Over the past two decades, several companies have tried to develop a true hybrid electric-acoustic guitar and met with varying degrees of success. Most attempts were essentially electric guitars with passable acoustic tones that sounded acceptable in a band context but unrealistic in a solo context.
The first production model to provide an ideal balance of true electric tones and authentic acoustic sound was the Taylor T5, introduced almost a decade ago, in 2005.
Since then, Taylor has refined and improved its design, offering a variety of models, including the new T5z Pro model, which is designed primarily for electric players who need access to genuine acoustic tones when playing live.
Features: The T5z resembles the T5 in most respects, but its design is refined to appeal more to guitarists who are primarily electric players. The overall body dimensions are smaller the T5 and just slightly longer and wider than those of a Les Paul. The neck has a 12-inch radius and jumbo frets that are also designed to appease electric players.
The remainder of the T5z’s features are the same or similar to those of the T5. Like the T5, the T5z comes with three pickups: a concealed acoustic neck humbucker, a stacked bridge humbucker that resembles a small lipstick tube or Fifties Kay Thin Twin blade pickup, and an acoustic body sensor mounted to the top below the acoustic-style ebony pin bridge. It also has a side-mounted five-position pickup selector that provides instant access to body-sensor/neck, neck-only, bridge-only, neck/bridge-parallel, and neck/bridge-series pickup settings. Volume and active bass and treble EQ controls are mounted on the top at the upper-bass bout.
Taylor offers several different T5z models, but the main difference between each is the material used for the top, which is available in black, Borrego Red, Pacific Blue or tobacco sunburst finishes. The T5z Pro has an attractively figured flame-maple top that is ideal for players who lean toward electric tones, whereas the other models have koa (Custom), spruce (Standard) or mahogany (Classic), which are ideal for acoustic tones. The top has a pair of two-segment soundholes that provide outstanding resonance from the hollowed-out sapele back.
The sapele neck is attached to the body with Taylor’s patented T-Lock neck design, which uses just a single bolt and delivers the exceptionally solid feel of a set-neck design. The 21-fret neck has an ebony fretboard and a 24 7/8–inch scale that provides a nice balance between the tension needed for bright, lively acoustic tones and electric guitar comfort.
Performance: Unplugged, the T5z Pro produces punchy, resonant tone that sounds like a hollowbody jazz archtop. Plugged in, the electric tones are more reminiscent of a semihollow electric, providing fat, gutsy midrange and all the feedback-free sustain a player could ever want. With its single output, the T5z sounds best when plugged into a standard electric guitar amp with a clean channel for acoustic tones and an overdrive/distortion channel for authentic electric tones. The differences between the five pickup settings are astounding, delivering a versatile palette of tones that should satisfy the gigging needs of many guitarists.
The neck/body-sensor setting offers everything from authentic acoustic rhythm zing to an archtop/flattop acoustic-like blend, depending on how the EQ controls are set. The neck humbucker sounds like a big, fat semihollow guitar, while the bridge humbucker has the twang and bark of a Tele Deluxe. The neck/bridge-parallel setting sounds similar to a blend between a Strat’s neck and neck/middle setting, while the neck/bridge-series setting is bold and aggressive like a solidbody humbucker guitar.
Players accustomed to the super-slinky feel of .009s may initially find the T5z’s feel and playability a little stiff, but that’s because the guitar ships with medium gauge (.011–.049) Elixir Nanoweb strings. These strings provide an ideal balance between the assertive, full-bodied thump of an acoustic guitar and the string-bending ease that electric players prefer. However, it should take only a few minutes for most players accustomed to lighter string gauges to adjust.
The T5z Pro’s overall design is well thought out and practical. Even small details like the pair of strap pins at the bottom, which keeps the guitar perfectly balanced when rested in a standing-up position, show that Taylor is completely in tune with guitarists’ needs and desires.
List Price: $3,498
Manufacturer: Taylor Guitars, taylorguitars.com
Cheat Sheet: Three pickups provide a wide variety of electric and acoustic tones that guitarists can play separately or blend.
Versatile active treble and bass EQ controls are mounted on the top’s upper-bass bout, where they are easy to reach and adjust.
The T5z Pro’s smaller body dimensions and neck with a 12-inch radius and jumbo frets are designed to appeal to guitarists who mainly play electric.
The T5z Pro has an attractively figured flame-maple top that provides the brilliant attack and articulated treble that many electric players prefer.
The Bottom Line: The Taylor T5z Pro is an ideal solution for guitarists who prefer the comfort, playability and sounds of an electric guitar but want or need instant access to realistic acoustic tones onstage.