Whether it’s the Martin Backpacker, Dan Erlewine’s Chiquita, the Baby Taylor, a Voyage-Air, or any number of other small and/ or collapsible guitars on the market, guitarists have always had a soft spot for travel-friendly instruments. Russ Strobel got so bummed out at not having a guitar with him on business trips that he took the travel-guitar law into his own hands and started building super-compact instruments that could be easily dismantled to make them even more compact. The Strobel Rambler Classic on review here is one such guitar.
The Classic showed up in a ukulele-sized gig bag that would fit in an overhead compartment no problem. It’s a cool, vaguely V-ish design that features locking tuners down at the bottom of the body, and thus a headless neck for an overall length of 30". Not bad. The scale length comes in at Gibson specs at 24.75" for easy playability with .010s. In keeping with the diminutive theme, the Rambler has a minitoggle for selecting pickups. The only time the dimensions threw me was when dealing with the Volume and Tone knobs, which are too close together to grab and turn—you’ll just have to roll your hand underneath to adjust them.
The Classic sounds great plugged in, with stout humbucker tones from the bridge setting and smooth and creamy sounds from the neck. The bridge pickup in particular cleans up really nicely when you roll the volume down.
The secret weapon of the Rambler is its ability to break down quickly and easily to fit in a laptop bag. I took a dime and unscrewed the thumbwheel at the top of the neck. Then, I could unhinge the StringKeeper that—no surprise—keeps the strings in order when you dismantle the guitar. Then, with the same dime, I loosened the four thumbwheels that anchor the neck bolts, removing them easily by hand. I wrapped the strings around the body (which is key to avoid losing wraps from around the posts) and placed it and the neck inside my canvas computer bag. The neck is a tight squeeze but I got it in there and zipped it all up. The whole operation just took a few minutes. Reassembling it was tricky at first, but you get the hang of it quickly and, again, it only took a few minutes.
The Strobel Rambler is a well-made take on a cool concept. It succeeds as a guitar—which is key—but it also succeeds as a travel guitar before you ever break it down. Once you do, the ability to fit it in a suitcase, briefcase, or laptop bag is an amazing bonus. If you’re in the market for an instrument that would be easy to travel with but still plays and sounds great, check out a Strobel.
PRICE $599 direct
NUT WIDTH 1 5/8"
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 24 3/4" scale
FRETS 21 medium jumbo
TUNERS Chrome locking
BODY Solid maple with flame maple top
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic style
PICKUPS Dual humbuckers
CONTROLS Master Volume, Master Tone, 3-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS GHS Boomers, .010-.046
WEIGHT 4.5 lbs
KUDOS Amazingly compact. Smooth playability. Sweet intonation.