By Adam Perlmutter
On a bright California Saturday not long ago, my family and I strolled down Santa Monica’s buzzing Third Street Promenade and encountered not one but three balladeers serenading passersby with their Taylor acoustics. Indeed, few companies have armed as many working and avocational musicians with guitars as Taylor, who uses tools and techniques such as CNC machines, bolt-on necks, and fast-drying finishes to build consistently fine-sounding and eminently playable instruments on an impressive scale.
At the other end of the price spectrum, Taylor offers its Presentation Series guitars, which are built in extremely limited quantities from the most coveted tonewoods and feature ne plus ultra ornamentation. This year’s Presentation Series, which features just 150 instruments, offers a choice of seven platforms: dreadnought (PS10ce), grand concert (PS12ce), grand auditorium (PS14ce), 12-string grand auditorium (PS54ce), jumbo (PS15ce), 12-string jumbo (PS55ce) and grand symphony (PS16ce). Each is available with a Venetian or Florentine cutaway. I was lucky enough to put a Venetian cutaway PS12ce through its paces.
Opening the PS12ce’s deluxe hardshell case, my eyes were immediately drawn to the instrument’s centerpiece: an elaborate art nouveau–influenced vine inlay designed by Taylor master luthier Andy Powers that curls along the length of the ebony fretboard. This effusion of green heart abalone is complemented on the headstock by a torch inlay, on the bridge by what might be described as a diamond flanked by antlers, and around the perimeter of the entire instrument.
Gold-plated Gotoh 510 tuners off er another touch of flash. The guitar’s woods compete for attention with the ornamentation. The soundboard is fashioned from particularly attractive solid Sitka spruce that is tightly and evenly grained. The solid back and sides and rear side of the headstock are made of cocobolo, a tropical hardwood from Central America that, with its swirling grain and sharp resonance, substitutes both visually and sonically for Brazilian rosewood.
Given Taylor’s longstanding reputation for perfectionism, it comes as no surprise that the craftsmanship on the PS12ce is unimpeachable. The frets are perfectly dressed and polished, and the bone nut and saddles are cut with precision. The finish on the body and headstock is rubbed to a flawless lustrous gloss, and no shortcuts have been taken on the guitar’s carefully sanded CV (modifi ed X) bracing and kerfing.
The PS12ce’s grand concert body is exceptionally comfortable, thanks in great part to its contoured, forearm-cradling armrest, a feature previously reserved for instruments in the boutique R. Taylor line. True to the Taylor style, the tropical mahogany neck is svelte in all registers, and the 1 3/4–inch nut provides suffi cient string spacing to prevent the fret-hand from feeling constricted.
Strumming some rudimentary open chords on the PS12ce, I was pleased to fi nd that the guitar has plenty of clarity and depth, with lots of consonantly ringing overtones. The tonal spectrum is powerfully balanced, and the guitar, which is on the lively side, vibrates excitedly. It responds equally well to fingerpicking and to flatpicking in a range of styles, and its brilliant tone is preserved when the guitar is tuned to a nonstandard arrangement like open D or open C.
The PS12ce is outfitted with Taylor’s proprietary Expression System, an all-magnetic pickup that includes discrete elements mounted to the soundboard and underneath the fretboard for a warm and pure sound. Plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic 150 amplifier via a quarter-inch jack at the endpin, the PS12ce sounded remarkably clean and realistic and demonstrated excellent feedback resistance. With any luck, the owner of this splendorous guitar will be able to set aside any fears of wearing down its luxurious surfaces and actually enjoy these fine sounds.
List Price: $7,668
Taylor Guitars, taylorguitars.com
Photo: Massimo Gammacurta