Taylor T3-B

PROPELLED BY THE POPULARITY OF ITS T5 acoustic-electric and SolidBody electric models (reviewed in the June 2005 and February 2008 issues of GP respectively), Taylor has introduced a third instrument, extending its foray into electric guitar territory. The semihollow T3/B is visually quite similar to the T5, and it incorporates a few of the SolidBody Standard’s features—but beyond that it is a significantly different guitar with a very distinct palette of tones. The T3/B also sports a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece, bringing twang to a Taylor for the first time (a stop tailpiece-equipped version, the T3, is also available).

The first thing I noticed upon removing the T3/B from its classy, plush-lined alligator-grain case was the guitar’s deeply quilted maple top, and the gorgeous honeyed hues and striped grain patterns within the pieces of sapele comprising its back, sides, and neck. A closer examination revealed greater detail: The headstock, neck, and top (including the four toothshaped “F” holes) were all flawlessly bound with bright white binding, the headstock logo and microdot fret markers were expertly inlayed, and the stylish chrome hardware was cleanly mounted. Strapping on the T3/B, I found it to be well balanced and comfortable to hold, and the guitar’s sleek neck, perfectly cut and dressed medium frets, and smooth ebony fretboard combined to make it play like the proverbial butter. My only concern was that the guitar arrived with the action on the top strings set so low that several notes on the first two strings buzzed. Fortunately, raising the bridge just a tad made quick work of the problem.

The T3/B is heavier than its nearly twin cousin, the T5, because although the body is similarly chambered on the sides, the T5’s hollow center and internal bracing have been replaced by a solid block of wood running the full length of the body, and the maple top is attached directly to the block—an arrangement that inhibits feedback at higher volumes while simultaneously increasing sustain. The T3/B also employs Taylor’s brilliant single-bolt T-Lock system used to secure the neck to the body, which works with a special high-resolution pocket spacer to insure the neck sits at the optimal angle.

Although few things in life are cooler than a Bigsby tailpiece, users sometimes complain that on many guitars they don’t return to pitch accurately—mostly due to the strings dragging across and getting hung up on notched bridges. Taylor has largely remedied this problem by pairing the Bigsby with a roller-style bridge, all but eliminating the friction issue, and resulting in improved intonation and smoother overall operation. Of course, you still won’t be able to perform radical dive-bombing moves without consequences, but you will be able to get your Gene Vincent on with impunity.

As for the T3/B’s pickups, twin Style 2 HD (high definition) humbuckers work in tandem with a standard 3-way selector in the conventional way. But, pulling up on the Volume control engages a coil-splitter, converting both humbuckers to single-coil operation, and effectively transforming the T3/B into a dual “singlecoil” instrument. The Tone control is similarly versatile: It functions as a standard tone control throughout the first two-thirds of its range, while providing a tasty notched mid boost in the final third (think cocked wah). And, pulling it up introduces a tone-mellowing capacitor into the circuit, resulting in darker, jazzier sounds.

I tested the T3/B mostly using a Rivera Venus 6 amplifier, but Traynor YGM-3 Vintage Reissue and Fender Twin Reverb amps were also used for comparison. With the pickups in humbucker mode, and the Tone control turned entirely clockwise, the range of sounds produced was squarely in the same ballpark as that of similar classic semi-hollow instruments.

When playing through Rivera’s clean channel, and the other two amps at moderate volumes, the T3/B’s humbuckers sounded full and rich, with lots of clarity and definition. The bridge pickup had a just enough brightness and edge to cut cleanly without harshness, the neck pickup provided tight, woody mids and robust lows, and when combined they produced a well-balanced sound that would be equally at home in rock, R&B, and jazz settings. Maxing the Tone control added a touch of mid-frequency squawk, and pulling it up had an effect similar to that of rolling back the tone control on a fatback jazz guitar, resulting in slightly more old-school jazz sounds.

Switching to split-coil mode changed the guitar’s character completely, dishing up a wonderful range of delectable tones, not surprisingly more reminiscent of a semi-hollow Rickenbacker than a solidbody Fender. With the Tone control fully clockwise, the bridge pickup produced gloriously sparkling sounds with just a touch of compression, the neck pickup yielded Gretsch-like clang, and together they produced a very satisfying combination of those two tones. Pulling up the Tone control mellowed things slightly, but had less effect than in humbucker mode.

When playing through Rivera’s lead channel on a moderately overdriven setting, the T3/B’s bridge humbucker displayed an aggressive, throaty bite and crunch, and the neck humbucker produced a round, “Had to Cry Today”-type tone (especially with the Tone control rolled back). Engaging the amp’s gain boost resulted in hotter versions of the same sounds, but with considerably more sustain. Switching to the single-coil configuration yielded very different, surprisingly Strat-like distorted tones.

The prime directive of any semi-hollow electric guitar is versatility. It should be able to produce woody jazz sounds and punchy rhythm tones, while at the same time being ready to rock at the flip of a switch. The T3/B meets these requirements easily, and greatly exceeds them thanks to its chameleon-like pickups and switching system. The T3/B is about as perfect as a guitar can be, and it earns an Editors’ Pick Award.