Travel guitars have become increasingly popular over the years, with more and more instruments appearing on the market that fall at least roughly into the category due either to their diminutive size or their ability to get small via features such as collapsible bodies or removable necks. Some of them are obviously intended as stand-ins for the players’ “real” guitar or guitars, and quickly get stowed away when the traveling is over, but others are real guitars in themselves and may also be played as such. The G-Sharp OF-1 and Traveler Guitar LTD EC-1 clearly fall into the latter category. I tested these guitars though a Magnatone Super ’59 2x12 combo and a Yamaha THR 100HD through a THR C212 speaker cabinet.
Designed by Norwegian luthier Øivin Fjeld and manufactured in China, the OF-1 is a solid mahogany neck-through instrument with a 20.75" scale length. Fjeld recommends tuning it up two wholesteps to G#, though the guitar may also be tuned more conventionally. Should you wish to use it in standard tuning, however, heavier strings are advised due to the short scale. The review instrument came strung with .013-.056 gauge strings and tuned to standard pitch, so that’s the way it stayed. (Note that these guitars come stock in G# tuning and with .010-.046 gauge strings.)The OF-1 is solidly constructed and the workmanship admirable—from the beautiful classic burst finish to the cleanly installed body binding to the superb fretwork. The intonation was quite good overall, though it could use some slight tweaks (details are provided in the user manual), and the guitar stayed in tune reasonably well even when played aggressively with lots of string bending.
The instrument has a single-coil pickup with an “invisible” Volume control that recesses into the body. The guitar has essentially one tone, which is rich and warm with solid mids and clear highs. Rolling the Volume control back slightly decreases the highs with only a minor level change, however, making it sort of a de facto tone control.
The OF-1 is a high-quality instrument that feels good, plays well, and sounds very nice. As a bonus, it could be used in the studio as a layering guitar when tuned to higher tunings such as G#, and it may also be converted into a lapsteel guitar using G-Sharp’s optional Slide Kit.
Traveler Guitar LTD EC-1
This collaborative effort from Traveler and ESP plays almost exactly like a full-sized guitar, despite being only 30" long. That’s because it has a 24.75” scale length, a 1.69" nut width, and 22 jumbo frets, rather than being scaled-down like many other travel guitars. And its proprietary In-Body-Tuning- System obviates the need for a headstock, further reducing its size.
The carved-top LTD EC-1 is constructed of mahogany and has a bolt-on mahogany neck with an ebonized rosewood fretboard and pearloid inlays. Its attractive matte black finish, black and dark yellow top and neck binding, and gold hardware imbue it with a touch of elegance. The build quality is generally excellent, the intonation good, and the Tune-o-matic bridge and locking tuners perform well. A single ESP ALH-200B active humbucker is coupled with an onboard amplifier offering Clean, Boost, Overdrive, and Distortion settings accessed by pressing the Tone control. The clean and boosted tones are pleasing if a tad thin, and although the overdriven and distorted tones are somewhat harsh, rolling back the Tone control slightly makes them sound much warmer while still retaining their aggressiveness. The 1/8" Headphone and Aux In jacks are also very nice touches.
At more than half a grand, the LTD EC-1 is pricier than most travel guitars, but considering its solid construction, full-size guitar playability, and unusually robust feature set, it represents a solid value, especially if heavier tones happen to be your thing.
PRICE $375 direct with gig bag
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
NECK Solid mahogany neck-through
FRETBOARD Maple, 20.75" scale
BODY Solid mahogany
PICKUPS Proprietary single-coil
CONTROLS Volume (pop-up)
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 5.25 lbs
KUDOS Superb workmanship. Sweet, well-balanced tone.
CONCERNS Limited controls and tonal variations.
LTD EC-1 VINTAGE BLACK
PRICE $699 street
NUT WIDTH 1.63"
NECK Mahogany, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Ebonized rosewood, 24.75" scale
FRETS 22 jumbo
TUNERS Traveler Guitar Locking
PICKUPS ESP ALH-200B active humbucker
CONTROLS Volume, Tone (with tap pot for Clean, Boost, Overdrive, and Distortion tones)
EXTRAS Onboard amplifier, Headphone and Aux In jacks
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXL110
WEIGHT 4.7 lbs
KUDOS Well made. Versatile. Includes onboard amp with presets.
CONCERNS Relatively pricey.