Taylor 710ce Review

AG 236 August 2012 Cover

by Adam Perlmutter

In his company’s nearly four-decade existence, Bob Taylor has pioneered new ways of building steel-string acoustic guitars, including legitimizing the bolt-on neck and harnessing the power of CNC machinery to carve a guitar’s components with incredible accuracy and efficiency. Along the way, the company also developed its own acoustic pickup system and expanded its offerings to electric guitars. But for 2012, Taylor’s venerable 700 series, which has been part of the line since 1977, has received a cosmetic treatment that results in a vintage vibe in an otherwise modern instrument. We checked out Taylor’s new 710ce, which has a new look, including a dark sunburst finish, ivoroid embellishments, and a few tweaks under the hood.

Engelmann and Rosewood

Over the years, several kinds of top woods have been used for 700s. This year’s 710ce is built with an Engelmann spruce top, which is matched with an attractively striped set of Indian rosewood for the guitar’s back and sides. Instead of a natural finish, the top and neck of the new 710ce have a sunburst pattern with a warm, dark-reddish brown graduating to a sunset shade of orange (the guitar can also be ordered with a natural finish.)

The new iteration of the 710ce sports body, neck, and headstock binding and a rosette made of ivoroid, a finely grained plastic that also features in the old-fashioned, engraved diamond-and-circle motif inlays on the fingerboard—very classy details, as are the solid ebony bridge pins and rosewood truss-rod cover. Overall, the new 710ce is a successful blend of old aesthetic ideas and new construction techniques, such as Taylor’s forward-shifted bracing, in which the standard X pattern is moved closer to the soundhole, and relief rout, a groove carved along the inside edges of the soundboard to add flexibility, thereby enhancing the tone and volume of the guitar.

Taylor is known for its unimpeachable craftsmanship throughout all of its lines, an especially remarkable feat for a company that crafts up to 400 guitars a day in two factories. So the top-notch workmanship apparent on our 710ce came as no surprise. Inspection with a critical eye found the guitar to be flawlessly built from stem to stern with perfect fretwork, a meticulous interior, and an impossibly uniform luster to the finish—exactly the sort of excellence a guitarist should expect on an instrument at this price point.

Comfortable Feel, Resplendent Tones

I found the 710ce a pleasure to hold. Well balanced between neck and body, it sits comfortably on the lap. The neck’s satin finish has an invitingly smooth feel, and the body’s gloss finish feels sensual under the forearm. Players accustomed to the more common dreadnought nut width of 1 11/16-inches might find that the 1 3/4-inch nut takes some getting used to, but it is by no means cumbersome, and a 1 11/16-inch width is available by special order. Fingerstylists, on the other hand, will appreciate this extra width. As for the neck profile, its subtle V shape feels ampler than the classic Taylor style and fits nicely in the fretting hand.

Strumming an open E chord, I was struck by the resplendent sound, equally strong from the low E to the high, and ringing richly with overtones. After holding that chord to appreciate the guitar’s sustain, I strummed a series of closed-position major and minor chords with increasing force and found the guitar to have tons of headroom and an authoritative voice that is a bit older sounding, or darker, than the typical rosewood Taylor dreadnought, likely a result of the Engelmann soundboard.

Next I subjected the 710ce to some single-note lines in a bluegrass vein. The sound was nice and brawny and buzz-free in all registers. Improvising a solo in G mixolydian against the ringing open third string yielded similarly pleasing results—a rich cloud of sound. Taylor guitars are famously playable, and the 710ce proved no exception in this regard. With the factory setup’s medium strings and comfortable action, it was not difficult to articulate the speediest of phrases on the 710ce, which would be a nice bonus for guitarists more accustomed to electric instruments.

I tuned the 710ce to D A D G A D and was pleased that the guitar lost none of its vigorous sound. Brisk strumming in this tuning was crisp and potent. When I ditched the plectrum and fingerpicked a couple of Pierre Bensusan tunes, the guitar had a round, lovely tone, though it took a bit of digging into the strings to achieve the same fullness the guitar possesses when played with a pick. Of course, a dreadnought powerhouse such as this tends to be geared more toward strumming and flatpicking than delicate fingerpicking.

Deluxe, Natural-Sounding Electronics

The 710ce comes complete with Taylor’s proprietary Expression System electronics. One of the most highly regarded systems on the acoustic guitar market, the ES package includes a magnetic pickup embedded underneath the fingerboard extension, and also a soundboard transducer inside the top, capturing the vibrations of the whole guitar for a warm and woody sound. Powered by a nine-volt battery (as opposed to a pair of AAs in earlier ES versions), it is elegantly straightforward, containing only volume, treble, and bass controls mounted on the upper left bout, and a switch to turn the SBT off completely (for high-volume situations where feedback might become an issue) that’s reachable through the soundhole.

The Expression System’s endpin jack can be used in conjunction with a standard 1/4-inch guitar cable, but due to its balanced signal design, it’s also compatible with a TRS-to-XLR cable that can be patched directly into a mixer, eliminating the need for a DI box. I plugged the 710ce into a Fender Acoustasonic amplifier and enjoyed its warm sound, to say nothing of its impressive resistance to feedback; this is plug-and-play at its best. Raising the treble a hair promoted a brighter but not shrill sound that would allow some jangly arpeggios or a solo to assert itself in the context of a rock band, while rolling up the bass added some desirable oomph to boom-chuck strumming.

To put it a different way, the ES system provides a sound that isn’t far removed from the guitar’s natural acoustic tone, which can nicely approximate the bass-intensive wallop of a vintage dreadnought but has a broader tonal range. This retro-styled Taylor just might be a modern classic.

SPECS: Cutaway dreadnought body. Solid Engelmann spruce top. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Bolt-on Taylor NT tropical mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. Forward-shifted X-bracing. 25.5-inch scale. 1 3/4-inch nut width. 2 3/16-inch string spacing at saddle. Tusq nut and saddle. Gloss body finish and satin neck finish. Chrome tuners. Taylor Expression System electronics. Elixir medium-gauge strings. Made in the USA. Left-handed version available.

PRICE: $3,778 list/$2,799 street.

MAKER: Taylor Guitars: (800) 943-6782; taylorguitars.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar August 2012

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