Price: $4,378 (list); $3,399 (street)
Of all the guitars in Taylor’s product line, the 814ce is one of the most popular. Most manufacturers are loath to fix something that isn’t broken, but Taylor went back to the drawing board and for their fortieth anniversary designed an all-new Taylor 814ce. While longtime Taylor fans might lament the demise of the original design, the new 814ce could be just the guitar for players who previously hadn’t considered Taylor as an option.
The 814ce is a “Grand Auditorium”-sized flattop with a Venetian cutaway for better upper-fret access. It uses solid Indian rosewood for back and sides, a solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany neck and heel, ebony fretboard and headstock overlay, maple fretboard binding, and Indian rosewood edge trim. The 814ce also includes Taylor’s new Expression System 2 built-in piezo pickup system. Unlike some pickup systems that call attention to themselves with their plethora of buttons, sliders, and winking lights, the Expression System 2 is quite unobtrusive, with just three small knobs on the upper bout giving away its presence.
One of the major changes on the new 814ce is its bracing scheme. Unlike most traditional designs with bracing running horizontally across the guitar, the braces on the 814ce run in a more diagonal direction. According to Taylor, this new bracing uses a parabolic/scalloped design originally developed by luthier Andy Powers for the Taylor Grand Orchestra body and then recalibrated for the Grand Auditorium shape.
Another big change for the new 814ce is the wood thicknesses for the body and top. These new specifications, Taylor claims, allow the body “to work in harmony with the bracing to bring greater efficiency of movement to the guitar.” Along with the new wood thicknesses, Taylor also uses a gloss finish that is 40 percent thinner, going from 6 mils to only 3.5 mils. Taylor also changed to “protein glues,” using modern fish glue for the braces and heated hide glue for the bridge-to-body connection.
When Taylor first began producing guitars many of their neck profiles seemed closer in shape and feel to an electric than an acoustic design. The 814ce feels more like an acoustic guitar than an electric, with a slightly oval profile that still has enough meat on its bones to feel substantial. The neck’s satin finish feels smooth, and makes sliding up the neck into upper positions easy.
The 814ce’s intonation is excellent. Unlike many acoustics that need to have the B string tuned several cents flat to sound right in a first-position G chord, the Taylor sounds right when tuned up to a full B. This is due in large part to its well-constructed compensated bridge. For its part, the Expression System 2 piezo pickup system is far less “quacky” than many other piezo systems out there. Guitarists will also like its three-knob controls with easy-to-feel centered detents allowing settings to be adjusted without looking at the knobs.
If I had to come up with one word to describe the sound of the new 814ce, it would be “responsive”; it reacts eagerly to even the lightest touch, yet unlike many guitars whose sound leaps out at you, the 814ce doesn’t get muddy when driven hard. And the 814ce’s sustain is excellent with the Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light strings that come with the guitar. Especially when playing single-note lines up the neck on the upper strings, the 814ce’s sustain rivaled the best acoustics I’ve played. The upper harmonics give the guitar’s sound a unique sheen that some guitarists would call “sparkling.” And while the top end is more extended than many acoustic guitars, its midrange and low frequencies give it enough weight and lower-frequency harmonic complexity so it doesn’t sound thin, wiry, or overly dry.
And at a practice session with an acoustic band, the 814ce impressed with its ability to cut through the mix. Whether used for big power chords or delicate fills the guitar’s ability to be heard makes it perfect for an ensemble situation. In short, the new Taylor 814ce is a superb musical tool, suited for virtually any musical situation where a professional or serious amateur guitarist needs a top-flight, carefully designed and constructed acoustic/electric instrument.
This article originally appeared in VG January 2014 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.