Since 1974, Taylor Guitars has been renowned not only for their revered craftsmanship, but also their dedication to social and environmental concerns: a worldwide commitment to sustainable forestry and repopulating trees, and ethical and eco-conscious practices as a business to benefit employees and consumers. Taylor’s approach extends across all ages, playing styles, and experience levels; from the Academy series targeted towards the new player, to the visually and sonically striking offerings in the 900 and Presentation series instruments.
As the Southern California company looks to the future, co-founder Bob Taylor had pretty strict requirements in finding an heir to the throne: a young person with years of building experience, a great player, and a desire to lead the company. He struck gold, in all places, right in his own backyard. Since 2011, master builder (and San Diego-area native) Andy Powers has been mentored by Taylor. In many ways, though, Taylor would say the opposite is true. The two are kindred spirits, sharing tips on everything from the similarities of ocean waves to sound waves and how surfing relates to guitar playing. Powers is an exquisite finger-style guitarist himself and has been building guitars since he was a teenager. The majority of new models introduced by the company in the past five years (the revamped 800 and 900 series, Academy series, GS Mini Bass) are largely Powers’ designs.
This year at NAMM, Taylor introduced new designs that reflect Powers’ innovative work and craftsmanship. The Builder’s Edition K14ce Grand Auditorium acoustic is a top of the line master guitar, with a radical new luthier concept: Taylor’s new V-Class™ Bracing pattern. This revolutionary new design relieves an acoustic guitar of the compromising nature of traditional X-bracing – a characteristic unbalance of stiffness and flexibility, which relate to a guitars sustain and volume. The architecture and positioning of V-Class bracing allows the top of a guitar to produce greater volume and sustain, without either of these crucial tonal qualities lacking at the other’s expense. This improvement in sonic resonance allows the K14ce to produce finer pitch and closely balanced harmonics on all points of the neck and fingerboard.
Features of this model (one of four currently featuring V-class bracing) include a torrefied Sitka spruce top, koa back and sides, ebony bridge and fingerboard, beveled armrest and cutaway, Expression System 2 electronics, and Gotoh 510 21:1 ratio tuners. This Builder’s Edition K14ce will be a specific model offered in the Koa Taylor line, and V-Class bracing will be rolled out in other guitar lines in the future.
Unplugged, the K14ce has exactly that musical balance a player strives to hear. Chords and solo notes are crisp, clear and in tune, with no need to dig in for extra volume. The neck carries this guitar’s stability and intonation, with only micro-adjustments necessary for general maintenance. I tested the guitar through a small amplifier and a full range PA, and the K14ce had no lack of resilience through either source. The Expression System 2 does a fine job of recreating what the guitar, rather than the strings, sounds like.
When a guitar is unbalanced – even in the slightest – the player may feel the need to overplay or play harder due to the construction of the instrument. In playing the K14ce, I noticed that when I was playing and singing, I hadn’t been distracted from my vocal delivery because my guitar was clearly defined and cut through the mix, thereby gave me a better performance.
Taylor’s new V-Class bracing enhances the guitar’s pitch accuracy, due to evenly balancing harmonics tighter than traditional X-bracing would. In one instance of playing out with the guitar, I went from standard tuning to Drop D, double Drop D, and up to open E in a breeze, taking no extended breaks in between songs to tune. The K14ce produces an incredibly accurate pitch, and the sharp-looking Gotoh 510 tuners get you where you need to be instantly.
The use of koa, a tonewood found in several of the Hawaii islands, for the back and sides of this guitar is a nice touch. The K14ce features genuine solid koa on the back and sides – finished in an incredibly striking “Silent” satin Kona burst finish. The running joke is that a koa guitar sounds its worst on the day it was made. As the wood is broken in and the guitar ages, its tonality will naturally enhance.
Throughout Taylor’s company history, each guitar shipped has featured Bob Taylor’s signature on the label inside the soundhole. As a symbolic passing of the guitar in recognition of his innovation, every Taylor guitar with V-Class bracing will now feature Powers’ signature on the label.
This K14ce is an incredible representation to Taylor’s dedication to craft, which in turn represents their dedication to players. Whether the player is tracking sessions, playing live, or having a guitar in his or her hands for the first time, there is a Taylor guitar fit for anybody who wants to play. When you’re ready, the Builder’s Edition K14ce may be the instrument for your next inspiration.
Street price: $4999
Look for an in-depth interview with Taylor guitars master builder Andy Powers on www.americansongwriter.com soon.
– Christian Seaman
Additional information and specs taken from the official Taylor Guitars press release below:
BUILDER’S EDITION K14CE
The all-new V-Class bracing system — a groundbreaking innovation that dramatically improves an acoustic guitar’s volume, sustain and intonation to deliver an extraordinary playing experience. Taylor master guitar designer Andy Powers, who developed the V-Class bracing scheme, conceived of the Builder’s Edition to celebrate the V-Class launch, creating the equivalent of an enhanced “director’s cut” edition, matching the improved sound with an emphasis on elevating the playing comfort and aesthetic appeal.
The first offering from the Builder’s Edition collection is a cutaway Grand Auditorium K14ce featuring Hawaiian koa back and sides paired with a torrefied Sitka spruce top. Torrefaction, a special roasting technique, helps coax a played-in sound from the guitar and darkens the wood’s complexion to add visual warmth. Together with the V-Class bracing, players can expect a dynamic and responsive voice, rich sustain, and a more harmonious relationship between every note on the fretboard, helping chords sing with cohesive beauty.
A central design emphasis of Builder’s Edition is enhanced playing comfort in the form of ergonomic new body contours. Details include a beveled armrest, beveled body edge treatment, and a reshaped cutaway that flows smoothly into the heel and incorporates a finger bevel where the cutaway meets the soundboard. This creates a more fluid path to the guitar’s upper-register notes for your fretting hand.
“When players have comfortable features on a guitar they tend to feel more relaxed,” Powers says. “As a result they tend to sound better. “These guitars will be noticeably more comfortable for a player’s strumming arm and fretting hand.”
Other refined touches include “silent” satin finish, which helps quiet the incidental noise against the guitar body, and a gorgeous new Kona burst that highlights the natural beauty of the figured koa back and sides and adds a splash of vintage visual warmth. Inset koa/paua top and back trim adds a beautiful sparkle that complements the new Spring Vine fretboard inlay.
The Builder’s Edition K14ce will also feature a black graphite nut found only on V-Class guitars, along with a new guitar label featuring Powers’ signature.
For a video demo of Andy discussing the Builder’s Edition guitar click here.