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Taylor Builder's Edition 324ce and 816ce Review

V-Class bracing, Taylor's imaginative use of materials, and exquisite craft make for two cutting-edge acoustic guitars.

Taylor Builder's Edition 324CE and 816CE
(Image: © Taylor)

Our Verdict

Both the Builder's Edition 324ce and 816ce are triumphs for Taylor's high-end designs. Their builds can't be faulted, and make for acoustics that are a joy to play with tones that will suit a wide range of styles.

For

  • The 324ce has a hip, eco-conscious body.
  • Great straightforward tone.
  • Fine comfort and playability.
  • The 816ce has a unique look and ergonomic feel.
  • It is exceptionally playable, with elegant, expansive tone.

Against

  • No pickguard on the 324ce.
  • 816ce has a lighter sound than traditional Grand Symphony.

These two new additions to Taylor’s Builder’s Edition series are radical in their own ways. The eco-conscious 324ce is the first guitar to come from Taylor’s Urban Wood Initiative, which uses trees sourced from cities that have scheduled their removal due to age or safety concerns. 

The 816ce represents a redesign of Taylor’s Grand Symphony body style, with a shallow cutaway sporting an extra soundport. Shared elements include V-Class bracing, a Silent Satin finish, Expression System 2 electronics, and lots of Taylor’s West African Crelicam ebony. That’s where similarities end and unique qualities begin.   

Builder’s Edition 816ce

The Grand Symphony has traditionally appealed to players that appreciate Taylor’s signature Grand Auditorium style but want a richer boom from its slightly larger body.

Taylor Builder's Edition 324CE and 816CE

Taylor Builder's Edition 816CE (Image credit: Taylor)

I own one of each and generally choose the Grand Symphony for big strumming songs that call for a bolder tone, particularly those in lowered tunings. My GS is a 2013 816ce, so I was particularly curious about this redesigned 816ce. I was surprised, as Taylor took it in a totally new direction.

This Grand Symphony puts emphasis on delicacy and sparkling nuance, rather than brazen bombast. The most obvious novel element is the semi-Florentine cutaway encapsulating a small, oval-shaped soundport.

As Andy Powers explained at the 2020 NAMM show, the soundport adds dimension, and the wider panorama leads to a more symphonic sound.

The listener actually receives more of that widespread experience than the player, unless of course the player puts a couple of microphones up in the studio, and then the possibilities become endlessly interesting, especially considering the guitar’s onboard electronics.

How good does the new 816ce look and feel? Don’t get me wrong: The former is beautiful, but the redesign has a more unique visual appeal with its eye-catching soundport cutaway.

The natural Lutz spruce top practically radiates in sunlight, as does its green abalone rosette. Other snazzy appointments include Windansea inlays in shell and mother-of-pearl on the ebony fretboard and peghead overlay, and a classy rock-maple binding.

Ultimately, the 816ce is suitable for a broad range of styles. It feels silky smooth under the fingers

The Builder’s Edition 816ce has practically perfect playability. Its slightly shorter scale length makes stretch chords more easily attainable, which comes at the slight cost of vigor. Ultimately, the 816ce is suitable for a broad range of styles. It feels silky smooth under the fingers, in hand, and along the body.

Size and weight remain the same, so it was interesting how this Grand Symphony somehow seemed much easier to wield than its predecessor. Plus, the bass boost available from the Expression 2 system can compensate for what’s lost acoustically in the low end with the new symphonic spread strategy.

Builder’s Edition 324ce

Taylor heralded its Urban Wood Initiative at NAMM with the Builder’s Edition 324ce Grand Auditorium as its musical voice. The back and sides are solid urban ash, which is the first urban wood species to be featured in the Taylor guitar line.

Andy Powers says, “In almost every physical way I can measure, it is reminiscent of good Honduran mahogany.” Mahogany has a potentially vast tonal palate, depending on the nature of the cut, but it is mostly associated with having a straightforward wooden sound that helped it earn its Americana stripes in countless classic bluegrass and country music settings.

Taylor’s Builder’s Edition 324ce pairs its urban ash back and sides with a tropical mahogany top, so it emanates that classic dry and strong sound all around. The top end is present without being too trebly, and the bottom is rich but not boomy. The mids and low mids are front and center, fundamentally clear, and wonderfully resonant. That held true when the guitar was plugged in, too.

Taylor Builder's Edition 324CE and 816CE

Taylor Builder’s Edition 324ce (Image credit: Taylor)

The Builder’s Edition 324ce is a brunette beauty decked out in various shades of brown, with a Tobacco Kona Burst on top. The whole instrument is dark and handsome, like a fine Cuban cigar transformed into a fine music-making machine. It lacks a pickguard, so scratching is a potential worry for those who consider such things a problem.

There’s not a rough edge to be found anywhere, and the beveled armrest and cutaway add considerably to the ergonomic enjoyment. The 324ce’s playability is sheer pleasure and versatility. Fingerpicking comes as readily as plectrum strumming, and chords come together as willingly as notes in single strokes.

The craftsmanship and factory setup are impeccable. How Taylor manages to make each and every instrument feel so consistently spot-on across its many designs is a modern mystery. Taylor’s continuing crusade to resource responsibly also deserves kudos. 

The company partnered with West Coast Arborists to develop the Urban Wood Initiative, sourcing wood from city trees at the end of their lifespan in Southern California, where Taylor makes its American magic. It’s a hip concept and collaboration that will surely bear further fruit. 

Saving city-dwelling flora from landfills to be reincarnated in the form of Taylor guitars is a win-win. The ingenious nature of the Urban Wood Initiative is how Taylor realized terrific tonewood can be found well beyond the forest, right down on Main Street. 

Perhaps the coolest thing about the Builder’s Edition 324ce is that you feel as good about playing it as you do about how it plays. Editors’ Pick Award on its way.

Specifications

  • Builder’s Edition 816ce
  • PRICE: $3,999 street
  • NUT WIDTH: 1.75” black Tusq
  • NECK: Tropical mahogany
  • FRETBOARD: West African ebony, 24 7/8” scale, Windansea inlays
  • FRETS: 20
  • TUNERS: Gotoh 510 with antique gold buttons
  • BODY: Grand Symphony made of solid Indian rosewood back and sides, solid Lutz spruce top with V-Class bracing
  • BRIDGE: West African ebony with Micarta saddle
  • ELECTRONICS: Taylor ES2 with volume, bass, and treble controls
  • FACTORY STRINGS: Elixir .012–.053
  • WEIGHT: 5 lbs
  • BUILT: USA
  • Builder’s Edition 324ce
  • PRICE: $2,999 street
  • NUT WIDTH: 1.75” black Tusq
  • NECK: Tropical mahogany
  • FRETBOARD: West African ebony, 25.5” scale, Italian acrylic Compass inlays
  • FRETS: 20
  • TUNERS: Gotoh 510, 21:1 gear ratio
  • BODY: Grand Auditorium made of solid urban ash back and sides, solid tropical mahogany top with V-Class bracing
  • BRIDGE: West African ebony Curve Wing with Micarta saddle
  • ELECTRONICS: Taylor ES2 with volume, bass, and treble controls
  • FACTORY STRINGS: Elixir .012–.053
  • WEIGHT: 4.6 lbs
  • BUILT: USA
  • CONTACT: Taylor Guitars