Southern California’s songwriter’s companion, Taylor Guitars, is at it again in 2020 with four new models in their popular Builder’s Edition series. Our review model is the 324ce: a mahogany-top Grand Auditorium which showcases a new back and side wood, Urban Ash™, and is sourced from trees that needed to be removed from municipal areas.
Other Builder’s Edition models for 2020 include the 816ce, 925ce and 652ce, each having their own unique characteristics. These new model additions introduce tone wood explorations embodying Taylor’s commitment to producing boutique-quality instruments for the masses while maintaining preservation of materials for today and future generations.
The Builder’s Edition series was unveiled in 2018 and introduced a radical new design called V-Class bracing. This revolutionary new proprietary design relieves an acoustic guitar of the compromising nature of traditional X-bracing—a characteristic unbalance of stiffness and flexibility, which relates to a guitar’s sustain and volume. The architecture and positioning of V-Class bracing allows the top of a guitar to produce greater volume and sustain, without either of these crucial tonal qualities lacking at the other’s expense. Playing notes up and down the register of the guitar all have an even balance of volume and sustain.
The Builder’s Edition 324ce features a Tropical Mahogany top, genuine Ebony bridge and fingerboard, Taylor’s Silent Satin Finish throughout, the classic Taylor neck shape, gold Gotoh 21:1 tuners for increased accuracy in tuning—the same gears found on series such as the 800 Deluxe line, and Builder’s Edition body contours and beveled armrest for comfort in prolonged session of play time.
The big story with the 324ce is the Urban Ash, a never-before-used tone wood for the back and side construction—the name coined by Taylor. Sometimes referred to as Shamel Ash, Urban Ash has similar tonal properties to Honduran Mahogany: dry and warm response with a quicker compression threshold. This ash wood comes sourced from the state of California. Urban Ash trees were planted, maintained and removed for urban management. When these ash trees come to a circumstance such as weather damage, safety concerns or simply the end of their life cycle, their fate may be as short and simple as a landfill. Taylor has decided to source this wood to continue its life cycle into a new generation backed by a simple pastime: making music.
So how does it play? Well, that’s always the best part about picking up a Taylor guitar! You’re pretty much guaranteed that you’ll have a good time strumming, flatpicking or fingerpicking on a Taylor. It’s a testament to their long history of paying attention to player’s needs. Master designer and builder Andy Powers is the brains behind many of the company’s recent innovations and new models, including V-Class bracing and Builder’s Editions. On top of that, he’s a fantastic, skilled pro-level musician who understands the needs, emotions and psychology that go into purchasing a guitar.
“For me, players tend to not speak with the same language that builders speak,” Powers said in a 2018 interview with American Songwriter. “Players might say, ‘This guitar doesn’t feel right’ or, ‘doesn’t respond this way’—and a lot of times builders will be scratching their heads trying to decipher what ‘feels’ right means! Builders will ask, ‘Do you want the neck wider? Thicker?’ And the player might say, “No, this guitar needs more ‘empathy’!”
“I’ve always found it valuable to be able to build something, play it and know exactly what I want changed and what I liked about that design and interpret that into a physical action—change the neck shape, fingerboard edge or whatever it might be. I get to play some shows and recordings and I actually use these guitars so I know how to turn them into a musician-friendly instrument.”
The Builder’s Edition 324ce is an incredibly comfortable guitar to play, assisted by all facets of its construction. Its body contours increase ease of access to the entire range of the guitar, its Silent Satin finish moves with the player and allows a slick yet organic feel, and of course the classic Taylor neck is fit for many hands whether small or large.
With its combination of a Tropical Mahogany top and the new Urban Ash back and sides, the 324ce carries a warm, earthy tone. It has a crisp attack when flat picked, with clear note definition—with attribution of course to Taylor’s V-Class Bracing system.
The 324ce comes in at $2999, which makes this model the first Builder’s Edition Grand Auditorium to be priced less than $3K.