Taylor T5

May 18, 2005

Originating from an experimental bass guitar designed by Taylor’s Special Projects Manager David Hosler, the T5 rapidly evolved into its current 6-string form, which features a hollow body carved from a slab of Sapele wood, a braced top of spruce, koa, or maple, and a bolt-on mahogany neck that locks into the body with such precision you’d swear it was glued in (a single hex bolt visible from the back is the only give away). Taylor has long employed computerized machining and laser-cutting tools to ensure accuracy and consistency in the manufacturing of its acoustics, and you can appreciate the benefits of that technology when examining the T5’s crisp f-holes (which feature injection-molded “binding” and provide two square inches of opening to properly tune the body), the perfectly rendered bindings and inlays, and the frets, which are milled to exacting tolerances. The bone nut is beautifully shaped and set, and slotted with the utmost care.

Ed PIck

Viewing the T5’s inner workings requires removing six screws that secure the pick-shaped back cover and its integral flip-open battery compartment. Through the large opening you can see two carved spruce braces (there’s no center block or under-bridge footing), the bottom of the exposed magnetic pickup, a small section of the forward magnetic pickup concealed in the neck joint, a hum-canceling coil, and the Body Sensor (a magnetic transducer derived from Taylor’s proprietary Expression technology) that’s attached to the top’s underside about two inches aft of the bridge.

The T5 sports soft-touch rubber knobs on its Volume, Bass, and Treble controls. The 5-way selector, which resides in an oval plastic housing (along with an LED that lights up when you plug in your cord) has a smooth, positive feel and provides for the following selections:

1) Neck pickup and body sensor

2) Neck pickup

3) Bridge pickup

4) Neck and bridge pickups in parallel

5) Neck and bridge pickups in series

The controls are well positioned and smooth turning, and the center detents on the EQ knobs make it possible to quickly find their flat settings. The Volume pot also has a detent at its halfway point. The T5 is reasonably quiet—you have to turn the Treble or Volume controls all the way up to notice any hiss—and I like how the Volume control preserves the high-end sheen when it’s turned down. The lack of stereo outs means you can’t run the T5 directly into multiple amps (or an amp and the P.A.), but included with the guitar is an XLR cable for connecting to the low-impedance input on an acoustic amp or mixing console

Owing to its lightness and comfy body contours, the T5 feels great from the moment you pick it up. The slender neck with its flat-ish 15"-radius and low string-action is seductive to your fingers, and the slightly shorter-than-standard scale makes for noticeably easier string bending. The three T5s I tested all had that characteristic Taylor crispness and presence when played acoustically, but the different top woods definitely affected their individual sounds. The T5-S (spruce) Standard, for example, was brighter and noticeably twangier than either the T5-C1 (maple) or T5-C2 (koa) Customs—both of which also had distinct tonal characteristics, with the koa model having the creamiest sounding midrange.

Five Alive

The T5s maintained their unique identities when plugged into a Trace Elliot TA100R, a Genz-Benz Shenandoah Acoustic Pro, a Fender Twin Reverb, a ’66 Marshall JTM, and a THD Flexi 50. All elicited very believable acoustic tones via the neck pickup/ Body Sensor combination. The spruce model sounded crisper overall, the maple version offered mellower highs and a thicker low end, while the koa model afforded a wonderful balance of warmth, complexity, and high-end sheen. Respectable overdrive sounds were easily obtainable when feeding their bridge pickups through the high-gain channel of the THD, and, in cleaner modes, the same setting yielded plenty of Fender-style twang. For jazz or blues, you have the two neck-plus-bridge selections to choose from—both of which take you to Gibson zone, with the series setting yielding ES-175 color and the parallel position sounding slightly brighter and more like an ES-335. The T5’s design definitely limits how loud you can get before feedback, but I was able to play the guitar wide open though the Twin on 5—which is pretty loud—without trouble.

The ability to go from a killer acoustic sound to an authoritative rock tone with one guitar isn’t exactly revolutionary, but what the T5 offers is inspiring due to how naturally its acoustic and electric personalities coexist. A guitarist in a modern rock band who strums more than solos could find the T5 ideal for crafting huge tones that have the shimmering dimension of an acoustic, but with more solidbody-style focus and presentation. It’s almost like having two guitars in one in that regard. A soloist in a hot acoustic band might revel in how the T5 can sound like a flat-top while playing with the sleekness of a really well set up electric, while someone who regularly slings a solidbody could be absolutely thrilled at how they can cruise along replicating the sound of box guitar with a soundhole pickup, and then morph seamlessly into grind mode simply by kicking on a distortion pedal and flicking the 5-way to its rearmost setting.

Anyone who has ever wished they could willfully bend their sound in a more acoustic or electric direction will find much to appreciate about the T5. Though considering how much the different top woods affect the tone, it may be a bit tough to decide on the version that best suits your style and tastes. Perhaps the size of your wallet will be the ultimate arbiter in that decision.

No matter which model you choose, however, you’ll find the T5 an exciting guitar that has a lot to offer anyone who seeks new avenues of 6-string expression. In much the same way that Taylor made it possible for electric players to transition effortlessly into the acoustic realm back in the ’90s, the T5 comes full-circle by giving acoustic players a sly portal into the electric world. But, no matter what style you play or whether you predominantly do your thing on acoustic or electric, you’ll likely find the T5 to be a mighty intriguing guitar—one that certainly deserves an Editors’ Pick Award.

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