From the November/December 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar | By Emile Menasché
The American Dream is alive, well, and living near San Diego, at least if you’ve been dreaming of an affordable American-made, all-solid-wood Taylor guitar. Launched in the midst of the pandemic, Taylor says its new American Dream series was “born from adversity”—an effort to make an affordable guitar available in a year that’s been a nightmare for so many. Starting at $1,399 street, the new Dream’s price sits in between Taylor’s 200 and 300 series.
The line consists of two models. I tested the AD27, which has the somewhat uncommon combination of a mahogany top and sapele back and sides. Its sibling, the AD17, combines a spruce top with ovangkol back and sides. Both American Dream models have Taylor’s Grand Pacific body shape, and other sizes and shapes are planned for the line. The review model was purely acoustic but is available with Expression System 2 electronics for an additional $200.
The AD27 exuded a no-frills hardworking vibe from the moment I took it from its sturdy soft case. The materials include a mahogany top and neck and sapele back and sides; eucalyptus is used for the fingerboard and bridge. Some Taylors seem like they’re wearing fine silk threads, but this model looks and feels more a broken-in pair of jeans. Its coffee-colored finish and subtle but tasteful appointments look handsome together, and its acrylic faux pearl fretboard and headstock inlays are understated and attractive.
Like its more expensive brethren, the AD27 is very player-friendly. The neck has a generous 1.75-inch nut and a 20-fret fingerboard with a 15-inch radius and 25.5-inch scale length. Cut to Taylor’s standard shape, the neck boasts a “just right” feel that sits in the hand nicely and makes playing nearly effortless.
Even after traveling across country in a shipping box, the AD27 had low, buzz-free action right out of the case—and it stayed that way through some humid New York summer weeks. The intonation was excellent, and the tuning remained stable over long sessions. This is a guitar that wants to be played.
Conceived by Taylor master designer Andy Powers, the Grand Pacific is a round-shouldered variant of the traditional dreadnought that, according to the company’s website, “leverages the tone-shaping control” of Taylor’s V-Class bracing. This design is intended to provide a broader sound than previous Taylor dreadnoughts, with clear power and headroom. Without a direct comparison, it’s hard to assess how the Grand Pacific shape’s tone would differ from that of a dreadnought built of the same materials. But having played many Taylors over many years, I can say that the AD27 sounds unlike its company cousins—and in a really interesting way.
I think of a Taylor as relatively bright and articulate compared to, say, a Martin of the same size, shape, and tonewood combination. But the AD27’s tone is deeper than almost any acoustic I’ve played. It sounds thick and full—but not dull. Although the treble range sounds clear and articulate, it’s accompanied by a rich undertone that gives single notes a stamp of authority.
I’ve always loved mahogany as a tonewood, especially on large guitars where its sweet timbre has enough space to bloom. The AD27 seems to use it to the fullest advantage. And while it sits relatively low on the company’s price scale, the AD27 delivers on one of Taylor’s signature strengths—strong sustain, accompanied by a complex decay full of bright overtones. As a result, the AD27 went from test guitar to workmate for a documentary soundtrack I started composing last summer. Thanks to its play-me vibe, I wrote and recorded a number of cues with it, many of them featuring sparse solo guitar as background music. The instrument’s natural tone worked so well that no EQ was needed to get it to sit nicely under the film’s dialog and ambient background sounds.
If single notes and arpeggios ring sweetly, strummed chords can sound loud, massive, and robust. Physically and sonically, the AD27 was able to stand up to my very heavy right hand. It never lost composure or sounded strident—no matter how hard I strummed. Though some players may find that the lower midrange sounds a bit cluttered when strumming big chords, the balance between low and high strings was excellent. I found the extra thickness in the lower range made the guitar a strong platform for fingerpicking, while it was easy enough to tighten the lower mids by picking a bit closer to the bridge.
For weeks, I attacked the AD27 with everything in my arsenal: gentle melodies, aggressively bendy blues, jaunty gypsy jazz, Pete Townshend-esque strumming, bass-style snaps and pops, and country picking. The Taylor handled it all without complaint. It was also comfortable to play for long periods, something that hit home while recording the soundtrack. I finished each AD27 session with far less hand fatigue than usual.
When you factor in its $1,399 starting price, the American Dream series seems only more appealing. Taylor has managed to cut costs while preserving the quality you’d expect from a premium American-made instrument—and added a new voice to its guitar choir along the way. Even if you take price out of the equation, the AD27’s distinctive tone and easy playability make it worth a look.
BODY Grand Pacific body; mahogany top with V-Class bracing; sapele back and sides; eucalyptus bridge; Urban Sienna stain
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NECK Mahogany neck; 1-3/4″ nut width; 25.5″ scale length;
eucalyptus fretboard; Taylor nickel tuners; satin finish
OTHER D’Addario XT Phosphor Bronze strings (.013–.056); Taylor AeroCase; optional Expression System 2 electronics ($200); available left-handed
MADE IN USA
PRICE $1,399 street