Taylor GS

Although the majority of Taylor guitars generally fit into recognizable camps—the grand concert, the super jumbo, the dreadnought—the Southern California maker has always been known for having a look and vibe all its own. So it’s not surprising that the new GS—which was designed in conjunction with the “cream of his development team” by founder and head honcho Bob Taylor, and is available in four tonewood configurations (mahogany/cedar, maple/spruce, rosewood/ cedar, and redwood/spruce)—still looks like a Taylor, and I mean that in the best possible way. The curves of our review GS are a stone’s throw from the grand auditorium style, but Taylor has broadened the lower bout, and widened the waist by 3/8"—alterations that led them to dub this model the “Grand Symphony.” The guitar sports an abalone soundhole ring, and an ivoroid binding borders the fawn-colored expanse of gloss- finished cedar—which itself has an exceptionally fine, straight grain. Abalone micro dot inlays in an ebony
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The GS’s satin-finished mahogany neck features Taylor’s bolt-on NT neck design. It’s straight and true on this new factory example—as you’d expect—but, more to the point, is also designed to be easily adjusted by a qualified technician should it shift with time or a change in climate. For minor adjustments, there’s easy access to the trussrod nut beneath a rosewood cover at the headstock end. Taylor even supplies a combination tool to do the job. This is a wide neck, measuring 1 3/4" at the nut, and a pretty thin one, too, wearing a shallow “C” profile that promotes fast flatpicked lead work, or swift fingerstyle playing with a little support from a thumb at the back of the neck.

Our review model—the cedar/mahogany combo—includes Taylor’s Expression System pickup and onboard preamp—the latter designed in conjunction with studio electronics legend Rupert Neve. Rather than a single under-saddle piezo strip, or a combination of piezo and internal microphone, the Expression System receives the signals from two proprietary magnetic-diaphragm pickups placed beneath the guitar top, and blends them with the signal from a magnetic string sensor mounted under the end portion of the fretboard. Taylor used complex laser analysis to determine the vibrational patterns of an acoustic guitar in action, and put a lot of science into the pickup placement for the Expression System—all with the intention of making it easy for the player to amplify the way a guitar really sounds.

Despite the advancement this system represents, it also results in a guitar with a very minimal electronics presence. The pickups aren’t visible at all, and the preamp is a simple and understated affair, with 2-band active EQ and a Volume control. Trim little rubber-coated knobs allow you to tweak sounds easily on the fly, and the center detents help you find the flat settings without looking. The endpin output jack is enclosed within a unit that also houses a twist-out battery tube, which carries a pair of AA cells rather than the usual 9-Volt battery.


As Taylor says about the GS: “If you think you know the Taylor sound, you’re in for a big surprise.” To that end, the guitar rings full and true, with a deep, rich, well-rounded tone that is instantly pleasing. It has the bottom and low-mid punch of a dreadnought, but without the typical boominess exhibited by many of the breed. Rather, the GS couches an airy midrange between its low-end oomph and high-end shimmer that together frame a very appealing, musical voice.

Overall, the GS reminds me of a very good dreadnought, but with a certain mellow sizzle behind each note that adds dimension, while also smoothing out the tones. Bass runs explode with a ballsy, round pop, and there’s a tight, quick response that keeps up with speedy picking. This guitar also doesn‘t yield easily to compression when you whack it hard. An ever-so-slight rattle from the endpin region was noticeable—although it vanished amid full chords or less intense picking. [Taylor says that AA batteries can varey in size, and smaller ones can cause this rattle. Wrapping the batteries in a small piece of paper can fix the problem, however, the 2007 ES-equipped models will feature a modified battery compartment that will make battery size a non issue.] The GS makes a great flatpicker’s alternative to a dreadnought, and if you’re concerned—as I was—that the soundboard would suffer pick gouges with no pickguard to protect it, rest assured. You can order a GS with a pickguard installed, or have one put on an existing GS by the factory for a minimal charge.

Amped Sounds

Plugged in, the GS sounds equally impressive. The Expression System is one of the most natural-sounding acoustic pickup/ onboard preamp combos I have ever tested, while also being among the simplest to use. With the Bass, Treble, and Volume set flat, you start at square one with a very accurate amplified representation of the guitar’s acoustic tone—albeit with a hair more percussive plonk in the pick attack. Tweak the powerful, active tone controls out of their detent positions, and you can sculpt a broad range of sounds. There’s no mid contour or anti-feedback controls, yet the Expression System outperforms a great many onboard preamps equipped with five or six controls, and is more accurate and linear to any systems I can recall. Even at considerable volume, the GS remained impressively feedback resistant, and really only teetered toward any howl when I cranked up the controls, and stood foolishly close to the amp or P.A.

The Expression System is a tonally superior unit that will likely please the vast majority of players.In practical terms, the lack of an onboard tuner could be a drawback for some—especially considering that the preamp is designed to be plugged straight into the board or the XLR input of an acoustic amp with the TRS-to-XLR cable supplied (although you can also use a standard guitar cord). A solution for patching a pedal tuner inline would be to use Taylor’s Balanced Breakout muting footswitch ($110), or you could use any of a range of guitar-mounted vibration-sensing acoustic tuners.

GS Judgment

So what of Taylor’s assertion that those who think they know Taylor sound are in for a big surprise? Well, given Taylor’s track record of excellence, I’m not sure the GS’s playability and tone will be that much of a shocker. But if the idea of a guitar that takes the muscular dreadnought sound in a warmer, smoother direction appeals to you, the GS may be just the new Taylor you’ve been looking for.