Taylor Guitars is known for constantly striving to improve their instruments, always working on refining their designs and building processes. And while the company’s models have received changes over time, the last couple of years have been especially fluid, as most of Taylor’s line has been modified with the new V-Class bracing. Earlier this year, two of the company’s grand symphony–size models were completely redesigned. We checked out the new Builder’s Edition 816ce in January, and recently I had a chance to spend some time with the revamped K26ce.
Although just a touch wider at the lower bout than Taylor’s popular grand auditorium (16¼ vs. 16 inches), the grand symphony shape is not as pinched at the waist, which increases the top’s active surface and makes the guitar feel noticeably larger. As with previous versions of the model, the K26ce has Hawaiian koa top, back, and sides, making it an attention-grabbing instrument by virtue of the beautifully figured wood alone. But while the body size and choice of woods is the same as before, the current K26ce has several new elements. Besides its V-Class top bracing, the guitar now also has a short scale, and instead of a standard cutaway, it includes the new soundport cutaway used on the 816ce. Cutting a Florentine cutaway shape out of the top, but not the back, and using a concave section of ebony instead of the usual bent section of wood inside the cutaway shape provides almost as much access as a standard cutaway while also allowing more of the guitar’s back to stay active. A small port in the center of the cutaway’s ebony insert serves as a secondary soundhole, helping to disperse the sound in a wider field than a standard soundhole only. The K26ce includes Taylor’s “spring vine” inlay, which spans most of the fingerboard and is continued into the peghead overlay. Maple body binding and a simple wood ring rosette provide subtle contrast to the body’s flashy koa.
Playing the guitar, I was greeted with a big, yet remarkably controlled sound. Dropping the guitar into open-G tuning, I enjoyed its rich tone while playing some slack key–inspired fingerstyle, which benefited from the K26ce’s great sustain. Pairing a short scale with a relatively large body is unusual, but players who have been wishing for the sound of a big guitar but have found the playability lacking may find this combination revelatory. Not only does the K26ce’s short scale facilitate multi-fret stretches, it also provides lower string tension. Plugging the guitar into a Fishman Loudbox Mini Charge amp reinforced its easy-going nature, as the ES2 electronics sounded great right off the bat. I didn’t play the guitar at stage volume levels, but hardwood tops such as koa tend to excel in these settings, offering a high feedback threshold and excellent clarity.
The latest K26ce is a great example of Taylor’s evolution, and the result will appeal to players looking for a powerful, easy-to-play instrument. Combine these qualities with beautifully figured koa, and you have a definite winner!
SPECS: Grand symphony body with soundport cutaway. Koa top, back, and sides. V-Class bracing. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. Soundport cutaway. 24⅞ -inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Gotoh 510 tuning machines with 21:1 ratio. Expression System 2 electronics. Made in USA. $4,999 street. Taylorguitars.com