For years, people continually asked Bob Taylor, “When are you going to come up with an electric guitar?”
Taylor’s answer was always, “Somewhere between never and when we come up with a guitar that’s actually unique.” That “somewhere” arrived in 2005, with the birth to the Taylor T5 Thinline Fiveway.
One’s first glance at an instrument is usually a telling moment, and everything about the way the T5 presents itself is seductive. The case’s vintage contour, faux-alligator texture, and heavy-duty hardware catches the eye. Lifting the lid, one is struck by two things – the sheer elegance of the guitar’s design and the intoxicating aroma of the woods. The T5’s sleek, hollow body is carved from maple with a shape inspired by Taylor’s Grand Auditorium. The neck is made of Tropical American mahogany with an ebony fretboard, and the guitar ships with Elixir electric strings, though it can use acoustic strings.
The T5 is available in Standard and Custom variants, both available with a spruce or figured maple top. The Custom is also available with a figured Hawaiian Koa top. Stylized f-holes enhance the guitar’s visage and the body’s natural resonance, making it all the more responsive. The only other difference is that the Standard has “micro dot” inlays and chrome Taylor tuners, while the Custom is fitted with gold Taylor machines and boasts the company’s exquisite Artist inlays.
The T5 is designed to provide players with an alternative to what many spend too much time doing onstage between songs – changing instruments. And despite how much you may love your acoustic, electric players usually begrudge having to lug one to a gig just to play on one or two songs. And finally, there’s the fact that traditional electric guitars don’t care for acoustic amps and acoustic guitars hate electric amps. But the T5 is comfortable with both; plug into an acoustic amp (or direct into a P.A.) for clear, articulate strumming and fingerpicking, or plug into your electric rig for everything from clean and cool hollowbody jazz tone to chicken pickin’ and on to fat, crunchy blues/rock overdrive.
The T5 is unique in terms of the mechanics of sound reproduction. It employs three pickups – a stacked humbucker in the bridge position, another hidden under the fretboard at the neck joint, and a Taylor Expression System sensor inside the body, midway between the saddle and the tail. The onboard preamp is controlled by three small knobs, one for volume, the other two for active boost and bass/treble cut. As the guitar’s name implies, a five-position switch toggles among the various pickup combinations.
To hear the T5’s electric-guitar tones, we fired up a tweed Fender Deluxe 1×12″ and POD XT Live. For the acoustic side, we used an SWR California Blonde, and fed signal to both rigs through an AB/Y box. We played a variety of styles, from soft fingerpicking to percussive strumming with a lot of palm muting, and the guitar responded very well to all of it. The five-way in the first position activates the neck pickup and body sensor, giving a punchy, sparkling tone. The next position disengages the body sensor, which softens the attack and rounds out the tone. This will be an adjustment – you’re playing what feels like a hollowbody electric (without modeling or digital sampling), yet hearing sounds normally associated with a dreadnought.
Of course, for electric players, the true test lies in how an electric/acoustic handles the electric aspect. We played dozens of familiar song passages, stomping repeatedly on the POD and experimenting with settings on the guitar itself and we just weren’t hearing what we wanted to hear. Then, as we were ready to concede that we weren’t going to, we remembered something Taylor product developed David Hosler said; “This guitar doesn’t replace your Les Paul, and it doesn’t replace your [Taylor] 810. But there’s so much music happening between these two points that this guitar just loves to live in!”
Of course! Our patches were all built around specific guitars. So we yanked all processing out of the chain, plugged the guitar straight into the tweed, and Oh yeah! Now we could hear the guitar’s true voice, its own electric colors.
At a full-band rehearsal, the T5 fit nicely into the mix – electric and acoustic – blending well and cutting through when needed. Then, at a five-hour acoustic Christmas gig, the T5 was the only one of three guitars that made the stage! In our case, the T5 found its six songs, and then some.
Taylor T5 Thinline Fiveway
Price $2,600 to $3,700 (retail).
This article originally appeared in VG‘s April 2006 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.