Taylor Academy 12E Review

When you're looking for a new mid to entry-level guitar, the Taylor Academy 12E will be a name that you see about town. This is a nice guitar that gives you a taste of the insane quality offered by Taylor Guitars, but at a much more affordable price than the rest of their range.

This guitar came at the top of our best classical guitars lineup so you know that it's got a good reputation.

When you're picking a new acoustic guitar, I can't overstate how important it is to get one that feels and plays right for you. They really aren't 'one size fits all' and there is a huge spectrum of styles, tones, and feels in the acoustic guitar world.

You want to avoid buying a guitar that doesn't work for you, as this will put you off playing, and could be a waste of money. So I've put together some tips in the second half of this article to make sure you get one.

Overall, this Taylor Guitar offers exceptional value for money and will be a great fit for most players. Taylor Academy 12E sounds and feels fantastic, and would make a great investment for a beginner guitarist looking for a high-quality instrument, or an experienced player looking for a reliable workhorse.

Important Note - This guitar comes in both a 12E Steel String or 12E Nylon String variation. In this article, I reviewed the steel version. Beyond the headstock, both guitars are identical, so the quality will basically be the same. The nylon string version is more suitable for classical and Latin types of music.

Keep reading for the full verdict!

Taylor Academy 12E - Overview

taylor academy 12-e

Why I Like It

  • I thought the the Taylor Academy 12E had fantastic construction and is built with high-quality materials and craftsmanship.
  • The guitar was very comfortable to play, thanks to the ergonomic body shape and smooth fretboard.
  • I loved the clear, balanced sound, which I thought was versatile enough for any acoustic guitar genre and style.

What I Think Could Be Improved

  • The price point is a little high for some budget-conscious guitar players, but the value is still decent.
  • There aren't many customization options like finished or alternate electronics.
  • The electronic system is decent but isn't as sophisticated as some aftermarket options which may be more attractive.

Taylor Academy Series 12E Specs:

  • Body Shape: Grand Concert
  • Strings: 6 Steel
  • Material:
    • Spruce Top
    • Walnut and Sapele Back and Sides
    • Maple Neck
    • Ebony Fingerboard
  • Fret Count: 20
  • Scale Length: 24.875"
  • Pickup: Taylor ES-B 1.2
  • Weight: 4.6lbs - 2kg

The Taylor Academy 12E is an acoustic guitar fitted with an electronic pickup system and metal strings. It comes with a curvy grand concert body style, it has a solid Sitka Spruce top, layered sapele back and sides, a maple neck, and an ebony fingerboard.

Price-wise, you can pick this great guitar up for around $800 (with a gig bag), which I think makes it more of a pro-end instrument, although it's not completely unaffordable for newer players. It's definitely a great price for what you get too.

I would compare this to the Yamaha SLG200NW, Cordoba C7, or Ibanez GA35TCE in terms of price and features. (We have a detailed Ibanez GA35TCE review so check it out.) Having said that, they all offer a slightly different style (see my comparison later in this article).

What makes this beautiful guitar stand out to me is the gorgeous selection of woods, the comfortable body shape, the well-balanced tone, and the high-quality electronic circuit. It's almost as if Taylor Academy was aiming for the look, feel, and quality of the best high-end classical guitars but at a very affordable price.

Taylor Academy 12E Features & Benefits

Feel 5/5

As an experienced guitarist, I can confidently say that the Taylor Academy 12E felt very nice in my hands, and is in serious competition with much more expensive guitars I've tried.

The neck profile is perfectly sculpted, providing just the right balance between comfort and playability. Whether I was strumming chords or noodling solos, the guitar's ergonomic design allowed me to effortlessly navigate the fretboard with precision and ease.

The smaller Grand Concert size should be comfortable for most players and I particularly like the rounded top right body corner, which takes some of the discomfort out of your strumming arm and gives a smoother surface to play on. Sometimes the sharp corners of most acoustic guitars can dig into your arm and become a bit annoying, but the beveled edge here is very comfortable.

You could easily get this guitar set up to play exactly the way you like it to feel, by changing the strings and adjusting the truss rod for the right action.

Tone 4/5

When it comes to tone, the Taylor Academy 12e delivered a solid performance. The sound is rich, warm, and incredibly balanced across the entire frequency spectrum. Whether I was fingerpicking intricate melodies or playing more aggressively, this guitar consistently produced a beautiful, full-bodied sound that was a pleasure to listen to.

The low end felt full and resonant and had a good level of stability to the bottom notes. The mids were rich, articulate, and dynamic, allowing me to play it with a raspy, biting tone, or smoother and more delicate. The high ends were extensive and crystalline. It wasn't as bright or detailed as some instruments but certainly had plenty of high-end and treble. The balance between the frequencies was great too, and no end of the spectrum stood out or lacked power.

As for the articulation and dynamic, it certainly wasn't disappointing, although it could be a bit broader and more expressive. I think I'm just a bit spoiled though, and in my mind, I'm comparing it to multi-thousand dollar instruments, which might not be particularly fair... For the price, the level of expression and articulation is good enough.

While it may not have the same depth and complexity as some higher-end models, the 12E more than holds its own in terms of tone quality and is good enough to use in the studio or on stage.

Quality 5/5

In terms of build quality, the Taylor Academy 12E was top-notch and really impressed me for the price.

From the solid spruce top to the sturdy maple neck, every component of this guitar is expertly crafted with precision and attention to detail.

The finish is flawless, the fretwork is immaculate, and the overall construction feels incredibly solid and reliable. All the edges are smoothed out and nicely beveled, and I couldn't find anything where I thought Taylor was cutting corners. Nice work!

I can see this lasting for years whether you're using it at home, or giving it an active life as a busking or gigging guitar.

