When Taylor set out to completely redesign its maple-bodied 600 series earlier this year, it presented designer Andy Powers with a monumental task. An integral part of the company’s line since the 1970s, 600s have been available in each of Taylor’s body styles and with many variations, meaning that Powers had to find ways to adapt his changes–which include redesigned bracing, optimized wood thicknesses, torrefied woods, and a thinner finish–according to each guitar’s inherent character (for more information on the background of the 600-series redesign, check out this video of Powers discussing the instruments).
As a result, Taylor is releasing the various updated models over a period of time, and after checking out the first guitar released in the series earlier this year, the grand auditorium size 614ce, we’ve now had a chance to take the new 612ce 12-Fret for a spin in the Peghead Nation video studio.
Taylor first introduced its grand concert body style in 1984, and it was redesigned for Taylor’s 30th anniversary models in 2004, at which point the body depth was increased slightly and it was paired with a shorter scale. Originally designed as a 14-fret guitar, some grand concert models became available with a 12-fret configuration in 2009.
The 612ce 12-Fret is an impressive guitar in every aspect. Its craftsmanship is superb, the materials are of very high quality, with the maple showing beautiful figuring and the spruce top displaying even and very straight grain. I didn’t have an earlier example of a 612ce to compare it to, but the guitar felt noticeably lighter than other Taylor grand concerts I’ve played, which makes sense, given Powers’ efforts to make the guitars more lively. Like the 614ce, the guitar has Powers’ unique slanted back bracing, which puts the braces at an angle, rather than in a straight ladder pattern.
Taylor guitars are well-known for their playability, but the 612ce 12-Fret is a revelation. The guitar’s short 24⅞-inch scale is undoubtedly a factor, but it seems that Taylor continues to make further improvements in its setup process, resulting in ultra-low action that can nevertheless take some digging in before buzzes or rattles become an issue. Tonewise, the 612ce 12-Fret has a great dynamic range, an amazing balance, and a complexity that is bound to make connoisseurs of small-body guitars listen up. An interesting aspect of Taylor’s 12-fret designs is that the guitars were originally designed as 14-frets, so the bridge has been moved farther into the lower bout due to the shorter neck. This is the opposite of the development of Martin-style 14-fret instruments, which started out as 12-frets, and then had their body shapes shortened to make room for the extra frets. The result is a very cool fusion of vintage and modern designs, accented by Taylor’s choice of a slotted headstock.
The guitar includes Taylor’s Expression System 2 electronics. Using a newly designed pickup that relies on a set of three piezo elements mounted behind the saddle (rather than under the saddle), the system replaces the magnetic sensors of the original Expression System. Taylor pairs the pickup with a custom-designed preamp that uses the familiar arrangement of controls for bass, treble, and volume in the upper bout of the guitar’s side. Played through a Fishman Loudbox Mini amp, the system was impressive, with a highly dynamic, natural sound that required no further processing.
We found the 612ce 12-Fret to be an incredibly fun guitar to play and were knocked out by its playability and delicate, yet complex and dynamic voice. The fact that it uses sustainable, North American woods for its top, back, sides, and neck, is icing on the cake, as is the inclusion of Taylor’s excellent pickup system. In this video, Peghead Nation Co-Founder/Producer Teja Gerken plays the guitar fingerstyle, and Co-Founder/Editor Scott Nygaard gives it a workout using a flatpick.
SPECS: Grand concert body with 12-fret neck. Solid torrefied Sitka spruce top. Solid maple back and sides. Maple neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 24⅞-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Slotted headstock. Open-geared tuning machines. Expression System 2 electronics. Made in USA. $4,398 list. taylorguitars.com
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