THE LOW-TUNED SOUND OF A BARITONE is one of the most compelling guitar sounds around, and Taylor has added an entirely new wrinkle to the experience with its Baritone 8-String. Part of Taylor’s Specialty Series, the Baritone 8-String is based on the standard 6-sring Baritone but has octave pairs on the D and G strings. This seemingly minor change yields big sonic results, however, which we’ll get into later.
The Baritone 8-String features Taylor’s Grand Symphony body style, which is designed to deliver not only a greater amount of volume, but also deeper bass and richer sounding mids and highs. The gloss-finished Indian rosewood back and sides help to provide a tight, punchy response, and their rich graining looks stunning on this guitar.
Also very tasteful are the flawless dark wood bindings—5-ply on the top and 3-ply on the back—that incorporate thin lines of a light colored material that is also used to create the inlaid back stripe. Other cosmetic touches include a lovely abalone rosette, diamond-shaped pearl fretboard inlays, and abalone topped bridge pins. In all aspects this is a beautifully made guitar, and the attention to detail extends to the interior construction, where we find carefully shaped and sanded “Special Baritone” bracing and tight joints where the wood pieces meet.
The Expression System’s controls are located on the forward part of the upper bout, and the relative simplicity of the three-knob layout belies the fact that the Expression System incorporates one Dynamic Body Sensor attached under the soundboard to pick up the top’s vibrations and one Dynamic String Sensor mounted under the fretboard to translate vibrations from the strings and neck to the onboard electronics. If desired, you can turn off the top sensor via a small switch accesible from inside the soundhole. Powering the system—which now features a discreet preamp—is a single 9-volt battery that resides in a quick release holder under the endpin jack.
The mahogany neck is constructed from three pieces and features a rosewood heel cap. It has a slim, inviting profile with just the slightest hint of a V shape, and the 15"- radius fretboard affixed to it wears 19 polished frets that are nicely shaped and consistent in height. There was no buzzing to be heard despite the fairly low action, and the intonation is also very tuneful sounding as you finger chords up and down the neck.
Played acoustically, the Baritone 8-String is immediately captivating. The low-end delivery is massive—you can feel it in your body when strumming a chord—and it’s deeper and more powerful than anything delivered by a standard dreadnought- or jumbo-sized guitar. Unlike a 12-string, the 8-string’s complement of paired D and G strings makes the octaves jump out in interesting ways. You can hear the mids glisten when you strike a full chord, and this sound is complemented by a warm, clear treble that sings out with an uncanny sweetness. The Baritone is easy to play, but it can take a little practice to get good at fingering the doubled strings consistently as you play across the fretboard. Once you get comfy with the feel of hitting the paired strings it’s off to the races as to where the inspiration takes you.
Plugged into a Genz-Benz Shenandoah acoustic amp, the Baritone 8-String sounded amazingly natural. The Expression System is super adept at capturing the sound of wood and strings, and it does so without adding any noticeable coloration of its own. The rich tones emanating from the Shenandoah’s speaker array sounded huge, and the Baritone 8-String also proved to be quite immune to feedback at higher volumes.
The Baritone 8-String goes down in my book as one of the most enticing acoustic guitars I’ve played. Baritones offer a whole different experience from that of a standard acoustic, and what Taylor has done here takes that experience to an entirely new level. It’s practically impossible to not be impressed by everything the Baritone 8-String does, and that’s why it receives an Editors’ Pick Award.
CONTACT Taylor Guitars, (800) 943-6782; taylorguitars.com
PRICE $3,998 retail/$3,199 street
NECK Tropical American mahogany
FRETBOARD Ebony, 27" scale
TUNERS Mini gold-plated Taylor
BODY Indian rosewood back and sides
TOP Solid Sitka spruce
BRIDGE Ebony with compensated saddle
ELECTRONICS Taylor Expression System
CONTROLS Volume, Bass, Treble, Mini switch for activating the top sensor
FACTORY STRINGS Elixir Baritone
WEIGHT 5.3 lbs
KUDOS Awesome sounding. Natural amplified response. Flawless construction.