TAY­LOR BUILDER’S EDI­TION V-CLASS K14CE

£5,759

Guitarist - - Review -

What You need to Know

1 V-Class? Af­ter ex­ten­sive R&D Tay­lor be­lieves they’ve come up with a bet­ter brac­ing sys­tem. It’s called V-Class and it pur­ports to of­fer in­creased sus­tain, pro­jec­tion and im­proved in­to­na­tion over their stan­dard X-brace-style de­signs. Un­for­tu­nately, for us cash­starved play­ers, they’re in­tro­duc­ing it on four se­lect mod­els at the very high-end of their range. 2 What on earth is the Tay­lor Builder’s Edi­tion? Along with V-Class in­tro­duc­tions in the 900 se­ries (when the ‘en­gine’ has changed), the Builder’s Edi­tion is a glimpse of how Tay­lor is shap­ing the fu­ture of the acous­tic gui­tar. It’s a Koa Se­ries model with numer­ous al­ter­ations not least a tor­refied spruce top with a ‘si­lent’ satin fin­ish, arm rest and cut­away ‘scoop’ plus more rounded, vi­o­lin-like edges.. 3 Who’s it for? At this in­tro­duc­tory stage the V-Class brac­ing roll­out be­gins at the top of the Tay­lor line.“V-Class brac­ing will be of­fered on other Grand Au­di­to­rium mod­els in the fu­ture,” says Tay­lor, and we’d ex­pect with an in­no­va­tion this big that V-Class will make it into many Tay­lor gui­tars too. Watch this space!

Over the past four decades Tay­lor has re-en­gi­neered the acous­tic and elec­tro acous­tic gui­tar to a level that’s un­sur­passed in the main­stream acous­tic world.

Find­ing a new way has been a mantra for the com­pany, which has been ev­i­dent from the ear­li­est Tay­lors (renowned for their easy, al­most electric-like playa­bil­ity) through to the new neck­de­sign, state-of-the-art pro­duc­tion meth­ods, ro­botic spray­ing, pro­pri­etary elec­tron­ics… on it goes.

When Bob Tay­lor handed over the ba­ton to Andy Pow­ers (who joined Tay­lor in 2011), he quickly made his gui­tar-mak­ing and play­ing ex­pe­ri­ence no­tice­able with a new Grand Orches­tra model, the re-voic­ing of the 800 and 600 se­ries, not to men­tion the 12-fret Grand Con­cert (in­clud­ing the very playable 12-string). He then turned his vi­sion to the start-up Academy se­ries and even threw in an en­gag­ing GS Mini elec­tro acous­tic bass.

Ini­tially, some be­lieved his ex­ten­sive build­ing ex­pe­ri­ence brought a more clas­sic vin­tage-in­formed style to tem­per the mod­ernism of the prior Tay­lor de­signs. If he has done that, how­ever, 2018 is a turn­ing point that starts with the sim­ple ques­tion: how do you make the world’s most suc­cess­ful gui­tar brand even bet­ter? With a new brac­ing de­sign called V-Class, that’s how.

While we re­late the think­ing be­hind V-Class else­where in this fea­ture, the Builder’s Edi­tion V-Class K14ce – one of four new 2018 V-Class launches that also in­clude a K24ce, 914ce and PS14c – it’s quite a state­ment of in­tent. It com­bines the new brac­ing with a no­tably dif­fer­ent, more com­fort­able, Grand Au­di­to­rium style. Of course, its build-qual­ity is noth­ing short of ex­cep­tional as we’d ex­pect, and not least at this price.

Like PRS in the electric world, Tay­lor has raised the bar in terms of what we ex­pect from a high-qual­ity pro­duc­tion maker. That lat­ter point is im­por­tant. Tay­lor makes a lot of gui­tars (around 600 per day), and pro­duc­tion ef­fi­ciency and con­sis­tency is key. For many, the modernist op­u­lence of the higher level se­ries gui­tars is at odds with the ‘blue col­lar’ clas­sic vi­sion of, most ob­vi­ously, Mar­tin. To some ex­tent this new Builder’s Edi­tion model, vis­ually at least, re­tains some ‘posh’, but pares that back with not only its dark­ened and tor­refied Sitka spruce top, but the ‘si­lent’ satin fin­ish – the antithesis of the finely buffed, mir­ror sheen of the ma­jor­ity of Tay­lor’s gui­tars.

The aes­thetic is al­tered by the edge ‘bind­ing’, which isn’t ac­tu­ally bind­ing at all. In­stead the koa of the sides forms the top edge, which is no­tice­ably cham­fered. The in­ner pur­fling is koa, then there’s an in­set line of paua shell with thin lighter wood ei­ther side, and fi­nally a black line butted up against the top wood. The com­fort that

How do you make the most suc­cess­ful gui­tar brand even bet­ter? With the new ‘V-Class’ brac­ing de­sign

this edge cham­fer­ing brings is en­hanced by the arm­rest; plus, we also have an an­gled scoop in­side the tre­ble cut­away, all adding to a more com­fort­able, er­gonomic feel and ap­pear­ance. Di­men­sion­ally, this K14ce is slightly more ta­pered depth-wise than the 914ce we used for com­par­i­son. Sub­tle, yes, but it all con­trib­utes to the im­pres­sion that this Builder’s Edi­tion is more com­pact both in ap­pear­ance and feel than a reg­u­lar Tay­lor GA.

