What is a travel guitar?
A travel guitar is similar to your standard acoustic, but has a smaller body and neck. Shrunken size aside, they consist of all the same components: a soundhole, fingerboard, neck, headstock and curved body capable of producing sparkling, natural tones.
This makes it a great instrument to take travelling, for busking or to tuck away when you have guests over (and eventually get out for merry singalongs). You can neatly store a travel guitar at home or in the car, whereas a regular acoustic requires a bit more space and a larger case.
Along with its body size, the neck and fretboard are also slightly more petite in nature. Travel guitars have a shorter scale length (the space in between frets) usually well under 24 inches, so there’s less of a gap to navigate when jumping from note to note or holding down chords. Young guitarists may find it easier to play than a ‘normal’ scale length measuring around 25 inches.
Are Travel guitars any good?
You might ask whether travel guitars are legitimately good in comparison to a run-of-the-mill acoustic. Travel guitars are generally cheaper than their full body counterparts and when you take away some of the body, there’s a chance you’re subtracting some of the quality, right? It’s not entirely true.
Travel guitars are built by some of the biggest brands in Taylor and Martin, as well as companies who specialise in beginner to midrange acoustics like Alvarez and EastCoast. All are built in the same factories as their standard size acoustics, undergo the same quality control and are built from the same tonewoods and hardware used in their high-end models.
When it comes to size, travel guitars do not have the same presence or projection as a standard jumbo, dreadnought or mid-size guitar as you’d expect. But as long as it consists of the same quality woods and uses the same bracing, it will have the same fundamental tone.
What are the best Travel guitars?
Another great thing about travel acoustics is that they don’t cost the earth. Although they don’t quite retain the same tonal properties as full size acoustics, less wood means they’re slightly less pricey. Andertons sell a number of travel guitars from the biggest brands in the acoustic business.
The latest entry in our list and most affordable by far, EastCoast guitars are aimed primarily at beginner players. They’re made in Eastern Asia to keep costs down, while maintaining high standards in hardware and wood selection. Koa is usually found on much higher-end instruments, but EastCoast have used it as the primary body material here, which gives it a more unusual tone compared to its competitors.
EastCoast guitars are ideal for players who aren’t really sure they want to splash out on a more expensive instrument. But by no means is it cheap and cheerful. EastCoast have recently taken a step up in quality from their electric guitar range. New premium features include highly renowned Fishman pickups, letting you plug into an amp for band jams and gigging with accurate representation of your guitar’s tone.
The guys who basically invented the modern acoustic as we know it obviously have a say in the travel guitar, too. The Little Martin range consists of quality instruments built using their famous tonewoods such as mahogany and spruce. Expect a warm sound with plenty of clarity to make up for the slight lack of projection. These just ooze class.
The LX1 features Martin’s excellent X bracing to keep the small body highly stable, which is ideal if you take your guitar out and about in different weather climates. The mortise and tenon joint is another sure way to keep the guitar solid and ensure there’s little warp, which potentially affects intonation and string height. A truly well thought out instrument from the top dogs.
Sitting in the mid-to-low price range, Alvarez are highly regarded guitar luthiers with a very strong back catalogue. The LJ2 is their stab at a travel guitar and we are certainly impressed. These differ from everything else on this list because, despite having a smaller scale length and reduced body size like the others, they are made in a jumbo shape. The body is rounder and produces a big, boomy sound to counter the natural lack of presence.
Very much a left field choice, the LJ2 combines a forward-thinking design with classic tonewoods. Made of a mahogany with an A+ spruce top, it sounds crisp but holds its own on the low end. Fitted with Alvarez’s own bracing system and pickup, it cuts a suave figure both in aesthetic and tone. Truly versatile and looks great - you can’t go wrong.
One of our most popular travel guitar choices, the GS Mini has time and again proven its worth. Yes, you’re paying full size guitar prices but it’s absolutely worth it for the great tonewoods like koa and walnut. These are aimed at players dedicated to using travel guitars as a primary instrument, mainly used for gigging.
As you’d expect from Taylor, the GS Mini is expertly crafted. It's equipped with 20 frets, top electronics, a NuBone nut and a hard bag thrown into the mix. The GS Mini is essentially their Grand Symphony body shrunken down into mini size, so it has all the same properties as the famous, chimey Taylor body shape.
Faith are a guitar manufacturer that like to do things a little bit different, be it using striking woods, hardware or design. They are the perfect guys for making travel guitars. The Nomad is a real looker thanks to its elegant ‘less is more’ approach. Just the one inlay at the 12th fret, a simple rosette and clean, smooth bridge. These are pure tone.
They’re also available in two different body shapes, even at the smaller sizes. The Neptune is classed as a small jumbo with a strong, rounded warmth. The Saturn dreadnought provides more a of a balance and overall blend great for jumping between various rock, folk and country styles.