Of all the acoustic guitars I’ve come across, one of my favorites is the Pallet Guitar. More than 20 years ago, Bob Taylor constructed this legendary acoustic entirely from oak pallets and scrap two-by-fours found at the back of his factory, and which still resides at Taylor Guitars.
The impetus behind the guitar was to demonstrate that the builder’s craftsmanship is just as integral to a great sounding guitar as the wood used. Fast forward to the present, and it seems this notion has grown some “green” new legs.
Bob Taylor, along with master builder Andy Powers, and director of natural resource sustainability, Scott Paul, decided to explore responsible wood sourcing from trees that were being removed in the asphalt jungles and suburbs of Southern California.
After partnering with a company called West Coast Arborists, Inc., who provide tree maintenance and management for municipalities throughout California and Arizona, they stumbled upon a species of wood known as Shamel ash that met their demanding standards of a musical-grade tonewood.
Dubbed “Urban Ash” to draw attention to the idea of using reclaimed and salvaged city trees, and for its characteristic tonal properties as a future tonewood, Powers created the Taylor Guitars Builder’s Edition 324ce, an inspired eco-conscious model that sounds as beautiful as it looks.
The Builder’s Edition 324ce is a seductively fetching acoustic, mostly because its strikingly dark tobacco kona burst finish, as well as all the sleek contours of its chamfered body and fretboard edges, and beveled armrest and cutaway, are flatout captivating.
What elevates the instrument is a new Silent Satin finish with a dark edgeburst treatment that removes any extraneous noises your forearms or hands might make, for a whisper-quiet performance. Most importantly, the guitar incorporates Taylor’s revolutionary V-Class bracing, which not only projects volume and enhances sustain, but also provides intonation so precise one can only marvel at how in-tune everything sounds across the fretboard.
From there, just about everything else featured is first class, with a gorgeous tropical mahogany top paired with its new “Urban Ash” back and sides, West African ebony bridge and fretboard, Curve Wing bridge, graphite nut, Compass inlays, Gotoh 510 tuners and Taylor’s ES2 electronics.
This year, Taylor’s Builder’s Edition collection is comprised of four new guitars (324ce, 652ce, 816ce and 912ce), and has been affectionately nicknamed “director’s cut” models, the “crème de la crème,” if you will, because they really are considered the ultimate expression of Powers’ craftsmanship in combining luxurious feel and comfort with high-fidelity acoustic sound, and their prices certainly reflect this.
What’s noteworthy here is the Builder’s Edition 324ce was designed for working-class musicians in mind, and while it’s not inexpensive, it’s what I’d like to consider the base model of a luxury vehicle that will last a lifetime.
For a guitar that exudes sheer elegance, there is a great deal of restraint involved here - in other words, Powers included all the bells and whistles of a premium guitar but made it appear tastefully traditional, and I love that.
Its mid-sized and approachable Grand Auditorium Cutaway shape, coupled with all the beveled contouring and rolled edges, unquestionably heighten the overall comfort level and playability, and its unfettered access to the upper-note registers makes it a pleasure to play. Somewhat surprisingly, the guitar sports a more classic C-shape neck profile that will certainly thrill vintage purists.
I’ve said it before, but the V-Class architecture under the hood is the real game changer here. Whether it’s the impeccable intonation or the continuous sustain at play, the overall experience is transcendent.
But you’re probably wondering what “Urban Ash” sounds like! Well, it’s reminiscent of good mahogany that radiates a crisp top end and a taut bass, but its sonic strength is that it dutifully serves up a warm, sweetened midrange with a clear, bell-like ring.
Whether you strum hard or pick softly, it tends to stay within that middle register, and its euphonious voice is so detailed that I sometimes found myself leaning over the soundhole to listen from different angles because I couldn’t believe an acoustic could sound so three-dimensional and smoothly balanced here. It’s a genuinely studio-quality tone, which I’d venture to say even a cheap mic would have a hard time making sound bad.
It’s an aspirational instrument, no doubt, and one that may never leave your side if you can stretch for it. But moreover, it’s hard to believe this all came from a tree felled at the corner of Sunset and Fountain (that, of course, is not true. But someday, it could be).
- STREET PRICE: $2,999
- SCALE LENGTH: 25-1/2"
- BODY DIMENSIONS: 16 x 20 x 4 5/8" (W x L x D)
- TOP FINISH: Silent Satin
- NECK/HEEL: Tropical Mahogany
- NECK WIDTH: 1-3/4"
- NUT & SADDLE: Tusq Nut/Micarta Saddle
- NUMBER OF FRETS: 20
- TYPE OF NECK JOINT: Scarf
- BRACING: V-Class
- PICKGUARD: None
- TUNERS: Gotoh
- STRINGS: Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light
- CASE: Taylor Deluxe Hardshell Brown
For more information, head to Taylor Guitars.