Take a fully sized Taylor Grand Symphony, shrink it down to munchkin size and what have you got? David Mead is on a mission to find out…
The Taylor GS Mini has been around for a few years now, but with the sudden surge in interest in both smaller bodied and mahogany topped guitars, we thought that it was time to take a look at an instrument that combines both of these features into a very neat little package. Furthermore, it’s a genuine Taylor acoustic for just a smidge over £500 – so let’s see what this mighty mite has to offer…
So where exactly does the GS Mini fit in to the Taylor acoustic guitar family? Well, obviously it’s a lot smaller than the Grand Symphony, but it’s also bigger than a Baby Taylor. There’s only one way we’re going to be anywhere near precise about this, so pardon me while I wield my measuring apparatus. At a very stylish 256mm on the upper bout and 366mm on the lower, you can tell that we’re almost in parlour territory. The waist thins down to a trim 226mm and the depth varies from 82mm at the neck to a slightly more fulsome 100mm at the endpin. So it’s a very neat little package that plays “pony” to the full-sized GS’s mighty stallion!
The top of the GS Mini is a very nice looking piece of mahogany, the grain of which has an almost 3D like quality, thanks to Taylor’s matte finish. As one of the main features here is that of economy, the body bindings aren’t in the least ornate, but they’re effective all the same. The three-ring rosette of alternating black and white is smart, while the mock tortoiseshell pickguard sets things off nicely. Alongside the standard X bracing, the top’s underside features Taylor’s “relief rout” which is a groove cut along the top’s inner edges and has the effect of loosening it up to increase the guitar’s bass response and general volume. This has been a feature on all Taylors since 2002 and it’s good to find that this little fella didn’t miss out.
The back and sides are layered sapele, which is another way of saying “laminated”, but whereas this might be considered by some to be a dirty word in guitar manufacture I have to say that I’ve played some guitars with laminated backs and sides that have quite simply blown my socks off and so it’s good to keep an open mind. There’s a subtle “bowl” to the back of the guitar, which is doubtless here to help with volume and projection. It’s been very nicely done and adds a lot of character at the same time. Despite the fact that this might be considered a “budget” Taylor, it’s certainly not short on features.
The GS’s neck is once again sapele and could easily be mistaken for mahogany if you weren’t paying attention. There’s a separate heel and the headstock has been scarfed on – almost invisibly, it has to be said.
There are six unbranded tuners on the sides of the headstock, which is itself faced with Lexan, a polycarbonate resin that has a textured surface and which is very slightly rough to the touch. On to the fingerboard and it’s ebony all the way – another hint of luxury on a guitar in this price range. The nut and string saddle are both Nubone, the latter sitting amidst and ebony bridge.
It’s always difficult to know exactly what is reasonable to expect from a mini acoustic in terms of volume and tone. You’d be asking a lot if you anticipated anything like the sound of a full body, for instance. On the other hand, “scaling down” is all well and good, but you wouldn’t want the guitar’s voice to be compromised along the way. I can tell you that the GS Mini is a real eyebrow raiser, in terms of the sound it produces. I was genuinely quite amazed by how much volume and very usable tone was springing forth from this little chap. Furthermore, it’s a very comfortable instrument to sit and play, which isn’t always the case with a “mini me” edition. The neck is very user-friendly; it’s broader than you expect, but not in any way chunky and the nut width is the same standard that you would find on thousands of instruments out there. So you’re immediately at home and not forced into a change of playing style to suit the guitar’s diminutive size. This makes it a nigh on perfect travel guitar – I wouldn’t imagine that there’s an airline that would put up any serious resistance to carrying the GS Mini on board as hand luggage.
So chords ring out with some considerable sustain and single notes are very well catered for as well. The instrument might be slight, but there’s certainly nothing lacking when it comes to performance.
Another feature I like a lot is one that is practically hidden from view. If you look through the soundhole, towards the neck joint, you’ll see a plastic fitting into which you can slot Taylor’s ES-Go passive soundhole pickup. It simply slides in, from what I can gather (there wasn’t one supplied with our review sample). Then you merely unscrew the endpin and replace it with the jack socket which shares the same shape and screw fittings. Simple. A true do-it-yourself pick-up fix! I believe that the ES-Go is available for around £100 and so you could have stage-ready Taylor – with a more than reasonable set of larynx – for around £600, which isn’t at all bad.
Despite having some other toys to play with this month, I have to confess that I kept coming back to the Taylor GS-Mini for its 100% fun factor. There’s something about playing a smaller body guitar with a surprisingly full sound that appeals to me and I suspect that I am not alone. I’m inclined to think that I would be more than happy to gig this guitar as I suspect that its amplified voice would be extremely mature and fully workable. And if a mahogany top is not particularly your cup of tea then it’s available in a Sitka spruce/sapele combo or even a slightly more exotic Hawaiian Koa/Koa variation. But whatever your tastes in timber, if you’re looking for a small body guitar for either travel, fun or even serious playing, don’t give the GS-Mini a miss, because it really is a corker!
Pros: Taylor quality with a full-bodied tone, wrapped in a little bundle!
Cons: My only gripe was that the action was a mite too high for me
Overall: Taylor has pulled out all the stops to give this mini guitar a superstar sound
Sound quality: 4.5 stars
Build quality: 5 stars
Value for money: 5 stars
Model: GS Mini
Retail Price: £503
Body Size: Mini Grand Symphony
Made In: Mexico
Back and Sides: Layered sapele
Tuners: Die-cast chrome
Nut Width: 43mm
Scale Length: 596mm
Onboard Electronics: Optional ES-Go Ready
Strings Fitted: Elixir Phosphor Bronze .012s
Left Handers: Yes, no extra cost
Gig Bag/Case Included: GS Mini gig bag