800 Series Story

The Rebirth of the 800 SeriesBob Taylor and Andy Powers reveal the next generation of Taylor acoustic tone.

Taylor has made a tradition of celebrating milestone years by looking forward rather than back. Our 40th anniversary year is no different. Guided by the design strokes of luthier Andy Powers and the manufacturing expertise of Bob Taylor, Taylor has reconceived its flagship rosewood/spruce 800 Series, infusing it with a sweeping array of tone-enhancing refinements. Virtually every element of the guitar’s material construction was optimized: bracing, wood thicknesses, glues, finish, strings and acoustic electronics, topped off with a refreshed design aesthetic. The end result is the perfect type of musical celebration: a more inspiring playing experience.

While there are certain core qualities that Andy Powers says he strives to bring to any guitar — volume, sustain, clarity, uniformity of character — one of his driving goals in redesigning the 800 Series was to accentuate the unique characteristics of each different shape. “I want these models to have a family resemblance, but I don’t want them to sound the same,” he says. “I wanted to consider the 812ce, for example, not as it relates to the 810ce, but as it relates to itself.”

The resulting tonal distinctions between each shape, Bob Taylor feels, are far from subtle. “I think players will really enjoy experiencing these new guitars and comparing different models,” he says. “In a way, there’s a rebirth of every one of them.”

Design Features

Bracing

New advanced performance designs brings out greater warmth, midrange, balance and sustain.



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A guitar’s bracing patterns orchestrate the movement of the top and back, working with the overall body shape and tone woods to produce a unique acoustic voice. For the redesign of the 800 Series, the bracing profiles and their placement were customized for each body shape to emphasize their inherent strengths and to complement the playing styles that might

suit the shape. The bracing for the back and sides of Grand Auditorium and Grand Concert models was also modified from a standard horizontal, ladder-style pattern to a slanted scheme to change the internal tension of the back. Another refinement was the addition of side braces, which add rigidity to the sides and enhance the top and back movement.With the reconfigured

relationship between the top and back bracing, each shape generates a well-balanced tone whose differences are most noticeable in the midrange. “The midrange is the friendly and flattering part of the guitar,” Andy Powers explains. “This sounds warmer across the board. In this case, you have this nice, cushy swell and long sustain, even with a delicate touch.”

Wood Thickness

Optimized dimensions help bring out the best of each body shape.


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Another subtle recalibration that relates to the bracing is in the top and back thickness specification for each body shape. It’s one of many refinements designed to bring more efficiency of movement to the overall guitar. Generally speaking, the smaller the guitar, the thinner the wood, as Andy Powers

explains, using Taylor’s Grand Concert (GC) as an example. “Because of its smaller outline, the GC is inherently a stiffer body,” he says. “By making the parts a little thinner and more flexible, we can maximize what a player can get out of that guitar, like more volume.” “Andy’s got a great sense for how

thin and light you can go to make it sound great and still be equally strong,” Bob Taylor says. “You can actually flatpick that GC and it’s pretty loud.”

Protein Glue

The strategic use of animal glues helps enhance the transfer of tone between important guitar components.


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The type of glue used between parts where tone is transferred, such as the bracing and bridge, can influence the tone. Some synthetic glues can partially impede tone, while animal protein glues transfer it well. Animal-derived glues were used to make musical instruments for centuries before the introduction of man-made woodworking glues in the 20th century. Factories moved

away from hide glues because they needed to be constantly tended.Today’s modern protein glues are much easier to work with. Andy Powers chose fish protein glue for the top and back bracing because the braces provide an energy transmission network for the top and back of the guitar and the fish glue optimizes the tonal transfer. Its strong adhesion properties also allow the guitar to

be built more lightly without sacrificing strength.Traditional heated hide glue was chosen to mate the bridge with the soundboard. It’s something that can be managed in the Taylor factory, its properties make it more suitable for the ebony/spruce joint, and its natural characteristics make it easy to clean any residue off a thin-finished top.


Finish Thickness

Our thinner finish proves that, in the end, less is more.


