With our steady rollout of new models this year, guitar reviewers have literally had their hands full with Taylor in recent months. We thought we’d share some highlights from their latest test-drives, covering more than half a dozen series across our guitar lineup, from Builder’s Edition to the Baby Taylor.
In his review, Guitar Player’s Jimmy Leslie found a lot to like about the ultra-premium version of our flagship guitar. Leslie gave the guitar 4.5/5 stars and an Editors’ Pick Award on the basis of “its environmental ingenuity, ergonomic playability, refined tone, stage worthiness and overall sophistication.”
Leslie called the guitar’s refined craftmanship and aesthetic “sleek and sophisticated,” noting the elegant body contours, including the beveled armrest and cutaway. “Simply setting the guitar on your lap and holding its body against your own is a sensual experience,” he writes. “The contoured flow is sexy and smooth everywhere you feel it, with not a rough edge to be found.”
He called the playability “mere perfection in any position, sitting or standing, or anywhere on the neck.” Sonically, he felt the guitar complemented the way it looked and felt — “very modern, light and lively, and high fidelity. Sustain is long and dreamy.”
The rosewood/spruce wood pairing, together with the body style and bracing architecture, are sure to please fans of rosewood guitars. “It has the hallmark rosewood-and-spruce sound that’s rich and complex in the body,” he says, “with plenty of sparkle on top in the context of a Grand Auditorium’s balanced quality.”
Leslie also appreciated both the environmental consideration and advanced craftsmanship that went into making a four-piece Adirondack spruce top — which offers a glimpse into the future of guitar making.
In the end, Leslie recognized the guitar’s merits as an heirloom-quality instrument. “[The Builder’s Edition 814ce] is about as close to a custom shop instrument as you’ll find in a production guitar. It’s gorgeous, plays and sounds like a dream and will only improve as the wood ages.”
Both Guitar World and Acoustic Guitar magazines reviewed our new sunburst-top solid walnut/spruce Grand Concert AD12e-SB from our American Dream Series. In the August issue of Guitar World, editor Chris Gill called the guitar an “American Beauty” and gave it the magazine’s Platinum Award of Excellence. Among his notable takeaways:
- » “My first impression […] was that it seems perfectly voiced for fingerstyle and recording applications.”
- » “The new AD12e-SB [provides] a new voice that many players are likely to find perfect for their needs.”
- » “The overall tone is rich and warm, with emphasized midrange, mellow bass and smooth treble without harsh transient peaks, providing an excellent balance between the percussive responsiveness of the spruce top and the full-bodied depth of the walnut body.”
- » “Playability is first class, as one would expect for a Taylor.”
Meanwhile, over at Acoustic Guitar, Emile Menasché said he’d use two words to describe the fundamental tonal character of the AD12e-SB: “balanced and responsive.”
Regarding balance, Menasché felt the warm mids were nicely centered in relationship to the highs and lows. “I was especially impressed with the clarity and depth of the lower strings,” he says. “There were no real peaks or valleys in the resonance as I went lower and while the bottom strings had some treble bite, they didn’t have the rolled-off low end you might expect from a guitar this size.”
He felt that the guitar’s responsiveness made it well suited for fingerstyle. “You just don’t need to work very hard to get a tone out of this guitar. As a result, your fretting hand can form the notes while your picking hand controls tone, attack, shape, and dynamics. There’s a lot of room for nuance and texture within chords and arpeggios, which rewards you for focusing on the details of every note.”
That said, he also felt the tonal balance made the guitar a compatible with playing with a flatpick. “The guitar’s full midrange and balanced treble actually impressed me…. A lot of smallish guitars can sound a bit clickety-clackety to me when played with a pick because the attack emphasizes the highs and upper mids. The Taylor’s relatively full low end reduced that effect while preserving the cut that you’d want from a pick.”
He also came away with a deeper appreciation for the character of walnut as a tonewood. “Judging from this guitar, walnut had a lot to offer: warmer than maple, with some of the clarity of rosewood and the warmth of mahogany…. I like how the AD12e-SB guitar brings a new voice to the party.”
Our redesign of the rosewood 400 Series featured the addition of a Grand Pacific 417e to the mix, so we were happy to send that guitar out for review. Both American Songwriter and Premier Guitar magazines did the honors.
American Songwriter’s Andy McDonough said that while the classic rosewood/spruce tonewood pairing gave him an idea of what to expect in a dreadnought-style guitar, he was pleasantly surprised.
