Traveler Guitar’s latest offering is a 3/4-sized dreadnought loaded with features not commonly found on “travel” instruments: a beveled upper top, a handsome rosette, nice binding, gold-plated tuners with black buttons, advanced onboard electronics, and, most interestingly, a cool partial cutaway indented from about the 15th to 18th frets that allows for better access to the high frets without eating up as much of the body’s airspace as a full cutaway. It would be a wasted effort on many travel guitars, but since this CL-3EQ was designed and set up well enough to be actually playable in the 12th position, I appreciated each iota of extra access. I noticed some fretting-out during aggressive play in certain spots, but, overall, the CL-3EQ handled more like a full-scale guitar than most mobile-minded instruments.
The CL-3EQ was also way louder and deeper sounding than expected. I usually have to back off the vocal volume a bit when singing along with a small-bodied acoustic, but that was not the case in this instance. The sound was not particularly rich with overtones, but it was fundamentally powerful. The Shadow Nanoflex pickup and preamp system delivered a commanding tone that was surprisingly large in the low end when plugged into a Rivera Sedona Lite 1x10 combo amplifier. The onboard Shadow headphone amp sounded similarly strong through earbuds as well, and the Auxiliary input made jamming along with MP3s a cinch.
Weight and durability are always important considerations for travel guitars. I put the CL-3EQ to the test on a trip to Yosemite where I found it to be lightweight enough to feel fine backpacking in high mountain country, yet sturdy enough to withstand being drug around in its gig bag on granite cliff tops, as well as stuffed and unstuffed into an overloaded Toyota Matrix on multiple occasions. I had to use a piece of tape to help secure the output jack, but the instrument arrived in that condition, so it seemed a matter of UPS abuse, not design quality or roadworthiness. In fact, the guitar’s solid spruce top, as well as its mahogany back and sides, and all its interior bracing appeared as if a full-sized guitar’s parts were shrunk by 25 percent in terms of length and width, but not thickness. The result was an instrument with a somewhat constrained sound, but one that could withstand being bumped around a bit.
The CL-3EQ is a well-thought-out instrument appropriate for oodles of situations from backwoods jamming to dorm room practice. It plays well enough to handle involved instrumentals, is loud enough for campfire sing-alongs, and its electronics are stage-worthy. Kudos to the folks at Traveler Guitar for continuing to blaze new trails along the increasingly crowded mobile guitar path.
PRICE $399 street
NUT WIDTH 1.66"
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 23.25" scale
FRETS 19, medium
TUNERS 14:1 gear ratio
BODY Mahogany back and sides
TOP Solid spruce
ELECTRONICS Shadow Nanoflex pickup and custom Shadow preamp with built-in tuner
CONTROLS Volume, Treble, Bass, Phase, Tuner
EXTRA CONNECTIONS 1/8" Aux In, 1/8" Headphone Out
POWER 2 AAA batteries
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze, .012-.053
WEIGHT 3.5 lbs
KUDOS Exceptional features, playability, and volume in a travel-sized package.
CONCERNS Some splatty spots on the fretboard when played aggressively.