Electronics 4/5

While the onboard electronics of the Taylor Academy 12e are certainly decent, they're not quite on par with some higher-end pickup systems.

That being said, the built-in ES-B pickup and preamp do a great job of capturing the guitar's natural acoustic sound and translating it into amplified form.

The controls are intuitive and easy to use, and I found it easy to dial in the perfect tone without needing to fiddle around for ages. It gives you a nice three-band EQ, that lets you cut or boost the high, mid, and low frequencies independently.

One very handy feature of the ES-B pickup is the built-in tuner. While the interface isn't super accurate, it gives you all the information you need to quickly get in tune, and also helps to streamline your setup, as you won't need to carry around an extra tuner.

While you can find better electronic systems out there, the electronics of the 12E are good enough, and very fair given the price of this instrument.

Things to Consider Before Buying Acoustic Guitars

There is a huge range of acoustic guitar styles, shapes, and brands to choose from, each with a slightly different take on this classic instrument.

When you're picking a new acoustic, it's important to consider the following factors to make sure you're buying the best fit for your needs.

Size and Shape

Acoustic guitars come in a huge range of shapes and sizes. Classic full-sized dreadnoughts, to 3/4 or 1/2 portable models. The size is important so that it's a comfortable fit for your arms and torso.

The shape is a more nuanced decision. One element of the shape is the comfort factor, again, affecting how well the guitar fits to your body. The other element is the sound and volume, both of which are affected by the shape.

Additionally, you might want a cutaway if you play on the higher frets a lot.

String Type

taylor academy 12e

There are two main string types for acoustic guitars: Steel or Nylon.

Nylon-stringed guitars, also known as classical guitars, feature softer nylon-based strings. These have a distinct, plucky sound that lends itself perfectly to classical and Latin music, although often it lacks the volume and brightness needed for modern playing. These are also easier to play due to the soft, comfortable material and tension.

Steel-string guitars are louder, brighter, and more dynamic. These are much better suited for modern playing styles, where you need a bit of twang and bite. The main downside is that they can be more tiring and harsh on your fingers due to the sharper material.

The choice comes down to what type of music you're going to be playing, and how you like your guitar to feel.

You can find the the Taylor Academy in both 12E Steel String or 12E Nylon String versions. So you can pick whichever one suits you!


The final consideration is whether you want your acoustic guitar to come with built-in electronics.

I would generally recommend going for a model that does have this feature, as it makes the guitar more versatile. It's easier to plug the guitar in when you need some amplification on stage, or if you want to record a direct signal.

That said, you do end up paying more for electronic pickups. Also, many of the factory-fitted models are not particularly nice and are often a bit cheap. You might consider buying an aftermarket pickup and fitting it yourself for better quality.

Best Alternatives to Taylor Academy 12E

While I'm a huge fan of the Taylor Academy 12E, there are a bunch of other similar-priced guitars that are tight competition. I'd say the quality is pretty close across these, but they each have varying styles and designs.

Yamaha SLG200NW vs Taylor Academy 12E

Yamaha SLG200NW

This unique-looking guitar comes at a slightly lower price but offers something completely different. Immediately, you can see that this isn't a standard acoustic guitar. It's a silent nylon string.

It doesn't come with a hollow, resonant body, and instead is just an outline frame. This guitar is designed for travel and practice. The top section can fold down, and it's super lightweight.

The Yamaha SLG200NW silent guitar is designed to be used with the electronic component more than unplugged. It has built-in effects, a tuner, aux-in, and a headphone out. I really like this guitar, it's great for touring and practice, but it's not so good for random acoustic jamming, as it's basically completely silent without being plugged in.

Cordoba C7 vs Taylor Academy 12E

Cordoba C7

The Cordoba C7 is a slightly more budget-friendly guitar, coming in with about 25% off of the 12E's price tag. This is a nylon-stringed guitar, making it perfect for classical and Latin players. It has a softer tone and feel.

The quality is very high in this guitar - and I would say overall it's around the same quality level as the 12E. I think the main reason it is lower prices is because it doesn't come with any electronics and is a nylon string. Cordoba C7-CE, on the other hand, comes with electronics and a nice cutaway for a little extra cash.

Ibanez GA35TCE vs Taylor Academy 12E

Ibanez GA35TCE

This incredibly budget-friendly option for Ibanez is an attractive choice, and I would say it might be a more suitable pick for beginner guitarists compared to the 12E.

This is quite a unique find in its price range, coming in at less than half the price of the 12E. It's a nylon string acoustic guitar, with a cutaway and built-in electronics.

These are all very attractive features and make it very easy to play and convenient. Of course, the quality here is a lot lower than the 12E, but it offers excellent value for money and is a strong choice for budding guitarists.

Final Verdict - Is the Taylor Academy 12E Any Good?

taylor academy 12-e

Overall, I found the Taylor Academy 12E to be a very attractive acoustic guitar. It offers fantastic value for money and is a good entry point into higher-end, more professional-feeling guitars.

The overall quality is high all around, in terms of the feel and tone. I really like the way this guitar felt, it was super comfortable, and I could easily tell there was a lot of attention to detail in the manufacturing.

Sound-wise, I was impressed too. It was well-balanced, full-bodied, rich, and articulate. It wasn't quite as expressive or dynamic as more expensive models, but it was perfect for the price. The inclusion of electronics makes it super convenient too.

I would say, if you want a nylon string, I'd recommend looking at the Cordoba C7 for another great quality instrument (without electronics), or the Ibanez GA35TCE for a feature-rich but budget-friendly acoustic guitar.

If you want something more classical, I'd also recommend looking at the Taylor 12E Nylon String variation.

If you're still not sold on any of these, check out our full list of the Best Classical Guitars on the market today!

Images courtesy of Sweetwater and Taylor Guitars

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