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Travel guitars can look starkly different to their traditional counterparts, and we’re not talking about 3/4-size, thinline guitars. Just look at our lineup to see the unique appearance that travel guitars can sport.
But, is a funky bod necessary for travel?
Does the weird size really make a difference when hitting the road?
Are you sacrificing tone and sound by scaling down?
We go over the specs and features that make a travel guitar a must-have for every musician on the go. We’ll also explain why they have ineffable shapes and how it provides a traveling guitarist maximum advantage when on the road.
To see what electric guitars do it best, head on down.
QUICK ANSWER: Top 6 Travel Electric Guitars
- Traveler Guitar Vaibrant Deluxe V88X Review
- Traveler Guitar Speedster Hot Rod Review
- Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Electric Matte Black Review
- Asmuse Travel AD80-E Review
- Hofner Shorty Review
- Jammy Guitar Review
The Best Travel Electric Guitars
True travel guitars are of a different breed. Their odd appearance is a dead giveaway. Though odd and funky looking, they have their place in the market. Just look at the soaring success Traveler Guitar has had over the last two decades as they lead the industry in full-scale travel guitars. It’s obvious there is a very real demand for them.
But, who should buy a travel guitar? Any guitarist that intends on leaving the house, any roadie that tours for a living, and every player looking for a highly portable, slim, and great-looking electric guitar to add to their collection.
Travel guitars should be small and slim to easily stow away in the cabin of an airplane. Some models allow for headphone playing so as not to disturb others. All should sound good when plugging in as quality is a requirement.
How much does a travel guitar cost? The average budget set aside for travel guitars is between $100-$400. However, there are higher-end models that can cost more if you’re a professional who demands professional quality as we’ll show you in the reviews.
Here is the lineup of travel guitars that have roadie approval by mobile musicians like yourself!
1. Traveler Guitar Vaibrant Deluxe V88X Review
- Full 25. 5" Scale guitar
- 5 lbs. 10 oz. And 33. 25" Long
- Double locking Floyd Rose 1000 Series Tremolo
This electric guitar is brand spanking new. Although it’s still untested for its portability by the masses, it’s an instrument from Traveler Guitar so you know it’s made with travel in mind. With a Vaibrant Cosmic Black finish, it’s a vibrant guitar that’s sure to catch your eye.
- Professional quality
- Floyd Rose bridge
- V88X pickups
- 25.5″ scale
- Slime Green accents
The Vaibrant is the most expensive travel guitar in this lineup, but what did you expect? It’s a guitar that’s not only made for travel, it’s also a stage-worthy guitar that can handle the sound demands of the performing musician.
It all starts with its iconic ’80s Vai-inspired motif. It’s made with an alder body, has a maple neck, and ebony fretboard. The Cosmic Black gloss finish is sleek while the Slime Green accents from the pickups, dot inlays, control knobs, and logo on the headstock do its part to accent the overall look.
The Vaibrant is 12% shorter (33.25″) and 33% lighter (5.10 lbs) than their full-size counterparts, but it still maintains a full-scale playable area with its 25.5″ scale length. Pair this with a 17″ fretboard radius and 24 jumbo frets and you can shred live on stage with professional ease – that is, if you’re any good.
There are nice hardware touches from the black nickel locking nut and D’Addario EXL120 stings to the black nickel Floyd Rose 1000FRT bridge/tailpiece. The 1000 Series bridge is Korean-made, and you can always upgrade the zinc saddle and insert a screw bar assembly to get a tighter, more secure bar fit if you see fit to do so. For the most part, it’ll hold up just fine for light tremolo use.
Now, the V88X pickups. They seem to be designed specifically for the Vaibrant Deluxe series and are mounted in the H-S-H configuration. Made with ceramic magnets, 8K at the neck, and 13K at the bridge, they’re made to perform hot and handle aggressive playing styles.
Since this purchase comes at a higher cost versus other travel guitars, you’ll be pleased to know it comes with a Traveler Guitar gig bag to easily transport and protect your tribute Vail guitar.