A quick iden­ti­fier, by the way, for the V-Class-braced mod­els is the black graphite-loaded nut (along with a new la­bel that for the first time fea­tures Andy Pow­ers’ sig­na­ture), as op­posed to the cream-coloured Tusq that is stan­dard on the non-V-Class mod­els.

We’re re­minded of the K14ce’s high-end lin­eage, how­ever, by the paua ‘spring vine’ in­lay that lies down the ma­jor­ity of the black/dark brown ebony ’board, while a lighter koa pur­fling stripe sits just in­side the ebony edge-bind­ing and con­tin­ues around the head­stock, which is again ebony-faced with a rel­a­tively de­mure paua in­lay. The aged-gold Go­toh tuners per­fectly fit the slightly worn-in vibe – hugely un­der­stated class, just like the green abalone dots in the ebony bridge-pins.

While there’s plenty for those who love de­tails to ad­mire, the mod­ern Tay­lor gui­tar is hugely sorted in terms of play­ing feel. Frets are im­mac­u­lately in­stalled, string height is set to ap­prox­i­mately 1.8mm on the tre­ble side and 2.2mm on the bass side, when mea­sured at the 12th fret. It’s ex­tremely electric like. Nut width falls on the wider of Tay­lor’s sizes and comes with an airy string spac­ing of 38mm that widens out to 56mm at the bridge. The qual­ity electric-like feel is sup­ported by the neck shape with a sub­tle hint of a V mak­ing it feel thin­ner to the hand than its barely ta­per­ing depth – 21.3mm at the 1st, 22.3mm by the 10th fret be­fore the boat-bowed heel – ac­tu­ally sug­gests. It’s a neck shape you just don’t no­tice, and that’s a huge com­pli­ment.

Stan­dard equip­ment is ev­i­dent in the Ex­pres­sion Sys­tem 2, the bridge trans­ducer el­e­ments, with three ‘re­sponse’ ad­just­ment Allen key bolts, sit­ting be­hind the heav­ily com­pen­sated and shaped Mi­carta sad­dle. As ever, cen­tre-notched vol­ume, tre­ble and bass con­trols with their low-pro­file ribbed rub­ber knobs sit on the up­per shoul­der. The out­put jack dou­bles as the lower strap but­ton (placed with an oval re­cessed split plate that also al­lows easy re­place­ment of the 9V block bat­tery via a clip on/off cover), al­though, un­usu­ally, the up­per strap but­ton is placed on the back of the body just be­low the heel as op­posed to the usual po­si­tion on the tre­ble side of the heel which, for up­per fret work, can get in the way. This place­ment, along with that scoop in the cut­away, sug­gests in­creased ac­cess as well as com­fort was another sub­tle part of the in­stru­ment’s de­sign.

Feel & Sound

There’s lit­tle doubt you can dis­ap­pear down a big ol’ rab­bit hole try­ing to eval­u­ate the of­ten-sub­tle sound dif­fer­ences be­tween acous­tic gui­tars, es­pe­cially at this level. Quite of­ten it’s a style and aes­thetic that’ll sway you; other times it’s purely the voice. With a pair of iden­ti­cal 914ces – one with stan­dard brac­ing, the other with V-class – and this Builder’s Edi­tion, we had plenty to lis­ten to. Each gui­tar def­i­nitely has its own

char­ac­ter. Brac­ing aside, we have the koa back and sides of the K14ce com­pared to the more con­ven­tional voice of rose­wood on the 914ce duo. And ‘con­ven­tional’ is a pretty good de­scrip­tion of Tay­lor’s GA with pris­tine highs, gen­er­ous pi­ano-like lows and a lightly scooped midrange that sounds ex­tremely – in a good way – con­tem­po­rary and quite the all-rounder.

Tay­lor states that koa does need play­ing in be­fore it achieves its max­i­mum po­ten­tial, and that ties in with the ini­tial im­pres­sion of the K14ce – it does sound a lit­tle ‘tight’ com­pared to the ‘looser’ 914ces. Yet it brings ex­cep­tional bal­ance to the gui­tar that would cer­tainly aid a record­ing mu­si­cian, not least one that has to com­pete in an ensem­ble set­ting. But the more we play the more we un­cover…

It’s quite a chameleon stylis­ti­cally, so jazz­ier and blue­sier styles suit just as well as Latin bossa where the thumbed bass-lines sit per­fectly be­low those jazzy chord in­ver­sions – there’s cer­tainly a lit­tle ‘ny­lon’ to the sound in terms of a strong fun­da­men­tal. But then open tune and slip on a bot­tle­neck and you’d swear you were play­ing a smaller body gui­tar.

