From the August 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY GREG OLWELL
As Taylor Guitars’ master designer Andy Powers describes it, the GS Mini-e Bass started off almost as an acoustic bass guitar for guitarists who want a compact instrument with a familiar, relatable feel to Taylor’s popular GS-Mini guitars. But, as this short-scale bass developed in Taylor’s skunkworks, it became more apparent that this little bass was going to be something else—something that not only met those first ideals, but also would be an instrument that appeals to bass players everywhere.
In short, Taylor feels like it hit on something special with the Mini-e Bass.
Indeed, the GS Mini-e Bass is so special that Taylor decided to work with D’Addario & Co. to develop unique strings to work on this short-scale bass instrument, which is almost a foot shorter than a standard bass string scale. To make this 23 1/2-inch scale bass work, D’Addario designed a string that has a multi-strand nylon core wrapped in a phosphor-bronze winding (which is coated like other strings in D’Addario’s EXP line). The result is a string that has a little of the roly-poly feel of a wound classical-guitar string, but at a much thicker gauge. (String-swapping tone-seekers note: The Mini-e Bass is designed to work only with these strings; using any other strings may damage the bass.)
Expressive & Easy to Play
The result is a stringed instrument that’s expressive and easy to play—and unlike anything else. Combined with the short scale, these medium-tension strings were so easy to play that I felt like I could play a three- or four-set show without thinking twice about waking up with sore hands the next day. While easy-playing comfort is important in any relationship with a guitar, it was the Mini-e Bass’ responsiveness that kept pulling me back again and again.
One thing quickly became obvious when plucking the Mini-e Bass: the less brute effort I put into playing this bass, the better it sounded. A less muscular, more nuanced, right-hand technique really showed off the bass’ dynamic abilities, while the Mini seemed to translate the sound of even slight left-hand vibrato into a singing, vocal-like tone. As impressive as all this expressiveness is, the new Taylor does have limits. When it comes to acoustics, there are no hacks or cheat codes to get past physics—basses need a big body to produce big acoustic volume and low-end. As a small-bodied acoustic bass, the GS Mini-e is an instrument you’ll probably find yourself playing more at home, or when traveling, than you will at acoustic jams. If you want to be heard with some other pickers or a band, you’ll need to rely on the onboard ES-B piezo pickup and preamp.
One thing quickly became obvious when plucking the Mini-e Bass: the less brute effort I put into playing this bass, the better it sounded.
The Road Test
I used the Mini through an SWR Baby Blue bass combo amp, and because the bass features Taylor’s behind-the-saddle Expression System pickups, I wasn’t surprised at the solid, harmonically rich tone filling the room. There are no surprises and no bummers when it’s amplified, just complex harmonics laying over solid fundamentals in a feedback-resistant platform. It’s so good and competent that it might be boring if it wasn’t so, well, darned good. The GS Mini-e is the very definition of fuss-free plug-and-play and a big step up from clacky, plasticky, undersaddle pickup tones.
As you might expect from Taylor’s sophisticated CNC-powered construction techniques, the GS Mini-e Bass’ tight construction comes from a place beyond human ability. It’s flawless. From the purfling-inlaid top (no binding, just violin-style purfling to protect the edges) to the fretwork and setup, everything is just right.
By questioning and rethinking nearly every aspect of guitar building and design, Taylor has shown that it’s fearless when countering conventional wisdom with modern, innovative ideas that work. The new Taylor GS Mini-e Bass pulls some of the company’s best ideas together into a new, compact bass that is bound to find an audience of guitarists and bass players looking for comfort, quality, and tone.
At A Glance: Taylor Guitars GS Mini-e Bass
Body Grand Symphony shape; solid Sitka spruce top with purfling; GS Mini bracing with relief rout; laminated sapele back and sides; plastic tortoiseshell pickguard; ebony bridge with Micarta saddle and polycarbonate bridge pins; natural, matte varnish finish
Neck 23 1/2-inch scale bolt-on sapele; 20-fret ebony fingerboard with acrylic dot inlays; Taylor closed tuners; Lexan headstock overlay; Nubone nut; varnish-finish
Electronics Taylor ES-B with volume and tone controls, and a built-in tuner
Strings D’Addario EXP PBB190GS nylon-core with coated phosphor-bronze wrap
Case Hard bag
Price $918 MSRP, $699 street
Made in Mexico
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.