The Best Travel Guitars: Acoustic & Electric
In today's mobile world, keeping your chops up and working on musical ideas can be a challenge if you'll be carrying a regular sized guitar. For this reason, we have selected the best acoustic and electric travel guitars that can accompany you everywhere you go, and allow you to make music regardless of where you are.
What is a Travel Guitar?
The most common perception is that it should be compact and portable, but more importantly, travel guitars should play and sound just as good as regular sized guitars. There's no point in carrying a portable instrument that's hard to play or worse, uninspiring. Thankfully, different manufacturers have stepped in to provide quality travel guitars in various styles and configurations, including full-scale models that closely resemble the playability and feel of regular guitars, and non-full scale models that provide a more relaxed way of making music.
What to Look For in a Travel Guitar
If you are looking for a serious practice and maybe even performance guitar that you can take anywhere with you, you will want a full scale model that's close to the specs of the instrument that you're used to playing. Travel guitars that have full or almost full scale length will allow for real guitar playability, requiring only minor adjustments to your playing. Silent guitars, with their skeletal body frames, can also be considered as an alternative to full scale travel guitars, because they offer the same portability and playability.
If you're looking for a musical companion that offers a more relaxed playing feel, then you can go for models with shorter scales. The shorter scale length means less string tension, reducing the effort needed in fretting and picking the strings, making the instrument easier to play overall. Technically, compact parlor guitars can be considered as travel guitars in this manner. In addition to playability, important consideration includes portability (the smaller the better) reliability (able to handle bumps and changes in temperature and humidity) and price (fits your budget).
Acoustic Travel Guitars
These are travel guitars that maintain their true acoustic guitar qualities, which allows you to play them anywhere unplugged. They are more popular because of their convenience, but they tend to be bulkier compared to their electric counterparts because they need to have a hollow body to create their acoustic sounds.
Traveler Guitar AG-200EQ
Traveler Guitars have built their reputation on quality compact travel friendly instruments, gaining the trust of both professionals and hobbyists alike. From Billy Cox of The Jimi Hendrix Experience to professional Mountain Climber Vern Tejas, the brand has been gaining support from more and more guitarists who are on the go. Within their extensive lineup is is a true full scale (25.5" scale length) yet compact acoustic-electric travel guitar, the Traveler Acoustic AG-200EQ.
To achieve its compact shape without compromising standard size playability, the company developed a streamlined tuning system that removes the need for a headstock, drastically shortening the overall length. In addition to being as compact as a toy guitar, the AG-200EQ balances really well and sounds quite loud for its size, thanks to its solid spruce top, modified traditional bracing and mahogany back & sides. For professional plugged-in tones, the guitar comes with a custom preamp from Shadow, which gives it an amplified acoustic tone that's similar to a full-sized instrument. While it's not over expensive, this travel guitar is not cheap either, priced at around the same price range of mid-tier acoustic-electrics. Bottomline, if you're looking for a professional practice and gig friendly travel acoustic guitar, then get the Traveler AG-200EQ.
Martin Backpacker Travel Acoustic Guitar
While wood has been replaced by more reliable alternatives in houses, bridges and other manmade constructs, there's something about resonating wood that tickles guitarists' ears. Although reliability may not be on par with modern carbon fiber builds, there's really no replacing wood for many players. As expected, Martin Guitars understand this, and have designed a 24" scale length travel guitar that feature all solid-wood construction.
For a Martin branded instrument with top quality features, the Backpacker is surprisingly affordable. It sports a solid spruce top which is braced, along with solid mahogany neck, back and sides, and more importantly it carries the company's high quality standards. For something so small and affordable, this compact guitar will easily exceed your expectations both in of sound and reliability. Although it won't match the sound of regular sized dreadnoughts, it does capture the sound of parlor-sized acoustics of the past, and as demonstrated on the video, it sounds great for what it is.
Cordoba Mini O
Nylon strings are known for being comfortable and easy to play, as such they are ideal for players who are looking for a relaxing instrument to play while they are on the move. Having established their reputation as a classical guitar builder, Cordoba is in a great position to design and produce quality nylon string acoustic travel guitars. Of their line up, the Cordoba Mini O took a spot in this list with its exotic looks, impressive specs and value for money.
While the label says mini, this compact guitar's lightweight body has a surprisingly powerful voice. This is made possible by the solid ovangkol top with ovangkol back and sides, and it's not just loud because the tone is articulate and warm. Adding to the many pluses of this instrument is its exotic appeal, thanks to the natural satin finish that better showcases the elegant grains of the solid ovangkol top. Other features include a U-shaped neck, 1.96" nut width, and a 20" scale length. If you're looking for a nylon string travel guitar, then check this one out.
Washburn Rover Travel Guitar
The Washburn brand is mostly known for its high-octane instruments, wielded by virtuosos that include Nuno Bettencourt, Ola Englund, Jennifer Batten and more. However, a closer look at their lineup reveals an extensive line of acoustic instruments, which includes the Rover travel acoustic guitar. The Washburn Rover is an easy favorite because of its unmatched affordability and value for your money.
Don't let its diminutive size fool you, the Rover is a full fledged acoustic guitar with a slightly shorter 24" scale length. It comes with no-less than a solid spruce top, mahogany back and neck, allowing for impressive volume and projection for its size. Since the scale length is shorter, the instrument is easier on your hands and require less stretching. Note that there will be some playing technique changes when you go back to your regular-sized acoustic. As expected from Washburn, this guitar does not compromise on looks, it comes packed with visual appointments like the elegantly done binding and inlay. To make the deal sweeter, the guitar is bundled with a great looking carrying case that is designed to fit the typical airline overhead storage. Check this one out if you're looking for a budget friendly and practical acoustic travel guitar.
