I probably tried 50 different steel-string acoustic guitars when I went out shopping for something to replace my old Yamaha. I wasn’t in a hurry, and I didn’t want to make the mistake I did when I selected the Yamaha back in 2001. However, the purchase of the Yamaha and the 12+ years I spent with it did teach me a whole lot about what I actually need in an acoustic guitar. I wanted a steel-string, but not necessarily a dreadnought. For me, an acoustic guitar is for playing at home and recording, and I have a condenser mike, so I definitely do not need a built-in pickup. I debated the merits of cutaway versus no cutaway, but after a short comparison on Youtube, I was struck by how much better a non-cutaway guitar sounded.
The selection process took a while, which was fine by me. I had promised myself not to jump the gun and buy the first guitar that was decent. Then, I didn’t want to get stuck on the obvious brands, but explore all options. I have always been very impressed with all Takamines I’ve ever tried (my dad has one that is particularly fine), the Gibson J-45 was a clear leader for a while, and the Martin GPCPA3 Sapele is just about the nicest acoustic guitar I have ever played. Then I sat down and tried the Taylor 214, and was completely blown away. The number 4 stands for the grand auditorium shape, which is evidently Taylor’s own invention. It has the same width and length as a dreadnought, but a narrower waist and shoulders. In practice, this means a bit more top end at the expense of bass response. I’d gladly sacrifice a bit of boom for that amazing shimmery, delicate treble of the 214. It has a sizzle, a singing quality that simply has to be heard to be believed. Some acoustic guitars have a really pronounced upper-midrange honk and a brittle, almost harpsichord-like treble, which I personally don’t like, even though I can understand if certain guitar players prefer such sounds, since they do cut through a bit more on stage. The Taylor 100 series has a bit of that brittleness and honk, and therefore it was never anything for me. The 200 series stops well short of that, and that’s what I fell for.
The grand auditorium shape feels very natural and comfortable when sitting around the house, the narrower waist makes for a more secure fit on my right thigh. Then I personally enjoy the satin-finished body, and the grainy, almost porous-feeling neck, which is nice in an odd way, completely unlike anything I’ve ever played before. The bridge compensates for the unwound strings, so intonation is dead-on, and the guitar stays in tune like nothing else. The machine heads are smooth and rather high ratio, which makes fine-tuning a breeze. Then, of course, it is a marvel to play and with a heavenly sound. It is by far the finest acoustic I have ever owned, and sorry Dad, but it just edges the Takamine.
Then there is the question whether it’s the finest acoustic I have ever played. Okay, in complete honesty: no. If money were no object, I would go for the Martin GPCPA3 in a heartbeat. Or, more properly, compare apples to apples and try out the similarly-priced Taylor 300 series. Everything that I liked about my Taylor, the Martin did just a whisker better, the deciding factor being a certain smoothness in the top end. But as usual for me, money is an object, and the difference, although tangible, simply couldn’t justify the 10000-crown premium. Put in that perspective, the Taylor 214 is a whole lot of guitar for the money, since you have to more than double the price to achieve any sort of improvement. And that’s the segment I tend to aim for when picking guitars and accessories. I appreciate workmanship and going the extra mile to make something look really nice and play and sound perfectly, but I am not in the position where I can splurge five Swedish figures for an acoustic instrument. The fact is that I think that unadorned simplicity is immensely charming in a guitar.