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The thicker a guitar’s finish is, the more it tends to dampen the tonal response. Over the years Taylor has developed innovative techniques to make our polyester gloss finish as thin as possible for maximum tonal benefits. Currently our gloss finish is sprayed using high-tech methods that incorporate a robotic unit, high-efficiency electrostatic attraction technology, and an ultraviolet

curing oven. For some time now, Taylor’s standard gloss finish has had a maximum thickness of 6 mils (1 mil = .001 inch), which is the industry standard for a high-quality gloss-finish guitar. But because of the tonal benefits of thinner finishes, Andy Powers wanted to reduce the finish on the 800 Series guitars by half if possible. Guided by the manufacturing expertise of Bob Taylor and

Taylor’s finish experts, the finish thickness was reduced more than 40 percent to an average of 3.5 mils, while still preserving a beautiful glossy luster. “We did it by calling upon all the resources that we’ve ever had in all our years of guitar building,” says Bob Taylor.


Strings

We switched to phosphor bronze strings and worked with ELIXIR® Strings to create a custom-gauge HD Light string set for the Grand Concert and Grand Auditorium.


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One sign of a great guitar is its ability to sound like the same instrument from the lowest note to the highest note. A guitar’s strings can play an important role in expressing this. Andy Powers began by switching from Elixir Acoustic 80/20 Bronze with NANOWEB® coating to Elixir’s Phosphor Bronze NANOWEB® set. “The phosphor bronze strings have a nice, rich shimmer on the high end, with a richer, broader warmth

overall,” he says. More specifically, Andy explored alternative string gauge options for the smaller-bodied Grand Concert and Grand Auditorium. Andy felt the overall articulation could be enhanced by creating the right tension profile at the bridge. Some creative collaboration with our friends at Elixir Strings led to the development of a unique set, named HD Light, which blends Elixir light- and medium-gauge strings with a custom

.025 gauge third string (a standard light-gauge G string is a .024; the medium is a .026). The specific gauging is: .013, .017, .025, .032, .042, .053. The custom gauging complements the construction of the Grand Concert and Grand Auditorium and yields bolder highs and fuller lows.


Electronics

The new Expression System® 2 captures more of a guitar's dynamic properties using a breakthrough behind-the-saddle design.



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Another tone-enhancing design stroke is a new version of the Expression System pickup, the Expression System 2 (ES2). Taylor pickup designer David Hosler had been studying under-saddle piezo transducers and how they capture a guitar’s energy as it is transferred from the strings through the saddle and soundboard.The industry’s prevailing understanding had been that the top and string vibration cause the saddle to “bounce” up and down.This has long been the basis for the placement of a piezo-

electric transducer under the saddle.But Hosler found that the vertical movement is heavily restricted because the string tension’s downward pressure essentially locks the saddle down. That’s why a traditional under-saddle pickup with piezo-electric crystals often responds with a sound often characterized as thin, brittle or synthetic.In reality, the saddle’s natural range of movement is back and forth like a pendulum. That revelation led Hosler to relocate the piezo crystals from under the

saddle to behind it, just barely making contact with it. The new positioning enables the crystals to respond more naturally to the guitar’s energy as it was transferred through the saddle. The patent-pending ES2 design incorporates three pickup sensors that are installed behind the saddle, through the bridge, with three tiny Allen screws that calibrate the pressure of the sensors against the saddle.


Design Aesthetic

An elegant new appointment package builds on the classic aesthetic traditions of the 800s.

Binding and Purfling

One classic aesthetic detail for the 800 Series has been light-colored binding, which had evolved over the years from white plastic on Bob Taylor’s early models to figured maple. The light-bound aesthetic was refined this time around to incorporate pale maple without any curl to look sharp and clean.

Andy Powers also put a lot of effort into the purfling layers that complement the binding on the top of the guitar, incorporating a thin ribbon of rosewood between the maple and the spruce top. “It really draws your eye to the body shape, acting like a bold picture frame for it,” Andy says. “Whether the guitar is on a wall or a player is performing with it, you really notice the outline of this guitar in a strong way. I knew I wanted a certain amount of weight to it and thought rosewood would be just perfect.”

