Hands-On Review:Traveler Guitars
Goes anywhere, yet feels and plays like a full-size guitar
Those of us who play guitar and bass want to take our instruments everywhere we go. Whether on vacation, road tripping, or traveling out of town on business, it’s a great comfort to have a trusty axe at our fingertips. More often than not, however, we simply find ourselves away from home and unable to scratch that itch to play. None of us want to have our prized guitar smashed in transit on an airline. An ordinary guitar is just too big to carry on a plane, haul with us on a cross-country trek, or hike to the top of a mountain with. Thankfully, there is a solution to this problem.
Traveler Guitars are extremely portable and play just like their larger-bodied brethren. There is a complete lineup of Traveler guitars for any type of playing: steel and nylon string acoustics, electric guitar, even a bass. The compact Traveler design cleverly dispenses with a headstock. In its place is an end cap through which strings are routed to wrap around six rollers at the bottom end of the guitar. Standard tuning machines are housed in the body of the instrument. This ingenious design makes tuning on the go a breeze. You’ll just have to get out of the habit of reaching up toward the non-existent headstock. The two samples we received for this review were the Escape MK-II and the Speedster.
The Traveler Escape MK-II is a steel string acoustic-electric with an alder body. Our sample guitar is a model that also comes with a spruce top. It’s only 30" long, 11" wide, and weighs just 4-1/2 lbs. A bolt-on neck has a 25-1/2" scale and is 1-1/4" wide at the nut. An undersaddle hybrid-element transducer system is a modification of the Element System from L.R. Baggs. The pickup’s unique active circuitry works with the preamp custom-designed for Traveler Guitar and an EQ tuned specifically for the Escape MK-II. Upper bout-mounted controls adjust volume, bass, and treble. This system produces a sturdy, open sound with good dynamics for strumming or fingerpicking. A sliding selector switch offers the choice of standard 1/4" output to an amplifier or a headphone application with a 1/8" adapter. An adapter and headphones are included.
Good looks and functionality are not sacrificed at the expense of the compact design. A single-cutaway spruce body was designed with the help of renowned luthier John Carruthers and features white top binding and a satin finish. This guitar is beautiful. It is well-balanced and sits comfortably across the leg while seated. Slung across the shoulders with a strap, the Escape MK II is light as can be. The cutaway provides easy access to all 22 medium frets for a comfortable playing experience.
The Traveler Speedster is an electric guitar available in a candy apple red or gloss black finish. It boasts an Eastern American hard maple neck-through-body design. A removable, teardrop-shaped upper arm support is securely mounted on the main body using a simple and convenient thumbscrew. With the arm support attached the Speedster measures about 32". You may choose to play without the arm support. Remove it and the Speedster is even smaller, measuring just under 28" long and 7-1/2" wide. A 24-3/4"-scale neck feels comfortably familiar, as it is the same length as many of your favorite classic standard-sized guitar necks. The Speedster’s racy retro looks are complemented by a dual-rail humbucker pickup that provides a surprisingly chunky rhythm sound as well as a bright, crisp lead sound without being too brittle. Chrome tuning machines keep your tuning rock solid. A well-designed neck joint allows extremely easy access to all 22 medium frets on the ebonized rosewood fretboard, enabling lightning fast, fluid play.
The most fun was discovering all the different places we could take Traveler guitars. Each comes with a form-fitting gig bag that adds very little to the overall weight: just under 7 lbs. for the Escape and just a little over 5 lbs. for the Speedster. It’s no problem hiking or biking with the Traveler slung over a shoulder, ready to be pulled out for some jamming. A Traveler guitar’s compact size also allows for convenient play while waiting for a flight in an airport terminal or even while seated during a long red eye flight, with no worry about disturbing anyone around you. There are no complaints from neighboring rooms, for example, when you pull this baby out and wail away through the night in the hotel room after that long business meeting. Because it’s so easy to take along, the Traveler has become our constant companion.