Just when I thought I didn’t need another guitar …
I’m not sure if this is a love story, or just a blushing diary entry about my summer romance. Either way—and please don’t tell my wife—I confess that the Taylor GS Mini is taking up way too much of my time and keeping me from other, more productive pursuits.
I first met my new crush last year when I was writing an article about travel guitars. Since the GS Mini falls into the “small guitar” category, I included it in that article, where it handily outclassed the competition. Now, I keep seeing them in stores, I keep playing them next to their various-sized, bigger brothers, and I just keep being knocked out by their consistent tone and punch.
The first thing that stands out about the GS Mini is its shape. Compared to the Baby Taylor’s itty-bitty dreadnought design or the Little Martin LX-1’s “00” profile, this guitar’s mini-jumbo outline is more voluptuous. It’s also a little bigger all around than it’s other travelling mates, measuring 14 3/8” across and 4 7/16” deep. The top is available in either spruce or mahogany with a shell pickguard. The back and sides are made of laminated sapele, which isn’t glamorous; but its durability makes sense for an instrument designed more for tossing into cars and overhead bins than for concerts. The neck and body are finished in matte varnish.
The additional body depth, plus an arched back, makes a huge difference in both the volume and tone. The bass response is nothing short of amazing for an instrument of this size. But what I keep going back for is the midrange definition and punch. This guitar projects like crazy. While it pops out of the mix as a slightly less-bassy flat-top, I can’t wait to try it in place of an arch-top with a small swing group. The midrange presence is that good. Also, its 23 1/2” scale is a joy to play. That may sound undersized, but it has always worked on the Gibson Byrdland—and it plays in tune—so I have no complaints about it. This is a really versatile, comfortable little performer.
As for choosing the spruce or mahogany top: Both sound excellent, but the mahogany has a slightly darker sound. Taylor has also released a few “Limited” models, featuring koa or rosewood laminate back and sides. They look nice, but trying several next to one another, I haven’t noticed any improvement over the sapele.
Taylor is promoting their new simple-install ES-Go® pickup for $99. The ES-Go is a passive, magnetic system that fits into the sound hole and is paired with a V-cable, with a built-in volume control on the cord. Reaction to this pickup has been somewhat lukewarm. However, I’ve also played a few Mini’s that featured the Taylor Expression System®, and I was very impressed (I added just a little bit of midrange on the amp—instant sweetness). These may not be as readily available, but they’re worth jumping on, if you can find them.
I used the word “consistent” earlier, and that has probably been the thing that has most impressed me about these little troupers—after their sound. I’ve played at least a dozen GS Mini guitars, and I continue to marvel at their unamplified tone. At one stop, I had been playing a number of high-end arch-tops (including a 1941 Gibson Super 400 Premier), and then picked up a Mini, expecting a lightweight, apologetic flat-top whimper. Surprise! The midrange punch of the Mini allowed it to fit in with the arch-tops, but with a little more depth (and for only $33,000 less!). What I already liked, I now love. And I continue to be infatuated.
List price is $678 with a hard gig bag, but most stores sell them for around $499 (without the pickup). At this price, you can easily think of it as a no-frills travel axe; but with its overachieving tone, you’ll be comfortable plugging it into almost any situation or venue. It’s really that good. Or maybe this sweet young thing has just gone to my head …