Gearing Up: Taylor’s New 417e Acoustic Electric Guitar

Taylor Guitar fans will be interested in checking out the company’s new Taylor 417e Grand Pacific Acoustic Electric guitar and with good reason. A solid wood, built-in-the-USA, round-shoulder version of the popular dreadnought body style, this new design promises to suit everyday players as well as working guitarists while adding some visually striking appointments to Taylor’s popular 400 series. More importantly, the new 417e represents what could be the best of both worlds for players looking for a versatile acoustic-electric guitar: the benefits of a larger body style and the clean tonal quality that comes with the solid select woods. I was anxious to play this instrument to see if the 417e could deliver more warmth and low-end power than other rosewood/spruce 400 series instruments while retaining the series’ clarity and well-balanced tone. 

First impressions are important, and the 417e comes out of the case with striking clean lines. Its vintage look is supported by architecturally inspired inlay work on the fretboard and accented in the instrument’s see-yourself gloss tobacco sunburst finish, then made even more striking with boldly contrasting white binding. Nickel tuners and a faux tortoiseshell pickguard add to the guitar’s traditional look. Controls for the onboard ES2 electronics are placed so as to not detract from the traditional look, being slipped in on the upper bout where they are easily accessible but hardly noticeable.

At first touch, the 417e feels good and is easily playable. The basic setup from Taylor allows for clean fingerpicking and strumming styles. While the instrument plays well, the real magic of this guitar is found in its tone and response to the player. While the pairing of solid Indian rosewood and a Sitka spruce top provides some initial clues about the tone to expect in a guitar this size, simple assumptions about materials simply belie the musical possibilities this instrument has to offer. The 417e, unamplified, outweighed all my expectations for open string playing and full chords by a country mile. If only for that reason, I’d suggest that this is a guitar that needs to be experienced in person to be fully appreciated.

Well-balanced, the 417e has a very substantial feel but resonates in the player’s hands with surprising consistency. The notable clear sustaining quality of chords on the 417e was also impressive, but so was the clarity of individual notes across the fretboard. It’s hard to find such musical qualities in an instrument and even more difficult to attribute them to specific materials and design factors. However, because of the outstanding character shared by Taylor’s 400 series guitars, it’s not a leap to say that exacting craftsmanship, a carefully calculated finish, and the company’s trademark V-Class bracing are major factors in how well this guitar plays and sounds.

Taylor’s V-Class bracing, a design improvement introduced in the company’s Grand Auditorium body shape and developed back in 2018 by Master Guitar Designer Andy Powers, notably enhances a guitar’s volume, projection, and sustain. In the 417e, as with other guitars in the 400 series, that translates into significant improvements in the sonic low-end when compared to guitars of similar size, but not at the expense of tonal clarity. For the player, the result is a big tone with notes and chords that ring true, landing the company’s promise of the 417e Grand Pacific delivering “a warm, seasoned personality” not far from the mark.

The electronic elements of the 417e proved to work well with both a small acoustic amp and a larger sound system. Well past a simple pickup, Taylor’s ES2 (Expression System 2) system configures three uniquely positioned and individually calibrated pickup sensors behind the guitar’s saddle. This location for the sensors supports the guitar’s design resulting in a signal with greater dynamic range and optimal output. From there, a custom-designed professional audio preamp handles the signal, matching the level of the guitar for audio gear and allowing for real time tonal adjustments. In performance, the controls on the 417e provided ample gain and an impressive tonal range eliminating the need for an outboard EQ or adjustments at the mixer. This was expected since the ES2 system is well-proven in live performance and offered on other Taylor acoustic electric models for stage and direct recording applications. Check out the best Taylor guitars here!

The versatile 417e Grand Pacific is an exceptional playing and sounding acoustic instrument. Equipped with professional ES2 onboard electronics, it is ideally suited to public performance, as well as regular practice, songwriting, and recording sessions. It comes with a distinctive hardshell case that offers superior protection with an exacting fit. 

Street price: $2,999. 

Photos courtesy Taylor Guitars

Leave a Reply

The Gloomy Story Behind Lola the Showgirl in Barry Manilow’s 1978 Hit “Copacabana”