Review: Taylor Guitars 618e — Video


Maple is the tonewood of choice for the back and sides of most acoustic archtop and jazz guitars, but relatively few flattop guitar models have maple bodies.

Part of the reason is that attributes like impressive volume projection, bright treble and exceptional individual note definition that make maple ideal for an archtop are not always ideal for traditional flattop acoustic tones. However, these problems are less the fault of the materials and more due to construction techniques.

Simply put, bracing patterns and other construction details that work fine with rosewood or mahogany backs and sides aren’t always ideal when the back and sides are made of maple.

Maple has enjoyed popularity as a tonewood for jumbo flattops, but most players generally prefer these instruments for strumming loud rhythms and little else (which is why maple jumbos have been the flattop of choice for players from Elvis Presley to Pete Townshend). Taylor’s 618e Grand Orchestra model can be a big, bold and loud sound cannon that is certainly ideal for these applications, but it’s much more well-rounded, sweeter and warmer sounding as well thanks to construction refinements developed by master builder Andy Powers. As a result, it’s one of the most versatile jumbo flattop acoustics available on the market today.

FEATURES Measuring 16 3/4 inches across the widest part of the lower bout and five inches deep, the 618e is a big guitar indeed, but thanks to its slim upper bout and surprisingly light weight it’s not unwieldy or uncomfortable to play. In addition to maple back and sides, materials include a torrefied Sitka spruce top, hard rock maple neck, striped ebony pickguard and ebony fretboard, bridge and headstock overlay. The nut is Tusq and measures 1 3/4 inches wide, and the saddle is made of micarta. The ebony/grained ivoroid/abalone rosette and grained ivoroid winged fretboard inlays give the 618e upscale appearance that is classic and understated yet undeniably deluxe.

The neck has a 25 1/2–inch scale, 20 frets and a slim, somewhat flat C-shaped profile that is very comfortable to play. The ultra-thin gloss finish, which measures 3.5 mils or less and was introduced last year on Taylor’s 800 series guitars, is now featured on this model as well, and, in conjunction with the protein glues used for the 618e’s construction, minimizes damping and enhances resonance. The back and sides are also finished with a thin, hand-rubbed “Brown Sugar” stain that is a rich, milk chocolate brown color.

Taylor also outfitted the 618e with their acclaimed new Expression System 2 electronics. Controls consist of side-mounted master volume, tone and bass knobs, and the piezo pickup crystals are actually located behind the saddle instead of directly underneath it to provide warmer, more natural-sounding acoustic tone when amplified. Taylor also increased the output gain of the preamp to make the system more compatible with mixing consoles, mic preamps and other amplification gear.

PERFORMANCE The best word to describe the sound of classic maple-body jumbo flattops is “donut,” as the middle is basically empty. However, the Taylor 618e delivers rich, warm and fat midrange thanks to Andy Powers’ newly developed back bracing profile—an important feature that many flattop builders ignore or overlook. The torrefied top also helps by providing the responsive dynamics and mellow tonal characteristics of an aged top. While the attack is still brilliant and fast, it’s not harsh like many maple jumbo flattops can be. With its impressive volume output, ideal balance across the entire frequency range, reverb-like resonance and stellar individual note definition, the 618e is the acoustic guitar equivalent of a grand piano. It’s the perfect choice for guitarists who prefer to play unplugged but want more tonal complexity than the average jumbo flattop offers.

Taylor’s Expression System 2 ensures that all of the 618e’s finest natural acoustic attributes are retained when the guitar is amplified. There’s really no need for the multi-band graphic EQ sliders found on most other acoustic-electrics as the guitar already sounds good on its own, and the piezos capture the guitar’s natural sound in impressive detail. Should you need a little extra bite for playing rhythm in a band or a touch more bass for added warmth when playing solo fingerstyle, the single tone knob should meet the needs of most players.

LIST PRICE $3,798.00
MANUFACTURER Taylor Guitars,

A new back bracing profile and the torrefied Sitka spruce top enhance midrange and resonance, making the 618e sound fuller than other jumbo flattops.

The ultra-thin finish measures less than 3.5 mils thick, allowing the tonewoods to vibrate with maximum dynamics and responsiveness.

The maple back and sides feature a hand-rubbed “Brown Sugar” stain that provides the warm appearance of mahogany or rosewood.

Taylor’s Expression System 2 incorporates piezo crystals mounted behind the saddle instead of directly underneath it to provide more natural acoustic sound.

THE BOTTOM LINE With its ample volume output, balanced frequency response, thick midrange, and sweet resonance, the Taylor 618e is by far the most versatile jumbo maple flattop ever made.

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Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.