From the January 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY BILL LEIGH

It’s unusual to have one as a main instrument, but 12-string guitars have a distinctive sound that makes them undeniably cool to have around. Artists from the Beatles to the Byrds to Blind Willie McTell have all shown the stimulating sonic flavors inherent to 12-strings. With fully strummed open chords, their six pairs of resonating strings—four in octaves and two in unison—provide delightfully shimmering sounds, while yielding a sparkly sheen to fingerpicked passages.

If you’ve ever been on the fence about having a 12-string of your own, it might be that you’re put off by the bulky size and hefty construction that the added string tension seems to require. With bigger bodies and cumbersome headstocks, many 12s are uncomfortable to play. And in a band setting, the fullness that comes from these guitars is sometimes a double-edged sword, as it can overpower other instruments.

In 2016, Taylor Guitars addressed many of these issues with the small-bodied 552ce and 562ce 12-strings in the company’s mahogany-bodied 500 series. Now Taylor has introduced the mahogany-topped 362ce and spruce-topped 352ce. These 12s have the same small Grand Concert body size as their predecessors, but are a bit more affordable.

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Playing the Dozens

By way of first impression, I found both instruments exceptionally comfortable, with cozy bodies, smooth contours, and a delightful hand feel. The 362ce gives off a vintage vibe with its satin finish, edgeburst-stained mahogany soundboard, and tight-grained Tasmanian blackwood back and sides.

With this tonewood pairing, Taylor aims for a clear, focused sound and naturally compressed response for a balanced output across the tonal range. Indeed, the 362ce sounds warm, controlled, and shimmery, in both the octave and unison string pairs—without being overpowering. By contrast, the 352ce, with its gloss-finished Sitka spruce top and satin-finished sapele back and sides, has a brighter and livelier sound, with a more pronounced dynamic range and sparkling overtones.

With a body width of just 15 inches and depth of 4-3/8 inches, each instrument felt great to hold. Both balanced well on a strap but were just a touch neck-heavy on my lap, though not in any noticeable way as long as my strumming arm was in playing position on the lower bout. The necks both have an inviting satin finish and somewhat shallow, hand-fitting shape that makes fretting easy all the way up to the neck heel. Each has a 12th-fret neck junction, but thanks to a Venetian cutaway, all 18 frets are within easy reach. The shorter necks and smaller bodies—not to mention scaled-down headstocks—make the instruments seem compact compared to the typical 12-string.

The nickel tuners have an aesthetically pleasing bronze hue and are easy to adjust, despite the headstocks’ economical size. Haunted by flashbacks of difficult-to-tune 12-strings, I was pleased not only with how well both guitars stayed in tune, but also with how easily they went back and forth between standard and dropped tunings. Other nice touches include ebony bridge pins and a convenient battery compartment, snugly situated below the bottom strap button.taylor_362ce

Dancing Pairs

The 352ce and 362ce both incorporate Taylor’s ES2 (Expression System 2) electronics, which feature three individually calibrated piezo transducers positioned behind the saddle rather than beneath it. Paired with a custom designed onboard preamp, Taylor’s patented pickup positioning aims to deliver increased dynamic range and responsiveness. I tried both instruments with the Mesa Rosette 300/Two:Eight acoustic combo amp (see page 74), playing bits of Roger McGuinn’s classic part on the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” some Jimi Hendrix-style-12-string blues in the vein of “Hear My Train a Comin’,” an aborted attempt at Dirty Projectors’ tricky “Temecula Sunrise,” and the blossoming chords of the Smiths’ “Bigmouth Strikes Again.”

Amplified, with the onboard bass and treble controls set flat at their center detents, the spruce-topped 352ce filled the room with a lively sheen, radiant upper mids, and a zinging top end. Fingerpicked notes sprang forth, especially from the octave pairs on the lower four string courses. The unison notes on the B and E string pairs resonated clearly, with pleasing crispness.

Summer NAMM 2017: Andy Powers Demos Taylor’s New 352CE Model, Small-Bodied 12-String

Plugged in, the 362ce was a different animal altogether. Acoustically it seemed the more controlled and conservative of the two guitars, but amplified it truly came alive. The benefit of the mahogany’s balanced, even response became apparent as overtones bloomed across the tonal spectrum. Playing along with tracks, it fit in the mix much more naturally, rather than sitting on top of it. Single notes soared as I worked my way up the fingerboard, and the upper unison notes of the B and E string pairs rang clear and true without dominating.

If you’re thinking it’s time to stop borrowing 12-strings and get one of your own, a Taylor Grand Concert 12-string would be a wise choice. In their own ways, the 352ce and 362ce both sound fantastic, offering you two thrilling voices from which to choose.

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Taylor 352ce 12-string

Body Grand Concert size body with Sitka spruce top; sapele sides and back; ebony bridge with Micarta saddle and ebony bridge pins; gloss finish top, with satin finish back and sides

Neck 24-7/8″-scale mahogany neck with 18-fret ebony fingerboard; 1-7/8″-wide Tusq nut; small diamond inlays; satin finish

Electronics Taylor Expression System 2 behind-the-saddle pickup and preamp

Other Elixir Phosphor Bronze Nanoweb Light Gauge (.010 -.047); deluxe hardshell case

Price $1,899 street

Watch Taylor’s Andy Powers demo the 352ce here.

See it on Amazon.

Taylor 362ce 12-string

Body Grand Concert size body with mahogany top; Tasmanian blackwood sides and back; ebony bridge with Micarta saddle and ebony bridge pins; gloss finish “shadeburst” top, with satin finish back and sides

Neck 24-7/8″-scale mahogany neck with 18-fret ebony fingerboard; 1-7/8″-wide Tusq nut; small diamond inlays; satin finish

Electronics Taylor Expression System 2 behind-the-saddle pickup and preamp

Other Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light Nanoweb Light Gauge (.010 -.047) strings; deluxe hardshell case

Price $2,099 street

Made in USA

taylorguitars.com

See it on Amazon.



This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

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