Review: Taylor T5z Has Appeal For Electric Guitarists

This guitar has svelte contours, jazzy S-curve cutouts, and a slimline humbucking pickup near the bridge

Ten years after Taylor released its first “electracoustic” T5 model—which featured a streamlined body shape and pioneering onboard electronics—the company has introduced its latest update, the T5z. One glance leaves no doubt that this instrument is meant to appeal to electric guitarists—with svelte contours, jazzy S-curve cutouts, and a slimline humbucking pickup near the bridge. (A second humbucker is concealed under the top, near the neck, and an acoustic body-sensor pickup sits under the top as well.)

The T5z’s neck will feel familiar to any hand that has cradled a Gibson Les Paul, thanks to its 111/16-inch nut width and 12-inch fretboard radius. These dimensions make string bending a breeze, aided by the well-dressed jumbo frets. Both versions of Eric Clapton’s “Layla”—the amped-up original and his MTV Unplugged arrangement—would be right at home on this guitar.

A Convincing Voice

Acoustically, the T5z comes across clear and punchy, with a predominance of midrange frequencies. It speaks more like a classic jazz guitar than your typical flattop. This is not a surprise, as its parallel bracing pattern is similar to the bracing used in many archtop models. Chords ring warmly, with a slow decay. And the guitar responds dynamically to picking attack, so melodic lines can sing, shout, or sigh.

Though the T5z projects a fair bit of volume unplugged, it probably isn’t the right tool for a loud acoustic jam session. It could, however, make a perfect around-the-house acoustic for practicing or songwriting, and would be great for recording on any nice mic. (Though huge-sounding dreadnoughts can be wonderful instruments, guitars with more focused voices—such as the T5z—are often more useful in the studio, as they’re easier to capture and easier to place in the final mix.)


Plug & Play

Of course, the T5z is meant to be plugged in, offering a wide array of tones at the flick of its side-mounted five-way switch. Position 1 presents the neck humbucker along with the body-sensor system for natural acoustic sounds. (This is the only position susceptible to feedback at extreme volumes.) Positions 2 and 3 solo the neck and bridge humbuckers, respectively. Position 4 features both ’buckers in parallel mode (clearer tones), while 5 puts them in series (meatier tones). These settings can be tweaked to taste by adjusting the volume, treble, and bass control knobs on the guitar’s upper bout.

Whatever your sonic proclivities may be, the T5z can likely offer at least a couple of sounds that will speak to you. Its tones translate well through acoustic-oriented amps, electric guitar amps, PA systems, and direct recording. It plays nicely with effects as well, so you can run it through your favorite pedals.

Besides the Standard model I tested, the T5z is available in four other variations—Custom (with gold hardware and a flamed koa top), Pro (curly maple top), Pro Special Edition (“two-tone” quilted maple top), and Classic (mahogany top, satin finish).

Cosmetic variants aside, the T5z is a versatile instrument that seems destined to become a modern classic. Whether you’re a folk balladeer, goateed jazzbo, or actual rock star, it just may be the do-all guitar you’ve been seeking.


BODY: Slender hollow-body with Venetian cutaway; sitka spruce top; sapele back and sides; UV-cured polyester gloss finish.

NECK: Sapele neck and heel, affixed with Taylor’s T-Lock neck joint; ebony fretboard; 24 7/8-inch scale; length; 11 1/16-inch nut width; nickel Taylor tuners.

ELECTRONICS: Body-sensor acoustic pickup and two humbuckers; five-way selector switch

EXTRAS: Elixir Nanoweb electric-guitar strings (.011–.049); Taylor T5z hard-shell case; limited lifetime warranty

PRICE: $2,998 list/$2,299 street


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Adam Levy
Adam Levy

Adam Levy is a first rate sideman, singer-songwriter, educator, and journalist. Check out his excellent lessons in Play Guitar Like the Great Singer-Songwriters and String Theories.

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