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Over the years, Taylor Guitars has celebrated milestones in its history by releasing anniversary-model instruments, but to mark its 40th anniversary in business, the company has completely redesigned its popular 800 Series guitars.
Taylor had previously used anniversary models to introduce new features and innovations, but the changes, modifications and innovations on the new 800 Series instruments are the company’s most significant and extensive ever.
With Andy Powers taking over from Bob Taylor as the company’s main guitar designer, and with the introduction of David Hoseler’s revamped Expression System, this is nothing less than an entirely new generation of Taylor guitars. As the 814ce is the best-selling model in Taylor’s 800 Series, we decided to check out the new version for this review.
The 814ce retains its distinctive 16-inch Grand Auditorium body shape, 25 1/2¬–inch scale length, spruce/rosewood body, mahogany neck and ebony fretboard. However, just about everything else on the guitar has been changed. One of the most immediately noticeable differences is evident when you peer inside the sound hole. Instead of the usual horizontal ladder-pattern braces, the back is now braced with a distinctive slanted bracing pattern. The top bracing pattern has also changed, and the thickness of top and back is optimized specifically for the model. In addition, the finish is thinner, and the glues used to assemble the guitar are different. Taylor even collaborated with Elixir Strings on a custom-gauge set of strings to provide optimal tension.
Taylor’s Expression System electronics have become the favored choice of many performing and touring guitarists, but the new Expression System establishes a new standard of excellence for piezo pickups. The system’s three transducer sensors have been relocated from beneath the saddle to behind it to significantly ease downward pressure and capture more of the saddle’s natural movement. The controls remain a simple, easy-to-use set of volume, bass and treble knobs, inconspicuously mounted near the neck on the upper bass bout.
Even the model’s cosmetic changes are significant. The pickguard is now crafted from Indian rosewood instead of plastic, the fretboard inlay motif is entirely new, and nickel-plated tuners replace the previous gold-plated tuners. In addition, the ebony used for the fretboard is lightly marbled with light-brown swirls, which gives each guitar its own unique “fingerprint” and utilizes the materials from Taylor’s own ebony mill in Cameroon in a more sustainable manner.
Perhaps the biggest criticism of Taylor’s previous 814ce is that it was too perfect, with frequency response and an overall voice that was balanced across its entire range. The tone of the new 814ce delivers much more character and personality than before, with richer, warmer midrange, sweet and bell-like treble that caresses instead of cuts, and bass response that’s a little looser but not boomy. It remains a versatile, modern instrument that’s ideal for any type of playing—from delicate fingerstyle to aggressive pick-strummed rhythms—but its overall tonal character has a vintage allure similar to that of a prewar Martin OM or Gibson Advanced Jumbo.
As always, Taylor’s craftsmanship and attention to detail remain at the company’s high standards of excellence. The neck retains the thin profile and comfortable playability that Bob Taylor innovated early on in the company’s history, but the new profile almost has a worn-in feel, as if it has been played for a decade or so. The 814ce’s custom-gauge Elixir strings provide perfectly balanced, consistent tension from one string to the next, which is particularly welcome when flat-picking single-note lines as you don’t need to compensate your technique for overly tight or slinky strings.
List Price $4,378
Manufacturer Taylor Guitars, taylorguitars.com
Newly configured top and back bracing patterns combined with modified top and back thicknesses and a thinner finish result in warmer mids, pleasing highs and full bass.
The new Expression System features piezo elements placed behind the saddle to ease pressure and provide more natural-sounding amplified tones.
The Bottom Line
Featuring Taylor’s most comprehensive overall tone-enhancing refinements ever, the new 814ce is certain to elevate the model’s status as one of the most successful and satisfying modern flattop acoustic guitars.
For more information about Taylor's new 800 Series, visit taylorguitars.com.