Taylor 416ce Review

AG 226 October 2011 Cover

by Doug Young

Taylor guitars are everywhere these days. You’ve probably had a chance to play one at some point and have an idea of how they play and sound. But the company is not content to rest on its laurels, so it’s a good idea to check back in now and then to see what’s new. A case in point is the 416ce model that Taylor introduced earlier this year.

Acoustic-Electric Symphony

The 416ce is part of Taylor’s acoustic-electric series, which includes several other body shapes. When the GS (Grand Symphony) was first introduced in 2006, the larger, more rounded models—with a body shape that mirrors the Style 1 in the higher-end instruments of the R. Taylor line—were offered as acoustic-only non-cutaway instruments, with electronics available only as an option. With the release of the 416ce, Taylor is bringing the popular body shape, along with a cutaway and ES electronics as standard features, to its affordable 400 series.

Big Body

The 416ce looks and feels familiar, and one might easily mistake the guitar for Taylor’s popular 414 model. Many of the specs are similar, including the 25.5-inch scale length, 1 3/4-inch nut, cutaway, and 4 5/8-inch body depth. However, a closer look reveals a slightly larger body, measuring 16 1.4-inches at the lower bout (compared to 16 inches for the 414ce), and the more rounded Grand Symphony shape, which is similar to the small-jumbo shape popular with many custom makers these days. Our review guitar was built with a nicely figured Sitka spruce top that has a small amount of silking, a hint of bearclaw in a few places, and virtually no run out. Like all the standard 400 series guitars, the 416ce’s back and sides are made of ovangkol, a West African wood that can produce a warm sound somewhat like rosewood, but also has the brighter characteristics of koa. Our review instrument’s woods have a striped chocolate brown color that lies somewhere between Indian rosewood and walnut. The back of the guitar is impressively matched; there is no center binding strip, and the seam between the sides is all but impossible to see, making the attractive back look like it was made from a single piece of wood.

Flawless Construction

As expected from Taylor, the fit and finish on the instrument is flawless. The attention to detail is evident in every nook and cranny. The Sitka top has a gloss finish, while the neck, back, and sides have a satin finish, giving the guitar an organic feel. The sides and fingerboard are bound in white plastic, and the minimalist rosette consists of three circles, with the center ring matching the white binding. The neck is inlaid with simple, almost perfectly white, pearl dot inlays. The guitar’s ebony fingerboard and bridge are both solid black with no visible figure or color variation. A Tusq nut and saddle, a pickguard, and Taylor-branded chrome closed-back tuning machines complete the primary appointments.

The 416ce includes Taylor’s latest Expression System amplification package, with the company’s standard unobtrusive knobs for volume, bass, and treble on the upper side, a magnetic neck pickup invisibly embedded under the fingerboard extension, a single soundboard transducer, and an internal preamp. A small switch inside the soundhole allows the transducer to be turned off in situations where you need the higher feedback resistance of the neck pickup alone. As with all ES-equipped guitars, the battery compartment is conveniently located in the tail block, near the endpin jack, for easy access.

Warm Sound, Smooth Feel

Taylor has a reputation for making bright, ringing guitars, and while the 416ce has plenty of shimmer, especially when strummed, the GS body size seems to introduce a warmer, deeper element, and I was pleased by the big bass that popped out of the guitar when I first picked it up. I quickly realized that the guitar isn’t bass heavy, it’s quite balanced, with the bass providing a firm foundation for the guitar’s full spectrum of sound.

The satin-finished neck feels smooth and fast with medium-gauge strings and Taylor’s standard string height of 3/32 inches for the sixth string and 1/16 inch for the first string (both measured at the 12th fret). The tuning machines work smoothly and accurately. Tuning down to a C-wahine tuning (C G D G B E) for some slack-key was effortless, and the guitar maintained its intonation well in the low tuning. The bass response of the GS body enhanced the lowered tuning very effectively, creating a warm, lush sound.

Back in standard tuning, I was pleased with the guitar’s response to everything from light fingerpicking to heavy strumming. Digging in with some bluesy fingerpicking licks produced a nice bite without bottoming out or being thin, and a bit of rock rhythm guitar created a satisfying drive with a solid low end and no buzzing.

Amplified Clarity

I was eager to check out the current version of the ES pickup system, and I found that it does an excellent job of reproducing the sound of the guitar both through an amplifier and a PA system. A unique feature of the ES is its ability to plug directly into a low-impedance balanced input, like a mixer’s mic input or recording console. I tested this by plugging directly into the mic input of a Great River recording preamp with a balanced cable, and I was greatly impressed by the clarity and warmth of the tone. With the soundboard transducer switched off, the sound is clean, clear, and direct, with just a slight magnetic tinge. Adding the soundboard pickup brought a little more complexity to the sound, added some shimmer, and mostly eliminated the magnetic quality.

Stage-Ready Performer

The 416ce is an attractive package that delivers professional-level quality at a relatively modest cost. The guitar has an understated character that players who value tone over flashy looks will appreciate. There’s no gratuitous showiness, just high-quality woods and materials. The added warmth of the GS body design should appeal to fingerstyle players as well as rhythm players who want a solid bottom end, and the guitar’s excellent electronics and good sound make it a perfect stage-ready instrument that will be equally at home in the studio or jamming with friends.

SPECS:

Grand Symphony body size. Solid Sitka spruce top. Ovangkol back and sides. Tropical mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. Forward-shifted “Standard II” X-bracing. 25.5-inch scale. 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 3/16-inch string spacing at saddle. Taylor chrome tuning machines. Gloss top finish, satin back and sides. Taylor Expression System electronics. Medium-gauge Elixir strings. Made in USA. Left-handed version available.

PRICE: $2,568 list/$1,899 street.

MAKER: Taylor Guitars: (619) 258-1207; taylorguitars.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar October 2011

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