For its environmental ingenuity, ergonomic playability, refined tone, stageworthiness and overall sophistication, the Taylor Builder’s Edition 814ce earns an Editors’ Pick Award
Ultimately ergonomic and playable
Sexy look and feel
Stageworthy hi-fi tone
If you go for a chunky tone, there are other Taylors such as the new 417
You can trust Guitar Player.
It’s huge news when a company introduces a new version of its main model, and the Builder’s Edition 814ce is exactly that for Taylor.
The Grand Auditorium cutaway body style with a modern neck profile not only put the company on the map, it also made Taylor the acoustic guitar king of the West Coast. The standard 814ce with solid Indian rosewood back and sides coupled with a Sitka spruce top has been Taylor’s flagship since Moby Dick was a minnow, and now there’s a fresh take on the classic design, sporting top-shelf ergonomics and appointments, and with an upgrade to an Adirondack spruce top. The kicker is that the top is made of four pieces, marking the first time Taylor has done so using spruce.
The overall aesthetic of the BE 814ce is sleek and sophisticated. It boasts a beveled armrest and cutaway, a subtle alteration in the body taper and a refined gloss finish that helps highlight supple body contours. That’s a first for a Builder’s Edition. The back is seamless, gorgeous dark rosewood with a Kona edgebust presentation. Antique gold Gotoh 510 tuners are a hardware highlight, and a contoured Curve Wing bridge, exclusive to Builder’s Edition models, provides a lovely dock for the black pins with abalone caps.
The shape of a thin rosewood pickguard echoes the curvaceous body, bound around the top with alternating maple and black purfling, with rosewood edge trim. A stunning rosette made of just-the-right seashells in a stained-glass style setting provides the perfect complementary pink, green and blue hues, set in the bold white wood.
The BE 814ce feels like it looks. Simply setting the guitar on your lap and holding its body against your own is a sensual experience. The contoured flow is sexy and smooth everywhere you feel it, with not a rough edge to be found. The armrest is ultra comfy and ergonomic, facilitating strumming and fingerpicking.
One thing I found particularly interesting was the placement of the strap button on the back, just inside the neck heel, rather than on the far side of the neck stem, which is far more common. It seems this was done to make the instrument hang the same as it’s positioned when a player is sitting down, due to the special body taper and beveled armrest. When you switch from sitting to standing, the guitar seems to maintain its position, rather than becoming more bunched up toward the chest.
Playability is mere perfection in any position, sitting or standing, or anywhere on the neck. Strumming or fingerpicking notes and chords, or playing anything from rock to jazz, feels fine. Intonation is spot-on, and the factory action is ultra easy. Most folks will likely appreciate that quality, but it was all a bit too easy for me, so I eventually swapped out the light strings for a set of mediums to accommodate my more aggressive and sometimes percussive tendencies. That made a huge difference, upping the action a bit and making the tone more robust.
The BE 814ce sounds like it looks and feels – very modern, light and lively, and high fidelity. Sustain is long and dreamy. While a solo player might opt for a beefier option, the BE 814ce will shine through a group mix. It has the hallmark rosewood-and-spruce sound that’s rich and complex in the body, with plenty of sparkle on top in the context of a Grand Auditorium’s balanced quality.
Adirondack spruce is generally regarded as an upgrade from Sitka spruce and is renowned for its ability to maintain complex tones at high volumes while being visually pleasing due to its grain symmetry. Adirondack was standard fare during the golden years of guitar making leading up to World War II, but manufacturers switched to Sitka when supplies dwindled. That’s what makes this four-piece top particularly intriguing.
Taylor has made many koa guitars with four-piece tops (and four-piece backs), mainly GS Mini guitars. But this is the first time the company has made a guitar with a four-piece spruce top, which means pieces that used to be too small are now fair game. Doing it on a flagship instrument is evidence of the company’s confidence. And as Taylor president, CEO and chief guitar designer Andy Powers told GP at this year’s NAMM Show, the trick is in the build. As long the builder knows what he’s doing and is willing to put the time in to do it, a top made of multiple smaller pieces can actually sound better than a traditional two-piece top.
From a visual standpoint, this top didn’t appear to be made any differently, as the seams are so naturally incorporated into the grain structure. From a sonic standpoint, I couldn’t discern any big difference resulting from the four-piece top, and I’d bet most players would be stumped to hear one when comparing it side by side to a two-piece version of the exact same instrument.
Of course, the Builder’s Edition 814ce ships with Taylor ES2 electronics, and it delivered a rock-solid sonic representation of the guitar’s acoustic qualities when pumped through an L.R. Baggs Synapse Personal P.A. When I left the control dials on the guitar and the amp at noon, not only was there nothing lost but, if anything, the tone seemed a bit beefier. It’s a supreme stage instrument.
The product literature says, “The Builder’s Edition 814ce makes a compelling case as the most quintessentially ‘Taylor’ guitar we’ve ever built.” I agree, particularly as it pertains to the Andy Powers era. If you’re not a fan of the contemporary Taylor tone, you’re not likely to go for this guitar, but it’s hard to imagine any player who appreciates his work not digging this “Pinnacle of Powers.” His attention to making the guitar feel the way it looks, as well as his environmental appreciation, are also well reflected and represented here.
It all comes at significant cost, of course, as four-and-a-half grand is a chuck-load of cheddar. You could practically have a custom instrument built for that much. On the other hand, just go ask a custom shop for those beveled edges, premium woods, fancy seashells, and high-end tuners and you’ll come to appreciate the value on offer in this flagship Builder’s Edition, which is about as close to a custom shop instrument as you’ll find in a production guitar. It’s gorgeous, plays and sounds like a dream and will only improve as the wood ages.
If you’re a fan of Taylor’s modern marvels and you’ve got the green means, you’ll likely fall in love with the BE 814ce. For its environmental ingenuity, ergonomic playability, refined tone, stageworthiness and overall sophistication, the Taylor Builder’s Edition 814ce earns an Editors’ Pick Award.
- NUT WIDTH: 1.75”, black Tusq
- NECK: Neo-tropical mahogany
- FRETBOARD: West African ebony, 25 1/2” scale, mother of pearl inlays
- FRETS: 20
- TUNERS: Gotoh 510 antique gold, 21:1 ratio
- BODY: Solid Indian rosewood back and sides with beveled armrest and cutaway, solid 4-piece Adirondack spruce top with modified V-Class bracing
- BRIDGE: Curve Wing, West African ebony with Micarta saddle
- ELECTRONICS: Taylor ES2 with volume, bass, and treble controls
- FACTORY STRINGS: D’Addario XS coated phosphor bronze light (.012–.053)
- WEIGHT: 4.3 lbs (as tested)
- BUILT: USA
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