2. Traveler Guitar Speedster Hot Rod Review
- Full 24 3/4" Scale electric travel guitar
- Built-in headphone amp with 4 tones and aux-in for jamming with an external signal
- Fits in airline overhead bins
Believe it or not, the Speedster series of guitars began to outsell the Pro Series quite some time ago, and they continue to be a hit for its modern-retro look while still absolutely portable for travel.
- Built-in headphone amp
- Removeable arm rest
- Coil splitting
- 24.75″ scale
- 1/8″ connection issues
The Speedster Hot Rod is a hot and rad electric guitar regardless of its travel features, and it’s befitting of the under $500 electric guitar market leaning towards the higher end of the spectrum. Made from Eastern American Hard Maple, it sports a Wine Red gloss finish that’s lustrous and gleaming.
The neck is made from the same body tonewood, and it has a Black Walnut fingerboard. The fingerboard 22 medium frets, pearloid dot inlays, and neck-thru-body construction are all features of a quality neck build. Although it’s 28% shorter (28″) and 51% lighter (4.12 lbs), it still maintains a 24.75″ scale length as a full-size electric.
Helping to shave down on the size, it has a 2″ deep body and it lacks a headstock with a nut that caps off the neck. There’s also a removeable upper arm rest that helps to get a better position that’s said to be more comfortable when you equip a strap to the rest screw that doubles as a strap button.
As you can see, the travel guitar has an in-body tuning design using chrome tuners with a 14:1 gear ratio. Turning the guitar upside down, you’ll see the string rollers that allow for a complete wrap-around tuning system.
The Speedster has multiple output connections with a 1/4″ output jack for plugging into an amp, an 1/8″output jack for headphones, and an 1/8″ Aux In jack so you can hook up your smartphone and jam to your wanna-be-like tunes. The headphone jack is awesome because it contains its very own V2 amp so you can practice privately and explore the push-pot tone control to cycle through Clean, Boost, Overdrive, and Distortion channels. Due to the on-board 12db EQ preamp, you will need 2x AAA batteries.
However, some models may need extra circuitry attention as some of the output jacks have given some players trouble. Contacting the seller may help to address this issue.
To boost sonic versatility, the dual-rail humbucker can be manipulated for splitting coils with the coil-split switch found by the volume and tone knob. So, you can go from clean to distorted in seconds, bright and snappy to warm and hot, and of course, it’s good enough to record with and cuts through mixes.
3. Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Electric Matte Black Review
- Full 24 3/4" Scale electric travel Guitar
- Fits in airline overhead bins. Only 3 lbs. 2 oz. & 28" Long!
- One-piece Eastern American hard Maple neck-through-body design
Yes, another Traveler guitar. We did mention they lead the industry in travel guitars, and the masses keep on buying them. The Ultra-Light Series has had a long-time rep with players, and is every part deserving of taking a place in this lineup.
- In-body tuning
- Support bar
The Ultra-Light electric guitar is designed to be lightweight, 3.2 lbs kind of light. Everything about the guitar was made for ultimate portability and transportation, and there is no guitar that will compete with these travel features. However, due to its extremely lightweight build, the neck may pull your fretting hand down as the weight shifts to favor that side.
Additionally, the curved snap-in support bar has said to be extremely slippery and buyers have difficulty keeping it in place, there’s a solution for that: grip tape, foam, or use the strap and stand up. By the way, it should come with comfort foam already installed on the lap rest.
As is an iconic feature for the brand, the UL guitar has the in-body tuning system with chrome 14:1 gear ratio tuners and string rollers that support the wrap-around string design. The body and neck are made from Eastern American Hard Maple and the fretboard from Black Walnut that has 22 medium frets with dot inlays.
It features the same dual-rail humbucker that’s seen on the Speedster Hot Rod except you have no on-board volume or tone controls. It’s designed to be plugged into an amp and can be tweaked for tonal control and effects there. Many players have said the humbucker has hot output and sounds excellent through a high-quality amp. It may be small, but it packs a punch.
There may be some balance and positioning curves to get past, but for a guitar that’s made to be on the road, it has every advantage without compromising on sound. Oh! Also included is a Traveler Guitar gig bag that can be carried using the nylon straps or worn with the shoulder strap.
