Taylor GS Mini Koa Review – Acoustic Electric Guitar

Plenty of guitarists dream of owning a Taylor. This brand combines handmade craftsmanship with state-of-the-art electronics to create great-sounding guitars for the stage, studio, or home.

Today, we'll be looking at a scaled down design based on Taylor's popular Grand Symphony (GS) body shape. The Taylor GS Mini E koa acoustic electric guitar is perfect for players who want the signature sound (and beautiful grain) of koa without the high price tag.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Mini Guitar

Whether you just want something to play around the house or need a portable guitar to take to gigs, a guitar like the Taylor GS Mini koa can be a worthwhile investment. However, before you buy, you may want to ask yourself the following:

  • Do you need electronics? If you intend to perform with your mini, it's a good idea to invest in one with a great pickup system. If you just want something to play around the house, you probably don't need to spend extra for electronics.
  • Do you need a solid top? You likely know that solid-top acoustics are almost universally preferred to guitars with laminate tops. However, laminate guitars do have the advantage of resisting changes due to humidity and temperature.
  • What about scale length? The term "mini" doesn't refer to an exact size of guitar, so it's a good idea to look into scale length before you purchase one.

Our Picks for Review

Guitar

Guitar

Model

Price

Full Review

Main

Taylor

GS Mini Koa

Cell

Alternative

Luna

Safari Starry Night Travel

Cell

Alternative

Taylor

Baby BT2 Mahogany

Alternative

Traveler Guitar

Redlands Acoustic-Electric

Cell

Taylor GS Mini Koa

PRO's & CON's of Taylor GS Mini Koa

Today, we'll take a closer look at this remarkable little guitar with a thorough Taylor GS Mini koa review. But first, let's check out some pros and cons:

Pros

  • Solid koa top provides a sound that's both warm and bright
  • Layered koa back and sides give you the look of all-over koa grain
  • Taylor Expression System B pickup faithfully reproduces the guitar's sound
  • Smaller size and lightweight build makes this a great travel guitar

Cons

  • Layered Hawaiian koa back and sides don't have the same full tone as solid koa
  • While this is a nice-sounding guitar, it's very expensive for a mini

Features and Benefits

Now we'll take a closer look at some of the features of the GS Mini E koa. We've been impressed, and we think you will be, too.

Tonewoods

This Taylor GS Mini takes the road less traveled when it comes to tonewood construction. The top is made of solid Hawaiian koa, which has a truly stunning grain. However, koa is also sonically complex and beautiful. You get a warm, full midrange like you would with mahogany, but you also get a clear, bright high end like you would with maple.

The back and sides are made of layered koa. Taylor uses layered woods instead of traditional laminate. Layering is a bit of a step up, as many laminates consist largely of resin and plywood. The layered back and sides of course don't have the same sound as solid wood, but they keep the guitar affordable without sacrificing much in the way of tone.

The neck is made of sapele, a lightweight wood that actually sounds (and looks) a good bit like the mahogany. The fingerboard is made of ebony, which is extraordinarily comfortable to play. As a bonus, the ebony provides a striking contrast against koa's complex grain.

If you want to get a closer look at this Taylor GS Mini, check out this review and sound demo.

Electronics

Not all electronics are created equal, but we think that Taylor's Expression System B (ES-B) pickup is one of the best in the business. This is because the piezo design is drastically different from that of most undersaddle piezos -- the ES-B uses a behind-the-saddle pickup design. Undersaddle piezos tend to not capture the full resonance of your guitar, but the ES-B electronics are some of the most natural-sounding that we've heard.

This system also includes an onboard preamp with a built-in chromatic tuner, which is a great thing to have when playing gigs. You also have onboard tone and volume controls, which are especially useful when trying to dial in the right sound for each venue.

It's worth noting that the cutting-edge electronics are a big part of why this little guitar costs as much as it does. If you don't need to plug in, you may want to purchase another of Taylor's Mini models. But if you want to learn more about Taylor's Expression System, check out this informative video.