As you dig in, you get it back – it’s ex­tremely dy­namic. And again it’s got power in the higher reg­is­ters that make leads strong ei­ther from your fin­gers or a pick. There’s a hint of an arch­top too. Again, play in that big-band chop-strummed style and you’d swear you were back in the 40s. But then re-tune to DADGAD and the gui­tar sounds so in tune and evoca­tive that you could sit right down and start writ­ing your next solo fin­ger­style piece.

There’s a sonorous pi­ano-like re­sponse right across the range that makes more com­plex chord voic­ing sound beau­ti­fully in tune. We can’t re­mem­ber hav­ing in­to­na­tion is­sues with any Tay­lor gui­tar but there’s a smooth­ness and pu­rity here that al­lows ex­cep­tional chordal range with­out any an­gry in­ter­vals. The ac­cess af­forded by the cut­away and that scoop ac­tu­ally means, not least with the per­fect-sound­ing in­to­na­tion, that high-po­si­tion leads work and high­po­si­tion chord­ing does too.

Those less-sharp edges and arm­rest play their part in mak­ing this Builder’s Edi­tion feel like an old pair of shoes – the aged patina of those ex­cel­lent tuners also add to the vin­tage vibe – and sud­denly any thought

the gui­tar be­gins to feel and sound like the best vin­tage in­stru­ment you dream of own­ing

of this be­ing the new state-of-the-art re­lease from the state-of-the-art mak­ers dis­ap­pears, and the gui­tar be­gins to feel and sound like the best vin­tage in­stru­ment you dream of own­ing (but with­out any of the is­sues of an old gui­tar).

Tay­lor’s ES2 pickup sys­tem might only of­fer tre­ble, bass and vol­ume con­trols, but it’s far from dif­fi­cult to dial in a cred­i­ble sound that re­ally mir­rors what we hear acous­ti­cally. But again swap­ping be­tween the X-braced 914ce, the new V-class ver­sion, and our K14ce we hear vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal at­tributes in the V-Class gui­tars – a cleaner lower midrange and that al­most other-worldly in-tune­ness that’s so no­tice­able in higher reg­is­ters, whereas the X-braced 914ce, by com­par­i­son, now seems ever so slightly ‘out’.

Back on the K14ce, the sub­tly more bal­anced voice dips in and out of dif­fer­ent styles and gen­res so eas­ily. We’d strongly sug­gest jazz play­ers will be drawn to this blank can­vas and even that cut­away scoop just makes high po­si­tion, es­pe­cially chords, that lit­tle bit more com­fort­able to your left­hand. Again, that in­to­na­tion pu­rity makes prob­a­bly more im­pres­sion on your ears.

ver­dict

Ex­actly what the V-Class brac­ing is do­ing we only have these gui­tars to go on and as our stu­dio test con­firms both the new-braced gui­tars have a lit­tle more ‘ev­ery­thing’ to them. While the 914ce V-Class is per­haps the most ob­vi­ous in terms of its richer, fuller voice that, put sim­ply, sounds en­hanced com­pared to its stan­dard-braced iden­ti­cal twin, the Builder’s Edi­tion, which pulls back a lit­tle on the blus­ter yet al­most of­fers a smoother, hint of a semi-hol­low, re­sponse that makes high-fret work fuller and stronger sound­ing.

For the diehard ‘acous­tic’ player we’d sug­gest the V-Class 914ce would be the choice with its more con­ven­tional steel string re­sponse, not to men­tion ap­pear­ance. How­ever, the K14ce is our choice for the player cross­ing styles and gen­res es­pe­cially us­ing more com­plex har­monies, even though the sub­tly muted highs we hear ac­tu­ally make it our pref­er­ence for more stan­dard rhythm beds too.

V-Class, Builder’s Edi­tion? Get used to those terms. Tay­lor has just upped the ante. Con­sid­er­ably.

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2 1. The paua ‘Spring Vine’ in­lay adds a splash of posh to an oth­er­wise un­der­stated gui­tar. Typ­i­cally, the fin­ger­board is West African ebony and note the ebony bind­ing with in­set Hawai­ian koa pur­fling 2. Go­toh’s 510 tuners are used here and have an aged-gold fin­ish that cer­tainly con­trib­utes to a more clas­sic, even vin­tage-like aes­thetic. Note the black graphiteloaded nut – an iden­ti­fier of V-Class braced mod­els 3. The arm­rest adds con­sid­er­able com­fort, like the acous­tic equiv­a­lent of Fender’s fore­arm con­tour

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4. De­signer Andy Pow­ers reck­ons this scoop in­side the tre­ble cut­away is like an arm­rest for your left hand. Top fret ac­cess is bet­ter than some electrics we can think of 5. These three rub­ber­domed knobs con­trol Tay­lor’s preamp, of­fer­ing cen­tred notched vol­ume, bass and tre­ble 6. The ES2 sys­tem uses a piezo trands­ducer placed be­hind the sad­dle not un­der­neath it. The three vis­i­ble Allen-keyed bolts al­low you to tay­lor the re­sponse, if you need to 4

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