Taylor GS-Mini Review
The Taylor GS Mini took the market like a storm upon release.
For the first time in guitar history, a parlor-sized instrument could deliver pure acoustic tone in an affordable package.
I was lucky enough to try several of them and was forever haunted by the feel and sound.
Indeed, I was so moved by these guitars that I decided to create this extensive post to tell you everything you need to know about them.
Are you ready for the ultimate Taylor GS Mini review? Well, sit comfortably and pay a lot of attention, because here we go!
Taylor GS Mini review
Ok, let me begin by telling you that having one of these for a week was both: a blessing and a curse. I have been playing it exhaustively and fell in love with the instrument.
That is, of course, the blessing part. The not-so-good part is the fact I had to give it back.
Let’s start with the base model, a $499 guitar featuring a 23 ” scale, and a smaller body. It is not as small as the Baby Taylor line, but not as big as a regular guitar. What I mean is that if you are used to playing regular-sized guitars, you won’t get that annoying feeling that your fingers are crammed in a tiny space.
That being said, it is also a very easy to transport instrument with its included, high-quality carrying bag.
Action & finish
The finish on every Taylor instrument I ever laid my hands on was flawless and this is, by no means, an exception.
From the clean and beautiful Sapele sides and back to the flawless Sitka spruce top, the grain and the lines in the wood are awe-inspiring.
The bridge, tuners, nut, pins, and pickguard were all flawless as well as the fretboard, and the back of the neck.
As a guitarist, the first thing I look for is a comfy neck. Then I move on to the sound department. Then the overall finish, which by the way is near perfect on the Taylor GS Mini.
As for the action, it can seem a little high for most people, but once properly set a little lower, the guitar sings beautifully with no buzzing anywhere on the fretboard.
A guitar that looks great and is extremely comfortable should sound good to be a great instrument.
Yes, the GS Mini is a great-sounding instrument; moreover, I would pick it over some of the full-body competition. Guitars I have at home like Yamaha and Takamine full-bodied models (in the affordable lines) sound just as loud but less punchy.
I tried bringing trouble to the GS Mini in every way I could. I played fingerpicking, loud strumming, bossa nova, jazz chords, blues, slide, open tunings, and everything I could think of, but it handled every scenario with style.
Moreover, let me say that when it comes to hybrid styles (fingerpicking in the verse and strumming in the chorus, for example) the Sitka spruce top shined through. It was dynamic enough to generate a gentle purr with my finger pads and a roar when strumming.
I was impressed with how versatile an instrument it is. When plugged in, the sound retains the tonal characteristics of the unplugged guitar and the resulting audio is just as good.
The controls on the guitar are easy to dial in and changes on the fly are effortless.
If you have ever faced an audience as a singer-songwriter, you know that guitar sound is paramount to a good performance.
Furthermore, if your guitar sound is not dialed in perfectly, you’ll be taking some energy off from your performance to address the technicalities, which is a definite recipe for disaster. Plus, taking away enjoyment from playing live is something none of us wants.
The only drawback I could find when it comes to the acoustic-electric version is that it could be powered by a regular 9V battery. Instead, the pair of 3v button cell lithium batteries are hard to find and it can be a problem if they die on you the day of the show.
The result of this Taylor GS Mini review is quite obvious at this point.
The fact that Taylor has managed to create an instrument that retains the brand’s heritage craftsmanship and unique sound in an affordable, portable package featuring as many wood options are quite amazing, to say the least.
In my case, I’ve been playing guitar for over two decades and have had a wide range of acoustic guitars in my hands.
During that long path, I was able to fine-tune my ears and hands to the most exclusive taste and the GS Mini is, by far, one of the best guitars I’ve played in its price range.
My suggestion is that if you are planning on buying an acoustic guitar in this price range, you should give a GS Mini a try before making your choice.
They are good, reliable instruments that you can take anywhere with you and have endless fun playing any style.
What about the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany?
The big difference between the GS Mini standard (Sapele back and sides and Sitka spruce top) and the mahogany version is in the sound.
