Ministar Lestar Travel Guitar Review

ministar lestarI was going on a trip where space was at a premium, but I wanted to bring a guitar. I had heard good things about the Ministar Lestar guitar on an online chat and so I ordered one and received it really quickly. With the tool I needed included and in hand, I first picked the Lestar up and adjusted the truss bar. Then I took my time looking the Lestar over. I guess I had kind of expected it to be slightly shoddy workmanship because of its low price, but I was surprised to see that the instrument was free of rough fret ends and its wood had a nice and smooth decent finish.

It’s still difficult to call it a guitar, because it’s so super lightweight and there is no body, just a neck. It’s really strange and a little awkward to play at first, but now that I have gotten used to it I am still surprised by how easy it actually is to play! The neck holds twenty-two frets, and because I have rather small hands, I really like that the guitar is thin, too. It makes it so much easier for me that I am able to play for a lot longer. I find that I no longer miss the presence of the normal guitar body, and am enjoying more maneuverability while I’m playing.

Some full-size guitars come with way too many bells and whistles. The Lestar has just two: one button for volume, one for tone. Nice and simple, just like I like it. The action feels a lot like what you would find on a more expensive guitar, though. It’s slightly high, but still good. The sound I am getting out of the Ministar Lestar is surprising for such a small piece of wood. It’s gutsy and bluesy and is just what I need to play mini-concerts in my living room. I play a lot of classic rock and rock ballads and I am even able to get some funky distortion buzz out of it through my amp!

The Lestar seems like it’s going to hold up pretty well, too. The guitar feels solid and durable, and I think it’s going to last for a long time. My friends kind of made fun of me for playing it at first, at least until they played it. Even though they thought it looked really odd, they all admitted that it played well and sounded good.

Published in Electric Travel Guitars

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  1. Geoffrey Kern

    Thank you for passing on your observations about the Ministar Lestar guitar. I bought one online after reading your review and it arrived a couple of weeks ago. I have played it over several hours on different equipment: Crate Series A tube amp, cigar-box amp, and headphone amp. There are many good points about the guitar, but also some (maybe minor) items of concern.

    My guitar arrived with the high E string broken, and I replaced it immediately. I also set attached the leg-rest version of the attachable body rods. I plugged the guitar into a cigar-box amp and tuned it, then checked the sound and playability. The neck pickup had a good humbucker snarl and overdrove the amp nicely, so the basics of a usable travel guitar were definitely covered. But over the weeks I found a few problems, none large enough to make me regret the purchase, but definitely things new buyers should know about.

    1) BRIDGE HEIGHT. The bridge on my Lestar is set too high. At the 12th fret, there is about 3.5 millimeters between fret and string – say, the height of 3 or 4 dimes. This is reasonable action for an acoustic guitar, but is clumsy for an electric guitar. The bridge is not adjustable, despite what the product literature says, so this problem may not be easy to fix. I did try adjusting the tension rod to see if I could get a slight amount of relief, but it appeared to have no effect whatsoever on the neck shape. Changing the neck tension is the wrong procedure when the problem is string height, anyway, so I reset the tension rod and am living with the excessive string height.

    2) PICKUP NOISE. The neck pickup alone is completely quiet, as you expect from a humbucker, but both the bridge pickup and the center switch position (where neck and bridge sounds are mixed together) carry lots of electrical noise, like you would hear from an unshielded single-coil pickup.

    3) PICKUP HEIGHT. The pickups are both set quite far below the strings. As a result, they do not produce as much signal as you would expect from big humbuckers. When I loosened the pickup screws, they did not raise the pickups. I think this can be fixed by getting some resilient sponge material, packing it beneath the pickups to help raise them, and adjusting the pickup screws to bring the pickups closer to the strings. Other online writers have said that the pickup screws are sometimes stripped or too short to let this work, but I don’t know first-hand yet. As well, fixing the bridge height problem (if that is possible) will bring the strings quite a bit closer to the pickups.

    4) PICKUP SOUND QUALITY. The neck pickup is very characteristic of a humbucker: thick-sounding, with little treble content. The bridge pickup does not sound like a humbucker at all. It is much quieter than the neck pickup, and as thin and twangy as a Stratocaster or Telecaster single-coil sound. The bridge humbucker on my Les Paul has a beautiful combination of clarity and power, which is what I would prefer to hear on the Lestar as well. I don’t know if the bridge pickup is wired incorrectly (i.e., perhaps wired out-of-phase), is internally defective, or is meant to sound like a single-coil pickup. When I next remove the strings, I will open the bridge pickup area and investigate more thoroughly. If the pickup itself is the problem, I think I will swap it with the neck pickup, as I would prefer an effective humbucker pickup in the bridge rather than in the neck position.

    5) VOLUME / TONE CONTROL PROBLEM. Many owners have written online about the problem with the factory volume and tone controls. When I got my guitar, the volume control had almost no “taper” in volume. From a volume control setting of “10” down to about “2”, the volume stayed the same. Then in the small distance from “2” to “1”, the volume went all the way from full volume to silence. There were weird interactions between the tone and volume controls as well, resulting in some very shrill and tinny sounds in certain settings. This problem appears in at least the first production run of the Lestar guitars, although I have heard rumors that the problem is supposed to be fixed in newer runs. The fix involves cutting or unsoldering one wire inside the guitar, and soldering it into a new place where it probably was meant to be soldered – there is a clear solder pad just waiting for a wire to be attached. There is a before-and-after electrical schematic of the fix at, and the “Notes” in the schematic give a URL to a video showing (sort of) the repair process.

    If I had paid $300 for this guitar, I would be very unhappy with these problems. But I paid $88 plus shipping online, and I am happy to do some of these fixes myself and live with what I can’t fix. The guitar is pretty playable, although I can’t solo above the 12th or 14th fret until I do something about the bridge height – the strings are just too high off the fingerboard to play quickly. I am now using only the neck pickup, so I don’t experience the problem of pickup noise from the bridge pickup. It’s a bit muddy-sounding, but drives out a pretty strong blues / rock sound. I haven’t traveled with it yet, but if I do travel this will be the guitar I bring along.

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