As more Taylor models are offered with V-Class bracing, the line has expanded. At present it includes the 314ce, 324ce, 414ce, 514ce, 614ce, Builder’s Edition 614ce, 714ce, 814ce, 814ce DLX, 914ce, PS14ce and K24ce, with more on the way. We focused extensively on the benefits of V-Class bracing in our review of the Builder’s Edition K14ce last February. In short, this innovative bracing system enhances sustain by maintaining stiffness along the middle of the guitar in the direction of the strings, keeping them in motion longer than is possible with traditional X bracing. V-Class also allows the top to be more in tune with the vibrating strings, noticeably improving the guitar’s ability to play in tune in all positions. Finally, it increases volume by controlling the top’s flexibility and creating a more orderly rocking motion on both sides of the top.
The 514ce we chose to review here features solid mahogany back and sides, a solid cedar top and a mahogany neck with a 25.5-inch-scale ebony fretboard that joins the body at the 14th fret. Appointments include Century inlays, a single-ring rosette with tortoise binding inside the soundhole, tortoise binding on the top and back, a black peghead facing, and ebony for the neck binding, heel cap and truss-rod cover.
The 514ce’s slim neck feels great, as do the 20 frets, thanks to careful dressing that leaves no hitches on the tips. The Venetian cutaway makes it easy to reach the high notes, and the beauty here is how solidly in tune the guitar sounds when you grab chords and intervals in even the highest positions. It’s quite unreal, and something you most definitely have to hear to fully appreciate.
The mahogany/cedar combination gives this guitar a crisp, full sound, with lots of detail and complexity. The low end is firm, balanced and non-boomy, and the guitar responds beautifully when played with a pick or fingers. Volume comes effortlessly, and the abundant sustain gives a blooming quality to notes that makes whatever you’re playing sound and feel all the more inspiring.
Electronics consist of a Taylor Expression System 2, which uses three individually calibrated sensors mounted behind the saddle to better capture the dynamics of the acoustic sound. These signals feed into a custom-designed preamp, which has volume, bass and treble controls. The nine-volt battery that supplies power is accessed via a hatch below the endpin.
I tested the 514ce through a Fishman SA-220 Solo Performance System, and its acoustic qualities were well presented by the innovative pickup system. It does well at capturing the sound, and especially the dynamics, of the 514ce without inducing harsh or plasticky artifacts. Very cool.
The Grand Auditorium was originally designed by Bob Taylor in 1994 to fill the niche between a dreadnought and a smaller Grand Concert, and the 514ce has traditionally done this very well. However, the V-Class bracing invented by Taylor design chief Andy Powers has improved just about everything, making this versatile guitar a fine choice for recording and/or for performers who want to be able to cover different styles with one guitar. Another cool thing about V-Class is how well it reveals the natural sounds of the woods. On a couple of occasions, I’ve been able to experience a variety of wood combinations on several otherwise identical Taylor guitars, and the way their tones differ is amazing. It’s good that Taylor settled on the mahogany/cedar recipe for the 514 series, otherwise the option anxiety could really get out of control! There’s a lot of music in the 514ce, and it’s a great guitar for just about anything you care to throw at it. Its excellent playability, high-quality build and solid intonation make it a top contender in this price category and deserving of an Editors’ Pick Award.
PRICE $2,799 street, hardshell case included
NUT WIDTH 1.75"
NECK Tropical mahogany
FRETBOARD West African ebony, 25.5" scale
TUNERS Taylor nickel-plated
BODY Tropical mahogany, with solid cedar top
BRIDGE Ebony with compensated Micarta saddle
ELECTRONICS Taylor Expression System 2
CONTROLS Volume, bass and treble
FACTORY STRINGS Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light
WEIGHT 5.75 lbs
KUDOS Impeccable workmanship, fabulous playability and tone