Hands-On Review:Taylor 100 and 200 Series Acoustic Guitars
Taylor 100 and 200 Series Acoustic Guitars
Precision production and heavenly tone at a way-down-to-earth price.
By Nadine Brockmeir
Taylor has tooled up their precision technology to produce two lines of guitars that combine flawless construction, select woods, and revolutionary design for that inimitable genuine Taylor tone with a very friendly price tag. The 100 and 200 Series guitars give budget-constrained players an opportunity to experience Taylor's unique sound and satin playability.
When I was eleven, my older brother traded his motorcycle for a Taylor dreadnought. I was green with envy. Of course I couldn't play a note. But it was such a beautiful instrument and my brother made it sound so sweet I wanted it badly. I used to take it out and try to play a few chords when he wasn't around. That was the start of my musical career. It was 13 years and seven day jobs before I could afford a Taylor of my own.
Now that I've played the Taylor 110, 210, and 214 models, I'm kind of irked that they didn't come out with them when I was in college playing the local coffee houses. The same money in those days bought me a clunky beater that sounded OK but had such terrible action I couldn't play bar chords after the first three songs. If you're still not rich and have been waiting to get your hands on a really excellent guitar, your time has come.
21st century luthiery
In 1990 Bob Taylor's passion for precision drove him to incorporate computer-controlled milling machines into his California workshop. This enabled his team of master luthiers to create ever-more sophisticated construction processes, using machinery to do perfectly what human hands will invariably do imperfectly. The result is a level of accuracy in manufacture unmatched by any other luthier.
With the 100 and 200 Series guitars, Taylor has put all this technical manufacturing experience to innovative use. They've invested the lion's share of skilled luthiery up front in setting up the largely automated production lines. This saves labor and results in guitars that are very well made but not very expensive. Musician's Friend sent me three guitars to review: the 110 Dreadnought, the 210 Dreadnought, and the 214 Grand Auditorium.
The first thing that struck me about this guitar was its light weight and natural feel. Its great resonance comes from an organic unity of structure. Its feather weight is made possible in part by the sapele back, which is deeply arched to avoid the need for back bracing.
The mahogany neck features a great-looking and smooth-playing satin finish. The bridge sports Taylor's distinctive curvaceous design and adds visual appeal. The bookmatched solid Sitka spruce top resonates brilliantly and shines particularly for fingerpicking. The spruce on the guitar I received for review is gorgeously figured, one might even call it flamed.
One of the most unique features of this guitar—and all modern Taylor guitars—is the neck joint. While it appears to be a normal set-neck joint that feels exceptionally tight and resonant, it is actually a unique bolt-on system—the New Technology neck joint. The neck and fretboard comprise a single unit that is bolted to the body with a locking "interference" fit that's machined to a thousandth of an inch and uses deliberate tension between the parts to create phenomenal transference of vibration. The advantage is that there's zero fretboard warpage at the joint and the neck angle can be adjusted with extreme precision.
210 and 214—affordable luxury
The 210 Dreadnought and 214 Grand Auditorium are identical in construction except for body shape. Aside from their price tags, these are premium guitars in every way, starting with select woods. The bookmatched solid Sitka spruce tops feature very fine-grained spruce that sports a satin finish to make the wood really pop visually. I don't know whether the tops on these guitars are representative, but they're both impressively figured—unusual for spruce.
Sides and back of solid sapele lend warmth and clarity to the tone generated by that gorgeous top wood. Sapele resembles mahogany, but this stuff is more beautiful, with a pronounced and radiant grain. The thick fretboards, like the headstock overlays and bridges, are solid ebony with a little variegation in the color for a very exotic look. The ivoroid logo headstock inlay is, of course, perfect. It is carved by a computer-controlled laser, no doubt.
The black top and back binding plus heelcap are likewise flawless. In fact I couldn't find a single manufacturing flaw in any of these guitars. The tropical American mahogany necks have a very comfortable profile and are set up with low action and no buzzing. They are very easy on my smallish left hand. One slick feature I like on all Taylors is the tiny bevel on the edges of the fretboards. This provides a very smooth feel and clean visual lines.
The expansive top on the 210 Dreadnought yields a loud, full, and punchy tone with the characteristic Taylor brilliance and tightness. If you play a lot without a bassist, this guitar's fuller low-end tones would be a good fit.
For my stage act—a five-piece with bass, percussion, another guitar, and violin—I found that the 214 Grand Auditorium's brighter tone really cut and made its own space in the mix. The tone is extremely well defined without being tinny. I tried it onstage and in my home studio. The results were great in both contexts. The 214's narrow waist is very comfortable for me as I normally play seated and it rests easily on my thigh.
All in all, I'm very favorably impressed by Taylor's 100 and 200 Series guitars. Rather than going for flashy looks, Taylor has focused on the two critical elements in a guitar—tone and playability. As it happens, the guitars look great, too—a result of elegant design, very good woods, and flawless construction, rather than flamboyant appointments. These guitars are supremely playable, great sounding, sharp looking, and very reasonably priced. After a long and distinguished record of success, Taylor has hit it out of the park again.
Features & Specs:
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