This past summer, Taylor Guitars introduced a line of instruments to its popular 300 and 500 series that feature solid tropical mahogany tops. The Taylor 322e’s back and sides are made of sapele (pronounced sap-el-ay), a sustainable mahogany-like West African wood with a tone balanced between high, mid, and low tones. The satin-finished guitar also sports a black plastic pickguard and bright white top trim and rosette.
The 322e is a welcome, and affordable, option for those seeking an alternative to big dreadnoughts and spruce tops with more pronounced overtones.
The mahogany and sapele combination adds a focused (though slightly compressed) midrange and are a perfect match for the relatively small Grand Concert size introduced to the Taylor line 30 years ago. The comfortable, small body and tapered waist help to control overtones, and the short-scale neck (joined at the 14th fret) makes for easier fretting and bending (well-suited for playing blues riffs). Pair those features with the 13/4-inch nut, and the 322e should please fingerstylists.
To add to the instrument’s focused sound, Taylor has used forward-shifted bracing, a feature found on its pricier 400 series, and a relief rout. According to the company’s literature, this patented process is a tone-enhancing voicing technique in which a groove is carved along the inside edges of the top. This groove is similar in function to the “re-curve” on a violin—it “loosens up” the edges of the top, generating extra flexibility without sacrificing structural integrity. Taylor first began using this groove in 2002. Those innovations contribute to increased bass and volume with what the company hopes is a balanced tone.
The result is a guitar that’s comfortable to hold and a pleasure to play. Fingerstylists will appreciate its quick action and complex, focused tone. And while the sound broke up somewhat under strong bashing, the 322e excelled at clear, chiming jazz chords. Strumming with a heavy pick produced rich, round tones that are going to make it difficult to send this review model back to the manufacturer.
Plugged in and played through Taylor’s patented Expression System electronics, the guitar is a revelation, AG senior editor David Knowles notes, as it “comes to life in a way that is only hinted at when played without amplification. There’s a richness and clarity to the sound on each and every string and position on the fretboard, and the wide neck—akin to a classical guitar’s—only adds to the Taylor’s clean character.”
The 322e, also available with a cutaway, possesses a sweet, signature sound all its own.
Body Width 15 inches
Body Depth 4 3/8 inches
Scale Length 24 7/8 inches
Number of Frets 20
Fretboard Wood Ebony
Neck & Heel Tropical mahogany
Nut & Saddle Tusq
Headstock Overlay - Indian rosewood
Price $1,598 list/$1,249 street (the Expression System adds another $300 to the cost)
Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar February 2014