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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.