Taylor Big Baby

Acoustic bargain of the millennium
Acoustic bargain of the millennium

When I review a guitar or amp for Vintage Guitar, the manufacturer usually sends a “loaner” to evaluate for a set period of time… say, 30 to 60 days.

With Taylor’s Big Baby acoustic, however, I broke all the rules and took a different approach – I bought that sucker right off the rack!

A few weeks ago, I tooled over to the local music mega-mart thinking I needed a better acoustic. This is because I’ve been recording fingerstyle pieces using condenser microphones, rather than using an acoustic/electric’s piezo pickup (for recording acoustics, mics almost always sound better than internal pickups).

As such, I wanted a guitar with a full-bodied tone, nice bass, interesting mids, and a clear (but not annoying) high-end. I tried out a few acoustics, unimpressed as usual, then grabbed Taylor’s Big Baby, the older sibling of the company’s popular superb travel guitar, the Baby Taylor. Needless to say, I was finally impressed.

Compared to other guitars in the under-$500 range, the Big Baby dominated the pack. From the get-go, this guitar appealed to me with its big, resonant tone, despite its slightly smaller 15/16 size. One reason for this resonance, I presume, is because the guitar is very light and has a bolt-on neck.

Think about how various old Fenders, Gibsons or Danelectros (Mustangs, Les Paul Juniors, and the like) have a lively twang and spank that defy explanation, unlike over-built modern electrics with neck-thru-body designs and tone-sucking tremolos. Same goes with the Big Baby: instead of being over-built like a tank, it has just enough pieces to make it work and, obviously, its X-braced Sitka spruce top is neither over-braced nor lacquered. It really moves some air.

If you’re like me – more comfortable playing a Strat than an acoustic dreadnought – the Big Baby’s neck is one you’ll really enjoy. It’s got a flat neck, making for a fast, smooth ride. Speedy runs are no problem, especially if you use the electric lead-guitarist’s trick of tuning your acoustic down a whole step; remember Van Halen’s “Spanish Fly?” Eddie borrowed producer Ted Templeman’s Ovation nylon-string and dropped it down to D-G-C-F-A-D. No wonder he was playing so damn fast! But I digress.

The Taylor sports a Sapele laminate back and sides, spruce top with laser-etched soundhole rosette, American mahogany neck, headstock overlay made out of Lexan (a kind of sturdy plastic), and a 15″ radius ebony fingerboard with 20 frets and pearloid dots. One thing Taylor corrected from its smaller Baby version was to put side-position dots on the edge of the fingerboard. Nice move.

So is there anything wrong with the Big Baby? Not for me – again, I bought it lock, stock, and barrel. If you’re particular about tone, however, you might notice it has a pronounced midrange, i.e. it’s a little more “nasal” than many other acoustics. I like that sonority myself, but that’s a subjective call; use your own ears. Also remember that it’s slightly smaller than full-size; great if you’re an electric player (like me) who feels uncomfortable with big acoustics, but less so if you prefer holding a full-sized guitar.
Still, the Big Baby is an amazing value. I even told the salesman to keep the $40 soft case and simply walked out of the store cradling that Big Baby in my arms. Sweet.

Taylor Big Baby
Type of Guitar Acoustic dreadnought.
Features Sapele back and sides, spruce top, laser-etched soundhole rosette, American mahogany neck, Lexan headstock overlay, ebony fingerboard with pearloid dots.
Price $429 retail.
Contact Taylor, 1980 Gillespie Way, El Cajon, CA 92020, 619-258-1207, taylorguitars.com.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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