Taylor GS Mini

Introduction

As I got increasingly interested in acoustic guitars, I was longing for a small bodied, preferably travel-sized acoustic to accompany the big-sounding Cort AS-E4 dreadnought. Taylor GS Mini is probably the first model that will popup in search engines or guitar forums, and apparently for a reason. I tried the spruce model, both with mahogany and koa backs, but couldn’t find the mahogany top version anywhere to try, so I pulled the trigger and ordered it from Musician’s Friend.

Specs

Below are the most important specs of the guitar and I’ll go into more details further on.

  • Solid mahogany top
  • 23.5″ scale mahogany neck with thin C profile
  • 1 11/16″ (43mm) width at the nut
  • Layered sapele back and sides
  • Ebony fingerboard and bridge
  • Sealed tuners
  • White dot inlays
  • Padded semi-rigid gig-bag
Construction

GS Mini is well engineered and well put together. Arched back piece is sturdier, so they were able to get away without any braces on the back. That allows back be more resonant and make to richer without compromising structural integrity. Top, being hardwood mahogany, is fairly thin to allow it to resonate better. The neck is made out of three separate pieces of mahogany joined together length-wise, another piece for the headstock and one more for the neck joint. Speaking of which, GS Mini features the same NT neck joint construction found on the full-sized Taylors which allows for easy and painless neck reset or replacement if need be. Back and sides are laminate (or layered as Taylor prefers to call them), but pretty well done. There’s a thicker poplar layer sandwiched between the two thinner sapele layers. Finally, the whole guitar is very light, which is a good thing.

Sound

This is where the GS Mini shines, especially for its size. It is focused and bright, but does not sound small or boxy like the Little Martin or Baby Taylor. After playing it for few months it matured and got a tad more bass, so it’s more balanced. Being light and having no braces at the back helps with the tone and it sounds very rich and complex for what it is. It resonates beautifully and doesn’t take much effort to get a decent tone out of it, which is a big deal for me as I usually play lightly and not loud. I did not compare directly the spruce and mahogany top, but trying the spruce top, it felt like I could use a little more warmth, which is one of the reasons I went with mahogany version. There’s a great YouTube video from guys at Acoustic Letter so you can hear for yourself. If you’re in the position to try one and not the other, you can use the video as a reference to get a feeling how the other one would sound. The top seems to be very responsive, at it has to be since it smaller guitar, so there’s less surface to vibrate and create sound.

Feel/Comfort

This is where many people have issues, but I find smaller body and shorter scale very comfortable. Body is small and nicely rounded, so it fits in the lap well and is great for playing from the couch. I would never consider scale this short for electric guitar because distance between higher frets gets very small, but here it makes perfect sense because lower frets are not as far apart as they are on 25.5″ scale, so you can reach further with less effort. 1 11/16″ nut width is another feature that many are not thrilled with because it makes it less suitable for fingerstyle as there’s not enough string spacing for fingers to move about. While it is more comfortable for lead work and strumming, it’s not too bad for fingerstyle either. Nut is cut wider (36.45mm E-to-E) than 1 11/16″ nut used by many other makers (Martin nuts are 35mm E-to-E), so string spacing will actually be about the same as on most other guitars with 1 3/4″ wide nuts. That also means that low and high E strings will be a bit closer to edges of fingerboard than they typically are. Not too close to cause string slippage issues, but I think this is as close as I would go. Any closer and there would definitely start being a problem.

Setup

For me it’s not that big of a deal, because I can do most of the setup myself, but for some folks it is important to know how it’s setup out of the box, so here it goes. The action was reasonably low, much lower than on my Cort when I got it. The truss rod was pretty loose, so there was some neck bow that can easily be solved by tightening the truss rod. The problem is that Taylor doesn’t include the neck adjustment wrench which I had to purchase to make the adjustment that was necessary.

The worst issue with factory setup for me was high action at the nut, especially on lower strings. It is playable, but makes it harder to fret barre chords close to the nut and can even make the note go slightly sharp if played close to the nut because while pressing the string, you need to stretch the string because it’s too high at the nut. I’ve read many comments from other owners that theirs were the same way, so it’s something that Taylor could work on improving in the future.

To fix the issue with nut height, I bought two sets cheapo welding tip cleaner files from eBay for $3 shipped for the pair. Each set has around 14 files with gauges that cover pretty much any slots found on guitars. They are not super sharp, so filing doesn’t go very fast, but it’s a good thing because you don’t want to too deep. Also, thinner files look very fragile, so I slowly and carefully filed each slot until I was happy with the action – not too high to be uncomfortable, not too low to cause buzz. Good rule of the thumb for determining optimal height is to tune the string to pitch, press at the third fret and observe the distance between the top of the first fret and the string. There should be a very small gap, maybe paper thick, but there should not be contact. Welding tip files did great job for setting up the existing pre-slotted nut, but I would probably want to use something sturdier if I were to cut the nut from scratch.

welding_files

Frets are dressed nicely, no sharp edges or frets sticking out. Fingerboard edges have a nice little bevel on them which make the neck very comfortable to hold.

I believe that it comes with a set of Elixir Nano Medium (13 gauge) Phosphor Bronze strings. Due to the shorter scale, there’s less tension, so they feel about the same as 12 gauge strings on a 25.5″ scale. Intonation is perfect right out of the box.

