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Ever since I wrote the “Best Electric Travel Guitars” article a few months ago, people have been asking for a similar article on acoustic travel guitars. So, I reached out to some guitar manufacturers and asked if they’d loan me guitars for this review.
Not all of them responded, however, two companies came through and were gracious enough to loan me guitars to review:
- KLŌS Carbon Fiber Guitars
- Traveler Guitars (sent me 2 models)
So, let’s dive in and take a look at the 3 guitars I received.
Ratings at a Glance
KLŌS Carbon Fiber Guitar
KLŌS at a Glance
KLŌS Carbon Fiber Guitar – In Depth
Pronounced “close”, when your KLŌS travel guitar arrives in the mail the first thing you’ll notice is how tiny the shipping box is. The unassuming little box is only 24″ x 15″ x 5″ and you’ll be in disbelief that there’s actually a guitar in there:
After you unpack the KLŌS, right away you’ll notice the fact that its body is constructed of lightweight and highly durable carbon fiber. The guitar comes out of the box in “travel mode”… which means the neck is detached and tucked neatly next to the body. This is what differentiates the KLŌS from the other two guitars in this review: the neck can be detached for storage/travel. It’s a great feature that makes the KLŌS a true travel guitar.
Of the 3 acoustic travel guitars in this review, the KLŌS earned the highest portability score, for a few reasons. First, it has an easily detachable neck. All you need is a Phillips screwdriver and it takes about a minute to unscrew all 4 of the neck screws, which allows you to stuff the guitar into a large backpack–if you’d prefer that over the KLŌS gig bag. Next, there’s that carbon fiber body, which is incredibly lightweight. Lastly, when you consider that there is a neck cover and rain cover available (must be purchased separately), the KLŌS wins-out as the most portable of the 3 guitars–a true travel companion.
The KLŌS has that sexy carbon fiber body, but the neck, fretboard, and various internal parts are still wood. This means the KLŌS isn’t as resistant to the elements as a guitar made completely of carbon fiber. Though it’s the toughest of the 3 guitars tested here, it’s not indestructible. You should still avoid moisture to the greatest extent possible (especially if you opt for the acoustic-electric version) and follow the same precautions that you would for any acoustic guitar.
Since this guitar was loaned to me by KLŌS, I wasn’t comfortable taking it out into the Arizona desert and seeing how much abuse it could take. Instead, I left it outside on my (shaded) back porch for 2 consecutive days and nights, without a case or cover. Two days later, it played and sounded just as good as it did when it first arrived on my doorstep.
Sure, the weather here in Arizona was pretty nice when I did that. Regardless, I’d never leave any other acoustic guitar outside for 2 days, no matter what time of year it is.
The KLŌS has a nut width of 1 11/16″ and a scale length of 24 3/4″. So, this neck has some of the the same specs as a Les Paul. If you play electric guitar at all, you should feel right at home on the KLŌS. On the other hand, if you primarily only play acoustics with wider string spacing, you’ll probably feel the difference, but I didn’t find it to be a problem at all. This, coming from a guy who is primarily a 7-string electric player and whose full-sized acoustic has a 1 3/4″ nut width. So, I’m used to wider necks, in general, and I had no trouble adapting to the KLŌS’ neck.
Let me be clear: The fact that the KLŌS scored the lowest for “sound” is NOT because it sounds bad. In fact, the KLŌS sounds quite good acoustically and has great volume and projection. The first time I strummed it I said one word: “Wow!” It was the first travel acoustic I’d ever played, and I was really surprised at the amount of sound coming out of its little carbon fiber body. It wasn’t until the other two guitars arrived that I realized it didn’t have quite as much low-end (bass) as the others.
The KLŌS strong in the mid and high frequencies, and has plenty of acoustic projection. That means it can be loud and definitely punch-through in a group setting, but won’t give you the boomy lows that the other two guitars will.
The Fishman Sonitone piezo in the KLŌS gets the job done. It’s a good, basic piezo system, but isn’t nearly as robust and fully-featured as the piezo system in the other two guitars. This may or may not matter to you–depending on how important it is to have a piezo in your travel guitar.
Price: $ $ $ $
The KLŌS is the most expensive of the 3 guitars compared here. Right now, if you buy the KLŌS on Amazon, the only models/options they have listed are the base acoustic and base acoustic-electric. Both are available in black only and include the full accessory package. However, if you’re wanting more or different options and pricing tiers, I recommend you order directly from the KLŌS website. Eventually, they may make more options available on Amazon, but I can’t confirm.
