Taylor Academy Series 10e Dreadnought and 12e Grand Concert Acoustics Reviewed - GuitarPlayer.com

Taylor Academy Series 10e Dreadnought and 12e Grand Concert Acoustics Reviewed

“Guitars made for beginners should be easier to play, rather than more difficult,” says Taylor’s Andy Powers.
Author:
Publish date:
Image placeholder title

“Guitars made for beginners should be easier to play, rather than more difficult,” says Taylor’s Andy Powers. Who can argue that? Yet, most players start out on a guitar that even a pro would have a hard time handling, and graduate to better instruments as they progress. Powers was a music teacher for many years before becoming the lead designer for Taylor, so the issue of attracting more players to the guitar, and keeping them playing, is close to his heart. Over the last few years, Powers has been redesigning Taylor’s entire line, one series at time, and he’s applied valuable lessons to the Academy Series, focusing on the absolutely essential elements and leaving off anything he felt wasn’t indispensible.

“It starts with the neck,” says Powers. “If you can’t get readily get around on the neck to create chords and scales, then the guitar’s tonal qualities don’t matter much anyway.” A slim-profile neck has always been a Taylor hallmark, and the new Academy Series guitars feature the same primary design with a couple of key modifications—a slightly slimmer than normal width at 1 11/16" compared to the typical 1 ¾", and a slightly smaller scale length of 24 ⅞" compared to the typical 25 ½". I received the Academy Series 10e dreadnought and 12e Grand Concert at the same time as a pair of comparably fancy Taylors from the new 800 Deluxe Series—the 810e DLX Dreadnought and 814ce DLX Grand Auditorium—and this made for some fascinating comparing and contrasting.

When I picked up the Academy 10e Dreadnought for the first time, its comfort level struck me immediately. I’m a little dude, so a typical dreadnought can feel as bulky to me as to a student, but the 10e was a fine fit. It measures 15” across at the lower bout, making it slightly smaller than a typical dreadnought. Another key feature I appreciated along those lines was a lovely beveled armrest. It’s not surprising to find one on an 800 Deluxe, but all Academy Series instruments include that cozy feature. So why don’t they make every acoustic with a beveled armrest?

“It’s difficult to do,” Powers explained, “but much easier on instruments without bindings. Bindings are primarily cosmetic anyway, so we ditched them on the Academy Series, and included the armrest, which I consider important for a player trying to become comfortable on the instrument.”

The Academy Series 10e dreadnought played similarly to the 810e DLX, and was actually easier for me to navigate, probably because the unbound neck was a little easier to grip. I found the 12e to be ever so slightly more challenging for executing linear runs and bending strings, but more accommodating for fingerstyle playing. According to Powers, that’s typical for a Grand Concert as compared to a dreadnought body style. Pick players often prefer the dread, and fingerstylists tend to dig the more shapely and usually smaller-bodied Grand Concert, although both are the same 15" wide at the lower bout in the Academy Series.

Both Academy guitars produced respectable tones for their body types, with the 10e dreadnought being understandably a bit less booming in the bottom end than a typical dreadnought due to its diminished body size. Both also delivered strong fundamental tones (especially when compared to the luxurious, overtone-rich 800s), and they sounded big and booming when electrified. The ES-B electronics in the Academy Series couples the same primary transducer as Taylor’s lauded Expression System 2 with a simpler preamp system that’s easier for a novice to navigate—just Volume and Tone controls. Played though a Rivera Sedona Lite amplifier, I found the tones that burst forth from these guitars didn’t need much sculpting anyway.

Kudos to Taylor for focusing on the future. We need more new players, and we need them to keep with it. I’d recommend a 10e or 12e to anyone looking to make the challenging path of becoming a guitar player a little less arduous. There’s also a nylon-string version of the Grand Concert available for aspiring classical and flamenco players in the form of the 12e-N. Where were these guitars when I was fighting action five feet off the neck on my first acoustic?!?

But on that note, the Academy Series guitars are not simply for students. If you’ve ever wanted a smaller, more affordable instrument that plays and sounds like a Taylor, and yet is something you’d be more likely to take to the beach or the campground, the Academy Series should suit you well. Ultimately, education is a never-ending process, and anything that makes learning more fun or facilitates playing more guitar is always a great idea.

Academy 10e

CONTACT taylorguitars.com
PRICE $499 street
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16", Nubone
NECK Sapele, varnish finish, 24 ⅞" scale
FRETBOARD Ebony
FRETS 20
TUNERS Taylor chrome
BODY Layered sapele back and sides, Sitka spruce top
BRIDGE Ebony with compensated Micarta saddle
PICKUPS Taylor ES-B pickup and preamp system
CONTROLS Tone, Volume, Tuner
FACTORY STRINGS Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light
WEIGHT 4.4 lbs
BUILT Mexico
KUDOS Excellent neck with easy action. Smallish dreadnought still sounds big.
CONCERNS None.

Academy 12e

PRICE $499 street
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16", NuBone
NECK Mahogany, varnish finish, 24 ⅞" scale
FRETBOARD Ebony
FRETS 20
TUNERS Taylor chrome
BODY Layered sapele back and sides, Sitka spruce top
BRIDGE Ebony with compensated Micarta saddle
PICKUPS Taylor ES-B pickup and preamp system
CONTROLS Tone, Volume, Tuner
FACTORY STRINGS Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light
WEIGHT 4.2 lbs
BUILT Mexico
KUDOS Very comfortable feel, especially fine for fingerpicking. Respectable fundamental-forward tone transfers well via amplification.
CONCERNS None.

RELATED