If you are looking for a travel guitar, an experienced guitarist will tell you to choose between a Washburn Rover and Martin Backpacker. The Backpacker has a cool and interesting design, but the Rover looks more familiar and friendly. Which one should you choose? Let’s take a deeper look into their qualities and performances to know the winner of Washburn Rover vs. Martin Backpacker.
Washburn Rover vs Martin Backpacker – Which one is the better?
Washburn Rover Review
Washburn has many series of guitars, each is tailored to different purposes, such as for comfort playing, for practice, and for traveling. Rover is among the series of travel guitar, which has half the size of a normal guitar. Along with small dimensions, Rover guitars have many usability features that you would love from travel guitars.
Although it looks small and fragile, Washburn Rover is as durable and tough as a standard-sized guitar. Rover uses a solid spruce top for its body. Spruce is one of the toughest tonewood, and a solid spruce top guarantees the highest durability for a guitar body. It’s strong enough to stand up to the forces of string’s vibrations or even body percussion (make sound by tapping the guitar body). It’s also able to withstand difficult weather conditions, like rain and sun heat, which are common things for outdoor activities.
The back and sides of the guitar are made of laminated mahogany. Mahogany is one of the most common tonewoods used for these parts because of it’s warm, soft, and woody tone. It can boost your highs and lows for a little over other material, adding depth to your sound. The woody sound is also favored by many users, such as street artists, acoustic guitarists and those are traveling.
It isn’t much to say about the rosewood fretboard – rosewood is the most common material for guitar fingerboard. It’s because the rosewood is hard enough to endure long, extended usage. Other material can provide brighter sound like maple, but rosewood is tougher, more durable and more favorite.
The rosewood bridge is able to withstand the pressure of tense, vibrating and shaking strings. Rover also features an ABS nut and a series of strong, durable tuners.
A travel guitar needs to be compact and tough, but the quality of sound is also one of the most demands. Fortunately, Washburn Rover is well-performed in this category.
Of course, do not expect full and rich tonal characteristics like a top guitar from a travel one. Washburn Rover only offers a full and clear enough for playing beside the campfire, on random performance on the street. Most of the users who tried it reported to have a positive experience about the sound, not the best but also not so disappointed for what it costed.
It features a full-size 23-3/4” scale, allowing you to play any chords you want. You are able to showcase your skill or reach hard combinations to full deliver your music. Rover doesn’t have any electronic amplifier to enhance your signal, thus making it’s more suitable for a small performance around an average number of audiences.
Because of the small size, Washburn Rover’s ergonomic isn’t comfortable to hold while sitting. You need to put the strap on to keep it in place and reduce stress for your arms. Foresaw it, the manufacturer includes a strap on the guitar package already.
There is also a foam case within the package. The case is semi-hard, it’s tough enough to protect the guitar from physical contacts that are commonly seen in daily situations. It will not break after a few smashings with other people on the road or on the bus. Moreover, the foam size is perfectly fit the overhead bins in the airplane, so you are easy to keep the guitar there because it’s safer than in the cargo compartment.
Washburn Rover also comes in 4 distinct colors. Pick the color you love and there you go!
Martin Backpacker Review
Martin is one of the leading brands in making guitars, especially steel string guitars in the world. In its long history, the company had introduced many innovations to survive through difficult time and reaching its modern success. While not being a company’s savior, Martin Backpack is still a good example for creativity and pioneering.
When you shop for a travel guitar, you will immediately be attracted by a small, weird but stylish oar-shaped guitar. It’s Martin Backpacker!
The guitar is constructed to survive regardless where you take it to and how extreme the conditions are. The body consists of a solid spruce top and laminated mahogany back and sides. These are one of the best material for making a travel guitar due to the strength and tonal characteristics, as in Washburn Rover. But there still one more factor to explain why the Backpacker is so excellent for outdoor activities: the oar.
The oar-shaped body makes use of physics to attenuate forces put on it when you’re playing or traveling. This is why Martin Backpacker is more reliable than any other models of the same category. You can take it to anywhere you want, whether is the tent in the campus or the narrow but crowded acoustic clubs. Moreover, you can also carry it along with your biking or hiking by putting on a strap and crossing it over your shoulders.
The Martin makes a clever decision when choosing a new material for making Backpacker’s fretboard: Richlite. Richlite is a compound material that consists of paper and resin. After processing, A Richlite fingerboard acts as a piece of solid wood but with exceptional resistance to water and weather conditions. It is also cheaper than a piece of rosewood, suits the needs of a traveling guitarist. The Backpacker’s bridge is also made of Richlite for more endurance and strength.
The Backpacker comes with a Tusq composite saddle, which is only seen in more expensive guitars. Moreover, the Corian nut doesn’t absorb as many vibration energy as other material does. Most of them will be kept intact and transferred to the guitar body. When playing for a long time, you will notice the less need to tweak the tuners. The strings are kept in tune by strong and reliable chrome tuners.