I would recommend this guitar for those who pursue a career as singer-songwriters as it occupies the perfect sonic space to accompany your voice.
Moreover, the sweet harmonics and the deep low end of the mahogany will take away some of the brightness of the instrument but with time will transform into an overtone-rich tone you’ll fall in love with.
- Body Body type: Taylor Grand Symphony Mini Cutaway: No Top wood: Solid Mahogany Back & sides: Layered Sapele Bracing pattern: GS Mini With Relief Rout Body finish: Matte 2.0 Orientation: Left-Handed Neck Neck shape: Taylor GS Mini Profile Nut width: 1-11/16" (42.8mm) Fingerboard: Genuine African Ebony Neck wood: Sapele Scale length: 23-1/2" Number of frets: 20 Neck finish: Matte 2.0 Electronics <
Don’t just take my word for it, you can check this video for mahogany vs spruce comparison.
What about the Taylor GS Mini Koa?
Koa, just like mahogany is a dark tonewood that features rich lower overtones and harmonics.
The big difference between mahogany and Koa is that the first is a little more resonant at lower volumes and features a wider dynamic range. By this, I mean that Koa requires more effort from the player to create the vibration and the sound.
You might think of it as a bright instrument when it first gets to your hands, but with time, it will become resonant, dark, and powerful.
Fingerpickers usually find Koa instruments great because of the focus on the midrange the wood naturally offers.
What about the Taylor GS Mini Koa Plus?
This version of the GS Mini is worth a little more ($999) and features some differences from the rest:
Electronics – While the rest of the line offers the EB-2, this model receives the Expression System 2 which can also be found in some much more expensive Taylor models (more on electronics below).
The resulting sound is professional, focused, tight, and bright. The highs are not harsh, and the lows are round and full.
Case – The case that accompanies the purchase of this guitar is the Aerocase by Taylor, which is airplane-ready.
This means that you can send your guitar to the storage of the plane and be sure it will arrive safe and sound.
- Frame Construction: 3-ply poplar/Luan
- Interior Lining: Foam padding with burgundy plush crushed velvet lining
- Exterior Covering: Textured dark brown vinyl covering and trim
- Hardware: Brass plated latches, nameplate, bottom/side feet
- Handle: Padded dark brown vinyl with brass plated fasteners
Finish – The Koa found in this version is an eye-catching, awe-inspiring, beauty. The lines in the hand-selected wood used in making these guitars are worthy of a top-notch instrument.
What about the Taylor GS Mini Rosewood?
The use of rosewood in the Taylor GS Mini-line-up is a ground-breaking event. I mean this in the sense that it is a great achievement by Taylor to include this pricey, great-sounding wood in an affordable instrument.
While it is undeniable that there is a big gap between this guitar and the solid back and sides models, the projection, focus, and warmth of rosewood along with its resonance are still present in this guitar.
If you want a taste of the real deal without breaking the bank, this might be it.
Check this Taylor-made video about rosewood on Taylor acoustics to learn more about it.
Taylor, a guitar giant
Although it wasn’t founded as long ago as its biggest competition (Martin), Taylor is one of the biggest US-based guitar manufacturers today.
It has managed in only 46 years to position its creations at the top of the scale when it comes to acoustic guitars.
If you’ve tried one already, you’ll know that craftsmanship and attention to detail are uncanny. Currently, the company employs over 750 people worldwide and has a strong presence in every continent.
The meteoric rise of the firm was not given by chance, but because of years of investing in research and development and a very strong work ethic.
Let’s talk innovation
Since its first days, innovation is in the company`s DNA. Indeed, Taylor tried new ways of building guitars fearlessly with everything from construction techniques to the employment of exotic woods.
The increasing fan base indicates that they have been doing something right.
Certainly, if you ask any modern guitar player with a love for acoustics to rank the brands in the market today, you’ll get Taylor in the top three along with Martin and Gibson without the shadow of a doubt.
Martin started building them in 1832 and Gibson in 1894; that`s a whole different century!
