Which Mini Acoustic Guitar is Right For Me?
Over here at PMT, we are committed to covering the most asked about topics for all of you curious players out there. We are players ourselves and have notice a fast growing trend in mini acoustic guitars. Everyone is going to tell you that the one they have is best. But we know better.
When Did These Small Acoustic Guitars Become So Popular and Why?
When we think of acoustic guitars, it's typically the dreadnought body which comes to mind. The classic shape has been favoured by guitar players for decades however, in recent years we have noticed a steady increase in major guitar builders (Martin, Taylor, Tanglewood and Faith to name a few), producing smaller-bodied acoustics. Thanks to their size, they make great travel guitars too!
While these kind of instruments have been available in the past, it probably wasn't until UK singer songwriter Ed Sheeran appeared on SBTV back in 2010 with his Martin LX1 to perform his hit 'You Need Me, I Don't Need You', that the interest really began to pick up. Even non-fans of the artist started to see the benefit of gigging with a mini acoustic guitar. They are lightweight, super portable, inexpensive and sound superb plugged up. This makes them great for the gigging musician or buskers who typically throws their gear into a car to play a couple of shows a night.
Now on to the topic of this article which is, What is the best mini acoustic guitar available? We've taken five of our favourite and some of the most popular selling models, had a play around and now we're going to tell you what our experts actually think!
Introducing The 5 Contestants...
1. Martin LX1E Electro Acoustic
Also known as 'The Little or Mini Martin', The Martin LX1E Electro Acoustic is easily the best selling small axe we've ever had in.
This guitars popularity sky rocketed with players when Ed Sheeran broke onto the scene. Due to Ed's phenomenal success it hasn't been difficult to eclipse the competition. Today it almost seems to be the immediate choice for players looking for one of these smaller guitars.
The Mini Martin has been the daddy of the small guitar since Ed Sheeran debuted 6 years ago. Its quite amazing to see the effect that a successful artist has had in bringing a single product to the forefront of attention. In fact, thanks to Ed's influence, martin have launched a range of different Ed Sheeran Signature Martin Guitars, including the Divide model. What we are here to question however is its authority. Is this guitar a serious workhorse? or is this guitar a toy for Ed Sheeran fans. Well we'll say this, it's certainly no toy. love it or hate it, this is a Martin Guitar.
- Full Mahogany construction
- Solid Sitka Spruce top
- Fishman Isys T preamp system
- Plays great and feels very comfortable in the hands
- It does perform well when plugged in
- A solid name brand to play with pride
By all means this is a good guitar. It does live up to it's hype and performs very well. The price is quite steep for what it offers but is sure to make players very happy indeed. After all, it's an adorable sized Martin guitar!
In short, a very good entry from Martin but it's beginning to face some major competition from its biggest competitors.
Martin LX1 X Series Acoustic Guitar
If you wanted a purely acoustic guitar without the option of using a pickup, as some of us do, the Martin LX1 is the same guitar, sans Fishman Isys T preamp system. If you don't have the need for a pickup or feel like the installation of a pickup may ruin the "look" of an acoustic, this is the option for you. A very popular guitar not just because of Ed's involvement, but due to the fact it's one of the most well made travel guitars or mini acoustics available today.
2. Taylor GS Mini-E and Taylor Baby BT1E
Taylor Guitars are no stranger to the idea of mini acoustic guitars. In fact they pioneered them. The original Baby Taylor was conceived in 1996 which predated good ol' Sheerans Martin by about 14 years. Following on from Taylor's original 'Baby' range and bringing us to 2016 are the brand new GS Mini models.
The Taylor GS Mini-E (top left) pictured here as the Taylor GS Mini-E LTD Ovangkol Electro-Acoustic Guitar has a slightly different approach to the Martin LX1E or the previously successful Taylor Baby BT1 (top right). The idea here was to take a top of the range Taylor guitar and scale it down almost by means of a magical 'Photoshop' button. The result is a fully fledged 3/4 size guitar which is a little more costly than that Martin, but hugs closer to the idea of a scaled down guitar, rather than a small one.
The Taylor GS Mini-E feels and sounds somewhere between the mini-dreadnoughts on offer and conventional full sized acoustic guitars. With that said, it's still a small guitar which can be thrown into overhead luggage spaces and used for regular gigs. For those looking to splash out a little extra, this is probably the model to go for.
Baby Taylor Vs GS Mini - Whats the difference?
The main differences come down to the shape, and the cost. The Baby Taylor opts for a scaled down dreadnought style whereas the Taylor GS-Mini is utilise a shape similar to a parlour guitar. In addition, the BT1 is around the £300-£400 mark, whereas the Taylor GS-Mini is around the £500-£600 price range.
- Great intonation and action thanks to a compensated bridge
- Fantastic Taylor build quality
- The loudest of its class
- Well priced for a genuine Taylor guitar
- Easy access 2-way truss rod for making neck adjustments
- Supplied with tough hard bag
- Taylor preamp system sounds great
- Solid Sitka Spruce top with Laminated back and sides helps to deliver that extra volume
- Available without pre amp as the Taylor GS Mini
- Also available in a Koa set up - Taylor GS Mini-E Koa Electro Acoustic Guitar
- Also available in a Mahogany set up - Taylor GS Mini Mahogany
- Also available in a Walnut set up - Taylor GS Mini-e Walnut Electro Acoustic Guitar
This guitar is perfect for busking and sounds great plugged in as you would expect. It is also the loudest and in our opinion best sounding 3/4 size guitar available. It serves up the same dish offered by Martin in a distinctly different package. This is a really awesome alternative to the Martin for those looking to spend that little bit extra.
