When guitarists talk about instruments that are easy to play, Taylors are typically at the top of the list. Much of the company’s legacy is built on its slim necks and low action, which were unusual on an acoustic guitar when Taylor first hit the scene in the 1970s. Earlier this year, Taylor introduced a pair of grand concert–size models with an eye toward electric players looking for playability in an acoustic. While this goal is not new for Taylor, the execution on the new Builder’s Edition 652ce WHB and 912ce is spectacular. We had a chance to check out both guitars in the Peghead Nation video studio (for a separate video of Taylor designer Andy Powers discussing all the new Builder’s Editions at the NAMM show, click here).
The Builder’s Edition 652ce WHB is not only the first 12-string offered in this series, it’s also the most unusual 12-string Taylor has ever made. Based on the small-body 12-fret grand concert design that only recently became available in 12-string configurations, the guitar has maple back and sides and a Sitka spruce top. Standard Builder’s Edition features include an armrest bevel, a bevelled cutaway, rounded edges, and a “silent satin” finish. The guitar’s “curve wing” bridge features Taylor’s new double-mounting string anchoring system, in which each pair of strings share a bridge pin, resulting in consistent break angles over the saddle. But the guitar’s most unusual feature is the “reverse-strung” setup. More common on electric 12-strings, this configuration puts the octave strings below the standard string, rather than above, like the majority of 12-strings. This means that the player’s pick hits the lower-tuned string first when down-strumming, yielding a meatier overall sound.
While the Builder’s Edition 652ce WHB is a completely new and unique guitar in Taylor’s lineup, the Builder’s Edition 912ce is perhaps the most refined version of a legendary model. The guitar has all the classic 912ce elements, including a grand concert body, Indian rosewood back and sides, a spruce top (in this case, Lutz spruce), paua shell purfling and rosette, elaborate fingerboard inlay (the latest version of which is called “belle fleur”), and the armrest bevel and short scale that have been part of the model for several years. But with the addition of a compound cutaway, “silent satin” finish, and contoured body and fretboard edges, the guitar is possibly the most player-friendly 912ce ever.
So how do these two guitars play and sound? In a nutshell, as advertised. Like other Taylor 12-fret grand concert 12-strings we’ve tried, the Builder’s Edition 652ce WHB is incredibly easy to play; your fingers might not believe they’re playing a 12-string. Played acoustically, the guitar had a bright, assertive sound. The reverse stringing is noticeably different from a standard setup, the fundamental note of each pair being more present than the octave string, and I suspect that players who primarily strum will appreciate the change. To my ears, the Builder’s Edition 652ce really excelled when I plugged it into a Fishman Loundbox Mini Charge amp, where the ES2 electronics delivered a super-rich 12-string sound with great balance throughout the guitar’s range. For players looking for a 12-string to use in a band, this would be a hard guitar to beat.
The Builder’s Edition 912ce also excelled in the playability department. Not only was it easy to play, but it also facilitated up-the-neck playing and fast, electric guitar–style techniques. The guitar’s tone was rooted in the classic Taylor rosewood grand concert voice: balanced, rich, and larger sounding than might be expected given the guitar’s small body. The Builder’s Edition 912ce is a lovely instrument for fingerstyle, and with its wonderful clarity throughout its range, it would also make an excellent choice for accompaniment and lead guitar roles, especially in an amplified setting.
The Builder’s Edition 652ce WHB and 912ce are both excellent additions to Taylor’s line. With its unusual stringing, the Builder’s Edition 652ce WHB is a unique guitar that will be welcomed by those used to a similar setup on electric guitars and might surprise acoustic players who’ve been looking for a different kind of 12-string. The Builder’s Edition 912ce is like an old friend that keeps developing more charm. It just might be the ultimate version of this classic Taylor design.
SPECS Builder’s Edition 652ce WHB: 12-string guitar with 12-fret grand concert body. Solid Sitka spruce top with V-class bracing. Solid maple back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 24⅞-inch scale. 1⅞-inch nut width. Reverse strung. Gotoh 510 tuning machines. Expression System 2 electronics. Made in USA. $4,199 street.
SPECS Builder’s Edition 912ce: 14-fret grand concert body. Solid Lutz spruce top with V-class bracing. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 24⅞-inch scale. 1 ¾-inch nut width. Gotoh 510 tuning machines. Expression System 2 electronics. Made in USA. $5,299 street. Taylorguitars.com