The sound is not a strength of these mini-sized travel guitar, but the Backpacker’s performance may change your …
The solid spruce top produces nice and clear sound, even with some resonance. You will often achieve the higher-pitch sound than normal with Martin Backpacker. But it’s also warm and fun, especially in a camp party. Moreover, the guitar removes the fret noise, so that your tone is not full of dirt when playing very low responses.
Backpacker also features a full-size 24” scale, allowing you to play the most complex and beautiful chords.
The Martin provides users flexibility when allowing them to choose between a steel string and nylon string version for the Backpacker. Just pick the one you favor and go. However, the heavy top might surprise you in the first time. Due to the mass, it can lean down when being strapped over your shoulders, making you harder to move. But spend some time with it and you will get familiar.
Should we choose Washburn Rover or Martin Backpacker for travel?
Before coming to the conclusion of Washburn Rover vs. Martin Backpacker, we need to know some basic information and criteria to judge a travel guitar.
A guitar are tailored to different purposes, such as professional performance, practice, and traveling, etc. Compared to a piano or a harp, which is inconvenient to move around, a guitar is smaller, more flexible and easier to play. With a guitar, you just choose a comfortable place to sit down and place it on your legs. Then you play and change seat if you want, or you can even play while walking.
Therefore, guitars appear in anywhere, any occasions in daily life: a birthday party, a university campus, around a campfire, or along the street. The need to bring a guitar along the journey also increases day by day.
However, a standard-sized guitar is not perfect for traveling. It’s also fragile and susceptible, while you can’t avoid physical shocks in the way of traveling, biking or hiking. Because of that, guitar manufacturers are making mini-sized guitars with stronger material and better water-resistance, heat-resistance. With increased compactness, flexibility and durability, a travel guitar becomes a loyal companion with the users, follow them to any corner of the world.
When judging a travel guitar, you will need new criteria that are different from an ordinary guitar. One of them, of course, is a smaller size. The guitar dimensions need to be reduced to the level that when it’s strapped on their back, users might only feel a light bag.
Beside decreased size, there are many things to do to convert a standard guitar into a travel one.
The material is one of the most significant factors in a guitar’s performance. The material has 2 main missions: to increase durability and to produce sound.
When you play, string’s vibrations will put pressure on the guitar body. Under an extended usage, guitar body and other parts might break. Therefore, you need to use tougher material to withstand the pressure and keep the guitar last for the longest time possible.
However, the material also plays an important role in producing sound. It’s because string vibrates and transfer energy to the body to create sound. A certain type of wood has different tonal characteristics, some are better at higher pitches while some enhance low-end responses.
A travel guitar needs to choose the right material that balances between toughness and sound quality. But the toughness has a higher priority as if the guitar breaks, there will be no music for you anyway.
Like a tree in the Picea genus, spruce is a large and tall tree. A typical mature spruce tree can be 60m tall and it’s one of the forest-forming trees. Its characteristics are very sturdy and durable. A piece of solid spruce can withstand the pressure of human uses for a long period of time. Besides strength, spruce also has beautiful tonal coloration. It produces clear and full tonal characteristics with a little resonance. They are qualities that a guitar needs. Therefore, spruce is now the most popular material for making guitar tops.
A Rosewood is a hued timber that is often brown with darker veining. Rosewood originates from a tree family in Brazil so that it is called “Brazilian Rosewood”. There are also other different rosewood in the world but they are not much different from Brazilian Rosewood.
Rosewood has decent toughness and durability, thus being less used in making travel or practicing guitar. In contrast, rosewood offers better tonal qualities than other tonewoods.
Compared to spruce, rosewood produces richer treble. It also has stronger bass with more reverberance. These qualities are more prominent if rosewood is used in the back and sides. Therefore you will see a lot of rosewood back and sides in professional guitars and violins.
There is a cousin of Brazilian Rosewood, Indian Rosewood, sound of which is thicker and deeper.
However, rosewood has a drawback: expensive, at least rosewood is quite expensive for a travel guitar of $200 or less. You will see less rosewood in this category, but if some guitar is made from rosewood, you should pay more attention to it.
Another popular material for travel guitar is mahogany. It’s the best known by the famous series of Les Paul guitars. Mahogany has many different types, but most of them offer similar qualities. Mahogany is solid timber, it is less durable than spruce but is better at sound producing. It produces a warm and soft tone with rich highs and full lows. Moreover, mahogany offers an overtone coloration, adding a “woody” tone to your music.
These qualities are perfect of acoustic music. This why mahogany, especially back and sides, is loved by generations of acoustic guitarists.
Verdict & Conclusion
Based on the detailed review of the two guitars above, we can give our answer for the comparison between Washburn Rover vs. Martin Backpacker. We love the smart and innovative design, as well as a joyful sound from a travel guitar, so we choose the Martin Backpacker. But that fact can’t change the guitar’s drawback of heavyweight and unfamiliar ergonomic. And most important: everyone has different needs.
So, your choice need not be the same as ours. Choose what suits your demands and conditions, especially your budget. If your favorite guitar is something else, judge it with the guide and information about material above.