Embracing The Future
As Taylor advances with its V-Class bracing, we talk to designer Andy Powers about what he sees as a work in progress
When Taylor launched its V-Class bracing at the start of this year, I shared some of designer Andy Powers’ ‘what if people don’t like it’ reserve. But focusing on the K14ce Builder’s Edition our review didn’t mince words concluding with “V-Class, Builder’s Edition? Get used to those terms. Taylor has just upped the ante. Considerably.” So, if V-Class had fallen flat on its face it would have been rather embarrassing for the both of us. Thankfully, the reaction from players of all styles has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve been surprised as to how many people, playing many different styles of music, have adopted this thing. It’s really fascinating,” says Andy, sipping his morning coffee in his home workshop in Carlsbad, California. “For example, a lot of the SoundCloud community have really taken a shine to these guitars because they’re doing so much of their music in a computer format. There’s a guy, Will Yip, based in Philadelphia who produces a lot of SoundCloud artists and he said, ‘I can use every single note on this thing because all of them work.’ They all play in tune, they’re all musical and if every note is musical it means every note will get used. I’ve been seeing a lot of producers and engineers buying these guitars just to have around their studios because they work so well in that environment.”
An almost by-product of the simplified V-Class bracing was, in simple terms, the improved intonation. “It starts to blend over some of the mistakes we know of equal temperament tuning. You’ve heard it said that a guitar can’t ever be perfectly in tune and that’s true. But I’m not willing to give up equal temperament tuning, it’s just too convenient. But there are flaws there that are tough to get around – our major thirds are usually a little too sharp, for example. But even though those notes haven’t changed, the way the [V-Class] body of the guitar wants to shift them, well, that’s different so we hear it come out sweeter.”
Does the V-Class bracing alter with the different back and sides woods used by Taylor? “It would be nice if we could just take the same part and plonk it on everything. To some degree we can do that, but the reality is that every wood has its own set of characteristics. So even though the guitar’s shape is identical, its physical dimensions are the same, the way the wood actually behaves is not. So for all these different series, with their different woods, we do have to make essentially different-sized parts with different dimensions. Quite often it’s the back of the guitar that has my main focus
when I’m tuning it like that because that’s the more significant thing I’m changing.
“One of the most fascinating aspects I’ve found with the V-Class design is that rather than homogenise the differences in the various woods we use, it exaggerates them. Rosewood and mahogany have never sounded alike, but now they sound even less alike. They’re both good but they are even more distinctly different from each other.
“You see, the 714ce has a certain character and personality. It’s got a thing. I want to take that thing and expand it and make it better – give it better dynamic range, give it this clear intonation, give it another level of sweetness, musicality. With its Lutz spruce top, it has this broad response and it has so much of what feels like everything. It’s got this flavour and characteristic that’s just super-approachable for a lot of different playing styles.”
Our tests of V-Class seem to widen the versatility of the instruments. “Lately, I’ve been listening to guitarist Mimi Fox play,” says Powers, “she’s a monster jazz player. We put the K14ce in her hands and it was fun – she was like a kid in a candy store discovering all the things she could try.”
We’ve also noticed that it seems easier to dial in the electro sound from the ES2 pickup system. “You’ve picked up on it. Using the ES-2 with V-Class, it sounds like the range of usable sounds is bigger. I might actually use the EQ in different positions to where I’d normally go and think, yes, that’s a usable sound. I think it creates a bigger range for the musician to work with. If there is such a thing as a better mousetrap then, well, that’s what I’ve found – it just works better. Or perhaps another way to say it is that it works more easily.”
And while we can look forward to a brand-new Taylor design, using V-Class, that’s being launched later this year, will Taylor be implementing V-Class on other existing Taylor styles? Andy is a little enigmatic: “Yes, you’ll see it migrate into other things, but it will not be the same flavour. See, it allows so much flexibility in terms of sonic design that these guitars are going to become more unique to themselves and less homogenised. In other words, if you like one flavour great; if you don’t like that one flavour, don’t judge them all, because the one sitting next to it will be nothing like it.”
“Its Lutz spruce top has a broad response and so much of what feels like everything”
Pictured here alongside the natural V-Class 714ce is a standard X-braced 714ce in Western Sunburst