Taylor originally developed its American Dream line of guitars in 2020, during the early months of the Covid lockdown. With its simplified design, the series was conceived both for an easier workflow at a time when the company’s main El Cajon, California, factory wasn’t able to run at full capacity and to allow for a lower retail price. Not surprisingly, the American Dream guitars were enthusiastically received, and while the original run only included Taylor’s slope-shoulder Grand Pacific (GP) body, the line has grown to include Grand Concert (GC) and Grand Theater (GT) size models. The most recent addition to the American Dream line is a trio of guitars with sunburst finishes. I checked out the AD11e-SB, AD12e-SB, and AD17e-SB in the Peghead Nation studio.
Serious Taylor fans will identify the AD11e-SB as a GT, the AD12e-SB as a GC, and the AD17e-SB as a GP model. Besides the different body sizes, this also means that each guitar has a different scale length (24⅛ inches for the AD11e-SB, 24⅞ inches for the AD12e-SB, and 25.5 inches for the AD17e-SB), giving each of the three guitars a very different feel. In addition to their sunburst finishes, the three guitars also have identical woods and appointments. Taylor has a long history of using walnut for backs and sides, and having recently introduced this wood as an option for its Academy Series, as well as using it on the GTe Blacktop and other models, the company chose walnut (which is often described as falling tonally between mahogany and rosewood) for the new American Dream guitars. The walnut on all three of our demo guitars had attractive coloring, and the Sitka spruce used for the guitars’ tops was of a quality that would be at home on considerably more expensive instruments. Taylor also used the same ultra-thin, open-pore, satin finish found on other American Dream models, which not only allows the wood to vibrate more freely than with thicker finishes, it also contributes to the instruments’ feel. Appointments are kept to a minimum, but a “firestripe” tortoise-style pickguard offers a bit of vintage vibe, and simple dot inlays (made of Italian acrylic) in the fingerboard, a black-and-white multi-ring rosette, and black tuning machines give the guitars a distinctive appearance. The AD12e-SB and AD17e-SB are built with Taylor’s V-Class bracing, and like other GT models, the AD11e-SB uses the C-Class bracing that was specifically developed for the GT body style. All three guitars include Taylor’s ES2 electronics.
For players who have played other American Dream guitars with these three body styles, there won’t be any huge surprises when playing these sunburst models.The AD11e-SB is nearly identical to the GTe Blacktop, except for its appearance, of course, and it has a similar large dynamic range and balanced tone. Like other GTs, the instrument can be thought of as a contemporary parlor guitar; it shares the compact “couch-friendly” dimensions, but has a more modern tonality than a typical vintage-style parlor. The AD12e-SB is the first American Dream GC with a spruce top, and it has the balanced and versatile tone that Taylor GCs are famous for. It would make a great fingerstyle guitar, but could also work well for strumming or accompaniment duties. The AD17e-SB is by far the most muscular sounding guitar of the three. Like all Taylor GPs, the guitar is great for strumming and flatpicking, but it also responds well to fingerstyle playing.
Having grown from a Covid-era experiment, the American Dream line has become a refined collection of instruments, all of which represent superb value. This trio of sunburst models combines the balanced tonality of walnut (which can be sustainably harvested in North America) with a cool vintage-like appearance, and anyone looking for an easy-playing Taylor with a maximum of bang-for-the-buck should check one out!
AD11e-SB: Grand Theater body. Solid Sitka spruce top with C-Class bracing. Solid walnut back and sides. Smoked eucalyptus fingerboard and bridge. 24⅛ -inch scale. 1²³/₃₂-inch nut width. Black Taylor tuning machines. ES2 electronics. Made in USA. $1,799 street.
AD12e-SB: Grand Concert body. Solid spruce top with V-Class-bracing. Solid walnut back and sides. Smoked eucalyptus fingerboard and bridge. 24⅞-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Black Taylor tuning machines. Taylor ES2 electronics. Made in USA. $1,999 street.
AD17e-SB: Grand Pacific body. Solid spruce top with V-Class-bracing. Solid walnut back and sides. Smoked eucalyptus fingerboard and bridge. 25.5-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Nickel Taylor tuning machines. ES2 electronics Made in USA. $1,999 street.
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