- Acoustic-only: This is the basic acoustic-only model, featuring an all carbon-fiber body and wooden neck. It is available in 4 colors (black, dark blue, dark red, and dark green).
- Acoustic-electric: Same guitar and color options as above, but with the addition of a Fishman Sonitone onboard preamp system. This is the guitar I tested for this review.
- Deluxe acoustic-electric: This is the “fully decked out” version. The nut, saddle, and bridge pins are upgraded to a black composite material and the tuners are upgraded to black Graphtech Ratio tuners. You get the option of a custom action setup. Lastly, this model comes with all accessories and is available in a wide range of colors.
Options, Extras, and Customizations
- Right or left handed: no extra charge
- Truss rod wrench and KLŌS screwdriver: included
- Carbon fiber stiffening rods: $30
- Complete accessory package: $86, includes gig bag, trigger capo, guitar strap, neck sleeve, rain cover (included with Deluxe model)
- Custom designs available: $999 and up
Demo & Review by Darrell Braun
Before I wrap up my review of the KLŌS , I’ll let a guitarist who’s a WAY better player than me give you a little demo…
Traveler Guitar AG-450EQ
Traveler AG-450EQ at a Glance
AG-450EQ – In Depth
A few days later, two guitars arrived from Traveler Guitar… and one of them was this acoustic-electric AG-450EQ. The first thing that strikes you when you pull the AG-450EQ out of its deluxe gig bag is its headless design and the Streamline™ Tuning System. The finish on the model I received was the high-gloss Sunburst version. I could find no flaws in the finish, and if sunburst isn’t your thing this guitar is also available in gloss black and natural. These different colors have different model numbers, but are the exact same guitar otherwise.
I specifically requested this model from the Traveler Guitar company because I was intrigued by its headless design and behind-the-bridge tuning system. I was curious whether the littler tuners would be difficult to turn or if they’d make tuning precision difficult. Not so–tuning accuracy was excellent. The high gear ratio allowed me to easily get each string to exact pitch–aided by the built-in tuner. Turning the tuners wasn’t too bad. They’re a little stiff, but not unreasonably so. The only people who might have a little trouble are those with more severe arthritis.
Of the 3 guitars, the AG-450EQ was the second most portable of the bunch–with a small dreadnought-shaped body that’s roughly the same size as the KLŌS. Its headless design and the Streamline™ behind-the-bridge tuners contribute to its portability. Unlike standard tuning pegs, you’re not likely to knock these barrel-shaped tuners out-of-tune if the guitar gets bumped around a bit. Another nice bonus is that every Traveler Guitar comes with a deluxe gig bag–and it’s a really nice bag with backpack-style straps. I deducted a star here because you can’t quite stuff this one in a backpack. Well, you could, as long as it’s a big backpack and you don’t mind the neck poking out of the top.
The AG-450EQ scored lower than the KLŌS here because it’s an all-wood guitar with a high gloss lacquer finish. So, despite it’s “traveler” designation, you still need to take care of it like you would any other all-wood instrument. Additionally, since this one’s acoustic-electric, there’s an acoustic preamp you need to be weary of if you plan to take it into the great outdoors. Like any acoustic guitar, you’ll need to avoid exposing the AG-450EQ to extremes of humidity or temperature, and you’ll need to be careful if you want to preserve that impeccable, high-gloss finish. Don’t take this to mean that the AG-450EQ is a fragile guitar, it’s not. I’d be more confident taking this little traveler on a road trip or flight than I would any full-sized acoustic guitar.
The AG-450EQ is a dream to play, thanks to it’s 25.5″ scale and 1 3/4″ nut width. It’s a full-sized neck, so you’ll immediately feel right at home. If you’ve never played a headless guitar, you might think that it’ll somehow feel weird or throw you off. Trust me, it won’t. While it may look unusual to some, it feels completely natural to play.
The AG-450EQ took the #2 spot when it came to sound… having a bit more bottom-end and fullness than the KLŌS but not quite as much as the CL-3EQ (which I review down below). This is one of the reasons I nominated this guitar as the “best all-around.” The acoustic sound you get from this guitar is really, really nice, with good warmth, volume, and some high-end snap. The piezo (Shadow Electronics NanoFlex pickup with custom preamp) sounds absolutely fantastic, and includes separate volume, bass, and treble controls, as well as a phase switch to help with live feedback. I should also point out that the preamp includes an AUX-in port, headphone out, and a built in tuner.
