Taylor’s all-Hawaiian-koa GT K21 is a standout in their compact GT Series for a number of reasons. The bold look of glossy Koa on its soundboard, back, and sides can turn heads, and the GT K21 will certainly do that, but I learned that there’s more to this guitar than what meets the eye.
First off, if you haven’t personally tried a guitar in the GT (short for Grand Theater) series you might not get what all the fuss is about. Yes, it is a more compact guitar than Taylor’s Grand Orchestra (a large body style) from which it borrows its shape, but it is cleverly scaled down for comfort by Taylor’s master guitar designer, Andy Powers. Powers’ challenge was to coax the playing comfort of a smaller acoustic guitar without having to sacrifice great tone. He has employed several techniques in this effort, and I’d argue that he’s done more of a redesign than a scale down.
The result: hints of a familiar body shape with clever bracing and design considerations that extend the guitar’s typical range and resonance, along with a shorter scale that Powers employs to deliver a player-friendly experience with the additional benefits of a lighter string tension. Bottom line here is that the K21e and others in the GT series are very likely different from anything you’ve played before and don’t have much in common with other “small” guitars. Please read that as you need to try it in person.
Like most, I have fun occasionally playing smaller guitars. The typically “light” sound is often a refreshing change and can be better fit for some songs. While smaller guitars can present issues for players with big hands, the experience of playing on K21e’s 24-1/8-inch scale length and unique neck proportions was easy for me (I have pretty big hands). Adding to the fun aspect of feel is that the GT series offers players a lighter string tension built into the design. The effect is the same as you may have experienced with a 25-1/2-inch scale length guitar tuned down a full half step. In combination with the shorter neck, this offers an interesting approach to changing up a typical short-scale feel.
There are a few attributes of the K21e that put it in a sound category of its own. I’ve mentioned the all-solid-wood construction, but the use of all Koa and Taylor’s C-Class bracing gives this guitar some unique sonic properties. Along with more warmth than I expected from a smaller guitar body, the instrument has remarkable sustain, and very even response from low open strings to upper registers. It’s a very sweet and clear tone, but also offers surprising power from a guitar of its size to cut through a mix. It’s easy to see this guitar fitting well with a number of different playing styles.
Besides the considerable visual appeal of an edgeburst finish all-Koa design with an ebony bridge and fretboard, you can’t miss the wandering Spring Vine inlay in maple and matching single ring rosette at the soundhole. I really appreciated the look of the headstock adorned with dainty antique gold Gotoh mini 510 tuners. The feel of these small tuners actually took me a little time to adjust to, but with a 21:1 gear ratio they proved to be very accurate, and they certainly serve to subtly flatter the look of the instrument.
The GT K21e also offers stage performers Taylor’s Expression System 2 (ES2) pickup and road-proven electronics. The ES2 pickup elements are located behind the saddle rather than beneath it. With the location of the elements precisely adjustable in relation to the saddle, the system provides better response for different playing styles. For control, the ES2 system features conveniently located volume and tone control knobs with a custom designed preamp that offers professional sound quality and very responsible output levels.
The GT K21e is not just a good-looking guitar (one that might catch a collector’s eye), but a great sounding guitar, as well. It is both fun to play and can be very effective in many different situations and musical settings. The model ships with Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light strings and comes with a high-quality, tight-fitting soft case that offers outstanding protection and provides convenient handles, back straps, and spacious front pouch.
Taylor website: https://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/gt-k21e