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Taylor GS Mini Acoustic Guitar Review

September 2, 2010


Download Example 1
Mic'd, standard tuning
Download Example 2
ES-Go Pickup, standard tuning
Download Example 3
Mic'd, DADGAD
Download Example 4
ES-Go Pickup, DADGAD

I’m a big fan of little, light, and easy, but I’m also a fan of tone-osity, and it’s rare in the acoustic guitar world that the twain meet. When they do, it’s cause for celebration, so friends, break out the champagne for Taylor’s new GS Mini. The only thing little about this guitar is the size.

The GS Mini is a scaled-down version of the classic GS (Grand Symphony) body, a striking, attractive, slightly voluptuous shape built for comfort as well as tone. The narrow waist allows the body to sit further down on the leg (when sitting) so the right arm is extended at a less severe angle than with a dreadnaught body, and it’s also slightly shallower, decreasing shoulder extension further. The Mini itself has a total length of 36 5/8" and a 23 1/2" scale, which takes comfort and portability as far as it’s possible to take them, but don’t think for a minute it’s anything less than a real red-blooded American guitar. The body depth is a big factor here, and at 4 7/16" deep, it’s got some air to move. The goal is for the Mini to be sort of a modern-day Parlor guitar, a smaller, more portable instrument that offers tone and playability comparable to a full size guitar.

Most acoustic guitar players are well aware of the Baby Taylor, born 15 years ago, the older and smaller brother to the GS Mini. The Mini is far more guitar than the Baby, however. While the Baby pioneered the “travel guitar” field, the Mini refines it. The Baby is a petite 3 3/8" deep, the Mini is over an inch deeper, with an extra 3/4" in the scale length (23 ½”). This may not seem like much, but it allows the Mini to tune to standard instead of being “high-strung.” The Mini is truly a different beast—less “travel,” more “guitar.”

The Apple and the Tree
Taylor is famous for their action. Every Taylor plays like buttah. You know how great they’re going to feel before you even pick them up, and the GS Mini plays exactly like a Taylor. In Taylor’s publication, Wood and Steel (Spring 2010), Bob Taylor said he was adamant about the Mini having the feel of a “real” guitar, so he gave it the patented Taylor NT neck with the same action and feel as a full size Taylor.

The back and sides are laminated sapele, which is shimmering, gold-tinted, honey-colored mahogany. The grain looks almost three dimensional, and it gleams like, well, gold. The top is solid Sitka, and, bless them, Taylor gave us a real ebony fretboard and bridge. Ebony is often one of the first casualties in the drive to make a guitar smaller and less expensive. Fortunately, Taylor was focused on small and not cheap. To my fingers, ebony is just the real deal, and here, it’s icing on the petit fours. The GS Mini has the same tuners, nut and saddle material used on full-size Taylor guitars, and the rough-and-tumble, attractive hardshell gig bag is a nice touch.



Tonewise, the Mini beats the snot out of rest of the similarly priced, small-body “travel” guitars that I have played. It doesn’t have the full harmonic capability of a standard size Grand Symphony or dreadnaught, but there’s enough there to be quite satisfying. The bass doesn’t rumble, but there’s more than enough to offer the drive that other little travel-style guitars lack. The mids are quite pleasant, not at all nasal or harsh, and the high end is clear and present. The Mini is not just a tool that you compromise on because you need to travel with something. It’s a guitar you can pick up and get lost with, because it does offer that broad, viable sonic palette.

Just about the first thing I do with any guitar I get my hands on is drop to DADGAD, and the GS Mini handles that drop just fine. It came with Elixir Mediums for strings, so you’ve got plenty enough oomph for DADGAD. C-tunings are a little floppy sounding, but doable.

Optional Pickup System
The ES-Go is a magnetic soundhole stacked humbucker pickup specifically designed for the GS Mini. The directions say all you need is a screwdriver to install it, and there are only about five steps to the install, none of them rocket science. The instruction manual has clear photos illustrating each step, with well-written directions that—gasp!—make sense. The pickup adds about $99 to the price of the Mini, and if you are planning on doing more than just pickin’ around a campfire or in your hotel room on those long, dull business trips, it’s a great addition.


The ES-Go pickup installed

Plugged in to a discreet, interior soundhole clip, the ES-Go sounds pretty realistic, and I didn’t have to do much EQing to get a pleasantly guitary sound. The mids are warm and not nasal at all, which was a nice surprise. I tweaked the Presence up a bit on my Baggs Core 1 amp, because the pickup sounded a little lack-luster, and that seemed to do the trick. The signal is about as hot as a passive pickup, and I was able to crank up the volume pretty far without feedback. I wouldn’t hesitate to gig with this guitar in a coffeehouse or small, friendly bar, but too much crowd noise will bury you. That’s true of a lot of passive pickups, though, so that’s not really much of a knock. Taylor released their V-Cable, a cable with a volume pot at the plug, at the same time as the GS Mini, as an option to boost the volume on the guitar.

The Final Mojo
Taylor may be famous for their action and playability, but with ground-breaking innovations coming one after another (the Baby, the NT neck, the Expression System, the Baritone 8-String, the Mini), Taylor is turning out to be excitement central in the acoustic guitar world. The GS Mini certainly meets the criteria for an affordable, great playing, great sounding guitar that could become the “new Parlor” guitar for the 21st century. I can’t imagine this guitar not taking the world by storm.
Buy if...
you need an affordable, great playing, great sounding little buddy to take with you everywhere you can imagine going.
Skip if...
if you have no use for portability, ever.
Rating...


Street GS Mini $499, Optional ES-Go Pickup $99  - Taylor Guitars - taylorguitars.com