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The Rebirth of the 800 Series

Bob Taylor and Andy Powers reveal the next generation of Taylor acoustic tone.

800 Series Story

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.”

Remarkable consistency from string to string. Premier Guitar, May 2014

Design Features

Our commitment to a great playing experience cover every detail of a guitar.

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - Bracing

Bracing

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - Bracing

Bracing

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

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - Wood Thickness

Wood Thickness

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - Wood Thickness

Wood Thickness

Optimized dimensions help bring out the best of each body shape. Another subtle recalibration that relates to the bracing is in the top and back thickness specification for each body shape.

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - Glue

Protein Glue

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - Glue

Protein Glue

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.

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - Finish

Finish Thickness

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - Finish

Finish Thickness

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.

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - Strings

Strings

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - Strings

Strings

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.

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - The Expression System® 2

Electronics

Taylor Guitars "New 800 Series" - The Expression System® 2

Electronics

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.

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.

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.

Fretboard

Given 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.

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.

Shapes

Bob Taylor designed each unique Taylor body shape with a specific playing style in mind.

Grand Concert

Grand Concert

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.

Grand Auditorium

Grand Auditorium

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.

Grand Symphony

Grand Symphony

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.

Dreadnought

Dreadnought

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.

Grand Orchestra

Grand Orchestra

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.

Related Guitars

Taylor has reconceived its flagship rosewood/spruce 800 series

814ce

$4,498 US MSRP

812ce

$4,498 US MSRP

810e

$4,238 US MSRP

800 Series Reviews

The 800 Series has garnered a steady stream of raves from guitar reviewers.

"Remarkable consistency from string to string."

Premier Guitar, March 2014 
Premier Gear Award (814ce)

Reviewer Scott Nygaard called the 814ce “a stunning-sounding guitar” after his test-drive. “Its bass frequencies are loud and fat, but not overwhelming,” he writes. “The midrange is rich and smooth no matter where you are on the neck. The low-end response…is felt by the player’s body as much as it’s heard by the listener.” Nygaard was also impressed by the Expression System® 2 acoustic electronics. “I was astonished by how well the system duplicated the guitar’s acoustic characteristics, including the string-to-string and bottom-to-top balance,” he reflects. The bottom line: “Considering how well suited this Taylor is for so many musical settings, you’ll rarely wish you had another guitar instead.”

"Taylor's most comprehensive overall tone-enhancing refinements ever."

Guitar World, March 2014
Platinum Award (814ce)

Guitar World writer Chris Gill described the new 800s as “nothing less than an entirely new generation of Taylor guitars.” Of the 814ce he reviewed, he says: “The tone of the new 814ce delivers much more character and personality than before, with richer, warmer midrange, sweet and bell-like treble that caresses instead of cuts, and bass response that’s a little looser but not boomy.” He also noted the “more natural sounding amplified tones” of the Expression System® 2 electronics, declaring that the ES2 “sets a new standard of excellence for piezo pickups.” 

In a video review of the 814ce, Guitar World Tech Editor Paul Riario called the design “nothing short of extraordinary,” describing the guitar as “a perfect marriage of many different acoustic sounds. It has all the projection of a Jumbo but the warmth and clarity of a smaller-bodied acoustic all wrapped up in one acoustic that sounds phenomenal.”

"A great guitar made even better."

Acoustic Guitar, March 2014

Reviewer Teja Gerken took note of the 814ce’s envelope-pushing versatility. “The instrument is just as suitable to strumming chords as it is to playing jazz voicings in standard tuning or fingerpicking in alternate tunings,” he writes. “There’s a reason why the Taylor 814ce has been a popular choice for players who want one guitar to do everything, and this latest version just raises the bar.” Gerken also was drawn to the guitar’s low action and comfortable neck profile, calling it “virtually effortless to play,” and referring to it as “a very ‘alive’ guitar.” He referred to the Expression System® 2 as a “brilliant” pickup, and after playing the 814ce through an AER Compact 60 amp, remarked that it “offers the immediacy and presence of a typical saddle pickup, but it has a warmer attack than most, and a complex tone, overall.”
 