Inlays

Because the 800 Series has traditionally featured a shell material for the rosette, Andy chose green abalone and framed both edges with rosewood to complement the top trim. A new fretboard inlay motif, featuring mother-of-pearl and named “Element,” was inspired by the diamond-like shape of the different 800 Series inlays over the years. “I knew I wanted to do something that projected a diamond-like silhouette, that didn’t have straight lines, and that had points somewhere,” Andy explains. “And to me it needed to have a certain marriage of organic and elegant qualities. I wanted graceful curves that matched each other well and said a lot to a lot of different people. Depending on who’s looking at it, the perception of what that inlay is varies widely.”

Fretboard

The appearance of the ebony fretboards was also carefully considered. Given Taylor’s position as a co-owner of an ebony mill in Cameroon and Bob Taylor’s advocacy for the use of colored ebony to support a more sustainable model of consumption, Bob and Andy agreed that the 800s were an appropriate place to use fretboards with light brown coloration. “If you could stand in an ebony sawmill like ours and look at all the non-black ebony that was being tossed aside like trash it would break your heart,” Bob says. “Not only is it a waste of material, but it’s a waste of some of the most beautiful pieces of wood I’ve ever seen. I’m proud to be able to share this wood with our Taylor family.” As a result, each 800 Series fretboard will project its own unique character. “I love the look,” Andy says. “To me, seeing smoky ebony always looks like a cloudy sky at night.”

Pickguard

One of the most dramatic visual distinctions of the new appointment package for the 800s is a switch from our traditional faux tortoise shell pickguard to one made of Indian rosewood. The decision also provides another opportunity to showcase the rosewood-rich heritage of the 800s front and center. The rosewood selected for each pickguard will be matched with the back and sides of the guitar, and the specifications for the grain orientation are arranged at an angle to minimize pick wear.

The New 800 Series by Shape

Grand ConcertTonal Enhancement: Extra midrange warmth, extra boldness on the top notes, more overall volume

Andy says: I like the intimacy of the Grand Concert. It’s the perfect lap guitar. It’s really comfortable to hold, and with the short scale, it has a soft, gentle feel on your hand, plus a really articulate character because of the smaller body cavity. The small body chamber essentially pushes the frequencies it wants to emphasize up in pitch a little bit. That’s where you get the articulation and intimate sound. From a musical perspective, it makes me want to play it with my raw fingertips as a fingerstyle instrument; it has beautiful balance that way. I might play it with a pick, but I will feel compelled to pick it in a way that draws on that delicate beauty. Inversely, I might choose it for a band setting solely for the balance it would give me. It’s so punchy, clear and focused when played strongly that it works really well amplified in a mix. Its inherent balance and focused articulation also make it a perfect recording guitar, as it fits well with other instruments. The custom mix Elixir® HD Light string set helps produce a bold, robust quality that I want on the top notes, without overloading the top with string tension. That’s really noticeable on the Grand Concert with its short scale. There is a very lyrical, singing quality everywhere, whether it’s the high notes, the middle register, or the low notes. Every note has this luxuriously mature yet easygoing quality that ends up complementing both the low end and high end with surprising dynamic range and a lot more volume than a player would expect out of a smaller guitar. For a player who likes a slightly darker, punchier quality in small guitar, the 12-Fret is a great way to go.

Grand AuditoriumTonal Enhancement: More warmth and a looser, more luxurious low end

Andy says: To me the Grand Auditorium 814ce is the quintessential modern acoustic guitar. It’s about the same width as the Dreadnought, but it has a much curvier shape, so its response is completely different. It’s the ultimate general-purpose guitar — you can play fingerstyle, jazz, strum it in front of a band, support a singer, write songs on it, basically use it anywhere you use an acoustic guitar. With these things in mind, I wanted something that had a huge range of possible expression. If I could take one guitar to a gig to cover a variety of different styles, it would be this GA. It’s got the balance, warmth and articulation that I want for a fingerstyle guitar. It has the punch I need to front a band if I’m strumming chords. It has enough top-end power that I could even play lead in a bluegrass band, yet there is enough overall warmth and sweetness that I could play a ballad that my young son could fall asleep to, as the notes don’t have any sharp edges or shrill, nasally spots. What players will probably notice first in this new version is a little more maturity in the midrange. It sounds warmer and older, like an 814 that’s been played a long time. It’s got a loose but powerful low register that doesn’t feel constricted. With the addition of the hybrid Elixir® HD Light string set, this guitar is warm and rich, and yet it can be played to sound powerful with dramatic presence. It’s all within range of your pick or your fingertips.

