Monday, April 15, 2024

Electric travel guitar shootout: Traveler Ultralight vs Traveler EG-1 Matte vs Donner Hush-X vs Steinberger/Spirit GT-Pro

I can't find any direct comparison of the three electric travel guitars I am most interested in, and since they might be the three YOU are most interested in, too, I figure I'll take some notes as I go.

I've been using the Traveler ultra-light, including 3 weeks across spain and france by train and plane, for a couple years, but on my last trip I was frustrated enough with its limitations that I figuired I'd gotten my money's worth from it and was ready to upgrade.

The things I liked: 

  • light weight, easy to sling the bag over my shoulder or put it in the side straps of my soft-sided carryon bag
  • gig bag pocket has room for a Spark Go, cable, wired headphones (Grado SR-80), picks, tuner, and slide
  • little leg stand made it at least somewhat lap-playable
Things I didn't like:
  • tone: no volume, no tone knob - ok for turned down rhythm but brutal for lead - very harsh, wanted to roll off but couldn't 
  • access up the neck - although there's lots of frets, the body starts coming out from the neck above where it ends and that's harder to reach - tuning stability - it was getting to where it wouldn't stay in tune for the length of an entire song 
  • only one bridge pickup - again, no options for tone. Just that one shrill tone. 

 I'm evaluating: 

  • Traveler EG-1 - mini Les Paul style. $499.
  • Donner Hush-X - similar to the Ultralight, but with a top brace as well as a bottom one. I put it in my Amazon cart at $349, and then later that day they had a flash deal for about $300.
  • Steinberger/Spirit GT-Pro - Gibson seems to own the brand now; this is a reboot of the Steinberger design. They did get Steinberger himself to make a promo video for the GT-Pro at least. 

I can't find any of these locally, so I'm going to take advantage of Amazon's return policy - including local drop-offs so I don't pay anything for return shipping - to test out all three and decide which one I'll take on my upcoming travels, including a cross-country road-trip.

Right now my expectations are: 

The Traveler: will be pretty solid, it's a front-runner; it's basically what I'm used to, minimally larger, with better pickup, volume and tone knob. Sounds like a conservative winner. But it is also the most expensive. 

The Donner. As their 2nd gen product it sounds like they had some good design feedback and improvement over the Hush-I - it may be as much on target as the EG-1. I'm not sure if it'll be as compact as the EG1, especially in its bag. I do like the separate pickups, good chance of tonal range, especially vs the EG-1 single humbucker 

The GT-Pro is a wide open Q. I've seen some youtube reports of awful QC, not sure if the one I get is MI China or Indonesia, guess we'll find out. Also unsure if the pickups are any good, will the tremelo be decent? it's not the legenendray harm-trem of the OG steinbergers. But, it's actrually designed as a full-fledged guitar that just happens to be stripped down to what is optimal for travel -0 not a purpose-built travel guitar. So, perhaps it's a whole nother level of travel guitar "real tone" and "real feel" 

I expewct all of these have fairly entry level pickups, I'm just hoping not actively BAD pickups. But I do have a SD JB bridge pickup that I got to put into a 3/4 scale cheap guitar, just to practice soldering before risking upgrading the pickups on my telecaster; I figure there's a good chancve I'll end up swappoing the JB into whatever I get - I saw several reviewers say they did similar upgrades, including even that exact bridge P/U, on these guitars and good results.

First one should arrive tomorrow, we'll see!