“The real magic of this guitar is found in its tone and response to the player,” he writes. “The 417e, unamplified, outweighed all my expectations for open string playing and full chords by a country mile.”
McDonough liked the vintage-look sunburst top and clean lines, and offered a nod to the “exacting craftsmanship” and V-Class bracing as factors in how well the guitar played and sounded.
“[V-Class] translates into significant improvements in the sonic low-end when compared to guitars of similar size, but not at the expense of tonal clarity. For the player, the result is a big tone with notes and chords that ring true.”
He also loved its all-around musical versatility for different playing styles and applications, especially with the onboard ES2 electronics: “It is ideally suited to public performance, as well as regular practice, songwriting and recording sessions.”
Premier Guitar’s Charles Saufley tees up his review of the 417e with a reminder that despite the appealing vintage aesthetic of a sunburst-top slope-shoulder dreadnought, under the hood, things are a bit different sonically.
“[Taylor is] very much at ease with the notion that their guitars are alternatives to more traditional fare and perceived in some quarters as ‘modern’ sounding — which in Taylor’s case is generally shorthand for meticulous balance between high, middle, and low registers, immaculate intonation, and easy-on-the-engineer recordability.”
Saufley found the guitar to be bright sounding for a dread — as a comparison, he calls it “louder, brighter, and less dusty” than a Gibson J-45 — but bright in a way that creates a balanced response many players will appreciate.
“None of that top-end frequency emphasis results in harshness or stridency. And for all the push in those toppier ends of the frequency spectrum, each of the highest strings exhibits contoured attack and a soft decay…. The combination of soft attack, extra sustain, and gentle decay results in great balance — almost as if you put studio compression on a recording of the instrument.”
He awarded the guitar 5/5 stars for playability (“as nice as you will find on a flattop”) and applauded its musical versatility: “…its dynamic and touch-sensitive qualities combine with its volume and headroom to make it well-suited to nuanced fingerstyle every bit as much as hard and heavy strumming.”
512ce 12-Fret, 552ce
Peghead Nation’s Teja Gerken reviewed a pair of new Grand Concert models from our expanded Urban Ironbark/torrefied spruce 500 Series: the 6-string 512ce 12-Fret and 12-string 552ce. Gerken is a seasoned fingerstyle player, so both small-body guitars were in his wheelhouse. He loved the 12-fret.
“The 512ce 12-Fret was a fabulous fingerstyle guitar — incredibly responsive, with an assertive midrange that gave it great presence, and excellent tonal balance,” he writes. “As with other Taylor 12-frets I’ve played, this version of the 512ce had a warmer and fuller bass than the 14-fret version.”
The 12-string/12-fret 552ce was also a winner for its effortless playability.
“Players who have felt in the past that a 12-string is too hard to play owe it to themselves to try one of the Taylor grand concerts, as the combination of the small body, short scale, and excellent setup results in an instrument that is easier to play than many six-strings. Barre chords up the neck? Not a problem. Electric guitar–style lead lines? Easily done. I’m used to playing an older Taylor [Jumbo] 355 12-string (which also plays very nicely), but the 552ce should win an award for how friendly on the fingers it is.”
Tonally, he was a fan of the guitar’s balance and rich character, though he did acknowledge that the smaller body size couldn’t compete with the dynamic range of bigger body if a player had a heavy attack or dropped into a lower tuning. “However, in settings where tonal precision — whether due to the guitar’s excellent intonation or just its ability to facilitate clean playing — is more important than raw acoustic power, it’s hard to imagine a player not falling in love with the guitar.”
Gerken also sampled a third 500 Series model launched alongside the two Grand Concerts: the Grand Pacific 517e, also featuring Urban Ironbark back and sides with a torrefied spruce top (not to be confused with our previously released Builder’s Edition 517e, which features mahogany back and sides). This time he also enlisted flatpicker Jim Nunally for his accompanying demo video to explore the guitar’s response to a range of playing styles.
“Every Grand Pacific we’ve played has had a great flatpicking voice, and the 517e is no exception,” Gerken writes. “The guitar’s torrefied top may have helped it handle an aggressive attack, and Jim and I agreed that it yielded excellent tones when strummed or flatpicked. While it may not have the opulent overtones of a 70-year old dreadnought, it has a clarity and balance that is often absent from a large guitar. Naturally, its playability was finger-friendly, and it has enough versatility to be a satisfying fingerstyle guitar.”
