Price paid: A$ 1250
Purchased from: Acoustic Centre, South Melbourne
Features — 10
My Maton Mini was made in 2015. Its the upgraded Mini model with the all solid back and sides made of Queensland Maple and an A Grade solid Sitka Spruce top. The fretboard and bridge are India Rosewood and it has a laser cut rosette with little M's that look very nice. The scale length is 22.7" and it has 19 frets. The nut width is 44.1 so very comfortable. It is equipped with the very well regarded AP5 pickup system and comes with a lovely looking solid case. The guitar has black plastic binding. The nut and saddle are bone and the machine heads are chrome Grovers. The bridge pins are ABS plastic. The fingerboard inlays are pearl dots and the fretwire is Dunlop 6260. The radius is 12". The original strings were Elixir Nanoweb Phoshor Bronze 13-56 but I changed them to Fender Lights.
Sound — 10
The sound unplugged is very different to that of a dreadnought or a Jumbo. It lacks the bass and has a different sounding midrange and treble. If anything it sounds closer to a mahogany guitar because of the compression in the sound. Having said that it has a unique personality and a sound that is very pleasing and musical. The sound is never rough or thrashy but refined and smooth with a bit of a growl when pushed hard. It almost sounds like a mildly overdriven electric when strummed hard. Overall it sounds great in any mix. When plugged in the whole character changes. It sounds very big and resists feedback much better than a dreadnought or jumbo. The AP5 pickup system is actually pretty damn good. I used to have a Yamaha AC1 and the Mini is demonstrably superior plugged in.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
The fit and finish of this little guitar was flawless. I love the authentic Australian timbers and the beautiful fit and finish. The nitrocellulose paint job makes it look even more special and no doubt contributes to the sound. The action was a bit high and its now down at the 1. 6mm on the high e and 2. 0mm on the low E and there is no fretbuzz. The frets were finished very well as was every part of the guitar. I am very particular about my gear especially when I spend so much money. This guitar is a premium product and is finished accordingly.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Matons have a great reputation as being tough and gigworthy. The Mini is a serious tool for a gigging musician. I have no doubt that it will stand up to my careful use. The hardware is really high quality. The tuners are proper Grovers. The hard case is also really very sturdy and is padded as well so this could easily be transported in the hold of a plane. The fact that this guitar is so small also makes it more durable and strong. Matons are used by many gigging musicians in Australia. They are not as well known outside Australia but still some well known people use them and attest to their overall durability and strength.
Overall Impression — 10
I have just bought a Maton Mini after much soul searching and after reading all the reviews including the negative rhetoric out there. I checked out and extensively played the the much lauded Taylor GS Mini as well as other short scale guitars including a rather forgettable Martin and the Yamaha JR.
I am going to propose an alternate viewpoint that is probably going to be controversial but first some background. I play mainly electric guitar and have decided to bring my rhythm playing up to scratch so I can become a better player all round. I had an old Yamaha FG700 that sounded really nice for the price I had paid for it. Anyway I wanted something smaller with a shorter scale so it could be used for solo work as well as rhythm playing. I wanted something that had a different sound signature to the dreadnought. In the course of looking for guitars I actually ended up with a Maton S60 dreadnought and selling my Yamaha. The Maton S60 is an awesome sounding instrument but it replaced the Yamaha rather than complement it. So when all was said and done I had bought myself a better dreadnought but my need was unmet.
Rapidly running out of cash I sat down and thought about it and realised I was approaching it all wrong. When I had gone into guitar stores I would pick out the guitars, play and strum and naturally gravitate to one with the most well rounded sound. So a Maton Performer won over the Mini and the S60 won over the Performer. The Taylor GS Mini was in another store but while in absolute terms it was not bad it was also not great. It was the same size as a Maton Performer but completely outclassed by it in every way. So I scratched the GS Mini off my list.
When played side by side I have no doubt that the GS Mini would have more mass market appeal than the Maton Mini because it has a fuller sound. The problem for me is that it sounds too much like a less capable dreadnought rather than a guitar with its own personality. The Maton on the other hand never even pretends to do bassy sounds. It just does what it does really really well, which is mid to high frequencies. In this area it completely outclasses the Taylor. To my ears the Maton Mini is a far nicer guitar than the Taylor. It has more of a unique personality and voice than the Taylor. It sings beautifully and is made nicer because it is not trying to be too resonant. In that sense it reminds me a bit of a Mahogany Sigma I used to own. It had a stiffer soundboard but had lovely mid range honk to it.
I was not looking for the bass part of the sound. I already had a dreadnought (now a new and far better one, I might add) and I wanted something to do the higher registers and stand out in an acoustic jam but also sound good plugged in. In this area the Maton Mini shone like a mini supernova.
The GS Mini is also really big. Its not that much smaller than your average Jumbo and about 40mm shorter than a dreadnought. So in that sense as well the GS Mini to my mind falls between two stools. It costs more than some very capable Jumbos and Dreadnoughts but sounds nothing as nice as them. It is far bigger than some of the small guitars but does not do the mids and highs as well as them.
There is something about small guitars that makes them unique and special in their own right. The Maton Mini is probably the nicest small parlour size guitar I have ever played.