My friend Jon had extolled the virtues and benefits of a Travel Guitar for some time. He had bought himself one a while back and had heartily recommended that it should be something I should add to my kit list. To be honest, when I first heard it, I wasn’t all that impressed. It sounded weak, a little like a Ukelele with a poor tone so I wasn’t convinced. It didn’t cost him a lot though so expectations weren’t that high to begin with.
It was only when I came to consider swapping my Tanglewood TW-15 Heritage acoustic for an electro acoustic that the idea to purchase a travel guitar sprang to mind as a more serious option. At the time, I dispensed with the idea of getting rid of the Tanglewood (a decision that soon got reversed with the acquisition of my Taylor 814ce). However, it still left me with a “mini dilemna” on how best to achieve that classic electro acoustic sound when recording. The subsequent purchase of a Boss AC-3 Acoustic Simulator pedal with the intention of making my electric guitar sound like an electro acoustic was an epic fail in my opinion so, no real progress was made there.
Then, the headlight got switched on and I thought a proper travel guitar could actually kill two birds with one stone here. I was currently using my old Yamaha as my “go anywhere” music machine but this was a full size guitar getting transported in an even larger hardcase – quite a cumbersome thing on occasions. If I could get a decent 3/4 size electro acoustic, I’d have a much more portable instrument and something which would provide closer to the sound I was after on recordings.
A trip to GuitarGuitar in Birmingham followed with the objective of looking at and trying out the main offerings in travel acoustics from the two big names in the industry – Taylor and Martin. From Taylor, the GS Mini and from Martin, the LXME. Unfortunately, with the GS Mini, the pickup is an option. The LXME uses a Fishman pickup all integrated into the body with a neat built-in tuner and easy to use push-button tone controls. This feature pretty much sold it to me and after playing it for a while connected to the Acoustic amp I wanted (the Roland AC 33), the deal was done.
Here’s a brief review of my opinions about the guitar after owning it for a couple of months now:
As stated above, having the integrated Fishman pickup was a key selling point. It has a tuner, volume control and two on-off buttons called “Phase” and “Contour” which control various subtle sound characteristics of the guitar. The guitar also comes with its own Martin Gig Bag, a well-made padded soft case with the brand name embroidered across it. However, I purchased a really nice SKB Soft Case that has an interior similar to what you get in hard cases – well worth the money for a guitar in this cost bracket.
One should not expect a travel guitar to have the same volume and tone as a full-sized guitar – it doesn’t. However, the LXME packs quite a punch and is more than adequate when having just a casual mess about within the personal confines of home. Having a lower volume than full size guitars has its positive benefits. Vocals are easier to hear in relation and it’s less intrusive into the surrounding environment (i.e. less chance of annoying the neighbours). When plugged in, this baby comes to life and easily performs like a normal sized guitar. Martins have quite a meaty, basssy sound to them and you may want to increase the treble on an amp to give it a brighter feel. I use a Roland AC 33 Acoustic Amp and that gives out as much volume as I’ll ever need. Switch the spacial chorus effect on that Roland acoustic amps are noted for and you get a very full sound from a small guitar.
Action & Intonation:
The action is very good and combined with the fact of a shorter neck makes it very easy to play. The neck doesn’t feel any narrower or less thicker than a standard neck so, in that respect, doesn’t feel any different. Intonation is perfect.
One thing you don’t want with a travel guitar is something that’s going to fall apart after a few outings to the campsite with the inevitable minor knocks and bangs it may be subject to and increased exposure to environmental factors such as heat, cold, humidity, etc. It needs to be well-built and robust. Well. this guitar is built like the proverbial tank. The main material used in construction of the LXME is High Pressue Laminate (HPL). To me, it doesn’t make sense to build a guitar like this in real woods which are susceptible to a fluctuating and possibly harsh environment. One thing that is immediately noticeable when first picked up is it’s weight and you get a real sense of the guitar’s solidity. You certainly don’t get the impression that this guitar is going to fall apart too easily.
Any Issues & Manufacturer / Vendor Support:
I did have a niggly issue with the guitar in the first few weeks of ownership. When plugged in, it would make the odd, occasional crackling sound as if there was a dodgy electrical contact somewhere. I took the guitar back to GuitarGuitar in Birmingham and explained the problem. Although there was a slight crackle at one point when they tried it, it came back from the luthiers after a few days with them saying they couldn’t find anything wrong (sod’s law strikes again). One of the guys at the shop also tried it since the return and it was played again when I went to collect it with no noise apart from what should be coming from the guitar. Since then, the guitar’s been fine so, fingers crossed, whatever it was has appeared to have righted itself.
Value for Money:
At £390, this is in the top end price bracket for a travel guitar. Not cheap but, then again, it’s a Martin.
This is a guitar which does what it says on the tin as a travel guitar. It’s built for a specific function and it performs that function as well, if not better, than any others. Compare it to my mate’s £100 Travel Guitar and, with all due respect to his cost conscious purchase, you can see, feel and hear the difference.