Last year, Taylor Guitars made major news within the guitar community — yet again — with the introductions of two major innovations to Taylor as a company and the acoustic guitar as an instrument: the Builders Edition series and V-Class bracing. This year, Taylor’s most recent major achievements press onward with an entirely new instrument: the Grand Pacific models.
To refresh, the Builder’s Edition is the latest brainchild of Taylor Guitars’ master builder Andy Powers. This top-tier series from Taylor is a satin-finished, sleekly contoured acoustic guitar with an organic, complex tone despite its understated look. It was created to celebrate the launch of the Powers-designed bracing system, whereby harmonics are balanced evenly throughout the guitar’s dynamic range, and solves the age-old design flaw of an even balance of volume and sustain in an acoustic guitar plaguing standard X-bracing.
The Builder’s Edition Grand Pacific guitars features a round-shoulder dreadnought design. This series will replace their long running Dreadnought line (models denoted in the last numeral “0”) in the USA model line. However, the Academy 10 guitars will continue to be available with the 110 and 150 (12 -string). The intention of the Grand Pacific is vintage-inspired Taylor, an aesthetic not commonly seen with this popular manufacturer of acoustic guitars. The Grand Pacific guitars will initially be available in three model codes, ending in the numeral “7”: 317, Builder’s Edition 517, and Builder’s Edition 717.
For review, Taylor provided American Songwriter with a 517 and 717 Grand Pacific guitar. Each guitar features a Torrefied Sitka Spruce top and are differentiated by their choice of back and side wood; Neo-Tropical Mahogany for the 517, and Indian rosewood for the 717. Each GP is factory set up with Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze Medium gauge strings, and comes in a ravishing tooled leather Taylor case cut specifically for the Grand Pacific. Both guitars feature Taylor’s Silent Satin finish, which was introduced on last year’s Builder’s Edition K14.
Upon first glance, the Grand Pacifics look amazing. Most players are familiar with a round shoulder dreadnought guitar, but this Taylor offering has an allure of So-Cal meets Nashville, with a stylistic approach fit for any player’s musical background, and complementary to any fashion sense. Our 517 features Taylor’s new Wild Honey Burst finish, while our 717 came with a satin natural-finished top. Each guitar features Taylor’s Arrowhead inlay design, and material varies by model; 517s receive grained ivoroid inlays, 717s receive mother of pearl inlays. Both guitars feature bridges and fingerboards of genuine ebony, responsibly sourced and processed at the Taylor co-owned Crelicam ebony mill in Cameroon.
Designed to complement the way a player’s hand position shifts as it moves up the neck, the profile subtly transitions from a slight V at the nut to a rounded C, with a rounded, ridgeless heel. Personally, I can’t say enough about how much of a joy this neck is to play. If you’ve strayed from Taylors out of preference for a larger neck, this new profile fills that void for those planning to own an already brilliant sounding, reliable Taylor instrument.
Both the 517 and 717 have an amazing feel right out of the case. The neck is smooth and comfortable, with plenty of mass to fill the hand and keep the player from gripping too hard to strike a chord. These two instruments sound unique and professional, and are quickly and easily distinguished between. The mahogany back and side 517 has a warm low-end and compresses quicker, while the 717 has much more attack and can attain a louder volume. As for electronics, Taylor’s flagship ES-2 remains unchanged and is featured across the board on the series. True acoustic options are also available.
This is definitely one of the most exciting instruments Taylor has released to date. Some may consider the ways its design harkens back to a known instrument, but pick one up and you’ll discover the Grand Pacific looks, feels, and sounds very much its own. After all, Taylor has already offered their own voice in Jumbos and square shoulder dreadnought guitars. Songwriters will love either guitar for their comfortability, and complementary appearance on stage. In the studio, the Grand Pacific boasts big, bold chords and works well for fingerstylists, thanks in part to the balance of V-Class bracing. All in all, Taylor has released a series of guitars for players of all ages and styles with fantastic playability and original vintage vibe in the Grand Pacific.