Grand SymphonyTonal Enhancement: Richer, sweeter sound with more low-end rumble

Andy says: I set out to make the GS a powerful guitar. It’s a big-body guitar, and I want a really rich sound out of it without sacrificing a bell-like articulation. As a player, that is what I’m looking for from a larger-body guitar: a big, rich response. It’s the sonic equivalent of pouring half and half over Frosted Flakes — thick and sweet. You could simply strum pretty chords all day long; you could play fingerstyle and get this thick, swirly, powerful response. It’s almost overwhelming. Typically as you go up in body size, you’ll hear a more pronounced low end because there is a larger air mass which supports it — essentially a bigger set of lungs supporting the top and the back of the guitar. The unique shape of the new bracing design helps produce a synergy of motion in the top and back and, together with the GS body geometry, yields more fullness in the low end. If you like a GA but want a little more rumble, the GS has it.

DreadnoughtTonal Enhancement: Powerful top-end response

Andy says: The Dreadnought is the quintessential bluegrass guitar, and I wanted to bring a big, robust top-end response out of our 810. As a Dreadnought, it easily provides the low-end power I want, but where I’ve found some Dreadnoughts lacking over the years is that the low-end power comes at the expense of a weak upper register. If I’m playing in a bluegrass band and standing next to a mandolin player and a banjo player, I don’t want my turn for a solo to come and have everybody in the band go, “Shhh…it’s the guitar solo.” It makes you feel like a disappointment. So we worked to create a more vibrant kind of Dreadnought. The challenge is that the body’s wider waist typically doesn’t give quite the tonal separation needed to generate a powerful upper register. To me, our Dreadnought design is a really beautiful modern interpretation of a traditional steel-string guitar. [Taylor designer] Larry Breedlove drew the most recent version of it a couple of years ago and did a great job. It has a refined look to it; it’s not a big, boxy, heavy-looking thing. This guitar looks like wearing a tuxedo with cowboy boots. It’s dressed up, but is ready to hop on a horse and ride away from the ball. Between the new bracing and other tonal enhancements, we were able to articulate that treble punch. This Dreadnought will yield plenty of low end and midrange, but the distinctive twist for this instrument is turbo-charged power.

Grand OrchestraTonal Enhancement: More power and dynamic range

Andy says: When I designed the Grand Orchestra, I had many of the elements we’re incorporating into the 800 Series in the back of my mind as designs I was hoping to get to do someday but hadn’t yet worked out how to make them a reality. Now, after a year out in the world, the Grand Orchestra has been embraced by far more players than I had anticipated. It’s a really versatile guitar. I can play all kinds of music with it, and musicians have really gravitated toward it. Now, with the inclusion of these other refinements, this guitar just became bigger-sounding, more powerful, and more dynamic. Everything I liked about it became intensified. It sounds like marketing hyperbole, but the “new & improved” label is appropriate here; even more of the GO’s character is able to come out.

800 Series QA

Q&A with Bob and Andy

Bob Taylor and Andy Powers reflect on what the Taylor 800 Series represents and explain how their design philosophy literally sets the tone for the company’s next 40 years.

Historically, what does the 800 Series mean to Taylor?Bob: The 800 Series was the first guitar that I designed to be a real model after starting Taylor and taking what I’d learned from Sam Radding at the American Dream and the 15 or 20 guitars I’d made there. I was still green. I made the first 810 for myself. I loved that guitar. It’s in our museum storage room. I continued to develop the models in that series, and they became synonymous with the Taylor brand for some time. In the end, I think our Grand Auditorium shape became even more of an icon than the 800 Series. But the 814ce combined both and has been a top seller and pleaser for a long time. It’s changed and grown over the years. But it’s really the core of our line.

Andy: I remember reading Taylor catalogs back in the early ’90s and it being very clear that this was Bob’s favorite series. This was one of the first real series developed as “the” Taylor guitar, specifically starting with the 810. As the perennial favorite, it has remained a popular benchmark representing who Taylor is as a brand, as well as representing the desire of players. Since then, the Grand Auditorium shape has not only further defined what a Taylor guitar is, but also served as the capstone of what defines the modern steel-string guitar.

