Review: Taylor Guitars Builder's Edition K14CE

(Image credit: Taylor Guitars)

Toward the end of last year, there were some rumors that Taylor Guitars was in the midst of unveiling something truly groundbreaking in acoustic guitar design. The innovation, created by Taylor’s master guitar designer, Andy Powers, deceptively appeared as the stunningly beautiful Builder’s Edition K14ce acoustic, a top-of-the-line model that’s being reviewed here. But don’t get me wrong, this particular acoustic is not necessarily the innovation (even though it possesses plenty of visionary enhancements). That distinction belongs to Taylor’s brand-new patented V-Class bracing, which is found underneath the top of this meticulously crafted instrument.

While some of you might find this revelation somewhat banal, keep in mind that advancements in acoustic guitar bracing patterns have been almost nonexistent in the last 100 years. And whether you realize it or not, the bracing in an acoustic is incontrovertibly its sonic wellspring, which not only determines the instrument’s inherent volume projection, but also its effectiveness for sustain. So, considering all of that, Powers’ inventive V-Class bracing precisely creates an entirely new architecture and orchestration—or, if you will, refinement—under the top that produces an acoustic with far more volume and increased sustain, not to mention unlimited dynamic range. And, as a by-product of this new bracing pattern, simple and complex chords ring true with flawless intonation no matter where or how you voice them across the fretboard.

It’s not often an influential innovation comes along that is eye-opening, but here, I can genuinely say V-Class bracing, endowed in the Builder’s Edition K14ce acoustic, is indeed an astonishing and unprecedented game changer in acoustic design, performance and sound.

FEATURES Currently, V-Class bracing is featured on four new Taylor Grand Auditorium models (including this K14ce), all of which are premium editions; but fear not, Taylor plans on implementing their radical new V-Class architecture across their acoustic line in the near future. The Builder’s Edition K14ce, which was handmade by Powers, is a devoted work of art in bespoke craftsmanship and ergonomic design.

Beginning with a Grand Auditorium body style, the K14ce features Hawaiian koa back and sides combined with a Sitka spruce top that is torrefied (a roasting process to remove moisture that also darkens the top and ages the wood for tonal sweetness). Because this acoustic is a “Builder’s Edition,” it dials in exclusive appointments like a beveled armrest that alleviates stress points by putting your forearm in a more relaxed position for a comfortable playing experience. Adding to its thoughtful geometry, there’s also a sleekly contoured cutaway that weaves in a finger bevel, which allows the mahogany neck to flow seamlessly into the heel and soundboard, providing graceful access to upper-register notes on the fingerboard.

The K14ce displays an attractive Kona burst with a “silent” satin finish that curbs random noises when pressed against the body, a gorgeous koa/paua top and back trim and an intricately beautiful “Spring Vine” inlay on its West African ebony fingerboard. Other important features include a new black graphite nut, premium Gotoh 510 tuners and Taylor’s Expression System 2 electronics. To further ensure that this is a new beginning in the genesis of Taylor acoustics, a new guitar label was created with Powers’ signature inside the soundhole.

PERFORMANCE Words fail to capture the liveliness and nuanced feel of the Builder’s Edition K14ce because it is truly unlike any other acoustic I’ve come across, where individual notes sustain almost indefinitely and chords sound perfectly in tune irrespective of where I voice them. It’s really something to hear the exceptional balance playing the K14ce both loudly and softly, insomuch as the acoustic consistently translates the relationship between each string in harmonious detail and immaculate intonation without choking any string’s specific frequency.

Besides the overall beauty of the guitar and player-friendly ergonomics, it projects a sweetened response and is deeply resonant, making every musical passage sound more robust. Taylor’s ES 2 electronics sound outstanding when playing live, but the acoustic absolutely sounds exquisite when it’s close miked. I believe Taylor’s Builder’s Edition K14ce—with its V-Class architecture—is an original and will be considered a milestone in the evolution of instruments that push the boundaries of musical expression.

MANUFACTURER: Taylor Guitars,

● Taylor’s brand-new V-Class bracing drastically increases volume and sustain while improving intonation across the whole fingerboard, offering an enhanced playing experience.

● The V-Class bracing found in this K14ce model allows notes to be in pure alignment with each other, creating a uniformly harmonious and in-tune relationship when chording.

THE BOTTOM LINE The Taylor Builder’s Edition K14ce is in a class by itself, not only for its impeccable craftsmanship and out-of-this-world tone, but for its revolutionary V-Class bracing that will forever change the way you hear and play an acoustic.

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Paul Riario

Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.