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Review: Taylor 150e

I don’t use 12-string guitar much, but when my old Yamaha seemed to finally give up the ghost, I found that I sorely missed having one. 98% of my acoustic needs are covered by a regular steel-string, with the remainder equally divided between nylon and 12-string. Actually, the old Yamaha spent much of its life converted into a six-string. I removed the octave strings in early 1989 if I recall correctly, and didn’t add any back on until the summer of 2003. When I did, it hit me what I had been missing. But unfortunately, I have only recently been made aware of how a dry climate can punish a wooden instrument, and when I finally started treating the guitar the way it deserved, it was too late. The neck and top had warped, the truss rod had got stuck, the intonation was way off above the second fret, and the tech in the music store basically declared it DOA.

Enter the Taylor 150e. I was already familiar with the Taylor 100 series through the selection process that led to the purchase of my 214 six-string. I found the 100 series inferior to the 200 in most respects, but I figured that with twice the amount of strings, it would be apples vs. oranges anyway. When I found out what it cost, I was immediately intrigued. And when I finally tried one in the store, I was so impressed that it took only 10 minutes to decide to buy it. I didn’t even put it down!

The 150e is a dreadnought 12-string guitar with a built-in pickup and preamp (the -e suffix). It is made in Mexico and is obviously intended as a budget instrument, which is also evinced by the 6000-crown price tag. I have yet to find anything budget about the guitar, however. This is mostly because of my approach to guitars in general and acoustic guitars in particular. I can appreciate the finer aesthetic details of guitar-making, I can respect the workmanship, but I am perfectly all right admiring it from afar. I do not need it on my own instruments, and therefore it is something I do not necessarily wish to pay for. I have absolutely nothing against unadorned, meat-and-potatoes instruments, so long as they sound good. That’s why I prefer the Les Paul Studio, and that’s why I don’t regard the Taylor 150e as having cut any corners. After all, I spend most of the time playing the thing, and therefore I don’t need elaborate binding or decorative fingerboard inlays or anything like that. I appreciate that they scaled back on the visuals to keep costs down, and at any rate, from my eyes, the guitar is just as beautiful to look at.

I’d say that the 150e is 12000 crowns’ worth of guitar in a 6000-crown package. It completely redefines my expectations from a 12-string guitar. I was able to sit around and play it for hours on end without experiencing the slightest bit of left-hand cramp. Barre chords work fine even high up on the neck, intonation is just about perfect, and the neck is wide enough that my meaty fingers have no problem whatsoever with finding the correct strings. It can handle everything that one could conceivably expect it to play, and does so at a bargain price. There was not the slightest hesitation before buying it, and I have not regretted the purchase in the least. Now I have a real 12-string! Incidentally, I showed it to my dad, and he almost didn’t want to give it back. In fact, he ran out the next day and bought his own! Yes, it is that good.

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Posted by on 14 December, 2014 in gear, review

 

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Review: Taylor 214

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.

 
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Posted by on 1 November, 2014 in gear, review

 

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