BY ADAM PERLMUTTER
Every year, in what is surely a feat of mass production, Taylor Guitars makes 130,000 guitars (more than anyone else), all of them consistently good, and some of them, like the new 914ce, sublime. That guitar, with its brawniness and deep resonance, not to mention its supreme playability, is a winning performer. Decked out with abalone, ebony, and koa trimmings, it’s got stunning looks to match.
Redesigned Inside & Out
Since Andy Powers (see Makers & Shakers in AG’s July 2015 issue) arrived at Taylor in 2012, the bright young luthier has been at work overhauling the company’s lines, one series at a time: first the 800 series, then the 600, and, most recently, the flagship 900 series. The 914ce is a Grand Auditorium model—Taylor’s most popular body style, smaller than a dreadnought, and intended to work equally well for flatpicking and fingerpicking—with a Venetian (or optional Florentine) cutaway and electronics.
At first glance, the revamped 914ce doesn’t look a whole lot different than the old model, but it’s received a comprehensive overhaul. The guitar’s woods have been recalibrated to optimal new thicknesses, the soundboard includes lighter bracing (though no less strong), and the back now sports unusual diagonal bracing (said to change the way the back interacts with the top) for enhanced resonance.
A hand-carved bevel, like those first used by William “Grit” Laskin and other modern luthiers, now graces the lower bass bout, for player comfort. Details not visually apparent are found in the use of protein glue on the bracing and bridge, which facilitates the best transfer of sound in these critical areas. Also in the service of sound, the new gloss finish is a paper-thin 3.5 mils—about 40 percent thinner than Taylor’s previous finish.
Befitting of an instrument in Taylor’s most luxurious series, the 914ce is made from a gorgeous selection of tonewoods, all solid—Sitka spruce for the top; Indian rosewood for the back and sides; and ebony for the fretboard, bridge, armrest, headstock overlays, heel cap, bridge pins, and bindings. Ebony, paired with koa, also makes an appearance on the binding throughout the guitar, and stunning layers of ebony, koa, and paua decorate the soundboard’s edges and are echoed in the rosette.
Other lavish appointments include Taylor’s new Ascension peghead inlay and a set of super fancy fretboard inlays, both in abalone. All-gold hardware, including Gotoh tuners and a neck-heel-mounted strap button, also contribute to the guitar’s elegance without feeling excessive. (For those who find the strap button obtrusive, the guitar can be ordered without one, at no charge.)
Taylor is known for its craftsmanship, and the 914ce’s build quality is unimpeachably excellent from stem to stern. There’s not a flaw to be found in the fretwork, gloss finish, inlay work, or the interior aspects. An anomaly or two would almost be welcome, though; those found on some high-end guitars are nice reminders of luthiers’ handwork.
Versatility Meets Playability
Out of the box, the 914ce is a great joy to play.Its neck is fast and slender, but it feels roomy, thanks to its 13/4-inch nut. (A nut width of 111/16 or 17/8 inches is available for a charge of $200.) All of the notes on all frets ring beautifully clear and sound consistent in their fullness. It’s almost too perfect—this guitar isn’t for someone playing the country blues, for example, which would benefit from a little sonic raggedness.
But the 914ce is well-suited to a range of styles. It sounds just as good for the most basic campfire strumming as it does for intricate fingerstyle jazz. The guitar has a remarkably wide dynamic range and terrific balance. The bass’s remarkable depth can be heard as well as felt in the chest, the mids are rich and warm, and the trebles are strong and clear, but not at all strident—in standard and a range of alternate tunings from DADGAD to open C.
The 914ce includes Taylor’s most recent version of its ES electronics, with the pickup’s piezo elements relocated from their customary position under the saddle to just behind it, to capture more of the saddle’s movement. Plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amp, the system sounds astonishingly natural when the three rubber, left-bout-mounted volume, bass, and treble knobs are set flat.
Taylor’s newly redesigned 914ce is a superfine modern guitar whose pristine sound is matched by its perfect build, smooth playability, and luxurious looks. At $5,000 street, it will no doubt have a select audience. Also, at that price point, the guitar is competing with handmade, luthier-built guitars tailored to individual players’ styles. That said, the 914ce represents a production model at its best, and is definitely worth aspiring to own.
Grand Auditorium shape with Venetian cutaway
Sitka spruce top
East Indian rosewood back and sides
Ebony bridge with micarta saddle
25.5-inch scale length
13/4-inch Tusq nut
Gold Gotoh 510 tuners
Satin finish, gloss on face and rear of headstock
S Elixir phosphor-bronze medium strings (.013–.056)
Expression System 2 electronics
Deluxe hard-shell case
$6,498 list; $4,999 street
Made in the United States
See it on Amazon.
Contributing editor Adam Perlmutter transcribes, arranges, and engraves music for numerous publications.