Let’s talk about sound
So, what is the big difference between Taylor and the competition? Well, the big difference is, mostly, in the way they sound.
To explain this I have to go a little into music history, and the role of the acoustic guitar. Will you join me on this trip to the past? I promise it won’t take long.
The golden era of guitar-driven music started in the late 40s and early 50s. During these decades of heavy radio rotation amplifying guitar strumming around the world, Martin and Gibson dominated the picture.
They managed to stay on top due to a sound that was (and still is) rich in lows and mids that could sit comfortably in the middle of a mix taking up a lot of sonic space.
Arguably, today, the music landscape shifted towards other sounds drifting away from guitar-playing. At least, we can say that guitar-driven music coexists with other kinds that are more synth-driven or beat-driven.
This new paradigm needed a new guitar sound that would accompany the existing instruments without taking up as much sonic space.
Taylor guitars fulfill this duty perfectly with instruments that are up to the competition in craftsmanship and quality but with a modern touch in the sound department.
Because of the continuous innovation, the use of exotic woods, and the incredible craftsmanship, Taylor has forged an impeccable reputation that granted the brand hard-core fans around the world.
Coming from a company as important as Taylor, the GS Mini couldn’t be anything but a commercial success. Let’s dive into what makes this revolutionary line that took over the world like a storm so great.
What makes the GS Mini a great choice?
Taylor offers guitars in many different configurations ranging from $499 to $9000. What makes a guitar like the GS Mini stand out from the rest?
- Playability – The playability in the GS Mini line-up is superb. Although its price tag differs drastically from that of the higher models in the Taylor line-up, it retains the flawless craftsmanship that is a brand signature. The finish and shape on the necks are perfect; chances are, if you are a guitar player, you’ll love it too.
- Sound – The signature Taylor sound that comes from models 10 times more expensive is present in the GS Mini line. Just picking one up and strumming it gently will create a record-ready sound that most of us look for.
- Portability – This is one of the secrets for this line´s success: it´s portable and not tiny. Although parlor guitars have indeed been around for decades, none of them packed the sound of a full-bodied instrument in a smaller, more affordable, and portable package like the GS Mini does. The addition of the soft case as a factory standard only accentuates this great quality.
‘You wouldn’t go to a campfire with a $4,000 guitar and neither would I’
- Reliability – You wouldn’t go to a campfire with a $4,000 guitar and neither would I. But what if you could play those die-hard classics on a guitar costing almost ten times less with a great sound that sits comfortably in your hands and plays effortlessly? That is the aim of the Taylor GS Mini product line-up.
To summarize Taylor’s achievement with the GS Mini, they managed to include in a small, affordable package the heritage and sound of the guitar we all dream about.
Whether you are starting or a seasoned player wanting a good-quality instrument to carry around, the GS Mini is hard to beat.
You can say goodbye to those awkward moments in which the only guitar available sounds and plays like a nightmare because it is a cheap carry-around instrument.
Let’s talk tonewoods
One thing that sets Taylor apart from the competition, as we said before, is the innovation capability.
When it comes to experimenting with different tonewoods and building guitars in an environmentally responsible way, they are miles away from the competition. The GS Mini product line-up features these tonewoods:
This is the quintessential wood used in most solid-top acoustic guitars in the world. It features an amazing dynamic range. It excels at everything from fingerpicking to heavy strumming.
The key to understand Sitka spruce is that it features great flexibility. This inherent elasticity accommodates all playing styles.
A hardwood that was utilized historically in the body of solid-body guitars (Les Paul’s, for example) can also make a great top for an acoustic.
Since it is harder than Sitka spruce, it will demand more from the player but at the same time generate a strong, focused, bright but deep tone.
I can say that in my experience, mahogany-top acoustics get much better with time, developing harmonic overtones to fall in love with.
Koa is a bright tonewood featuring a very exotic line and a dark color that are very appealing. Most hard, tropical woods such as this produce a focused tone, especially in the midrange.
When the guitar is just made, the sound can be a tad harsh and bright, but as it settles in, it produces this warm, round, focused tone with complex overtones floating in the background.
I’ve been lucky enough to play several acoustical guitars made with Koa, including the GS mini. The thing they had in common was that they excel at fingerpicking because the pads of the fingers attenuate the brightness of the wood while retaining the focused mids.
This was breaking news when Taylor announced it because any guitar made with solid rosewood back and sides can be in the five and six figures categories easily.
In this case, Taylor utilizes two layers of rosewood with a poplar interior that is affordable, sustainable, and retains some of the rich sound projection and overtones rosewood is capable of.
Those of us who have been lucky enough to try out a true solid back and sides rosewood guitar know that they are the Excalibur of acoustics.
Purchasing a guitar with such tonal characteristics for under $1,000 is a wishful fantasy I never thought could come true.
Taylor GS Mini Review – Let’s talk electronics
Now that we have spoken about the woods that Taylor utilizes to build these guitars, it is time to talk about the electronics that bring them to life on stages around the world.
As a great guitar innovator, the company created its systems with the help of audio guru and total legend Rupert Neve.
Let’s look at the electronics in Taylor GS Mini guitars.
The Taylor ES-B is very convenient, especially for the gigging musician. The LED display with a built-in chromatic tuner and a low-battery indicator located on top of the body is as handy as it gets.
Furthermore, the system also features tone and volume controls in the shape of a pair of knobs just like any regular electric guitar would (any telecaster fans in the house?).
Sound-wise, the piezo element sounds realistic and powerful. The guitars in the line featuring Koa or Mahogany tops retain the tonal characteristics of the wood when amplified.
Expression System 2
As stated above, Taylor is a guitar innovator. They have taken the piezo transducer idea a step further and applied that technology to this preamp available in the GS Mini-e Koa Plus.
This system includes three uniquely calibrated pickup sensors allowing the sound to provide an outstanding dynamic range for the player.
To couple the sensors with top-notch preamp technology, the preamp was designed together with Rupert Neve; and it is as good as it gets.
I have tried virtually every Fishman piezo preamp and pickup available in the market and can say that Taylor’s technology has nothing to envy. In case you didn’t know, Fishman is the benchmark against which all other acoustic pickups are measured.
Taylor GS Mini FAQs
Is the Taylor GS Mini worth the money?
All the models in the Taylor GS Mini product line-up are not only worth the money but also a great investment. Buying high-quality instruments and playing them a lot opens a whole new tonal palette full of harmonic overtones and sweet-sounding, round bass frequencies over time. Taylor GS Minis is a keeper.
Is the Taylor GS Mini a good guitar?
No Taylor GS Mini Review would be complete without answering this question!
Yes, the Taylor GS Mini is a good guitar in all its incarnations because you can check all the boxes with them. They play great, are super comfortable, and sound incredible both plugged and unplugged.
Is the Taylor GS Mini good for beginners?
Beginners with a budget up to $499 should try a Taylor GS Mini before buying anything else. The standard model can offer you all the features you need for a lifetime of playing.
Is the Taylor GS Mini good for fingerstyle?
Although the Sitka spruce top is great for any playing style, those in the search for a good fingerstyle guitar should check out the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany and Koa incarnations. They sound focused and warm, especially when played with the finger pads.
Taylor GS Mini Review Conclusion
A great company with a president that is fearless, talented, and boldly followed by a great team created a new industry standard.
The Taylor GS Mini appeared in the market and created a category of its own; parlor guitars were not popular instruments at the time.
For guitar players looking for a great guitar that won’t compromise sound and playability but won’t break the bank either, trying a Taylor GS Mini is a definite must.
Even seasoned players like me who have been playing for well over two decades will find these guitars great instruments to take everywhere.
Give the Taylor GS Mini a chance before purchasing any guitar in this price range. If you want a full-size acoustic, you can also check the similarly priced Yamaha’s beginner guitar line-up.
In our Taylor GS Mini Review, we also compared these three mini guitars in case you’d like to explore more options. If the Taylor GS Mini is out of stock, or it’s not quite what you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong with either of these 3 mini guitars below.