4. Asmuse Travel AD80-E Review
- 6-String Headless portable full-scale electric guitar in unfolded status with Gig Bag
- Silentpractice function by Built-in headphone jack
- 3 Knobs for Headphone amp swtich, volume,tone and 5-way switch for pickups
The Asmuse AD80-E is different, and its frame reminds us of the Yamaha Silent Guitar, yet it’s an electric version complete with pickups. As a very expensive travel guitar just barely released to the market from a brand that’s still in the works of achieving up-and-coming status, you must know more about it.
- Locking nut
- Hidden pick holder
- Multiple output connections
- Modular bridge
There are multiple features on this seemingly simple guitar, but you’ll soon find it’s not as meek as it appears to be just because it’s missing half its body. It’s a quick give-away that this quirky travel electric guitar is not made from wood. The body is made from CNC Aluminum and this one fact quickly implies it’s extremely lightweight. It then makes sense that it has a satin black anodic oxidation finish with anodized hardware.
But, there are some wood pieces here found with the neck. It has a bolted-on maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard complete with dot inlays and a Strat-like scale length of 25.5″. The assembled guitar weighs only 5.5 lbs which is a perfect balance between lightweight and heft, but we suspect most of that weight is going to come from the neck end. . . A strap may be in order to counteract for the possible potential for balancing issues.
Another interesting feature is the 40 mm nut – it’s made from brass. Once popular in the ’80s, it’s the most durable type of nut material around, and we’re guessing it also adds a little bit of weight to that end of the neck. If you’re thinking a brass nut would provide a snappier, brighter sound, you’d be thinking right. It does provide a unique tone, but it’s helps to keep notes clear and well-defined if you plan on using that overdrive control on your amp.
There is a modular bridge that allows for easy string replacements. It has 2x single coil P-KD30 pickups set at the neck and middle, and there is a P-KD40 humbucker at the bridge. A 5-way selector blade, 1x volume, and 1x tone controls complete the pickup system. What’s the other knob onboard? It’s essentially a Master Volume control for the amp or headphones.
Yes, there’s a dedicated headphone jack built into the base of the guitar so you can practice in silence – well, it’s silent for everyone else. Driving the Master Control System that supports the silent headphone playing is a built-in rechargeable system powered by either a 9V adapter or USB cable that provides up to 8 hours of use, and by the way, the USB cable is included. Furthermore, this guitar folds down – sort of. It doesn’t fold in half per se, but the upper frame does detach so that it slims down the guitar for easy transportation and stowing.
We like the Asmuse travel guitar. It’s got some punk and decent features that would make it an excellent guitar for the road while still sounding good enough to be heard in public playing it!
5. Hofner Shorty Review
- Basswood top and back
- Maple neck with rosewood fingerboard
- 24.7" (62.8cm) scale length
If you want a more traditional looking electric guitar for the road, the Hofner fits the bill. It has still been modified for slim and portable benefits, but the inclusion of the headstock provides a conventional appeal.
- 24.7″ scale
- Bone nut
- Black nickel/black hardware
- Quality control issues
It’s a tricky thing to counter for the weight between the neck and headstock and the lightweight and slim body. Sometimes, you just can’t get around it without using a strap tied to the headstock to prevent it wearing down on your fretting hand. Additionally, check for quality control issues on box opening if anything needs to be addressed.
One feature that you should be aware of is the fixed bridge and tailpiece. You can’t ding a guitar if it was specifically designed to be a certain way and you end up not liking it – it wasn’t the right instrument for you. That’s what we have to say about the bridge since it requires removing the entire assembly via the retaining screws and lifting out the bridge to install new strings. This process must be done even if you only have one string to replace.
Now, on to the highlights. We like the black finish and the black nickel hardware. There’s a real bone nut on the guitar as well. The overall length of the guitar is 33.9″, and it has a 24.7 scale length with 24 frets.
The guitar is made from basswood with a one-piece maple neck and features a thermo-treated Jatoba fingerboard with dot inlays. It has a Hofner Open Humbucker with nickel volume and tone control knobs.
How does it sound? It’s a hot humbucker that many are surprised with. It at least performs better than what you’d expect for the price as it comes out with warm, thick tones with decent sustain even with the little square mileage of basswood that contributes to the sonic attack.