Additional Appointments

While the koa grain is arguably the most noticeable thing about the GS Mini E koa, this guitar has several other notable features:

  • Tuners -- If you've ever played a guitar with cheap tuners, you know just how frustrating that can be. The Taylor GS Mini E has high-quality Taylor chrome tuners. They hold tune well, and they look nice, too.
  • Nut -- This guitar has a NuBone nut. NuBone is a composite that's designed to sound like bone. (If you want to hear a comparison between NuBone and Tusq, another popular composite, check out this video.)
  • Saddle -- The saddle is made of micarta. This is another composite, although it doesn't have quite the brightness of NuBone or Tusq. Since koa is a fairly bright-sounding wood, the micarta saddle helps balance out that brightness a little.
  • Finish -- The Taylor GS Mini E, like many other Taylors, is finished using varnish. Taylor clarifies that their "varnish" finish is essentially a matte finish. This gives the guitar a high-end look, and it also makes it somewhat more playable -- very glossy necks can have a "sticky" feel, which may become an issue if you're trying to play very fast.
  • Inlays -- The Taylor GS Mini E keeps it simple when it comes to inlays. The fretboard is accented with simple dots, and the rosette is an elegant three-ring design. We think this suits the guitar well -- the koa grain and ebony fingerboard are beautiful enough on their own.

Social Proof of the Guitar

If you can't try out the Taylor GS Mini E koa before you buy, the next best thing is reading reviews by players who have tried or purchased it. Here are some useful reviews we've found:

Taylor GS Mini Koa Review 01

This review may seem overly glowing, but many reviews of the GS Mini E koa were similar. For this person, the GS Mini sounded equally good played acoustically or plugged in. Sometimes, smaller guitars come with cheap electronics, which is very disappointing if you want to play live.

Taylor GS Mini Koa Review 02

This Taylor GS Mini koa review offers some insight into the playability of the GS Mini E koa. The neck is narrow and shorter than that of a standard guitar, so it's easier to play for someone with small hands or shorter arms. This person also points out that it's nearly impossible to find a negative review of this guitar, which has been our experience as well.

Taylor GS Mini Koa Review 03

This last review is a brief one, but it offers a pretty apt characterization of this guitar's sound.

Alternatives to Taylor GS Mini Koa

Before you take a look at the GS MIni E koa and click "add to cart," you may want to take a look at some alternatives. Here are three other smaller guitars you may want to consider:

Luna Safari Starry Night Travel Guitar

How it Compares to Taylor GS Mini Koa

  • Laminate spruce top/mahogany back and sides won't have the same sound as a solid-top instrument.
  • It does not come with electronics.
  • The scale is slightly shorter at 22.5".
  • "Starry Night" graphic and moon-phase inlays make it a visual standout.

Review

This one is more of a statement piece -- the guitar is covered with a graphic of Van Gogh's "Starry Night." This is in line with a lot of Luna guitars -- they're designed to be visually striking while still remaining affordable. This one is much more affordable travel guitar, although it doesn't have the same sound as the Taylor GS Mini E.

If you want a fun travel guitar that's very affordable, make sure you check this one out!

Taylor Baby BT2 Mahogany

How It Compares To Taylor GS Mini Koa

  • This one has a dreadnought body, while the Mini has Taylor's Grand Symphony shape.
  • Solid mahogany top offers a slightly warmer, darker tone.
  • This one does not come with electronics (although you can purchase a version that is equipped with them).
  • Ebony fingerboard offers both comfortable playability and a great aesthetic touch.

Review

If you want a travel guitar but prefer dreadnoughts and traditional tonewood combinations, the Taylor Baby BT2 is a great option. This little guitar has a solid mahogany top with layered sapele back and sides, and it's also an affordable alternative to the GS Mini E koa.

If you want a highly-playable little dreadnought, make sure you give this one a look!

Traveler Guitar Redlands Concert Acoustic-Electric

How It Compares To Taylor GS Mini Koa

  • Undersaddle pickup lets you plug in and play, but it isn't as natural-sounding as Taylor electronics.
  • Bone nut and saddle, striped ebony binding, and comfort features aren't typically found on guitars this affordable.
  • Laminated top doesn't have the same full sound as a solid top, although it does resist humidity and temperature changes well.
  • This is a very affordable alternative to the GS Mini E Koa.

Review

If you feed an affordable travel guitar with onboard electronics, this comfortable concert-body with a cutaway is worth a look. The body is made of laminated mahogany, and the beveled armrest helps create a comfortable playing experience.

If you want a travel guitar that's great-looking yet affordable, make sure you look at this one.

In Conclusion

If you're shopping for a good travel guitar, you likely already know that it's a challenge to find something that's both well-built and equipped with quality electronics. And while we realize that the GS Mini E koa is expensive compared to other options, we think that its incredible sound quality (both plugged in and unplugged) makes it worth it. Plus, it's made of koa, which is both visually stunning and sonically beautiful. Click here to check it out!

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