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Taylor 618e
 
A thoroughly modern maple jumbo flattop
November 30, 2020

 
For many guitarists, there’s nothing like a maple jumbo. Known for their big, clear sounds, excellent volume and punch, and beautiful looks, these guitars often reside at the upper end of a manufacturer’s catalog. Taylor offered a traditionally shaped jumbo body from its earliest days at the American Dream shop (Taylor inherited the shape from American Dream owner Sam Radding) until 2013, when it was replaced by the Grand Orchestra shape (though the original jumbo body shape continues to be available as a custom order). The Grand Orchestra was the first completely new Taylor designed by Andy Powers, who, up to that point, had only modified existing models. Measuring 16¾ inches at the lower bout, the Grand Orchestra’s body is close to the width of a traditional 17-inch jumbo body, but its waist is not as pinched, which Taylor feels allows the top to move more freely. Originally designed with traditional X-bracing, Grand Orchestras have been available in several of Taylor’s lines, but earlier this year, the company completely revamped the instruments, which now feature V-Class bracing and updated looks. I recently had a chance to check out the new version of the maple-body 618e in the Peghead Nation video studio.

The new 618e is a completely different guitar from the previous version. Not only does it have V-Class bracing, but its maple back and sides have an almost clear finish, rather than the “Brown Sugar” stain on other current 600-series guitars, and the appointment package is unique to this model. The result is a guitar with a fresh sound and an appearance that pays homage to classic maple jumbos of the past. The most striking part of the 618e’s appointment package is its “Mission” fingerboard inlay, which consists of large, block-style position markers. Speaking of the fingerboard, Taylor chose very light colored ebony for this model, so light in fact that I double-checked to make sure it wasn’t some kind of rosewood. Not only does the light ebony look beautiful with the slightly shaded top and overall aesthetic of the guitar, it also demonstrates how to effectively use ebony that is less than pitch black. 

Picking the guitar up to play, it was immediately clear that its tonal character matches its size. While I didn’t have an earlier version of the 618e on hand to compare, I have played several in the past, and I don’t remember them being as dynamic and rich sounding as this latest incarnation. The guitar certainly met my expectations for volume and clarity when I strummed it with a heavy picking hand, but I was pleasantly surprised how responsive it was to a softer touch, and how well it maintained tonal complexity throughout its dynamic range. The new 618e is the rare jumbo-size guitar that makes for an excellent fingerstyle guitar, and players who use dropped tunings will especially appreciate the instrument’s thundering low end. 

Plugged into a Fishman Loudbox Mini, the guitar’s stock Expression System 2 electronics provided a great amplified sound. And while I couldn’t crank it up to stage volume levels in our studio, I suspect that maple’s typical clarity will help make the 618e a capable performing instrument. 

Sometimes a revamp of a popular model leaves you wondering why a company didn’t leave well enough alone, but in the case of the new 618e, the result is wonderful all around. Whether you’re looking for a great strummer, a powerful fingerstyle guitar, or simply a big, bold, eye-catching flattop, Taylor has got you covered!

SPECS: Grand Orchestra body. Solid Sitka spruce top with V-Class-bracing. Solid maple back and sides. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.5-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Nickel Taylor tuning machines. ES2 electronics. Made in USA. $3,499 street. Taylorguitars.com

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Julian Lage, “Nothing Happens Here” | Collings Guitars
The jazz phenom performs live in San Francisco using his Collings OM1 JL signature model.
 
 
 
 
 
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    ● Courses
    ● Live Workshops
    ● Instructors
    ● Sample Lessons
    ● Notation Guide
    ● For Beginners
 
 
    ● Vintage Vault
    ● New Gear
    ● Fine Lutherie
 
 
    ● Workshops
    ● Advice
    ● Repertoire
 
 
    ● Recordings
    ● Events
    ● Breaking News
 
 
    ● In The Studio
    ● Live Onstage
    ● Backroom
 
 
    ● New Products
    ● Inside Look
    ● Performances
    ● Partner Pages
 
 
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