What's the main intent behind the redesign of the 800 Series?Bob: I’ll start with this thought: It’s like I’m having a grandchild. And you know how grandpas are! Andy has taken this 800 Series and given it new life. And I’m in love with it like I can’t express, like a grandpa. That said, the intent is to bring the highest quality sound to the forefront, and make everything in the guitar’s design work to serve that goal. We want to employ “form follows function” with this guitar. We want to design it realizing that its primary function is to be a quality musical instrument, which means that its sound is the most important aspect. To that end, we are changing its characteristics and form. Some things players will see, and some are invisible, but all are there to enhance, literally supercharge, the function of sounding good. We do not have to undo the great things that I have championed in my career, which if you ask me are two-fold: first, guitars that play well on a continuing basis, and second, a high level of consistency in terms of build quality. Now, because of Andy’s ability, which trumps mine in the area of taking sound to the nth degree, we are going to enhance the sound.

Andy: To oversimplify, the idea is to build a better guitar. My entire goal has been to take the designs Bob has made, the components he pioneered and cultivated, and grow those into an even more musical instrument. There are lots of factors that comprise a finer instrument: the aesthetics, which make an instrument compelling to a player or casual looker; the feel and playability; and, of course, the actual functioning. Bob has really accomplished two huge things: a controllable and consistently playable neck design, and a manufacturing facility that can build things. With these two foundational supports in place, we are in a position to design a more dynamic, better-playing, better-sounding guitar.

What does the redesign mean for the future of guitars made by Taylor?Bob: It means that all of our guitars will get better. It means that with the company Kurt and I have built and the infrastructure we have to produce the design that we settle on, as Andy improves the designs we will consistently make better guitars. So, rather than asking what it means for the future of guitars being improved, I might ask what it means for the future of guitar players, or the future of the musical experience. To me it means more beautiful-sounding guitar music. It is not subtle; it’s a big step.

Andy: It means two things to me: One, that our guitars will get better from here on in, and two, that we’re far from done. Our golden era is still ahead. Many folks forget that the golden era of many instrument makers and companies starts decades into their lifespan. We are poised to innovate and refine our instruments to give musicians finer tools for expressing their music.

Why start with the 800s? Why not start on a less visible series? Why put your most successful model at risk?Bob: It’s my grandchild. Nothing but the best, right? We believe in this, and we don’t believe that it puts it at risk. We’ve already made guitars like this, so to apply these refinements to a less visible series says that we’re afraid. But we’re confident and excited. The changes we are making cost money, too. So we need to start with a series that already carries a price point to allow us the freedom to spend money. We’re all in. We showed a prototype to [guitarist and Taylor product specialist] Wayne Johnson today and let him play. What an experience. It’s undeniable that these guitars sound so good. The music from it is just so much sweeter.

Andy: I don’t see genuine improvement as a risk. We really believe that these are better and more compelling instruments on every level, and we want to tell that to players. Our 800 Series is the benchmark, and we should be putting our best efforts into the guitar we believe in and are proud of. To put these new refinements into another less visible series is saying, “Yes, we’ll try this, but with a safety net under us, because we’re not sure people will agree with us, and we’re not sure we agree with us.”

What's the connection to Taylor's 40th anniversary?Bob: Well, I’ve been doing this for 40 years now. And while I’m not nearly ready to check out, I do have to consider succession, right? So that’s been solved with Andy coming on board. And what better time than our 40th anniversary for me to pass the baton, so to speak, to the younger, better guitar maker? And he gets my pet guitar series to change. That’s bold and confident if you ask me, on my part and his. Our 40th anniversary is a great year to do this. Long enough to have a succession, yet early enough for me to help with it and enjoy the process myself, because by our 50th, I’ll have enjoyed the results of this one for ten years.

Andy: What better time than an anniversary to take an opportunity to look forward instead of back. Often, people and companies look backward and say, “Yep, those were the good old days.” When we look back, we see an unbroken line of growth, innovation and development. That is Taylor’s history. So, an anniversary is the perfect time to make a huge forward advancement and raise the bar on our own benchmark of the modern guitar.

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