A gig bag is included with the buy which is a bonus at such a cheap price point. Overall, the Hofner travel guitar is a no-frills, compact Shorty and a great electric guitar under $300. Plus, we like the fact that there’s room for mods to turn this into a screaming electric guitar.
6. Jammy Guitar Review
- Super-portable MIDI guitar with adjustable-tension steel strings, fits into your backpack, only 17'' when disassembled, 27" when assembled
You’ll soon learn that the Jammy guitar can spark heated debates. It seems like you either love it or you hate it. Let’s learn more to see which way you swing.
- MIDI controller
- Use with app
- Plug-in ready
This electric guitar is crazy, and we’re not talking about its old shape when complete – there are plenty of otherworldly guitar bodies out there. But, what gets us scratching our heads is the fact that this thing comes apart in pieces, and no, it’s not broke. The Jammy separates into four pieces with three snap-on connection points. That’s a lot of “moving” parts, but it sure does make for a guitar that can literally fit in your backpack at 17″ long.
When fully assembled, it measures at 27″ in length – still extremely compact. However, to allow for this unbelievable lightweight and compact design, the guitar is made with a plastic 15 fret fingerboard and plastic frame. It’s a shame because it may feel too cheap and sound will not be organic.
But, before you judge harshly, hear us out. The Jammy is digital and it’s a MIDI. Yep – another head-scratching moment. It’s an app-controlled MIDI guitar. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and with it, you can plug into a DAW or other audio interface, computer and achieve synth sounds just like that. Latency then becomes a valid issue, but because there are multiple contact points on the frets and everything is actually happening on board the Jammy, latency is extremely low – you’ll hear the note played in an instant.
The Jammy also connects with a companion app that allows you to modify sound from acoustic to electric, use effects, and even self-tune. That’s right – did you miss the fact that this wacko guitar doesn’t have tuning gears? Even the strings aren’t normal, because essentially, they’re cut into two where they meet in the middle.
Past all the futuristic tech involved with playing this guitar, you can just hook up to a regular amp with the 1/4″ output jack or plug your headphones directly into the guitar with the 1/8″ output jack. Now, how good can you play it? It’s been said by players that anything more than midtempo melodies and open chords like bends, slides, and even picking, you’ll find some issues that you may have to learn to overcome or correct.
It’s not your performance and recording electric guitar, but it is a portable one. For quiet practice on your own through the headphones while on the road, or for messing around with the MIDI controller, the Jammy might just spark some curiosity.
What to Look for in a Travel Electric Guitar
Technically, any guitar taken on the road could be a travel guitar, but those who have tried stuffing a jumbo acoustic into an overhead cabin on an airplane would know it doesn’t fit. Granted, electric bodies are smaller than acoustics, but may still not be suited to travel. So, what is it that you need to look for? We’re glad you asked!
There aren’t really any specific specs that you must follow, but guitars exclusively made to travel can be half the size of its conventional counterpart. Funnily enough, travel guitars often have weird shaped bodies, folding or separating parts and components, and many of them don’t even have a headstock – weird, we know. But, it’s all for the sake of making a travel-size, road and air friendly, portable guitar.
If you detest the aesthetics and are unconvinced of a travel guitar’s sound and durability, you can always be more specific to looking at the specs of mini, thinline, and 3/4-size electric guitars. Not everyone finds a travel guitar fun, stylish, and unique. What can we say? Er – Party pooper. . .
One of the major concerns about scaling down in guitar size is if it’s still functional to play. Knowing the scale length will help you get an idea of its functional playing surface. Fortunately, all the guitars in this lineup, except for the Jammy, has a full-size playing surface with a scale length somewhere between 24-25.5″.
The shorter the scale length, the less you can do with it, but it might be okay if you’re just looking for something to practice on and not expecting serious performance out of it.
As the need to scale down body heft and waist size becomes more important, weight will naturally be of concern. While many electric guitars can weigh approximately 7-9 lbs, travel guitars will be in the 3-5 lb range.
Now, there’s always going to be some debate as to which weight range is best. Leaning on the heavy end has its benefits as it promotes enough heft to correctly and comfortably play the guitar – sitting or standing, but it can be a downside if you’re lugging it around all over town.
