In what is probably the most hopeful product launch of 2021 so far, Blackstar has announced the Carry-On travel guitar. It’s certainly a forward-thinking introduction and here’s hoping we’ll be able to travel somewhere before the end of the year! Timing aside, the Carry-On is a credible example of the downsized travel guitar.
Designed in the UK by Blackstar in association with the master luthiers at Gordon Smith Guitars, and made in China, it’s certainly small, centring on a 527mm (20.7-inch) scale length and a ukulele-sized body that measures approximately 211mm across the lower bouts; body depth is 39.5mm.
It has a natural matt finish to the back, sides and neck, and the top is not only glossed (in a choice of Vintage White, as here, and Black) but also bound with a tortoiseshell-like plastic. The same plastic is used to bind the fingerboard and around the lightly back-angled headstock, which features full-sized enclosed tuners.
Overall length is 747mm and it weighs just 1.79kg. The Carry-On is made from okoume and has a 19-fret laurel fingerboard. The fret gauge falls into medium-to-jumbo territory and the fret tops are pretty well-fettled, the fret ends actually sitting over the edge binding.
Despite the reduced scale-length and the miniature size, the neck is actually full size with a conventional nut width that measures 43.43mm and a neck width of 52.2mm by the 12th fret. The well-shaped full C profile has a depth of 20.2mm at the 1st fret and 23mm by the 10th fret, before the neck curves into a pretty classic domed heel.
Clearly, then, this is a set-neck guitar, the neck joining the single-cut body just past the 15th fret. The string gauge is heavier than you might be used to (0.012 to 0.054), but this extra weight compensates for the short scale, even though the perceived tension veers on the slightly floppier side.
That said, with regular string spacing (35mm at the nut, 51.5mm at the tune-o-matic bridge) it really plays rather well and there’s even a wheel-style truss-rod adjuster at the base of the neck to ensure the optimum setup, while the strings are anchored through the body in offset Tele-style ferrules.
Sound-wise, it does sound like an electric guitar – certainly good enough for practice. There’s not excessive bite, you’ll find a reasonable depth to the voice, the coil-split is rather good and the volume and tones work effectively. Pint-sized but pokey!
- PRICE: £419
- TYPE: Singlecut travel guitar
- BODY: Okoume
- NECK: Okoume (body and neck one piece)
- FINGERBOARD: Laurel
- FRETS: 19
- SCALE: 20.7" (527mm)
- PICKUPS: Mini-humbucker
- CONTROLS: Volume w/ coil-split, tone
- EXTRAS: Blackstar Fly 3 Bluetooth Mini Amp [deluxe package; Fly 2 headphones amp with standard], premium gig-bag, strap, 3x medium-gauge picks, travel notebook and mechanical pencil
- CONTACT: Blackstar