Headed to Hilo Guitars the other day to check out a Taylor GS Mini. I tried both the mahogany and sitka spruce tops. The advertising proclaims you get a full-sized sound out of a travel sized guitar; the sound of these petite Taylor’s is surprisingly loud, but you won’t be fooled into thinking your picking on a dreadnought.
The first thing I noticed about all of the GS Minis is the astounding playability. The shorter scale combined with Taylor’s meticulous attention to tolerances make for a super fast neck with a sleek feel. The satin finish on the mahogany neck offers no resistance or stickiness and feels warm and inviting right away. The neck profile is a medium width with gently sloping shoulders that meet in a very subtle rounded V and all of the fretboard edges are smooth and glassy feeling. With no set-up and right off the sales floor the strings are nice and close to the medium frets, no buzzes or rattles….the GS Mini just about plays itself. In fact, one of the cool benefits of the combination of excellent action and short scale is that the Mini plays more like an electric guitar; bends and quick passages are much easier than on a full-size acoustic.
Tone-wise, this little cannon is surprisingly loud. Both styles produce a pleasant tone especially from the treble strings. The upper-register of the mahogany is comfortable and toasty with a soulful singing voice that kept a mellow edge while still managing to project quite forcefully. The spruce is more frosty and delicate with a sparkly chime and immaculate articulation. In both Mini’s the shallower body seems to focus a bit more upper-mids than a standard size which brings a sharper focus to melody lines. Lack of deep bass, as you might expect, is the area where you will most notice you’re not keeping up with the big boys on the wall.
It was the difference in bass that tipped me toward the spruce top even though I slightly favored the warmer voice of the mahogany. The A and particulary the Low E string were too diffuse and unfocused for my taste on the mahogany top and I felt that the spruce was more versatile with it’s clear tones and precise diction for fingerstyle. In the end I guess I’m still a sucker for a tight bottom.
Another feature that I dig is the padded gig-bag that comes with the GS Mini. Its featherweight and thickly padded with two straps on the back that can be worn on just one shoulder comfortably for short distances or strapped-on like a backpack for long hauls. The guitar in the soft-case is so light and comfortable it makes you feel like bringing it along wherever you go.
There is one area where I was really let down by the GS Mini, and that is the ES-Go pickup system.
The ES-Go is a slick little idea on paper. You install the pickup by removing the 3 screws that hold the bottom strap button and replace the button with an endpin-jack that has a length of cable terminating in a 1/4 inch jack that slides inside the body. This jack plugs into the unobtrusive black pickup which clicks into the clip Taylor has already installed just inside the soundhole underneath the neck of every GS Mini. Installation was a snap.
Sound is a whole other story. The output of the ES-Go is extremely weak and plagued by a nasty background buzz…not hum, buzz. After cranking your gain to get enough signal to make the thing audible you are greeted by the sound of a guitar being played by someone buried in a coffin 6 feet below you…very unpleasant.
All told this is a really fun guitar. It’s light, portable, incredibly easy to play and generates a passable tone that’s rich enough to keep you from wishing you had lugged your $3,000 Martin to the beach. Just don’t install the ES-Go pickup unless you are crazy about the taste of plain oatmeal…or maybe even the box that it comes in…meh.