One of Taylor’s top priorities for 2016 was to introduce a new series of 12-string guitars that would be both highly toneful and easy to play. Part of this initiative can be found in the 500 series guitars, which feature two 12-string, 12-fret models with mahogany bodies and tops, and are based around the smaller Grand Concert body shape. The 562ce on review here is a compact instrument with a gloss finish on the body that really shows off the graining in the deep reddish mahogany. Cosmetics include tortoise binding sided with thin white striping that surrounds the top and back, and this theme carries over to soundhole rosette as well. The satin-finished mahogany neck measures a generous 1 7/8" at the nut, and it wears 18 mirror-polished frets on a 247/8"-scale ebony fingerboard—I should say jet-black ebony too, although Taylor will be using figured ebony as well—which is adorned with grained ivoroid Heritage Diamond position inlays. As with all Taylors, the construction quality is superb. I couldn’t find a hair out of place anywhere on this early production model.
The 562ce’s playing feel is light and springy—qualities that can be attributed to the 12th-fret neck joint, as well as to the spot-on factory setup and light-gauge Elixir strings. The broad C-carved neck sits comfortably in the hand, and everything comes together in a synergistic way to make the 562ce a very inspiring guitar to play. It stays in tune well too, which is always a beautiful thing when you’ve got 12 tuners to deal with.
The sound of the 562ce is likely to draw you in right away, because it’s not only a deliciously chiming guitar with lots of complexity in its voice, but it also has surprising volume and presence, and it sustains really well. Factor in excellent intonation throughout the reach of the neck, and the result is an extremely focused sounding instrument that can certainly hold its own in any acoustic setting. For those who need to amplify, the 562ce features Taylor’s active Expression 2 system, which feeds into Volume, Bass, and Treble controls located on the upper bout.
Whether you’re a veteran 12-stringer or a 6-string electric player who has been put off by the physical challenges of tackling a big-bodied 12, you’re likely to find the 562ce to be a very inviting guitar with great playability, awesome sound, and a righteous look. What more can you ask for? So be sure to investigate the 500-series models to see if there’s a new 12-string in your future.
Andy Powers on Designing the 500 Series 12s
“Most of the time when I use a 12-string, it’s to layer a part on a record—it’s that little flavor that you put in there,” says Taylor designer Andy Powers. “But often times I look at a big 12-string guitar as being a little daunting because of its size. Of course we still make the 858e, which is very good in a big, powerful 12-string way, but from a player’s perspective I wanted this new 12-string to be a very approachable thing—something that a 6-string player would want to use.” Taylor has been making 12-string guitars for decades, so when the opportunity came along to speak with Powers about creating a new line of 12-strings, I wanted to get his perspective on the challenges involved in making a better sounding and playing 12.
Andy Powers at work at Taylor Guitars
“There’s this dilemma where you have way more string tension on a 12-string than on a 6-string guitar, because there’s twice as many strings. But there’s also less inertia because of the small individual strings—like a .047 on the low E and a .010 on the high E. So there’s not much power to get the thing moving, and there’s also more resistance to getting it moving. I can add a third strike in the context of a big-bodied guitar, because you have to brace a big guitar more heavily for it to be structurally stable. So when we decided to do a new 12-string, we based it around a Grand Concert body—our smallest body shape—and because of that we didn’t need to do much to beef it up to be a 12-string. Another good thing is that the smaller body has a tendency to emphasize a little higher part of the guitar’s frequency range, and that’s exactly what I was trying to do. I wanted this to be a chimey, delicate, and responsive little 12-string.”
Despite its smaller size, the 562ce isn’t at all lacking in volume.
It has a lot of volume because it’s not a hugely overbuilt guitar. It’s plenty strong, but it’s easily set in motion. Because of the smaller body design, it has a really clear and concise focus to it, which helps a 12-string a lot in my opinion. You’ve got a crazy wash of overtone thickness coming from all those double-string courses, so when you bring that level of clarity to it, it makes the guitar sound really in tune, it sits well in a track, and it plays well with other instruments.
What was your reason for having the neck joint at the 12th fret?
One of the neat features of a 12-fret neck is it puts the bridge in the middle of the guitar’s lower bout, and this changes the way the strings feel under your hand. They “give” a little more than they would if the bridge were closer to edge of the soundhole, and the result is you end up with a warmer sounding guitar that also feels a little slinkier to play.
The 562ce is available with a mahogany or cedar top. What are the advantages of each?
When you put a hardwood top like mahogany or koa on an acoustic flat-top guitar, there’s kind of a natural compression that occurs. When the string is first struck, it doesn’t spike quite so high on the attack. Woods like spruce, cedar, or redwood have a really strong initial attack, and the whole guitar kind of jumps when the string is struck. But because mahogany, koa, and even walnut have a little more weight, they have a tendency to absorb a little of that initial attack, and require a tiny bit more energy to get moving The way most players hear it is having this real smooth, almost compressed sound, and it comes across as really balanced sounding. It’s like the smoothing effect of having a little compression on your guitar when recording a track.
So the hardwood sort of stores a little energy and feeds it back into the sound?
That’s exactly what it feels like. And in that context with this 12-string guitar it’s a great recipe, because you’re blending the courses of strings over into each other. You’re getting the shimmer of the octave strings balancing really well with the fundamental strings, so when you strum chords on it, every single note has the perfect presence and intensity. I think it’s one of the best recording 12-strings I’ve heard. The flip side is that if somebody is a fingerstyle player and they want a little extra warmth and attack, the cedar top might be a better fit for them. That’s just my impression, but when I played these guitars I realized that both versions had to live because they’re both really fun to play!
562ce Grand Concert 12-String
PRICE $3,538 retail
NUT WIDTH 1 7/8", Tusq
FRETBOARD Ebony, 24 7/8" scale, 12-fret joint
FRETS 18 medium
TUNERS Taylor nickel-plated
BODY Solid mahogany back and sides, solid mahogany top
BRIDGE Ebony with compensated Micarta saddle
PICKUPS Taylor Expression System 2
CONTROLS Volume, Treble, Bass
FACTORY STRINGS Elixir 12-string Phosphor Bronze Light
WEIGHT 5.3 lbs
KUDOS An easy playing 12-string with a sweet, chiming voice. Top-notch quality.