Looks

For me, it’s a nice looking guitar. If you’ve seen the Mini LP my father built for me you’ll know I’m a sucker for brown all-mahogany guitars. All wooden elements of the guitar look great. The ebony fingerboard is nice and dark, but has some cool looking lighter mocha colored streaks throughout the length of the neck which give it a good natural, woody look. Good folks at Musician’s Friend have listened to my special instruction for picking the right one and I got the one with darker top, parallel grain and no quilt. If you search for GS Mini pics online you can see many different variations in color and grain. I don’t like the lighter, yellowish sapele mahogany color, like sapele they use for necks. Also, I don’t like the random quilt some GS Minis have. I grabbed a screenshot of 4 Minis currently available at Sweetwater, just to demonstrate the variety in looks, see below.

I got just what I wanted, very dark top, nice even grain and great book-matched top. Dark ebony looks great on the fingerboard and the classical Taylor bridge shape. However, all non-wooden visual elements of the guitar look a little cheap. I will list everything below in the “What I don’t like about it?” section.

What I like about it?
  • Sound. Great sound for such a small guitar
  • Overall looks (minus few detils)
  • Comfortable to hold and play
  • Gig-bag is great – light and small, but more protective than an average gig-bag
  • The fact that they used ebony for fingerboard and bridge, it’s usually not found on guitars in that price range
  • The top mahogany piece is excellent
What I don’t like about it?
  • Taylor should have included the neck wrench
  • Bridge pins look like cheap plastic with mold lines
  • Nut and saddle are nubone which looks like cheap plastic. Top of the saddle, where the strings go, still has mold lines. I’ve read that graphtech makes nubone from Tusq leftovers which are ground and molded. It also doesn’t seem to be very hard, I can see that strings already made notches in it.
  • Headplate is some cheap looking coarse lexan plate. Truss-rod cover is not much better.
  • As the back side is laminate, you can see the thicker poplar layer sandwiched between two thinner mahogany layers. However, on some places, the stain they used to darken the top and back runs over the light layer, and on some places it does not. I think it was their intention to show the light layer, but they messed it up. You can see that somewhere they sanded through the stain and exposed poplar, while other places are still brownish or sanded half way through. I’ve seen other people having the same problem, even with rosewood back which has darker stain, so it’s even more obvious.
  • It would look nicer if they stained the back of the neck as well, it’s clearly lighter colored than the body.

Generally, my Cort which cost just a hair more features more attention to visual details and higher quality parts. But I understand you have to pay for the bigger name that Taylor has and more R&D they do. After all, GS Mini is kind of a novelty guitar. It does sound surprisingly well for its size. And things I don’t like do should not affect sound or performance playability.

Verdict

I’m very satisfied with the purchase. It’s got completely different vibe than the Cort I own, so I hope it will be a good miss-match to justify having both of them 🙂 I also hope that there will be no issues with airlines on my way back to Europe, as I plan to take the GS Mini on-board with me. Several years ago I took the Ibanez RG with a hard-shell case and had no issues at all. It you’re looking for a good travel guitar or you are a smaller guy or a girl, this will very likely fit the bill. Definitely give them a chance and try one. They also seem to hold the value relatively nicely, I’ve seen them sell for $400 and the new one can be had for around $450.

Upgrade

I did several mods to further enhance this little beauty. You can read all about it here.

Video Clips

Click on a thumbnail to play the video on YouTube.

Click here to list all 1 related video clips.

Comments
2 Responses to “Taylor GS Mini”
  1. Mike says:

    I too have a GS Mini. i really have to work hard to play the instrument. All of the guitars I sampled played about the same. My Luthier has the guitar in his shop now with instructions to make it easy to play with 60 plus year old hands. He said right off the neck needs to be reset. He is going to put 12s on instead of 13s. He measured the strings and told me the factory strings were 12s. Hummmm. I travel quite a bit. i shopped hard. Dispite the effort it takes to fret chords i ended up selecting the Gs Mini. My advice spend some cash and get yours set up. Factory specs are much different than a luthiers specs. Every thing i have read from owners is the same. Takes too much work to play… at the same time they remain a popular choice in the nitch market.

    • Bancika says:

      They definitely ship with 13 gauge strings from the factory. About neck reset, you can check for yourself if the guitar needs or or not. Put a long enough ruler on the fretboard and see where it meets the bridge, like this http://danlovesguitars.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/neck-angle-straight-edge-all-anno.png
      The ruler should land right about the top of the bridge (not saddle, just the bridge). If it’s much lower or higher it will need a reset, although that’s very easy to do on a taylor because neck is bolt on.

      Mine plays like butter, I’m super happy with it. I’ve had it for a year now without any issues.

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    The idea behind this site is to share my experience with Do It Yourself approach to guitars, amplifiers and pedals. Whether you want to save a couple of bucks by performing a mod or upgrade yourself instead of paying a tech, or want to build your own piece of gear from scratch, I'm sure you will find something interesting here. Also, this is the home of DIY Layout Creator, a free piece of software for drawing circuit layouts and schematics, written with DIY enthusiasts in mind.