Those interested in a lighter, open tone with a more organic vibe at an attainable price should audition the AD11e-SB
Attractive modern/vintage look
Quality craftsmanship at an affordable price
Small and lightweight body, with organic vibe, relaxed feel and easy playability
Tone is on the light side
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Taylor introduced the no-frills American Dream Series during the summer of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, in order to fulfill increasing demand from the multitudes dreaming of an American-made acoustic guitar at an attainable price.
Around the same time, the innovative manufacturer also introduced the Grand Theater body style, which is a bit larger than its travel-sized GS Mini and slightly smaller than a Grand Concert. Now the two concepts come together in the AD11e-SB.
The guitar is one of three eye-catching Sunburst additions to the American Dream Series, designated by “SB” in the model title: the Grand Theater AD11e-SB, the slightly larger Grand Concert AD12e-SB, and the soft-shouldered dreadnought Grand Pacific AD17e-SB.
All three feature a Tobacco Sunburst finish on a solid Sitka spruce top, with solid walnut back and sides. The aesthetic is modern vintage, and the hand-painted Tobacco Sunburst top finish is the star attraction. Indoors, it has a dusky quality. Outside, in sunshine, hints of cherry become apparent in the tan outer burst while the inner honey hues become more golden.
Sunlight also brings out all the nuances in the firestripe faux tortoiseshell pickguard. There are some cool green tones and sparkles mixed in near the fretboard side that bring some of the same intrigue as staring into the embers of a campfire. Old-fashioned Italian acrylic dot inlays adorn a eucalyptus fretboard, adding to the rootsy vibe.
Taylor’s diminutive Grand Theater is actually a scaled-down version of its largest body style, the Grand Orchestra, and it appears quite voluptuous.
All Grand Theaters feature Taylor’s new C-Class bracing system, a modified version of V-Class designed to deliver substantial tones from small bodies, although the AD11e-SB is more of a jangler than a boomer.
The low end is respectable for its size but not in the same league as its far fancier cousins – the rosewood-and-spruce 811e and all-koa K21e – that we reviewed exactly two years ago. Taylor says the sound of walnut back and sides is akin to mahogany.
The AD11e-SB has a midrange focus with a crisp sparkle and a dry finish. Volume is on the soft side, yet the tone is vivacious, clear, straightforward and fundamental.
Light fingerpicking or plucking is rewarded with nuanced response and sweet sustain.
Attack too aggressively with the action set as low as this one is, and those qualities become lost in fret splat, so play softly and let it sing.
Plugged into an AER Compact 60, the amplified sound represented the acoustic tone well, and I took the opportunity to boost the bass a bit via the onboard ES2 preamp.
The Grand Theater is designed for a relaxed feel, and that’s a huge part of the appeal. Playability is super easy, and playing in open position actually feels a lot like having a capo at the first fret. Bending notes and playing barre chords are practically effortless thanks to the short, 24 1/8-inch scale length and slim neck measuring 1.72 inches wide at the nut.
I’d highly recommend the AD11e for students and to any player requiring extra-easy playability, such as those with repetitive stress injuries to arms and hands.
Here’s a neat trick: if the GT’s feel is a bit too relaxed and you’d like a bit more fight without turning the truss rod, simply tune the whole guitar up a half step for a snappier string response.
As Taylor’s Grand Theater lineup grows, options abound. For those with budgets under two grand, the AD11e-SB is attractive, with quality craftsmanship in the same price range as the all-mahogany version, the Blacktop (with walnut back and sides and a black top) and the original Urban Ash offering.
Those with larger budgets seeking the biggest tone from a small instrument should check out the beefier-sounding and more refined 811e, and the affluent will appreciate the all-koa K21e.
Those interested in a lighter, open tone with a more organic vibe at an attainable price should audition the AD11e-SB.
For a similar style in a larger instrument, check out its new siblings in the American Dream Series, the Grand Concert AD12e-SB and Grand Pacific AD17e-SB.
- NUT WIDTH: 1.72”, black Tusq
- NECK: Tropical mahogany
- FRETBOARD: Eucalyptus, 24 1/8” scale, Italian acrylic faux pearl dot inlays
- FRETS: 20
- TUNERS: Taylor satin black
- BODY: Solid walnut back and sides, solid Sitka spruce top with C-Class bracing
- BRIDGE: Eucalyptus with Micarta saddle
- ELECTRONICS: Taylor ES2 with volume, bass, and treble controls
- FACTORY STRINGS: D’Addario XS coated phosphor bronze light .012–.053
- WEIGHT: 3.7 lbs (as tested)
- BUILT: USA
Visit Taylor Guitars for more information.
Jimmy Leslie has been Frets editor since 2016. See many Guitar Player- and Frets-related videos on his YouTube channel, and learn about his acoustic/electric rock group at spirithustler.com.