By Nick Millevoi

Taylor has a well-earned reputation for making bold and innovative design and production decisions. When the company unveiled its V-Class guitar bracing in 2018, it took a big leap, revamping much of its acoustic line with a new support system that reinvents an essential element of the steel-string guitar and makes a fundamental change to the way Taylor instruments sound and feel.

For the new Builder’s Edition collection, Taylor master guitar designer Andy Powers has selected various models—from the 300 series up to the 900 series—and outfitted them with a variety of pragmatic and experimental upgrades. These nine guitars have been tricked out with soundports, armrests, and more, all meant to elevate playability. And while the Builder’s Edition collection comprises a variety of different models, body styles, and wood selections, the series has a consistent refined cosmetic aesthetic and playability.

I auditioned two decidedly different models, the 324ce and the 816ce, and was mightily impressed—but not at all surprised—by their sound, build, and playability.

Builder’s Edition 324ce
The 324ce features Taylor’s classic Grand Auditorium body style, presented here with a tropical mahogany top finished in a warm Tobacco Kona Burst. For the back and sides, Powers selected urban ash—a reclaimed wood sourced from city trees in Southern California that have been culled for strategic reasons such as damage, safety concerns, disruptive root systems, or reaching the end of their life cycle—a choice in line with the company’s sustainable wood strategy.

Holding the guitar is quite comfortable thanks to the beveled armrest and soft, chamfered edges. The 324ce’s 25-1/2-inch scale length is easily playable; fretting is a breeze across the neck, and the guitar’s beveled cutaway offers some extra help accessing the higher frets. The burst finish extends across the back of the neck—a nice touch that gives a consistent look and ties things together visually—and the handsome Gotoh 510 tuners offer a classy impression of vintage brass.

Upon first playing the 324ce, I was wowed by its responsive and resonant top. It’s immediately noticeable that notes on this guitar respond and develop in a unique way, owing to the V-Class bracing. Most apparent is how notes in the low end vibrate loosely across the top, transferring energy easily throughout the instrument and allowing first-position notes on the fifth and sixth strings to sing while also providing clarity.

Taylor guitars are known for their even playability and responsiveness throughout the instrument’s range, and the 324ce offers no exception. The midrange and high end are quite balanced and uniform across the neck. Harmonies seem to really shine: widely voiced chords are easy to accurately fret all along the fretboard and open voicings get extra support as the low end really opens up. Single-note runs are easy to execute, but the clarity of strummed as well as fingerpicked chords allows this guitar to sustain and resonate to the best of its ability and lead with its many strengths.

Builder’s Edition 816ce
I was struck by the Builder’s Edition 816ce’s appearance as soon as I opened the case. Sporting a Lutz spruce top with Indian rosewood edge trim, Indian rosewood black and sides, and a maple edge trim along the West African Crelicam ebony fretboard, it has a sharp light/dark visual contrast that is accentuated by an ebony pickguard. The 816ce shares some of the same features as the 324ce, giving a similar aesthetic to these otherwise very different guitars, from tuners to chamfered body edges as well as Taylor’s light Silent Satin finish.

 At 16-1/4″ wide, 4-5/8″ deep, and 20″ long, Taylor’s redesigned Grand Symphony body style feels large—admittedly, I’m accustomed to smaller-bodies guitar—but is quite comfortable to hold. Since it features a slightly shorter scale length (24-7/8″) than the 324ce, I found it a little easier to play. All of this helps deliver the 816ce’s robust tone and ease of playability, but there are bigger forces at play.

Tucked into an implied Florentine cutaway is a second soundhole, which is perhaps the 816ce’s most notable feature. Paired with the V-Class bracing, which as on 324ce seems to make the top extremely resonant, this offers a refreshing and novel playing experience. Every note across the neck is ultra-responsive, from powerful bass notes to articulate midrange attack to sparkly high notes that benefit from the instrument’s outstanding sustain. The frequency range is noticeably wide, offering a sound that feels larger than life and makes playing this guitar feel like a finely tuned high-fidelity experience.

The 816ce rewards dynamic playing. It doesn’t take much to activate the instrument, so soft fingerstyle playing really benefits from the extra air that pushes out of the soundport, and notes tend to feel as though they hover in the air for an extra-long time. While I’ve often felt that my own early-2000s Taylor 510ce and similar models do not reward hard playing, this instrument packs an extra punch with more headroom that will reward extra oomph from heavy picking. When I plugged into GarageBand to do some quick demo recording, I was able to easily dial in a nice tone using nothing but the guitar’s Expression System 2 electronics—also featured on the 324ce—which afforded me plenty of tonal choices and requiring no additional EQ.


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The 816ce is a guitar like no other. Just by looking at it, there’s no mistaking that it’s a unique instrument with an experimental flair, but its refined natural aesthetic helps to make it feel safe and approachable. I’ve found myself inspired to try out plenty of new ideas only to be sonically rewarded by the instrument’s interactive sound, as if it’s encouraging me along the way, and I can’t help but imagine the possibilities it might provide in the hands of creative guitarists of all styles.

The Verdict
The Builder’s Edition 324ce and 816ce are a pair of very different guitars that share enough visual and structural characteristics to make them obvious family members. They’re great guitars that creatively reimagine a number of acoustic guitar fundamentals in exciting ways and share an elegant aesthetic. As would be expected of Taylor, both have top-notch fit and finish and playability, and dynamic and exciting voices, which translate naturally through their Expression System 2 electronics.  

While the 324ce provides an updated take on a classic Taylor design that gives the Grand Auditorium style some fun new features that modernize the instrument, it’s the 816ce’s bold innovation that really shines, offering a unique and exciting playing experience that manages to encourage and enliven new ideas.

SPECS
Taylor Builder’s Edition 324ce

BODY Grand Auditorium size; mahogany top with V-Class bracing; urban ash back and sides; armrest; Silent Satin finish with Tobacco Kona Burst

NECK 25-1/2″-scale mahogany neck; 1-3/4″ nut; West African Crelicam ebony fretboard with compass inlays; satin finish; gold Gotoh tuners

OTHER West African Crelicam ebony bridge pins; Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light strings (.012–.053); Expression System 2 electronics; deluxe hardshell case

MADE IN USA

PRICE $2,999 street

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Taylor Builder’s Edition 816ce

BODY Grand Symphony size; Lutz spruce top with V-Class bracing; Indian rosewood back and sides; soundport cutaway; West African Crelicam ebony pickguard; Silent Satin finish

NECK 24-7/8″-scale mahogany neck; 1-3/4″ nut; West African Crelicam ebony fretboard with Windansea inlays; satin finish; gold Gotoh tuners

OTHER West African Crelicam ebony bridge pins; Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light strings (.012–.053); Expression System 2 electronics; deluxe hardshell case

MADE IN USA

PRICE $3,999 street

taylorguitars.com

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