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Washburn Rover Travel Guitar

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One of the inescapable concerns inherent in guitars is that they’re relatively large objects, and encased in enough wood or polyethylene to survive an airport’s baggage handling system, they become quite a lot larger still. If you find yourself traveling under circumstances which don’t avail you of unlimited space for your belongings, you might find yourself compelled to leave your guitar behind.

Unless you’ll be traveling by camel or kayak, the Washburn Rover travel guitar is a brilliant solution to the issue of the space occupied by a guitar, as it occupies very little of it. This may make whomever you’re traveling with a bit disappointed if he or she was hoping to use space concerns as a reason to compel you to leave your guitar in its closet. You’ll need to work this one out for yourself.

The Rover is a bit unusual to look at, but it fits in a case that’s under three feet long. A custom case is included with the instrument. The Rover’s case will fit in most airplane overhead storage compartments, although it’s still arguably a good idea to make sure the airline you’re planning to fly with will let you put one there.

Despite its limited dimensions, the Rover has a full-size fretboard and scale. It requires a few minutes of practice to get comfortable holding it – its body is substantially smaller than that of a conventional acoustic. Once you find a way to keep it from slipping through your fingers, it’s eminently playable.

The Rover has reasonable sound for a very small guitar – it plays with a slight twang, making it reminiscent of a banjo. It’s also considerably quieter than a conventional acoustic guitar, which probably isn’t a bad thing, especially if you’ll be traveling in a group.

Washburn crafts some really superb acoustic instruments, and it’s important to keep in mind that the Rover isn’t one of them. Knocked together in China, it’s reasonably well built as machine-made guitars go, but it’s cheap and it’s knows it. It might even be proud of it. It’s price arguably reflects its perilous existence. If somebody parks a 747 on your Rover, you won’t have to mortgage your dog to get a new one.

The Rover requires somewhat more work to set up than most guitars. To begin with, mine arrived with a set of somewhat economical strings that hardly did justice to the instrument. Two of them broke shortly after I initialy tuned up – I’d have replaced the factory strings even if they hadn’t. The neck action of my Rover was fairly high, which called for some adjustment to render it playable. The Rover includes not only an allen key to adjust its neck, but bridge and tail shims, should you really want to perfect its action.

The machine heads that ship with the Rover are economical. I’ve heard of several people replacing them with better machines – mine proved reasonably workable.

Once it’s been fitted with better strings, the Rover is surprisingly stable. Its sound isn’t displeasing, although it leans somewhat more toward C&W than I might have wished.

Unlike the Martin Backpacker, perhaps the most commonly-encountered travel guitar, the Rover has a truss rod, allowing its neck action to be adjusted, and a hard case rather than a large sock to protect it from the vicissitudes of a mobile existence. I should also point out that mine came with a “how to play the guitar” DVD, which was a nice touch. One of the nieces or nephews will no doubt appreciate it.

Comments (2)

Brad NovikoffNovember 2nd, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Just back from a 3 week, 10 aircraft trip with Rover in tow. Rover has fit in all overheads on this trip and has not been inconvenient to pack around in any way. Aircraft include: Dash-8, A19, A20, Bombardier CRJ and 777. Only hitch was that the allen key that comes with the little tool kit was seized byairport security as it is classified as a tool. Allen key went undetected through 4 airports in Canada and USA, but brought the line to a halt in Winnipeg Manitoba. I suggest you leave allen key at home. At security the Rover was sniffed twice for explosives and this was done quickly. I love this guitar and on this trip I’ve written 3 new songs, played at airports without drawing any attention as it is so quiet. I lowered the action by sanding down the saddle and will replace the stock strings soon. I bought a little 9 volt Danelectro amp that fits in the pocket of the Rover case and use a suction cup tuner pick up. This set up works great and cost $40.

Bruce BrookerSeptember 9th, 2017 at 8:03 am

Hello. Got a Rover a couple weeks ago, with the intention of carrying it to Mexico this winter. Getting used to playing it now. I’ve set the action high-ish, with medium strings, to play slide in dropped and open tunings. I love this little guitar. It occurred to me that it has the same shape as a Weisennborn (front and back). The Rover can be played on your lap, in fact that might be the best playing position, if you are not using it’s strap. The sound of The Rover could be described as much bigger than it’s diminutive size. Like a cross between a banjo and a reso. The guitars voice belies it’s size. The Rover is a fun instrument to play. It is friendly, bright, and playful in it’s personality…my wife calls it cute. It is cute. But not cute-sy. It is a real guitar…in a lighter weight class. Quickly becoming my friend. It loves to just hang out and play. Seems to love spending as much time with you as you do with it. 🙂 Bahia de Chamela Mexico… here we com.