Review: Taylor 712e 12-Fret

Last year Taylor’s Andy Powers revamped the 600 Series with maple, which earned GP’s Maximum Gear Award.
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Last year Taylor’s Andy Powers revamped the 600 Series with maple, which earned GP’s Maximum Gear Award. Now he’s worked his magic on the 700 Series. Redesign elements include Performance Bracing with a two-part bridge plate, hide glue for the bracing and bridge, a leather-like pickguard made from materials created in-house, and a rootsy new color blend option.

The 712e wears the rustic Western Sunburst gloss finish on its Lutz spruce top like an old west debutante dressed in her finest. Coupled with the rich hues of Indian rosewood back and sides, a three-ringed Douglas fir rosette, “weathered brown” pickguard, and bound together with tan Hawaiian koa, the multi-shaded brunette effect is sheer earthy elegance. Every aspect, from smooth, uniform medium frets to an impeccable interior, was impressive to hold and behold.

While 12-fret instruments are not brand new to Taylor, they are “relatively new,” according to Powers, and the 712e has a unique personality. It practically calls out to be fingerpicked, perhaps due to its relatively short scale length, medium-sized neck, and smallish body. This is not an instrument that facilitates fast linear licks or complex chords. It inspired me to pluck away in open tunings, where simple chords and melodies fell naturally under the fingers, and a light glass slide felt fantastic gliding across its strings.

Sonically, the 712e was lively and super-responsive. Open strings shimmered, and notes played on the first few frets sounded crisp. The focus was fundamentally in the midrange, but it didn’t lack lows or highs. It sounded as balanced as an Olympic gymnast as I jumped from string to string and ran up and down the ebony fretboard. And just because it was a fab fingerpicker didn’t mean it couldn’t handle a heavy pick strum. Through a Rivera Sedona Lite amp the Expression System 2 delivered a complete sonic spectrum. My only issue was managing the overabundant mids, which I scooped out via a notch filter on the amp.

If you think you know all about Taylor guitars, the 712e 12-Fret challenges you to think again. For Taylor devotees, here’s an intriguing new option. For anyone seeking a relatively affordable American-made instrument blending time-honored elements with progressive performance qualities, Taylor’s 712e 12-Fret is absolutely worthy, and it receives an Editors’ Pick Award.

Taylor Designer Andy Powers on the 712e 12-Fret

“The biggest single change to the 700 series was the dramatic redesign of the inside architecture,” says Powers. “The new Performance Bracing is still an X brace, but that’s about where the similarity ends. There are so many variables that add up. For example, just the angle at which you set those two parts together makes all the difference in the world. Every little detail—the size, weight, width, stiffness, profile and placement of each and every brace—all become very model-specific in the redesign. “In addition to its slotted headstock and 24 7/8” scale length, a lot of what makes the 712e unique stems from its 12-fret neck joint design. That shifts the bridge farther back on the lower bout in order to set it in motion from a more flexible position. It gets in motion pretty easily and creates a big—the technical term is ‘monopole’—movement. Basically, the entire top moves in and out like a speaker cone in a single motion, and ends up having huge low-end power for its body size. To accentuate that personality, the 712’s braces are a little more flexible at the tips, allowing the guitar to do what it naturally wants to do. The top response is practically immediate. “We attach the braces to the top with a very traditional hot hide glue we call ‘protein glue’ because those incredibly strong protein chains pull the parts closer together as they age—like an old leather belt drying out.

“Players gravitate towards instruments that look the way they sound, and sound the way they feel. This whole guitar has a rootsy, organic vibe. None of the typical pickguard materials we had looked or felt right. I needed a really thin, hard material with a low dampening factor. I ended up creating a tempered ultra-hard wood fiber material, and put it through a process of staining, sanding, furnishing, and finishing. The way that the color turns as it wears will look good on the guitar as it ages too.” —JL

712e 12-Fret

PRICE $3,149 street, $3,299 street as shown with Western Sunburst finish
NUT WIDTH 1.75", Tusq
NECK Mahogany, satin finish
FRETS 18, 12 to the body
TUNERS Taylor slot head
BODY Indian rosewood back and sides, Lutz spruce top
BRIDGE Ebony with compensated saddle
PICKUPS Taylor Expression System 2
CONTROLS Volume, Treble, Bass
FACTORY STRINGS Elixir Phosphor Bronze HD Light
WEIGHT 4.2 lbs
KUDOS Easy in the hands. Sonically vivacious and exquisitely balanced. A well-thought-out design.