Price: $ $ $
The AG-450EQ isn’t a low-priced guitar by any means, but is still slightly less expensive than the KLŌS. The value is definitely there though, as this is a great sounding guitar (plugged and unplugged) that you can use for a lot more than just travel. If you want to check it out, you can see the current price on Amazon or see it on the Traveler Guitar website along with all their other travel guitars.
Don’t just take my word for it. Before I wrap up, give the AG450-EQ a listen and judge for yourself.
Traveler Guitar CL-3EQ
Traveler CL-3EQ at a Glance
Last, but certainly not least, we have the CL3-EQ, another guitar that the Traveler Guitar company was gracious enough to loan me. When I opened up the little (deluxe) gig bag, the first thing that hit me was just how nicely appointed this guitar was. Right away, I noticed the unique cutaway–more like a scoop–just out of the top of the soundboard.
The next thing I noticed was the forearm contour–something that’s a rare feature on any acoustic guitar. You can’t see it very well in the photos above, so here’s a closeup for you:
Throw in gold tuning posts, a Traveler logo nicely inlaid in maple at the 12th fret, a very nice acoustic-electric preamp + built-in tuner, and you have a guitar you’d expect to be the most expensive of the three. Instead, it’s actually the lowest-price traveler of those reviewed here.
Essentially, what we’ve got in the CL-3EQ is a miniature Auditorium or Grand Auditorium (or maybe jumbo) body shape. Whatever the case, I think the slightly bigger shape is what contributes to the guitar’s superior volume and low end as compared to the other two guitars in this review.
The CL-3EQ received the lowest portability score of the bunch because it is essentially a fully-featured acoustic guitar… just smaller. If you’ve ever carried around a 3/4 sized acoustic guitar, well, that’s what it’s like. Don’t get me wrong: this little guy is still easier to maneuver through an airport than a full-sized acoustic, but not quite as compact and convenient as the other two guitars in this review.
I gave the CL-3EQ only 3.5 stars here here because it’s an all-wood acoustic guitar, and quite a nice one at that. So, when traveling with it, it’ll require the same care and common-sense precautions you’d give any full sized acoustic guitar. It’s no more fragile than any other full-sized acoustic, but I wouldn’t be comfortable knocking about with this one or exposing it to the elements. Would I take it camping? Sure I would, but I’d baby and protect it–maybe even try to find a hardshell case for it if I could.
The CL-3EQ has a 23.25″ scale length, which is shorter than standard. So, if you have big hands and/or fat fingers, you might feel a little cramped on the CL-3EQ. People with smaller hands (and kids) will love it though, because the shorter scale length makes the strings a bit easier to press and bend. And you’ll be rewarded by a big, full acoustic sound with plenty of low-end. I have fairly skinny, nimble fingers, so the shorter scale length wasn’t a problem at all for me and I found it easy to adapt.
Okay, acoustically, this guitar sounds fantastic–the best of the 3 in terms of sheer ear-candy. Prior to this review, I’d never played any kind of travel acoustic or otherwise smaller acoustic guitar. While I was surprised by how good all of the guitars in this review sounded, I was absolutely NOT expecting the kind of volume and big low-end that came out of the CL-3EQ. It sounds really good plugged in too–because it has the same Shadow Electronics NanoFlex pickup and preamp system as the AG-450EQ.
Price: $ $
The most surprising aspect of this whole adventure is that this guitar has the lowest price tag of the 3. It’s hard to believe when you see how nicely appointed this all-wood guitar is. You’ve got nice tonewoods like mahogany, spruce, and rosewood, and a bevy of nice finishing touches like the forearm contour, gold tuners, piezo system, etc. And if you like a natural, satin finish (as I do), you’ll love that aspect too.
In this Sweetwater video, watch (and listen) as Don Carr takes the CL-3EQ for a test drive.
“Acoustic travel guitar” can mean different things to different people. To some, it means a good-sounding acoustic guitar that’s simply smaller and therefore a bit easier and lighter to carry. To others, it means a rugged, weather-proof guitar that can be dropped and knocked around–one that’ll withstand more abuse than average. That said, be sure you’re clear on what you need when you shop for an acoustic travel guitar.
If you need a rugged travel companion you plan to knock-around and take camping, go for the KLŌS Carbon Fiber guitar. If you just want a great sounding acoustic guitar that’s smaller and more portable, go for the Traveler Guitar AG-450EQ or the CL-3EQ.
Do you currently own an acoustic travel guitar or been thinking about buying one? If so, I’d love to know what you’ve got (or are thinking about getting) in the “Leave a Reply” section down below.
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