Gerken suggests that players considering a rosewood Grand Pacific model should play and compare this guitar with models like the rosewood/spruce 417e or Builder’s Edition 717e.
We recently began to offer Grand Concert models within our 100 and 200 Series, including the new 112ce-S, which sports layered sapele back and sides paired with a solid Sitka spruce top. Crafted at our factory in Mexico (an hour away from our El Cajon headquarters), the guitar delivers signature Taylor quality with clean, simple appointments that make it accessibly priced ($799 U.S.) for players on a budget.
We sent one to the review crew at Premier Guitar, and they were impressed by the build quality, feel and sound.
“[It] manages to sparkle sonically but also feels incredibly comfortable and impeccably playable in ways that you see in much more expensive instruments,” writes Charles Saufley…. The way it fits more naturally against the body lends itself to more nuanced playing techniques…. At times, it genuinely feels like an extension of your own body.”
Saufley also loved the inviting playability of the neck. “Expressive moves like finger vibrato feel natural and easy. And like the rest of the guitar, the neck feels conceived to eliminate playing fatigue. In concert with the low action it makes playing for hours a breeze.”
With the Grand Concert body, Saufley felt they guitar responded best to a lighter attack. “It really excels in the fingerstyle realm. The guitar’s midrange leanings give the third, fourth, and fifth strings a snappy reaction to a soft touch. The top two strings ring with a warm, chimey glow around pronounced transients. And the bottom string blooms with overtones that surround a round and robust transient attack. It’s a beautifully balanced instrument in this setting. It awakens and enlivens chord melodies that move up and down the length of the neck.”
If playing with a pick, Saufley recommended a thin flatpick with a light touch. “Played this way, it’s easy to hear how the 112cs-S would shine amid stacked rhythm parts on a recording or when tracking alternate, overdubbed chord voicings with a capo.”
The verdict: “For just under 800 bucks, the Taylor 112ce-S is, in most respects, a steal. And while it’s effectively an entry-level Taylor, I would have no qualms about touring or recording with this thoughtfully executed grand concert.”
Taylor Best of 2023 Models
In addition to individual guitar reviews, many guitar media outlets compile regular “Best Guitar” lists for various guitar categories. Several Taylor models made their way onto lists published so far this year: the mahogany-top Baby Taylor (BT2) (“Best 3/4-size Guitars”); GS Mini-e Koa Bass (“Best Acoustic Bass Guitars”); and 224ce-K DLX (“Best Acoustic Guitars Under $2,000”). Here are highlights of the qualities that stood out for each.
BT2: “Best ¾-size Guitar of 2023”
American Songwriter’s Ethan Webster selected the mahogany-top Baby as the best overall guitar in this travel-size category. Among his comments:
- » “The instrument is so impeccably designed that none of its competitors can top it.”
- » “The craftsmanship of the neck and fretboard make this compact guitar an absolute breeze to play.”
- » “Beginners and pros alike will find it easy to play chords and riffs cleanly on this instrument.”
- » “If you are looking for a travel instrument that knocks it out of the park, then the Taylor Baby Mahogany BT2 is the right choice.”
GS Mini-e Koa Bass: “Best Acoustic Bass Guitars of 2023”
In Guitar World’s Buyer’s Guide, Chris Corfield featured the guitar as their number one choice in his roundup of the best acoustic bass guitars of 2023. He says it’s a great guitar if you want a small-scale with ace electronics and gave it a five star rating. He highlights Taylor’s quality and craftsmanship and says it has a big sound despite having a small body:
- » “It’s compact, easy to take around and most of all it sounds great.”
- » “The koa makes it sound warm and mellow, but with lots of clarity and detail. It’s also heaps of fun to play.”
- » “The GS Mini-e Bass packs in a huge sound from its smaller body.”
- » “Overall levels of build quality and craftsmanship are on-par with what you’d expect from Taylor.”
224ce-K DLX: “Best Acoustic Guitars Under $2,000”: Noah Kemp spotlights the 224ce-K DLX, featuring a solid koa top and layered koa back and sides, as a premium guitar that’s great for big stages. He calls it an “exceptionally well-made instrument” that yields stunning, pure, natural tone, whether you’re playing it unplugged or electronically.” Among his other comments:
- » “Practical for musicians who need to perform on amplified stages.”
- » “The guitar’s tone is suitable for many playing styles, and the feel of the guitar provides exquisite playability.”
- » “If you’re looking to make a long-term investment in a fantastic sounding, feeling (and looking) acoustic guitar, the Taylor is a great pick.”