The Blackbird Rider is simply the ultimate travel guitar. Its non-conventional one-piece carbon fiber construction makes it virtually indestructible, no need to worry about bumps, humidty and temperature changes as you take it along with you. And it's not just about reliability because its unique hollow body, neck and head work together to produce a nice balanced acoustic sound. It is also surprisingly light for something so tough, making it easy and worry-free to carry around.
This is truly a travel guitar that is meant for the great outdoors, letting you play a 24.5" scale acoustic guitar at the hottest beaches to icy mountain tops. As expected, the guitar's impressive reliability and portability comes with a premium price tag, but many have been more than willing to make the investment - even Popular Science liked the modern design of this instrument. More importantly this guitar will easily outlive you and your other guitar gear, making it more than worthy of its price tag. Those with money to burn can even go for special versions like the ultra rare Ferrari Rider that was sold at Ferrari shops with cool branded looks and features. If you are looking for a lifelong guitar companion for your trips, save up for the Blackbird Rider.
Electric Travel Guitars
Electric Travel Guitars are exactly what their name implies, travel guitars that you can connect to an amplifier or a guitar headphone amp. The smaller size required for travelling results in these guitars having distinct shapes. Most of these have all the essential features of standard electric guitars, with some even featuring a built-in amplifier.
Steinberger Spirit GT-Pro Deluxe
Steinberger is known for going against conventional design, using more efficient designs and materials in building their instruments. To achieve the exotic headless and small body design that has become synonymous with their brand, the company took off non-essential guitar parts and compressed all important ones, resulting in a compact design that does not compromise playability and tone.
The Spirit GT-Pro embodies their distinct design really well at an affordable price point, it is a true professional electric guitar that happens to have the traits of a great travel guitar. Instead of going for composite materials like their more expensive models have, the Spirit GT-Pro utilizes traditional solid wood build, sporting a maple neck with neck through construction. Aside from the use of solid wood, essential modern features are retained, include the famous Double-Ball tuning system and locking R-Trem, which ensures reliable tuning, incredible sustain and performance. Finally, the guitar comes with a practical folding leg rest for comfortable playing.
Traveler Guitar Speedster v2 Electric Guitar
Traveler Guitars has a long list of great quality mobile-friendly instruments, one of which, the Speedster, joins this list with its full scale playability, compact profile and built-in headphone amplifier. It is also one of their best in terms of looks, sporting a modern design with hints of retro, and it doesn't slouch on the performance end either with its high output dual rail humbuckers with coil split functionality.
As the name implies, this guitar is built for speed, complete with shred friendly neck profile and comfortable string setup. It also provides impressive sustain, thanks to its unique design where the strings wrap around the body to connect to the tuners at the center of the body. The Speedster comes with a reliable and resonant neck through body design, and for comfort it comes with a removable "Teardrop" upper arm support. New to Speedster v2, the built-in headphone amp adds to its already impressive feature, allowing for silent practice anywhere without the need for a third party headphone amplifier. This is easily the best bang per buck electric travel guitar, ideal for rock and shred players who can't stay in one place.
Hofner Shorty Travel Guitar
Manufacturer: Hofner Guitars
Mostly known for the bass that Paul McCartney identifies with, Höfner has expanded into electric guitar territory and even has a nice travel guitar in their lineup, which is aptly called Shorty. First introduced in the 80s, it continues to be among the most sought after compact guitar in the market, thanks to its affordable price, efficient design, great playability, and impressive tone. While it may not have the sonic versatility and added features that others offer, it's straightforward tone has been proven to work well especially when paired with overdriven amps.
Instead of going for extra features, the Hofner Shorty retains a straightforward design. It does away with the fluff, leaving behind only the essentials, which results in a plug and play rock machine that costs much less than the competition, without compromising sound, feel and portability. Scale length is 24.7", around the same scale length as regular sized humbucker equipped guitars, and has a unique 18th fret joint which makes upper fret access extremely convenient. Another notable feature is the Hofner branded open humbucker which produces tones that you normally expect from bigger and more expensive guitars. If you're looking for an affordable and practical electric guitar companion for your travels, then this is your best bet.
Traveler Sonic L-22
In addition to their modern non-conventional looking travel guitars, Traveler has a line of more traditional looking compact electric guitars. One of which, the Sonic L-22 made our best travel guitars list with its full scale playability, classic appeal, and familiar configuration. This particular model is based on the popular Les Paul, and even comes with a nice looking sunburst finish, two full-size humbuckers and all the expected hardware, albeit packed in a much smaller body and headstock.
As expected from the company, this guitar features a true full scale length (24.75") neck, which lets it play much like the venerable guitar that it is inspired by. Interestingly, Traveler Guitars was able to pack in a 4 channel built-in amplifier into this guitar, letting you cycle between clean, boost, overdrive and distortion sounds. This means that you're not limited to just clean sound when you're carrying this around, and you can switch between tones with ease via the intuitively designed push pot. While the price tag of this model is not as cheap as we want it to be, the feature set and quality of the instrument makes it a worthy investment. Check this one out if you're looking for a travel guitar that doesn't stray too far away from familiar guitar territory.
If you have any questions, or if you feel there's an excellent travel guitar we've missed, then please let us know in the comments below.
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