard with the Godin soft case (bag), which (now that I've seen one) I believe to be inadequate to properly protect this instrument. Had I known better, I would have purchased it with a hard case, regardless of the extra cost. A hard case will be acquired at some point soon.

And lastly, there is resale value. When well maintained, most Godin guitars seem to hold their value exceptionally well, particularly the classical guitars.

I look forward to seeing how the Godin xtSA shapes up over the next few years.


Possible Improvements for the Godin xtSA:


Summary (Overall 8 / 10):

An exceptional guitar, for the right guitarist.

Probably more suited to the studio than the stage. For example, you could have three separate leads coming out of this guitar at the same time. If you need or regularly use a GK3 PU or otherwise need a 13Pin synth output, then this is a great package to get. A well made, sonically flexible instrument, that covers many bases and also plays very well. Beautifully set up and presented, right out of the box.

The more time I spend with the Godin xtSA, the more I like it. I'm impressed and that takes some doing ;-)




Godin xtSA Specifications:

Body: Silver Leaf Maple Center w Poplar Wings
Top: Premium grade veneer of Figured Maple
Neck: Mahogany
Fingerboard: Richlite

Fingerboard Radius: 406.4 mm  (16")
Scale Length: 647.7 mm  (25.5")
Nut Width: 42.86 mm  (1.68")
Nut Type: Graphtech
Frets: 22 - Medium Jumbo
Machine Head Ratio: 18:1
String Set ex-factory:
E10 - .010 .013 .017 .026 .036 .046

Neck Pickup: Godin Custom N Humbucker
Middle Pickup: Godin Single Coil
Bridge Pickup: Godin Custom B Humbucker

Bridge and Tailpiece: Floating Tremolo Bridge Bridge Electronics: acoustic output on
Tremolo Bridge with RMC transducer saddles and 13-pin output

Control Sets: 3
Outputs: electric, acoustic (Custom Pre-amp with 3-band EQ), mix, Synth Volume, Tone, and normal Volume.
H.D.R. Feature - Not Available

Colour: Translucent (Trans) Black Flame
Finish: High Gloss
Case: Gig Bag
Weight: 3.7 kg  (8.0 lbs)

Ships with: Guitar, Gig Bag, Tremolo Arm.


Review Ratings:



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