In recent years, good-quality acacia koa—an unforgettably beautiful wood that grows only in the Hawaiian Islands—has become harder for luthiers to source. But thanks to Taylor Guitars’ koa reforestation efforts on the Big Island of Hawaii, the company has managed to build a stock of this prized tonewood. With access to visually stunning, straight-grained sets, Taylor is adding all-koa guitars to its popular 700 series. The new 724ce and its slightly smaller, grand concert–sized 722ce sibling are built with dramatically colored koa; ultra-thin, open-pore matte finishes; and elegant appointments. I checked out the 724ce and must say that Taylor has knocked it out of the park with this koa beauty.
Beautiful Inside and Out
With intense coloring ranging from light khaki sapwood to dark chocolate brown streaks, the koa used on the review guitar is beautiful enough to stop you in your tracks. But, as anyone who’s ever played an all-koa guitar can tell you, koa is more than just a visual feast. It’s an exceptional tonewood capable of a unique presence and timbre that can really highlight your music.
Some tone fiends describe all-koa guitars as sounding part mahogany and part maple, with lots of midrange warmth and rich tones that mature with playing. This certainly rings true for the 724ce, which possesses a sweet, warm voice with snappy and smooth highs that are more refined than most other koa guitars I’ve played—more on that in a bit.
From the stained maple pickguard to the body’s Indian rosewood binding and ebony truss-rod cover and headplate, natural materials and textures abound on the 724ce. The guitar’s light finish adds to the instrument’s organic, woody feel. The headstock and fretboard debut Taylor’s new mother-of-pearl fountain inlay, and a paua shell rosette lends a Pacific Island vibe.
The 724ce features a 16-inch-wide Grand Auditorium body, one of Taylor’s signature guitar shapes. Its proportions make for an all-purpose instrument that hits a sweet spot for strummers and fingerstyle players alike. The Grand Auditorium is fairly lightweight and very comfortable to cradle while sitting or standing (a button installed on the treble side of the neck heel makes it strap-ready). Its gently sloped Venetian cutaway is an attractive way to make room at the higher frets. Inside the body is Taylor’s signature V-Class bracing (see “Taylor Rolls the Dice—Again” in the May 2018 issue of AG).
The 25-1/2-inch-scale mahogany neck is classic Taylor: slim, sleek, and utterly playable. It’s capped with a West African ebony fingerboard, responsibly sourced, like all of Taylor’s ebony, from the company’s mill in Cameroon. A black Tusq nut matches the ebony, and at 1-3/4 inches wide, the neck’s proportions have a familiar and comfortable feel. The fretwork is perfect, a testament to an attentive setup and properly seasoned wood, with no unevenness or sharp fret ends to deal with, even during a late summer dry spell in Northern California. And, in the long run, it’s nice knowing that if the guitar ever needs a neck reset, Taylor’s genius neck-attachment-and-shim scheme will make that repair quick and affordable.
It’s impossible to say if it’s due to the proprietary bracing, meticulous construction, body shape, or carefully chosen woods, but the 724ce’s sound is more balanced to my ears than any other koa guitar I’ve played. With an impressive midrange and a tight low end that’s never mushy or boomy, it has the characteristic warmth and sweetness that comes with a hardwood-topped instrument. The guitar’s overall tone is crisp and dry, with a rich midrange that seems to connect the bass and treble notes into a single sound. There is exceptional low-end clarity, which is especially good for flatpicked bass note runs in standard tuning or fingerpicked parts in open tunings.
But the treble range is where the 724ce seems particularly special, from chords to single notes. Where many koa guitars can sound a little brittle and zingy on the high end, the guitar’s upper strings ring with a lacy high-end sweetness and a snappy, quick response that is also smooth and refined. To make a visual analogy, the 724ce’s treble response is bright and warm like an Edison bulb, compared to the harshness of a corner store’s LED lights that some other koa guitars project.
Something about the sound of this guitar kept sending me in different musical directions. I jumped from strumming 1970s soft-rock classics to slack-key fingerpicking in open G and D minor. Though I didn’t have any gigs during my time with the 724ce to test its amplified tone in a real-world setting, I plugged it in and confirmed that Taylor’s Expression System 2 electronics package is as good as I remembered. It’s accurate, responsive, and capable of delivering textured tones at high volume—which is all you can ever ask for in a pickup.
A Special Treat
If you’re a fingerpicker who wants a responsive guitar that not only feels great but delivers a very balanced tone, it’s worth seeking out the Taylor 724ce. It’s an exceptionally comfortable instrument with an easy-playing neck, a resonant feel whether fingerpicked or flatpicked, and a shape that doesn’t ask you to reach or stretch to get into position. At $3,499, the 724ce is a moderately expensive guitar, but from its balanced sound to its beautiful woods, it offers so much in return. Right from the first strum, it’s a joyful, rich-sounding instrument, but it’s a special treat knowing that the sound will get even richer as the koa gets played more and more.
BODY Grand Auditorium shape with Venetian cutaway; solid koa top, back, and sides; V-Class bracing; maple and black maple purfling with Indian rosewood binding; paua shell and Indian rosewood rosette; dark-stained figured maple pickguard; water-based matte finish
NECK 25-1/2″-scale tropical mahogany neck with scarf neck joint; 1-3/4″ black Tusq nut; 20-fret ebony fingerboard with 15″ radius and shell/mother-of-pearl fountain inlay; Taylor 18:1 sealed tuners with polished bronze finish; water-based matte finish
OTHER Taylor Expression System 2 electronics; Elixir Phosphor Bronze light gauge strings (.012–.053); brown hardshell case; limited lifetime warranty; available left-handed
PRICE $3,499 street
MADE IN United States
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.