Review: Taylor 814ce Grand Auditorium Cutaway ES2

Last year Bob Taylor and Andy Powers directed their attention to designing a new 800 Series of guitars with the goal of creating more musical-sounding instruments.
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Last year Bob Taylor and Andy Powers directed their attention to designing a new 800 Series of guitars with the goal of creating more musical-sounding instruments. To get there, they modified the internal structure to improve tonal response by calibrating the top and back bracing for each body shape to influence how the top and back move both independently and in relation to each other. The wood thicknesses for the top and back were also optimized for the new bracing, and two types of protein glue were utilized for their tone-enhancing properties due to their ability to transfer sound. Other types of modern synthetic glues are used elsewhere.

Finish thickness is important to sound as well, and Taylor managed to reduce the thickness of its gloss finish by more than 40 percent—from 6 mils to 3.5 mils—a difference that makes for better tone without losing any of the gloss sheen that Taylors are known for. The Elixir HD Light strings were developed specially for the Grand Auditorium and Grand Concert models in a custom gauge set that uses medium gauges for the top strings and lighter low E and A strings to optimize string tension for improved playing feel while making the highs sound richer.

The 814ce Grand Auditorium Cutaway on review here is striking in the looks department with its boldly figured rosewood sides, abalone rosette (outlined in rosewood), and multi-layer wood bindings (composed of pale maple and rosewood) surrounding the straight-grained Sitka top. Pale maple binding also edges the back, neck, and the headstock, which is faced with marbled ebony. The stylish pickguard is cut from rosewood that matches the back and sides, and the marbled ebony fretboard wears tasteful pearl “Element” inlays.

Playability wise, this guitar rules thanks to a comfy satin-finished neck and a great setup with low action and smooth frets. The excellent intonation also helps to make everything sound focused and coherent, and the result is a fantastic acoustic sound with deep lows, nice midrange bloom, and a top end that that exhibits an uncanny blend of clarity and warmth. The guitar is very dynamically responsive. Picked lightly it sounds radiant and dimensional, yet it doesn’t compress when you strum or flatpick it aggressively.

Equipped with the new Expression 2 system, which was developed by Taylor engineer David Hosler, the 814e offers a significant advancement in amplified sound by essentially giving the pickup more room to “breathe.” To be more precise, the 814ce’s piezo sensors (there are three) are mounted in different positions behind the bridge instead of underneath it, and this allows the piezo crystals to respond to the guitar’s vibrational energy in a more linear manner than is possible when the strings are pressing down on the crystals, as with traditional undersaddle pickups.

It all translates to a more natural amplified sound, which was easy to hear when we plugged in the 814ce. Through various acoustic amps (UltraSound CP100, Fishman Loudbox and SA220, ZT Lunchbox Acoustic) it was easy to get sounds that closely resembled the guitar’s acoustic voice. With the 814’s Bass and Treble knobs at their middle settings, the sounds were well balanced top-to-bottom and exhibited no honkiness, harsh transient spikes, or plastic- y piezo artifacts. The 814ce didn’t have any feedback issues either, which made it possible to get plenty of volume from all of our test rigs.

No doubt the 814ce is an impressive guitar to begin with, but the Expression System 2 electronics make it even more so. This guitar succeeds on so many levels, and taken in total it would be hard to imagine a situation where it wouldn’t excel. The 814ce has everything it takes to please fingerstylists, singer-songwriters, and lead pickers alike, and it earns an Editors’ Pick Award.


PRICE $3,349 street


NUT WIDTH 1.75" Tusq
SCALE 25.5"
NECK Tropical mahogany
TUNERS Taylor nickel-plated
BODY Indian rosewood back and sides, Sitka spruce top
BRIDGE Ebony w/micarta saddle
ELECTRONICS Expression System 2
CONTROLS Volume, Bass, Treble
FACTORY STRINGS Elixir HD Light, .013, .017, .025, .032, .042, .052
WEIGHT 4.38 lbs
KUDOS Exceptional tone and playability. Expression 2 system provides enhanced amplified response.