Traveler Guitar Escape Mk III Review : Your Ultimate Travel Companion
Frequently traveling guitarists are faced with a serious dilemma : Take a full size guitar on your journey, lug it all over the place and risk checking it with the airline, or, get a ‘travel’ guitar, and suffer some form of loss of playability and sound quality for diminutive size.
Traveler Guitar has solved that problem.
I recently started traveling again for my job. In the past when I traveled, I had a Martin Backpacker guitar. It was incredibly light, sounded OK, and was TINY. It is sometimes referred to as the Martin canoe paddle, because that is exactly what it looks like. I was not a huge fan of the paddle, because it was nearly impossible to play without wearing a strap, and it was horribly imbalanced. Very, very neck heavy, and also liked to ‘roll away’ from me while I played. It was simply not all that fun to play. Not to mention, it was a pure acoustic – no pickup – and the acoustic sound was only OK at best. Don’t get me wrong, it sounded pretty good for it’s size, but it was not going to give me goosebumps….
Last but not least, the Backpacker had 15 frets, and a scale length of 24″. This meant that it was unlike any other acoustic I owned, which just added to its awkwardness in playability.
I ended up selling the Backpacker after I stopped traveling for work, as it simply didn’t get used, and was collecting dust.
Fast forward about eight years, and I find myself traveling for work again, and terribly jonesing for a guitar fix.
Not wanting to head down the path of the Backpacker again, I started doing some research on travel guitars, and I found that they have come a long way in a decade. The main players are still there, but what really struck me was a company that I hadn’t previously heard of called Traveler Guitar.
What really got me about Traveler’s guitars is that they are all FULL SCALE! The Escape Mk III that I purchased is a full 25 1/2″ – the same as many of my acoustics at home (or very close), and has 22 frets. That’s one more fret than a standard Strat!
I went out in search of a Traveler, since I really wanted to play one first hand before purchasing. I was a little disappointed that they were somewhat hard to find in person. Sure, you could order one from Guitar Center or Musician’s Friend online, but they were quite a bit harder to find in brick and mortar stores. After playing one, this doubly surprised me, as this is by far the best playing travel guitar I have tried. It is definitely worth tracking one down.
I finally found one in a Guitar Center in Indianapolis, to which I was traveling to in a few days. I headed down to the store, and the Mk III was the only Traveler Guitar they had. That didn’t matter much after I played it, but again, I was rather surprised that these guitars don’t have a larger presence out there.
The Escape Mk III is a dream to play. Low action, smooth feel, medium frets, and a fast neck all contribute to a great playing experience. The balance is perfect, and feels perfectly natural to play, not ‘fighting’ me al the time like some of the other travel size guitars out there. It sits nicely in my lap, but also comes with strap pins should you want to use a strap.
The acoustic sound is a little thin due to the fact that there is really no soundbox, but honestly, this is a plus in my opinion, as I really didn’t want to be making a ton of noise acoustically. I was more interested in the electronics, and if it sounded good through an amp, or amp simulator, and a pair of headphones. Traveler also makes purely acoustic and electric models as well, to tailor to those needs.
The electronics did not disappoint. The Escape Mk III sports a custom Shadow preamp and Nanoflex pickup with treble, bass and volume controls, a phase switch, and a built-in tuner. The sound is very, very good, and I was pleasantly surprised in the lack of ‘tinny’ sound normally associated with under saddle acoustic pickups. The Shadow sounds great, and paired up with a good set of headphones, I can tear up on the Escape, and not disturb a soul!
The in-body tuning system on the Traveler looks a little odd, but is actually very intuitive once you get used to it. Plus, it shaves a good six inches or so off the length of the guitar, making it come in at 30 inches in total length. You can stuff that just about anywhere!
Back to the scale length for a second. This is incredibly important in my opinion, as any time you spend practicing on this guitar will directly translate to your studio, home, or gigging axe without adjusting for a larger scale. You’re not going to be transferring from a ‘normal’ scale neck to a smaller scale neck and vice versa. To me, this is the one thing that really makes Traveler stand above and beyond the other travel guitars out there, and it just feels more like your regular guitar.
And all of this in a package that weighs under 5 pounds and fits into an airline overhead with ease!
If anyone out there is looking to pick up a travel sized guitar, I highly recommend you consider what Traveler Guitar has to offer. Seems to me they have some incredibly good products in this niche, and for street prices comparable or even less than the competition, they deserve a serious look.