2014 Taylor 814ce First Edition Review
Hey everyone – this ones for my fellow gear heads! I’ve had a lot of people asking me about this new guitar so I thought I’d put up an unbiased review of it in our blog rather than watching YouTube’s of guys trying to sell you one. Power to them but after all, they have a vested interest in making sure they tell you how much they love it. Well, this marks the end of an era for me as I’ve dissolved my long term love affair with Martin Guitars and done the unthinkable by playing a Taylor. More than a few people I know were shocked to see this happen as I’ve always been a massive supporter of Martin, but this one just grabbed me. Taylor is an extremely innovative company and not afraid to take a chance in improving their product it seems. They’re in the process of re-voicing their extremely popular line of guitars and this year have unveiled the completely revamped 800 series. The 814ce is their flagship model and I believe the #1 selling high end acoustic guitar last year. So if it ain’t broke, why are they trying to fix it you’d ask yourself? Well, that’s actually where I gained massive respect for this company. I ordered this guitar without having a chance to play or hear one in person which is quite the leap of faith but I figured that for them to take such a huge risk to drastically alter such a popular model, they’d have to be 100% sure that the way they were going was the right direction. At a glance the changes look minor but where they count they are definitely different. Taylor re-voiced all of the tops, cut the finish nearly in half, altered and changed the internal bracing pattern, went with traditional animal glues for the bracing and other things. The result is a guitar that is built extremely light which is a characteristic you’ll find fairly typical from a luthier who’s building a lone instrument on the bench but for a factory to produce this consistently must have been a huge adjustment. They also have completely redone their popular Expression pick up system – the new Expression 2 system consists of 3 piezo crystals mounted BEHIND the saddle as opposed to underneath them. Something I’ve personally never seen done before. Well enough of that, here’s some of my thoughts on this acoustic:
Opening the shipping box I was instantly floored by the aesthetic beauty of this guitar. The woods are gorgeous, simple and in a word – classy. The Sitka Spruce top is beautiful and straight grained, bound in a stunning, understated curly maple over the entire guitar and a gorgeous abalone inlayed rosette surrounds the maple bound sound hole as well. An East Indian rosewood pick guard is a gorgeous touch and ties the front of the guitar in the with the back nicely. An interesting choice is the streaked ebony fingerboard they’ve gone with and I think is a fabulous idea. It takes away from the “cookie-cutter” look of the instrument and makes each instrument unique in it’s own right, a feature you don’t generally find on mass produced instruments. This is also a very “green” choice environmentally speaking as typically you’re only selecting the blackest ebony for fingerboard blanks and throwing away anything that’s figured. I’ve heard a few skeptics thinking Taylor is cheaping out and using second grade woods because of this but I assure you – it’s not the case. Fingerboard blanks are ridiculously cheap to begin with and I believe Taylor actually owns their own ebony mill if I’m not mistaken. I won’t get into too much about the physical looks of this guitar as there are plenty of pictures online, but rest assured it’s even more gorgeous in real life.
Picking it up I was shocked at the weight of this instrument! I’ve also heard people say that it seems “neck heavy”. Well, it’s actually “body light” and feels wonderfully balanced when you’re playing. Due to the construction this guitar is light as a feather, and thanks to the Grand Auditorium body style, incredibly comfortable to hold and play. Giving it an initial test strum the tone was loud, rich and open. It basically sounded like it’s been played for years already (due to the light build) and to my ears night and day over most “new” guitars. The neck was a bit wider than I’m used to on a steel string with a hint of that old classic “Martin V” shape to it so it’ll take some getting used to but I will tell you, it’s my favourite part of this instrument. It is by far the most in tune and has the most perfect intonation I’ve ever seen anywhere (and I’ve played a lot of beautiful guitars). All the way up the neck it’s an absolute joy to not have to worry about what position to play in – a real treat to the ears and hands. Plugging it in to do some test recordings I was impressed with the Expression 2 system. You can’t replace a microphone, it’s just not going to happen, but plugging in is easier onstage, more reliable and consistent and you are free to move and your tone and volume doesn’t change. The piezo’s sounded fantastic. A slight boost or cut of the onboard bass and treble controls and you can come reasonably close to reproducing the gorgeous tone of this acoustic. Taylor even went so far as having a set of strings custom made by Elixer to which they voiced these instruments. I’ve seen quite a bit of debate over this – guys feeling that Taylor was trying to force them to play a certain brand and gauge of string and of course this is ridiculous. The strings are the one’s the designers felt would sound best when they created the voice for these guitars in their heads but use whatever you’d like obviously.
Overall, I’m floored by this guitar and I look forward to getting it onstage for some upcoming acoustic shows. A big thanks to all the folks at Taylor Guitars for creating such a beautiful machine. With a street price of over $3K, it’s not cheap but in my opinion it’s very well priced for what you’re getting. It’s versatile, plays incredible, sounds amazing and looks beautiful – what more could you ask for? If you want some sound clips I’ve done up some reasonable quality tests in the studio to see how it’s going to record and to test out the Expression 2 pick up system as well. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to share with you. Good luck in your quest for tone!