Hands-On Review:Taylor Solidbody Classic SC Single-Coil Electric Guitar
Noiseless single-coil sound with a difference
By Dan Day
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer
That sound you just heard is the other shoe dropping at Taylor Guitars. The first shoe was the introduction in late 2007 of their first three solidbody guitars with humbuckers: the Standard, the Classic, and the Custom. The new Taylor Solidbody Classic SC—as in single-coil—will be a real eye-opener for players who prefer the humbucker sound and think they know what a noiseless single-coil guitar will sound like.
Taylor designers David Hosler and Brian Swerdfeger told me they had been working on the single-coil pickup design throughout the development of the Solidbody series. The challenge: come up with a new single-coil pickup design with a great sound that inspires great playing. Like the design of their acoustic guitars, the fundamental process wasn't calendar- or market-driven; it was discovery-driven—the pickups were done when they were done. That meant lots of experimentation with basic pickup components—magnets, coils, pole pieces—looking at them in new ways, taking nothing for granted. Lots of "What if we did this?" and "Hey, that was cool."
Brian says it was important to maintain the vintage single-coil sound that players love, while improving on it. Other pickup manufacturers would experiment with a heavier wire gauge or a different number of windings on the coil. To Taylor, that's the same as trying to improve a car engine by changing the tires. Instead it's important to work on the engine. The key was understanding how the magnetic energy—or flux—of the pickups could be focused and shaped by the positioning and composition of the magnets. Most pickup magnets are alnico, ceramic, or in some cases, samarium cobalt. Taylor chose sintered neodymium magnets which can be molded to create a flux pattern achieving the desired power output.
The more they experimented, the more they learned. As David recounts, a breakthrough in creating an original design occurred when an assistant came to him and explained how he "bent this and twisted that." He contrasts this tweaking of a component in different ways to the ancient Mayans who apparently didn't think to turn their round grinding stones on their edges to make them into wheels.
Strictly speaking, these aren't single-coil pickups. To make their pickups noiseless, Taylor uses two coils to produce what is technically called "common mode rejection." But, as David and Brian are careful to point out, these are neither humbucking pickups nor a stacked design. Brian says as soon as you say "stack" everyone thinks of the stacked pickups from the early '80s. Although those pickups were humbucking and produced a fatter sound, they gave up the sweet top end tone that players love in single-coils. The Taylor pickups are noiseless without compromising the single-coil sound.
When I ran the Solidbody Classic SC through a well-known tube amp, I could immediately hear the distinctive single-coil tone. Their higher output more easily pushed the amp into overdrive. Backing off the gain produced a breathy top end with lots of airiness, yet not as dense as the 3/4-size Style 1 humbuckers on the Classic. The low end was full, tight, and articulate with plenty of percussive punch when needed. The five-way selector offered the neck, middle, and bridge pickups solo (1, 3, and 5), while settings 2 and 4 provided the quacky "in-between sound" of either neck/middle or middle/bridge combinations.
Other than noiseless single-coil pickups, the Classic SC has the same features as the Solidbody Classic. The Classic SC has a single cutaway with beveled back and sides for more comfort and easy access to higher frets. The body wood is swamp ash topped with a retro trans white, trans red, black, or natural finish along with a crushed pearl pickguard. The distinctive Taylor neck is joined to the body with a single bolt T-lock™ neck joint. The single bolt pulls the neck down into the body and back toward the bridge guaranteeing accuracy and intonation with the look and feel of a set neck. The unique Taylor-designed bridge has an elegant smooth aluminum surface with a clean, futuristic look. The saddles are locked down so they won't move when the guitar is transported. The knobs have a lip edge for easy volume swells and come with a set of O-ring rubber grips that can be slipped on over the knobs for extra-sweaty fingers.
Strangely familiar yet totally new
With its own unique tonal flavor, the Classic SC will serve well as a genre-hopping instrument for anything from jazz, pop, and country to all shades of rock including 'billy, classic, punk, alternative, shred, and any style combination you can come up with. Now with noiseless single-coils, the Taylor solidbody electrics are fun to play and will inspire you to new levels of performance and creativity.
Features & Specs
- Body style: beveled single cutaway with contoured back
- Body wood: solid swamp ash
- Scale length: 24-7/8" Taylor short scale
- Neck joint: single bolt T-lock neck joint
- Neck wood: maple
- Fretboard: rosewood
- Neck shape: traditional Taylor neck
- Frets: 22
- Fretboard radius: 15"
- Bridge: aluminum Taylor-designed
- Pickups: 3 Taylor-designed noiseless single-coils
- Pickup control: 5-way selector
- Controls: master volume, master tone
- Tuners: Taylor
- Inlays: dot
- Headstock overlays: ebony
- Pickguard: crushed pearl
- Finish: trans white (shown), trans red, black or natural
- Case: Taylor rectangular hardshell