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In an effort to keep sizes small and weights light, travel acoustic guitars are not known for their traditional shapes. And this Ultra-Light, from the independent Californian company Traveler Guitar, is certainly one of the lesser-seen guitar shapes! It claims to be ‘the smallest, lightest full-scale travel guitar ever made’, so how does it stack up against others on our list?
The body of this interesting little guitar is made of Eastern American hard maple, and comes finished in either black, antique brown or natural, which shows off the attractive grain nicely. Most importantly is its size, and this is a small guitar – only 28” long, which is perfect for cramming into an airplane overhead bin, while retaining a full-size 24.75” scale length. It’s light too, weighing just over 2lbs (around 3lbs in the case). The neck emerges from the one piece maple body, and is fixed with an ebonized rosewood fretboard and 22 medium frets, all very easy to access. The body also comes with a detachable lap frame, which makes it much easier to rest on your lap while sitting. Add in a hand-friendly smooth satin finish and the Ultra-Light is a comfortable and very playable travel guitar, that feels sensibly designed and well-built.
There’s no headstock, so how do you tune it? The tuners are in the body! That’s right, the body doubles up as the headstock, fitted with a set of chrome closed gear tuning machines with a precise 14:1 gear ratio. The rest of the guitar shows off equally good hardware, with a phenolic resin nut, a standard 1/4 output jack (cleverly doubling up as a strap pin), and good quality D’Addario EJ15 strings. We must also mention the undersaddle piezo pickup, which gives this little guitar its amplified sound, although there are no volume or EQ controls, so your amp will determine the versatility of the sound. Finally, the Ultra-Light comes with its own soft gig bag, which is essential for transporting it around.
Unplugged, the Ultra-Light is basically a silent guitar – it’s around as resonant as an unplugged electric guitar. So while campfire performances are probably out of the question, it’s very useful for quiet practice on the go. To get the most use out of the guitar you’ll want to plug it in to an amp, where you’ll find the piezo pickup delivers a crisp and articulate tone. The lack of a volume control is a little inconvenient, but not a deal breaker.
The Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light is a well-designed guitar – everything has been thought out, and no space is wasted, resulting in a very light, robust and portable instrument. While you’ll need an amp at your final destination if you want to perform with it, it’s great for quiet practice on the go and offers a clear and very acceptable sound. With good tuners, a decent pickup, solid craftsmanship, and an included case, for under $300 this guitar offers good value for money.