Travel guitars are supposed to be as cheap as chips, aren't they – something to take to a festival or the beach?
Well you wouldn't class this Taylor GS Mini as throwaway in terms of its price, so why are we taken in by its charms? Read on...
The GS Mini has been with us since 2010, when we reviewed its original spruce form. Then, as now, you need to think of the Mini not just as a travel guitar but a great all-rounder that ticks more boxes than many full-size flat-tops.
It's available as a pure acoustic (with the option to add the ES-Go soundhole pickup) but if you fancy treading the boards then this 'e' version is the way to go, as Taylor is now fitting its Expression System 2 (ES2) pickup system – exactly the same as you'll find on its high-end guitars.
It also comes with a 'hard' gigbag that's the best we've ever seen included with a guitar at this price. So, yup, £645 ain't cheap but there's nothing cheap about this guitar either.
Unlike the more rudimentary Baby and Big Baby, the GS Mini is nicely edge bound. Our version comes with a solid mahogany top (in addition to spruce, other choices are available). Back and sides are layered (Taylor-speak for laminate) sapele and it's not just any cheap plywood.
Interestingly the back is quite arched which creates a strong structure that doesn't need any back-braces. The craft is perfect – not a hair out of place and the 'varnish' finish is thin but perfectly applied, a matted satin that burnishes up nicely the more its played.
And trust us, this is a guitar you'll play and play. Its down-sized form makes for a perfect at-home guitar; the neck is almost electric-like in feel and strings bend easily even though we have pretty small 'acoustic' frets.
The reduced string tension also means raised tunings are easily possible and, of course, you can capo as usual creating an almost mandolin-like voice that makes for a great overdubs over a full-size guitar on your recordings.
Whereas the ES-Go soundhole pickup has plenty of character, the ES2 piezo, placed behind the saddle not under it, combined with the active treble and bass EQ means you can get a much more contemporary plugged-in voice straight into a PA or acoustic amp.
Yes, the hardwood top gives a woodier voice, both acoustically and plugged in, compared to the wider-sounding and zingier spruce version and adds a slightly older, darker colour that's superb for rootsy, bluesier styles. There's a lovely depth to the sound, too, which belies its size.
The down side is that there's no onboard tuner or feedback-busting tools, so bear that in mind before you take to the stage.