The great master pin-up artist Alberto Vargas allegedly preferred to work with models of short and small stature, as he thought that their proportions looked more voluptuous, full, and balanced than those of bigger, taller women.
I happen to feel the same way, not just when it comes to pin-up girls, but also guitars. My favorite guitars for playing fingerstyle, or anytime when I want full, balanced, and—yes—voluptuous tone, are small-body instruments with 12-fret necks.
Taylor’s Grand Concert models are their smallest full-size guitars, and it just so happens that a few Grand Concert models are also the only Taylor guitars that the company builds with 12-fret necks. The new Taylor 612e 12-Fret model benefits from design details that master luthier Andy Powers developed when he recently revoiced Taylor’s entire 600 Series and dramatically changed the way guitarists view maple-body acoustic guitars.
Powers made so many refinements to the 600 Series and this new 12-fret version of the 612 that it could be considered an entirely different instrument than any previous Taylor 612 guitar model.
The Taylor 612e 12-Fret provides a nice balance of classic and modern features. The slotted headstock, large round soundhole centered just above the slimmest curves of the guitar’s waist, 24 7/8–inch scale length, and bridge placement near the center of the lower bout section are all characteristics common to many classic 12-fret flattop guitars. Taylor also adds modern flourishes with the built-in Expression System 2 pickup and electronics. I also can’t think of many 12-fret small-body guitars with maple back and sides, which puts the 612e into a class all its own.
The materials used for the construction are stunning. The Sitka spruce top is torrefied (a heat treatment that essentially pre-ages the top) to provide optimum resonance and stable performance from day one. The back and sides are gorgeously figured maple that is given a rich, brown luster thanks to its “Brown Sugar” stain, and the neck is made from hard rock maple to provide enhanced strength and stability. The body has Taylor’s ultra-thin 3.5-mil gloss finish, which provides responsiveness similar to raw wood while still protecting the wood. The fretboard and headstock backstrap are ebony, and both feature Taylor’s ivoroid wing inlays.
While the Taylor 612e 12-Fret delivers all of the tonal benefits of a small-body, 12-fret flattop, such as exceptional balance across its entire frequency range, crisp note-to-note definition, and sweet upper-midrange harmonic resonance, it also offers a few benefits that you won’t find anywhere else. The maple body, bridge placement, and advanced performance bracing with relief rout allow this guitar to project with volume output comparable to much larger guitars, and its midrange is surprisingly full and robust, with an assertive voice that is perfect for recording as well as solo fingerstyle performers who want their melodies to remain prominent. This is the most sweet and melodious Taylor guitar I’ve ever played, and thanks to its absolutely perfect fretwork, medium-low action, and comfortable string tension it was a joy to play for hours at a time.
Generally when a guitar’s natural acoustic tone is this sublime, its amplified tone pales in comparison, but that is not the case here thanks to the Expression System 2. The pickup’s behind-the-saddle sensors are more dynamically responsive than typical under-saddle piezo pickups, providing natural warmth and attack with no harsh overtones. I kept the tone controls dialed to the center (flat) setting as the pickup and preamp did such a good job of capturing the 612e’s natural acoustic tone that further adjustment really wasn’t necessary.
LIST PRICE $4,398
MANUFACTURER Taylor Guitars, taylorguitars.com
•The 12-fret neck, bridge placement, slotted headstock, large soundhole, and advanced performance bracing deliver balanced response across the entire frequency range.
•The built-in Expression System 2 pickup and electronics produce warm, natural-sounding tone.
THE BOTTOM LINE Offering the perfect balance of classic tone and modern performance, the Taylor 612e 12-Fret offers discriminating fingerstyle players a highly refined instrument that performs equally well in the studio and on stage.