Review: Taylor’s Flagship 814ce Builder’s Edition Sees New Boutique-Approved Variations

With its perfectly dressed frets, spot-on neck relief, excellent action, and smooth joints and edges, the build quality on the 814ce is simply unimpeachable.

Often referred to as Taylor’s flagship acoustic-electric, the abalone-adorned, spruce and rosewood 814ce has become a modern classic, the supreme example of a grand auditorium cutaway for many guitarists. Interestingly, it only recently received the Builder’s Edition treatment that master luthier Andy Powers has applied to models like the 324ce and 816ce in recent years. 

But that’s not the real surprise about the new 814ce Builder’s Edition. Rather, what might catch some Taylor enthusiasts off guard is that the guitar’s top is made not of the customary two pieces, but four—the first time that the company has done this with spruce—a commendable move given dwindling tonewood supplies. 

Taylor 814ce Builder’s Edition full body view

I auditioned the Builder’s Edition and found the build quality and materials to be top-notch, the playability excellent from the first fret to the 20th, and the sound compact in the low end, rich in the mids, and smooth and velvety—rather than Taylor’s typical bright and coppery—in the treble voice. 

The Design and Build

Powers’ method for the soundboard construction is a kind of doubled book-match—four pieces, rather than the single split pair, sliced from the same chunk of Adirondack spruce and joined with classic mirroring to retain the wood’s distinctive I-beam grain. It’s worth noting that Adirondack spruce (aka red spruce), used in many vintage steel-string guitars, is prized for its stiffness and headroom, but Taylor and other large makers far more commonly build with the Sitka variety that is much easier to source these days. 


The 814ce Builder’s Edition has other notable new features, including a beveled Venetian cutaway (echoing the armrest’s contour), antique gold Gotoh 510 tuning machines, and a tastefully subtle Kona edgeburst finish on the back and sides—all of which make for a striking variation on the classic model. These are the sort of upgrades that, while adding roughly $500 to the regular 814ce’s $4,000 sticker price, are often seen on boutique instruments in the five-figure range. Not surprisingly coming from Taylor, the new design is meticulously realized. With its perfectly dressed frets; spot-on neck relief; excellent action with zero apparent buzzing; and snug, smooth joints and edges in every part of the instrument, the build quality on the review model is simply unimpeachable. 

Taylor 814ce Builder’s Edition back view

Feel and Sonics

The neck carve on the 814ce Builder’s Edition is stunningly playable, with a perfectly light satin finish for smooth fretting-hand sailing. The 1-3/4–inch Tusq nut supports a string spacing broad enough for bigger hands, and a very comfortable 15-inch fretboard radius makes bluegrass and acoustic rock single-note runs a breeze and helps you keep those open strings ringing as you carry open shapes up the neck. 

Indeed, it’s well up the neck, past the 14th-fret neck joint, where the model’s smooth cutaway and heel really pay off. Not only are single notes and double-stops effortless to fret, but triads and tetrachords are suddenly far more within grasp than you’ll find on a traditional cutaway. 

While I didn’t have the regular 814ce, with its two-piece Sitka spruce top, at hand for comparison, the Builder’s Edition may lack a bit of the sustain and warmth one associates with Sitka. I would have liked to hear a bit more boom right out of the box, but to be fair, Adirondack is generally thought to take a bit longer to open up and reach its full sonic potential. 

Perhaps by virtue of its smallish body, I found the test model’s sound a bit bottom-light and compact for full-throated strumming in the country, bluegrass, and folk idioms. That said, the guitar seems to tip its hat to the mellower Grand Pacific introduced several years ago, as well as other newer V-Class-braced guitars that have deliberately moved away from that characteristic ’90s Taylor zing and those pleasing upper partials. This makes the new 814ce a fine fingerpicker’s guitar, with a smooth top end and sculpted midrange that begs for a thumbpick approach. With its focused tonal range, the instrument is ideal for steel-string takes on bossa nova accompaniment, British fingerstyle, and jazz comping, and I loved its big, round midrange for ripping single-note lines and double-stops.


Outfitted with Taylor’s well-voiced Expression System 2 electronics, the guitar is clearly designed to be gig-ready, and its tonal characteristics change somewhat when you plug into a fine acoustic amp like a VHT True Acoustic 60. The low end pops a lot more, and its compactness means you’re less likely to have to combat woofy feedback and notes “riding” when you hold them. The guitar also has a sultry high-midrange that boasts a pleasing smoothness, making it less likely that you’ll need to invoke your preamp/DI’s notch filter. 

Taylor 814ce Builder’s Edition soundhole closeup

The Verdict

The 814ce Builder’s Edition plays remarkably, even stunningly well. It is built with premium woods and top-flight hardware and appointments, and has a well-sculpted midrange that should sit very nicely in any live country, Americana, or rock mix. But perhaps most important, Taylor Guitars has long prized innovation and sustainability, and the 814ce Builder’s Edition carries those priorities proudly, perhaps even pointing the way to the future of the steel-string acoustic guitar and its construction.


BODY Grand auditorium size; four-piece Adirondack spruce top with V-Class bracing; Indian rosewood back and sides; beveled cutaway; West African ebony bridge with Micarta saddle; ebony bridge pins with abalone dots; rosewood pickguard; abalone rosette; gloss finish

NECK Neo-tropical mahogany with scarf joint; 25-1/2″ scale length; 1-3/4″ Tusq nut; West African Crelicam ebony fretboard; mother-of-pearl inlays; 20 frets; antique gold Gotoh 510 tuners (21:1 ratio); satin finish


OTHER Taylor ES2 electronics; D’Addario XS coated phosphor bronze strings (.012–.053); deluxe hardshell case; available left-handed

MADE IN United States

PRICE $4,499 street


Acoustic Guitar magazine cover for issue 344

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

James Rotondi
James Rotondi

James Rotondi is a guitarist, journalist, and critic.

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  1. Take off the “e” (and make it without the horrid electronics) and you’ve got yourself something to tout. In my honest opinion, after buying/trying two new Taylor guitars with ES2, the Expression System is poop in the punchbowl and ruins a really nice guitar.