3. Faith FDNMG Nomad Mini Neptune Electro Acoustic Guitar
Next up is the Faith FDNMG Nomad Mini Neptune Electro Acoustic Guitar from Faith Guitars. For those of you who may not be familiar with Faith guitars, they were founded in 2002 by British master luthier, Patrick James Eggle.
Faith guitars are are all classic British design and since 2002 have been making a strong presence among players. The FDNMG Nomad Mini Neptune is faiths entry into the 3/4 size guitar market and follows the LX1E approach more so then that of the GS Mini offered from Taylor. The result is a cheaper, more ergonomic guitar with no fills.
This little guitar by the much lesser known brand really hits the ground running and proves to be a credible threat to the likes of the Baby Taylor and Mini Martin. Again, Faith guitars like any brand have their own unique sound, while the characteristics are similar, all of these models do vary in their sound and will take different players fancies. The Faith Nomad Mini-Neptune is an excellent alternative which is designed to actually age well! The mark of a great luthier.
- Solid Mahogany construction is designed to sound better and better with age
- Indian Rosewood fingerboard and Faith 'F' inlay are very nice touches
- This guitar plays really well, has a proper 2-way truss rod for neck adjustments and overall feels very comfortable
- Excellent sounding preamp from Faith with a built in tuner
- Very well priced!
- Tone wise, this guitar sounds bigger than it is
This to us defines the mini acoustic guitar. A perfect busking/travel companion designed to actually sound better over the time it's played. In terms of pricing it falls right between the Taylor Baby BT1E and Martin LX1E while performing and looking as good, if not better than both. You now know this axe is out their. Find one, try it and see for yourself how it compares.
4. Alvarez LJ2E Little Jumbo Electro Acoustic Travel Guitar
Alvarez Guitars guitars were founded in St. Louis, Missouri back in 1965. The company who have a very long history making guitars, have always aimed to offer tremendous value with their instruments. You can read more about the history of Alvarez here.
The Alvarez LJ2E Little Jumbo Electro Acoustic Travel Guitar is an incredibly versatile mini acoustic guitar that offers pro-level playability at a fraction of the cost of the Martina and Taylor options. Don't let the price tag fool you though, there's nothing cheap about this guitar as it utilises world class tonewoods such as a Solid A+ Sitka Spruce Top, Curved Mahogany Back and Sides as well as a a SYS250 Pickup and Preamp - this is a tour ready guitar for well under £400. The Forward Shifted bracing system (FSTLJ) helps the top resonate louder and longer giving the illusion that you're playing a far bigger guitar.
Whether or not you prefer this model over the other 3 is one thing, What can't be argued is the value this guitar brings to the table. The Little Martin might have pushed the small guitar to new heights but Alvarez have done their complete own take on it. This guitar is gorgeous and comes in at a phenomenal price which is more affordable to most players.
- Incredible price
- Stunning design
- Plays incredibly
- Forward Shifted Bracing system
- Louder than expected
- Constructed from Solid A+ Sitka Spruce and Curved Mahogany
The Alvarez LJ2E Little Jumbo is among the best sounding, offers incredible playability and projection and one of the best value of our picks.
5. Eastcoast MKOA-E Koa Electro Acoustic Guitar Natural
Next up we have the most budget friendly option in our list - the Eastcoast MKOA-E Koa Electro Acoustic Guitar pictured here in a Natural finish. Eastcoast have gone through a massive rebrand and overhaul as of 2019, and have completely blown us away with the quality of their new guitars. This particular model has really set the mini guitar scene alight thanks to its combination of quality tonewoods and reliable construction - oh, and the £249 price tag is pretty darn good too!
The use of Koa, which is an exotic tonewood has impressed us as it's usually only found on guitars at least twice the price due to the fact it's highly sought after thanks to its lush, warm sound and unique tonal qualities.
The 3/4 size makes it extremely portable and an ideal option for travelling musicians and the inclusion of a Fishman Presys II electronic pickup with built-in volume and 2-Band EQ controls, as well as a mini tuner with visual display makes it an impressive addition to any pro-level set up. Did we mention it's only £249?!
So Which Mini Acoustic Guitar is Best?
All five of these models are going to appeal to different players so it's important to bare that in mind. We would always recommend trying out each guitar in store before making a buying decision. With that said, here is our ranking.
- In terms of price:
The Eastcoast and Alvarez guitars take spot for most budget friendly without sacrificing tone.
- In terms of playability:
The Taylor and Alvarez guitars are renowned for their playability and feel and we agree
- In terms of projection:
The Alvarez is extremely loud and the Faith is particular loud considering its size
- In terms of professional level guitars:
The Martin, Taylor and Alvarez are all designed for professional guitarists and we can easily say they wont let you down.
- Tone woods used:
If you prefer your exotic tone woods or like your guitars to have a particularly unique sound, the Faith is ideal thanks to its Mahogany b#construction, the Eastcoast is brilliant as it utilises Koa and the Taylor GS Mini Ovangkol provides a particularly striking sound.
We should say now, all five of these models are well made, have a great heritage and perform great! We know however that the small guitar is a hot topic for discussion and sometimes, it's easy to be drawn towards the most popular model (The Martin LX1E). What we aimed to do was make you the reader aware of the other models are available before buying so that you can choose exactly what's right for you.
If you'd like to see more travel size guitars or mini acoustics, check out our top 5 travel guitars video for even more options: