BY PETE MADSEN
There has been a revolution of sorts in guitar making over the past 15 years. RainSong, Blackbird, Composite Acoustics, and now KLOS have developed carbon-fiber instruments that can withstand the elements of extreme heat, cold, and moisture without suffering damage. The main benefit of such guitars is that they can go anywhere, take punishment, and still come out sounding like they did before. For added convenience, KLOS has made an acoustic-electric guitar with a handy travel package, complete with a detachable neck and portable gig bag.
The idea behind KLOS guitars began in 2014 when cofounder Adam Kloswiak left his college dorm window open during winter break, causing cracks in his wooden guitar. Klosowiak’s brother, Ian, stepped in with both his guitar playing experience and knowledge of composite materials to produce the first KLOS guitar. With the additional help of Jacob Sheffield and a couple of Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, the company is going strong after four-plus years
The KLOS arrived packed for travel, with the neck detached and stuffed away in a separate small bag that was strapped to the main bag for the body of the guitar. This optional lightweight package can fold into a backpack, making it easy to transport the KLOS. Admittedly, the first thing I did upon unpacking the guitar was to not read the directions. Had I done so I would not have removed the capo that was placed at the first fret, thus allowing the first string to unravel from its tuner post, making it difficult to rethread.
Pillaging an E string from a spare set, I went about assembling the guitar, which required removing the neck from its pouch and attaching it to the body with four long screws, using the included mini screwdriver. The guitar’s headstock is stout—it’s obviously engineered with portability in mind—and the tuners are spaced the same distance apart as those on a Fender Stratocaster. This made finger manipulation of the tuners feel a little cramped, at least for me, but once in tune I was ready to rock. Speaking of headstock, I also appreciated that it’s placed at a zero angle to the neck, making it more durable than most.
The Feel and Sound
If you’re looking for a travel guitar that is easy to play, then the KLOS certainly fits the bill. With 14 frets clear to the body, a slim 1-11/16-inch nut, 24-3/4-inch scale fretboard, and low action, I was able to perform single-string runs with ease. Pounding out barre chords was child’s play, and I was able to execute hammer-ons and pull-offs with a light touch—partially due to the light-gauge strings (.011–.052). Smaller hands will welcome the slim neck profile and ease of navigation. Larger hands might feel a little cramped, though, given the neck’s tight quarters. Also, the narrow string spacing at the saddle made fingerpicking feel a bit restrictive.
Carbon-fiber guitars should not be judged on the same sonic merits as their wooden counterparts—just as a brass resonator guitar has its own sonic palette, so too does a carbon-fiber axe. Carbon fiber has a very clear and precise tone, and when I’m fingerpicking an alternating-bass blues tune on the KLOS, I can hear the bass as distinct notes, rather than percussive thuds. Because of its small size, however, the KLOS has a narrow voice—not thin, but if you’re looking for big notes out of a small box, then you might be disappointed. My Little Martin had a much warmer tone by comparison.
The Electronics Package
The KLOS is outfitted with a Fishman Sonitone pickup system; volume and tone controls are located on the inside of the soundhole. I plugged the KLOS into a Schertler Jam 150 acoustic amplifier and found that the undersaddle pickup does a good job replicating the acoustic tones of the KLOS. I didn’t have the opportunity to use the guitar in a live setting, but I would be interested to hear how it matches with other instruments through a PA. My guess is that it would cut through nicely without being too piercing.
Speaking of cutting through, when I adjusted the Fishman’s tone dial I was able to get a wide spectrum of sharpness and clarity through the treble strings, but that same control had little effect on the bass strings. Certainly, you can make adjustments with an outboard preamp or on the PA/amplifier, but I was mystified about the lack of tonal variation through the pickup.
The KLOS acoustic-electric travel guitar is great for the musician on the go who needs an instrument with a small footprint. It may not have a big sound, but it plays impressively and compensates with electronics that can be tweaked to add more oomph in a live situation. With a base price of $699 direct (or even cheaper, $599, without electronics), the KLOS is also a terrific buy for a U.S.-made carbon-fiber guitar—a typical example of which will set you back well over a grand—making it ideal for travel without worry.
Body: 14-fret mini dreadnought carbon-fiber composite; 15″ long, 11.5″ wide, 3.5″ deep
Neck: Detachable mahogany neck; 24 3/4″ scale length; carbon-fiber stiffening rods ($40 optional); adjustable truss rod, 1- 11/16″ nut width
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Other: Blackwood bridge and fingerboard; NuBone XB nut and saddle; ABS bridge pins; Fishman Sonitone electronics; black, dark blue, dark red, pink, white, or yellow finish; optional accessories package ($86) including gig bag with separate neck sleeve, rain cover, capo, and guitar strap; available left-handed
Price: $825 as reviewed ($699 without accessory package and carbon-fiber stiffening rods)
Made In: USA