Apr 6, 2001
Popular Products in Musical InstrumentsThe Bottom Line You really can't lose with Taylor guitars. Their reputation is well earned and they are worth the price.
When you start investing over 1000 bucks into a single guitar, you should start becoming very picky about what you want. Guitars at this price level should deliver the goods in the tone as well as physical feel departments. Taylors are well known as one of the elite guitar manufacturers in the world. Is their reputation deserved?
The short answer to that question is an unreserved YES! The hype surrounding Taylors products, as well as the large number of "unplugged" artists who currently use Taylor guitars is proof that there is something special about these instruments. And with that kind of quality, you get a big price-tag.
The first thing you notice when you are shopping for professional quality accoustics is the differences in physical appearance between brands. Gibsons tend to be covered in mother-of-pearl and can be quite lovely. Alvarez-Yairi also seems to put a lot of effort into making their guitars look good, with glossy sheens and lots of inlay work. Taylors, on the other hand, look relatively plain. Staying within the 2000-2500 dollar price range, you will find matte surfaces on the mahogany necks, very little inlay work, an unassuming logo on the head, etc. Low to middle end Taylors are extremely unassuming. Almost every guitar brand (with the exception of Martin) has a flashier look.
This is a good thing, however, because I soon realized that the money you would spend on a Guild's inlay art is invested directly into Taylor's tone. Visually, the guitar is plain, but the sound will turn heads. The "grand auditorium" size Taylors have a bright, ringing, crystal tone with a nice balance between the bass and treble strings. Most will come with onboard equalizers and pickups which are superior to "in the hole" pickups. Taylors tend to be *very* light, and feel very delicate in your hands. Try hefting a Taylor and a Guild and you'll see the difference in weight. In Taylors, this translates into a much more responsive resonant body which seems to give it the vibrant tone that all guitar players dream of.
The real question at this price range boils down to this: Taylor or Martin? There is no substitute. Taylors have some advantages over Martin in key areas that may sway your purchase. Martins are wonderful instruments with a century-long history of quality. They compare very favorably with Taylors on the tone department. The difference is that many Martins do not come with onboard electronics. The Martin tradition is for live, unamplified playing. Taylors are built with more of an eye towards amplification and recording. The Taylor guitar is the best studio guitar around because they can be plugged directly into studio consoles and sound marvelous. With an unamplified Martin, you would have to invest a great deal of money into microphones.
In choosing high end accoustic guitars, you must decide what *you* want to do with the instrument. If you want a fancy guitar covered in mother-of-pearl artwork, look into Gibsons. If you want to play a lot of unamplified folk and country music, Martin is probably your choice. But for the average guitar player who needs flexibility and quality, Taylors are the first choice of most. They are versatile, well built, and have stellar tone even without amplification.