Review: XITS X 10 Combo

Without coming close to copying anything from the golden-age British amp makers, Michael Koski of XITS Sound has absolutely nailed the aesthetic of the early ’60s in his new rendition of the X10.
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Without coming close to copying anything from the golden-age British amp makers, Michael Koski of XITS Sound has absolutely nailed the aesthetic of the early ’60s in his new rendition of the X10. You’d be forgiven for thinking at first glance—or second—that this sweetie of a 17-watt, 1x12 combo was some long forgotten design from Dick Denny’s workbench circa 1960, and its quality and construction bears out that impression too. Ultra compact at just 17" x 17" x 10.5", the unit features cabinetry made from 1/2" Baltic birch ply covered in custom gray linen-pattern vinyl, all-wool “dot” grillecloth with tastefully modernist logo plate, a Bespoke-made leather handle, and a back-painted plexi control panel. If you’re a sucker for style, you’ll just want this thing without even hearing it!

After founding XITS in the mid 2000s (pronounced “exits,” and inspired by the letters on the back of Paul Weller’s Rickenbacker), Koski released his original X10 combo in a quest to achieve the ultimate sweet-crunchy-jangly EL84- based tone. Demand was high, and XITS quickly became back-ordered—at which point Koski sustained a tragic hand injury that impeded his building efforts and even prevented him from playing the guitar for several years. Now back in fine fettle, Koski has redesigned the X10 for a more refined frequency spectrum, tighter lows, and improved clarity. Componentry and workmanship remain impressive: A look inside the welded 1/8”-aluminum chassis reveals a blue hand-wired circuit board with top-notch components that include custom Mercury Magnetics transformers, and a Celestion Alnico Blue to take it to the masses. Out front, the interface is enticingly simple: Volume 1 for gain, Bass and Treble, a Sparkle switch for upper mids/highs emphasis, and Volume 2 for master.

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I found the X10 dug the single-coils in a Fano SP6 and a Danocaster S-style the most, and issued chime and sparkle aplenty, which I occasionally tamped down slightly via the guitars’ tone controls. As such, with the X10’s volume set to edgy cleans, there was superb clarity and harmonic shimmer for outstanding Vox-like chord jangle and juicy single-note runs. A Gibson 1959 Les Paul Reissue beefed it all up considerably for cool ’60s rock ’n’ roll tones, with a snarly, garage-y splendor and excellent touch sensitivity. With Volume 1 rolled up past noon and Volume 2 near max, even these low-wind humbuckers induced some fizzy sizzle in the highs and slightly flatulent lows from the 15-watt Alnico Blue in this smallish cab. It’s par for the course for AC15-style amps and kinda fun in itself if you’re chasing edge-of-freak-out tones, but not entirely working for thumping classic rock. Switching to single-coil guitars at these levels put the X10 back in its wheelhouse, and nailed that rich, dynamic, harmonically-saturated lead tone that Koski was shooting for in the first place. Tons of fun, elegantly achieved, and timeless sounding.

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PRICE $3,183 street

CONTROLS Volume 1, Bass, Treble, Volume 2 (master), Sparkle switch
POWER 17 watts
TUBES Three 12AX7 preamp tubes, two EL84 output tubes (solid-state rectification)
EXTRAS Three-way power/standby switch, dual speaker outs with 8 ohm/16 ohm switch.
SPEAKER 12" Celestion Alnico Blue, 16Ω
WEIGHT 40 lbs
KUDOS A timelessly classy design with truly lustworthy aesthetics. Great internal build quality. Juicy, dynamic tone with lots of EL84 chime.
CONCERNS The overall sound would benefit from a larger cab. Very expensive.