When Taylor introduced the grand symphony body style in 2006, it was presented as the purest straight acoustic guitar the company offered. Over the years, the grand symphony has been available within many Taylor lines, and players who enjoy playing a muscular-sounding acoustic with a wide range of tones have been drawn to the mini-jumbo size models. Taylor is known for being a company whose guitars evolve over the years, and the just-announced Builder’s Edition 816ce features some of the most radical re-envisioning of an existing model that Taylor has undertaken. We had an opportunity to check out an early production example of the guitar in the Peghead Nation video studio, and are happy to feature it here even before it is officially introduced at the 2020 Winter NAMM show (and because we’d originally planned to make the demo live after NAMM, I’m referring to the show in the past tense in the video).
Although the Builder’s Edition 816ce follows the classic 800-series recipe of pairing Indian rosewood back and sides with a spruce top (in this case Lutz spruce) and features familiar appointments (including maple body binding, “windandsea” fingerboard inlays, and an abalone rosette), the guitar introduces several new elements. For starters, it’s the first grand symphony with V-Class bracing instead of X-bracing. The guitar also has a short, 24 ⅞-inches scale, and in the most visible departure from previous designs, it introduces Taylor’s new “soundport cutaway.” Instead of altering the entire treble section of the upper bout, as a standard cutaway does, this design cuts a Florentine-shape section out of the top and part of the side, creating a platform to insert a concave piece of ebony. This design yields a highly complex, elegant overall shape, and it also leaves the guitar’s back untouched, which means more body volume than is found with a conventional cutaway. Taylor also chose to add a small soundport to the cutaway’s ebony insert, allowing for a wider sound dispersion than with only a standard soundhole. Like other Builder’s Editions, the guitar has a “silent satin” finish, rounded edges on the body and fingerboard, and a modified Taylor bridge shape, referred to as the “curve wing” design.
Playing the guitar, the powerful character of the original grand symphony was immediately apparent. But as has been with other Andy Powers redesigns of existing models, the Builder’s Edition 816ce gave a bit more of everything. It sounded great for playing fingerstyle, where its sensitive response and excellent volume resulted in a very full overall sound. But it was also able to open up and deliver impressivevolume reserved when strummed. The guitar had a controlled quality that was highly adaptable to the player. The short scale made the guitar easier to play than most flattops of this size, and the built-in Taylor ES2 electronics allowed for easy amplification.
The Builder’s Edition 816ce is a great example of Taylor’s ability to take stock of an existing model and to find ways to further enhance what the design has to offer. With its great sound and cool new features, this is definitely a guitar to check out!
SPECS: Grand symphony body with soundport cutaway. Solid Lutz spruce top. Indian rosewood back and sides. V-Class bracing. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 24 ⅞ -inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Gotoh 510 tuning machines with 21:1 ratio. Expression System 2 electronics. Made in USA. $3,999 street. Taylorguitars.com