Taylor Doyle Deluxe DDX Review

AG 223 July 2011 Cover

Posted by Adam Perlmutter

In 2000, Taylor Guitars honored one of its top clinicians, the modern American fingerstylist Doyle Dykes, with the DDSM (Doyle Dykes Signature Model). That high-performance guitar, with its grand auditorium body and short-scale (24.875-inch) neck, was made in collaboration with Dykes and designed with his dazzling, virtuosic approach in mind. Offered ever since as a production model, the DDSM has proven popular with modern players—at least those with the financial means to afford this specialized instrument. Luckily for the less affluent instrumentalist, Taylor recently unveiled the DDX (Doyle Deluxe), based on the company’s 200 series of laminate-body acoustic-electrics and costing a fraction of the price of its older sibling.

Minimal Ornamentation, Excellent Build

Like the DDSM, the DDX has a grand auditorium silhouette and solid spruce top. But whereas the DDSM has a Florentine (sharp) cutaway, that on the DDX is Venetian (rounded). Also, the DDX has a laminated maple body instead of the DDSM’s solid maple. The DDX has a 25.5-inch scale length, as compared to the DDSM’s short 24.875-inch scale, and a slightly deeper body, 45/8 inches compared to the DDSM’s 4 1/8. But the DDX has a narrower nut—1 11/16 inches versus 1 3/4.

In terms of ornamentation, the DDX and DDSM share the left-justified, semicircular fretboard inlays similar to those found on classic Gretsch hollow-body electrics. While the DDSM, with its extensive abalone embellishment and inlaid rose headstock motif, is on the fancy side, the DDX shows more restraint in its decorations, which include a simple three-ring rosette and white-black-white body binding that goes well with the gleaming black finish.

I was impressed by the uniformity and smoothness of the finish and pleased by its thinness. Although the finish is opaque, when light strikes the guitar at certain angles, the grains of the spruce top are noticeable. Everything else on the guitar’s exterior—from the fretwork to the nut and saddle cuts—is similarly clean, and a peek inside betrays not a hint of sloppiness.

Nicely Balanced Tone

Although it weighs just a little more than five pounds, the DDX feels a bit neck-heavy. But I soon forgot about that when I explored the instrument’s very comfortable ebony fingerboard, with the action set on the low side. The neck contour feels quite nice; its C-shaped profile is just ample enough. I experienced no fret-hand fatigue when I played barre chords or single-note runs up and down the 20 frets and across all six strings. And all notes in all regions rang true and buzz-free—as you would expect of a Taylor.

Between its tight bass, throaty midrange, and crystalline treble, the DDX has an excellent tonal balance. As it was clearly designed for fingerpicking, I first tried some basic Travis-picking patterns using open chords. While the instrument isn’t quite as responsive as some of Taylor’s premium, all-solid-wood instruments, when I dug into the strings I was impressed by the instrument’s sonic clarity—everything sounded crisp and articulate.

When I switched to some brisk strumming with a flatpick, the guitar did not disappoint. Subjected to a variety of rhythm patterns, from basic boom-chuck to 16th-note syncopations, it has a solidly assertive voice without muddiness. And single notes, from swing-based lines to contemporary modal meandering, sound fat and are not easily overdriven.

Transparent ES-T Electronics

The DDX is equipped with the same electronics package found in Taylor’s 100 and 200 series: the ES-T (Expression System Transducer), a combination of an undersaddle pickup and an onboard preamp. The unit has the same active controls found on the company’s Expression System—bass, treble, and volume—situated on the upper left bout, and a 1/4-inch output jack and nine-volt battery compartment are found at the bottom strap button. Aesthetically speaking, these streamlined, black-and-white plastic elements complement the guitar in a way that electronics on an acoustic rarely do.

Plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amp, the DDX produced a minimum of hum and a woody, transparent sound. The EQ’s two controls don’t allow much tonal shaping, but major adjustments weren’t really necessary, as it sounded very good on a flat setting. The pickup did have a faintly boxy sound that would probably be obscured in a live band performance or layered with other instruments on a recording. At higher volumes I got some feedback, which was minimized when I engaged the preamp’s phase switch, located on the inside of the guitar.

Doyle Deluxe

Taylor’s Doyle Deluxe is an affordable alternative to the Doyle Dykes Signature Model. Its modern style will appeal not just to fans of its namesake guitarist but to modern fingerstylists in general. The DDX is easy to play, and its neck is very inviting. The guitar’s well-balanced acoustic sound is suitable for both fingerpicking and strumming in a variety of idioms. And while the onboard electronics aren’t the most flexible, they do exactly what they should: provide a realistic acoustic sound.

SPECS: Solid Sitka spruce top with forward-shifted X bracing. Maple laminate back and sides. Hard rock maple neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. Tusq nut and saddle. 25.5-inch scale. 111/16-inch nut width. 23/16-inch string spacing at saddle. Black gloss finish. Chrome Taylor tuners. Taylor ES-T electronics. Elixir light-gauge strings with Nanoweb coating. Made in Mexico. Left-handed version available.

PRICE: $1,498 list.

MAKER: Taylor Guitars: (888) 282-7567; taylorguitars.com.

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar July 2011

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