Then, there’s the extremely lightweight electric guitars that promise ultimate portability and come in well under weight to qualify as a carry-on for flights, but – yes, there’s a but. Being too lightweight can promote issues where you may find it difficult to hold, difficult to play aggressively, and they can have balancing issues where we often see that the neck end is too heavy for the rest of the body.
The only way to find out what you like is to get a hold of one and feel it out. You may need to rig some strap buttons to the headstock (if it has one) versus the body and make improvements to leg support rests that are sometimes included in the buy.
Obviously, some travel guitars don’t even have solid bodies or real wood to get any tonal contribution from that end. So, if this matters to you, look for a Traveler Guitar or consider the Hofner Shorty.
Now all travel guitars are going to sound different to one another as it’s the choice of pickups that shape that sound. On some smaller guitars, there isn’t a lot of square mileage to get creative with pickup configurations, so you’ll at least see a humbucker sitting at the bridge. But, some bodies are larger allowing for more room for a full S-S-S, S-S-H, or H-S-H setup.
You may always expect tone controls for sonic versatility on a conventional guitar, but that’s not always the case with travel electric guitars. You may end up relying heavily on an amp to get the tone and effect you’re after. Be sure to lookout for controls, pickup selector switches (if applicable), and coil splitting on higher end models.
Fortunately, size doesn’t really affect sound as you have pickups and amplification unlike the acoustic guitar that would be severely affected as it gets smaller in size.
You should still be seeing some of the same hardware as you would on a regular electric such as bridges and saddles, nuts, and even truss rods. But, headless guitars will lack a headstock which means no tuning gears. Bridges, saddles, and tailpieces may be modified for a more appropriate setup for a travel guitar. This is where we see string rollers, exposed wrap-around string designs, and even completely removable systems just to replace a string. Pickguards may be left off, and nut materials can vary from real bone to even brass. Pay attention to the hardware so you’re not left scratching your head when you see something that may offend you.
You’re going to need to do some creative work on your budget as a travel guitar is not the only buy you need to consider. When you’re on the road, you can’t exactly take your studio equipment with you or deal with the hassle of lugging a 20 lb amp either. What’s the solution?
Consider a travel guitar with a headphone out jack that allows you to plug headphones directly into the guitar body. Some manufacturers will use terminology such as “Silent Guitar” or “Silent System” that’s powered by a battery source or can be charged via a power adapter cable or USB cable. Noise-cancelling headphones could be in your future.
More options to consider are battery-powered mini amps, headphone amps, or an audio interface that can connect to your smartphone.
When we mean having security and protective measurements in place, we’re not just talking about having a quality warranty on your guitar. You must protect your guitar with a quality case. After all, it may be a traveling guitar that’s expected to handle some abuse from the rigors of being on the road or in the skies, but you can limit how much damage it can be exposed to and protect it with a quality case.
You may also need to think about guitar humidifiers if you’re traveling to and through dry climates. Don’t leave the guitar in a hot vehicle where temperatures can reach up to 20 degrees more inside than it is outside.
Additionally, there is always risk of misplacing your guitar or it being stolen. Leaving it exposed in a vehicle is just as bad as leaving your wallet in an unlocked car ready for the taking by thieves. Treat it with the respect it deserves and keep it safeguarded whenever it’s left behind for bathroom breaks, gas station stops, sightseeing tours, and more.
Leaving Town? Don’t Forget Your Guitar!
Travel guitars are for musicians that are constantly on the go, professionals and amateurs alike. Then, there are those who don’t dare take their $2000 electric guitar past the front door but are not necessarily looking for a cheap electric guitar. After all, guitars are exposed to weather, the bump and grind of travel, and can be lost or stolen.
Taking it with you across town, state lines, and countries, constantly remaining alert of its whereabouts at all times, and pulling it out every chance you can get may make your other half or traveling buddies feel like the third wheel.
But, for those that just can’t leave on holiday or to a night out with friends without their trusty electric guitar, a travel guitar is for you. Music is every part of our daily existence, so why should you leave home without it? If you’re not itching for a travel guitar just yet, maybe you need to crank up your game a little more.