"Impressive tonal and aesthetic enhancements, with truly stunning results."

Guitar Aficionado, March 2014

Writer Richard Bienstock admired the many sonic and aesthetic upgrades to the 800s, including the thinner finish: “The new 800s still boast a gorgeous high-gloss sheen without the tone-dampening effects of thicker finishes,” he observes. Bienstock called the package of refinements “impressive — and in some cases radical,” and appreciated the comprehensive approach of the redesign effort. “The new 800s don’t only play and sound great — the aesthetic touches are top notch and incredibly thoughtful,” he reflects.

"A fantastic acoustic sound...very dynamically responsive."

Guitar Player, May 2014
Editors' Pick Award (814ce)

Senior Editor Art Thompson loved the setup of the 814ce he reviewed and noted that the intonation “helps to make everything sound focused and coherent.” The end result: “a fantastic acoustic sound with deep lows, nice midrange bloom, and a top end that exhibits an uncanny blend of clarity and warmth…. Picked lightly it sounds radiant and dimensional, yet it doesn’t compress when you strum or flatpick it aggressively.”

Thompson also lauded the Expression System 2’s breakthrough design, calling it “a significant advancement in amplified sound by essentially giving the pickup more room to breathe.” After playing it through several different acoustic amps, he praised the balance from top to bottom, observing that it exhibited “no honkiness, harsh transient spikes, or plastic-y piezo artifacts.” He was also able to get plenty of volume without feedback issues. “This guitar succeeds on so many levels,” he concludes, “and taken in total it would be hard to imagine a situation where it wouldn't excel.”

"Every chord you play is crystal clear."

Acoustic magazine, May 2014

David Mead from the UK’s Acoustic magazine marveled at the comprehensive package of refinements brought to the 814ce he reviewed, noting that “this wasn’t a redesign that was undertaken casually — these guys are serious!” Tonally, he compared the new acoustic voicing to an 814ce he had reviewed last year, which he recalled had a slightly compressed effect in the trebles. Of the new version, he writes, “the trebles are clear and very strong indeed and the basses sound like they’ve perked up considerably, too. The most striking thing is the separation between the notes, though, as every chord you play is crystal clear with each component part clearly audible.” Mead also felt the guitar had a played-in sound right out of the box. And he was quite keen on the sound of the Expression System 2 pickup, calling it “more ‘breathy’” and natural. “There’s a transparency to the 814’s electric voice which I think will find friends amongst a variety of styles,” he adds. The end result, he concludes, is “a positive redefining of an already highly regarded instrument and Bob Taylor can be justifiably proud of the result.”

"The improvements broaden its versatility."

Guitarist, May 2014

Veteran Guitarist scribes Dave Burrluck and Mick Taylor teamed up for their review of an 814ce. Among the tonal character changes they noted: “The midrange sounds bolder and less ‘scooped’… there’s also a little more thickness to the highs, and the guitar feels like it’s got more to give, volume-wise. But the new guitar also feels more intimate… The GA always has plenty of bass, helping it ape a classic dreadnought, but also meaning fingerpicked basslines sound strong.” Plugged in, they compared the ES2’s amplified tone to that of the magnetic ES and felt the ES2 had a “bolder, lower midrange: a thicker sound, less ‘polite’ than the lower-position sound of the ES 1.” They also compared the ES2 to a pickup system on another guitar brand and wrote that the 814ce/ES2 had “a more natural low end without that ‘quack’ — the Taylor definitely seems to deal with percussive pick attack better right across the guitar’s range, from high-to-low.”

Their final verdict: “The improvements to the acoustic sound of the guitar…broaden its versatility — especially for fingerstyle. It doesn’t compromise Taylor’s renowned clear voice, but does seem to bolster the midrange and thicken up the highs a little….We can only conclude that one of the finest modern electro acoustic guitars has just got better.”

In a companion video demo of the 814ce/ES2 below, Features Editor Jamie Dickson plays a passage that transitions from stereo microphones mixed with the ES2 to the ES2 alone. 

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.