Gear Review: Taylor AD17 Acoustic Guitar

Taylor Guitars AD17

At last year’s NAMM show, Taylor announced its Grand Pacific round-shoulder dreadnought developed by master guitar designer Andy Powers. Company experts announced that the new body shape and other innovations would bring a dramatically different tonal personality to the company’s popular guitar line. Adding to the well-received line this year is Taylor’s American Dream offering. Recently, I got my hands on an AD17 model and after just a few minutes playing understood what Powers and the designers at Taylor were going for.

Taylor’s AD17 takes full advantage of the dreadnought shape and size, and through a creative combination of wood selection and architecture (the line uses the company’s V-Class bracing) creates a clear and tight low end that will be an immediate hit with any acoustic player who loves the sound of wood. The designers aptly use the words ‘warm’ and ‘seasoned’ to describe the sound and personality of the AD17 next to other Taylor offerings.

Taylor Guitars AD17 Natural

I have to say that most–and maybe all–of the Taylors I’ve played over the years have felt and played pretty well. You can always count on a Taylor to clearly cut through the band or project into the house. But none to date has had the rich tone and pleasant definition of the AD17. It’s a big sound that requires little effort to play, but it’s also very responsive up the neck so articulates well for both picking and finger-style playing. The warm low end can fill the room with strumming sounds. For anyone that isn’t a guitar builder, exactly why it sounds so good can be a mystery, but wood selection clearly plays an important role in the overall sound.

This specific Grand Pacific model is the first of our round-shoulder dreadnoughts to feature back and sides of solid ovangkol, which is an African tonewood similar to rosewood in its warmth and brilliance, but you can hear that it also flatters the midrange. The top is solid spruce and the assembly is enhanced by Taylor’s V-Class bracing (perhaps this is Taylor’s ‘secret sauce’?). As a result, the guitar has great volume and dynamic characteristics, and a long beautiful sustain. I really appreciate guitars that can play well at low volumes, but can also ‘sing’ when you dig into them. Few can do it as well as the AD17. That leads me to believe that this guitar would be a real winner in the studio for cutting featured acoustic tracks.

Befitting its ‘woody’ sound, the AD17 is good looking, but minimally decorated with closely chamfered body edges, stained spruce edge trim, and a three-ring rosette in Hawaiian koa. The model I tried featured a black top with a subtle faux tortoiseshell pickguard. A deep Urban Sienna color treatment for the ovangkol back and sides adds to the guitar’s understated good looks. A 2.0 mil-thick matte body finish was chosen to minimize damping for better resonance. The fretboard wood is Eucalyptus without binding and the neck has simple matte finish.

Taylor Guitars AD17 in Black Top

After spending just a few sessions exploring the AD17 I can say unequivocally that this Grand Pacific line–and this new guitar in particular–does add a strong new dimension to Taylor guitars. If you haven’t picked one up to try it out, you should. I know that I’m going to try out some other guitars in this line to see how they compare, but I think it’s going to be hard to beat the AD17. It offers players and songwriters a great acoustic sound and feel that is nothing short of inspiring.

The AD17 ships with D’Addario Coated Phosphor Bronze medium weight strings in a well-designed and tough Taylor AeroCase. It also comes optionally with electronics (AD17e).

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