(Last) Weekly Roundup: A Musical Offering Edition

When everybody else zigs, you have to zag. Most of my peers spent this past weekend at Daytona, watching the 24-hour race and driving the Acura NSX on the banking, but I was in Anaheim for the Winter NAMM show as a guest of Taylor Guitars. As luck would have it, most of the Taylor management team is interested in performance cars to some degree so I was able to spend about half an hour chatting with Taylor’s two founders, Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug.

Taylor is now the #1 acoustic guitar maker in the United States and they are making serious money in an era where most people have pretty much given up on a future for these instruments. In my chat with Mr. Taylor, he gave me two reasons for this. The first one is that Taylor is pursuing vertical integration of their supply chain for rare and valuable woods — and that’s a story in itself. These efforts have led to Taylor being able to make more money on exotic-wood guitars.

The second, and more important, reason is that Taylor has absolutely zero focus on the future. Martin, Gibson, and Fender are all trying to “recapture the magic” of the guitars they made in the Fifties, primarily by hewing ever closer to the materials and processes used in that golden era. Taylor, by contrast, redesigns its guitars on an almost annual basis. A few years ago, Bob Taylor handed over responsibility for design and engineering to a fellow named Andy Powers; his designs have now replaced Taylor’s original concepts throughout the lineup and his new “V-Class” acoustics, which debuted at this NAMM, are the proverbial talk of the town.

“We don’t make collectors’ items,” I was told. “They are meant to be played.” I’m already an owner of a Taylor 714ce with an Adirondack spruce top, but after playing the new V-Class PS14ce with its combination of sinker redwood and West African ebony, I’m probably going to end up owning one of those as well. I asked Taylor if I could buy the guitar that I was holding in the above photo, but I was told that it was demonstration purposes only. I did take a few additional shots, which are after the jump along with links to what Bark and I wrote last week. And yes, the title of this roundup is meant to refer both to the PS14ce in the photo and Bach’s Musical Offering.

For R&T I suggested a four-cylinder entry-level Corvette and discussed zombie cars.

Brother Bark told TTAC readers to pay their tickets and beware of subprime lenders.

Meanwhile at TTAC, I reviewed the original Bullitt movie, whined about some avoidable contact, and asked the readers about Turo.

Come back next week — I believe Bark will have a few Daytona stories to tell. And the more you click these links, dear readers, the higher the possibility that I’ll be able to afford both a meal and one of those V-Class Taylors.

26 Replies to “(Last) Weekly Roundup: A Musical Offering Edition”

  1. John Krauser

    I’m following the NAMM stuff quite a bit this year myself. Jack, have you tried anything by Chapman? I follow his company quite a bit and he crowd sources guitar designs and while I’m interested, there is only one US store that sells them so far. I’m a fan of his ghost fret design.

    I’m a Jackson nut (mainly a metal player), so I was pretty impressed with their showing. PRS always wow me with their guitars, and ESP was good too. Honestly who even makes a bad guitar anymore?

    • John Krauser

      Also I agree with the idea of a cheaper 4 banger Corvette. As a former Solstice GXP and current Sky Red Line owner the car badly needed a second generation.

  2. Pat

    A friend of mine does some work with Taylor, so I’ve heard about the wood sourcing — it truly is an amazing story.

    I only wish I could play well enough to justify a purchase — not only Hecho in USA but made locally (for me) is a huge draw. Alas it’d be like someone garaging and never driving their sports car — or more accurately, someone buying a supercar and driving it around an empty parking lot in first gear, poorly.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I had a long talk with the Taylor people about that.

      You can argue that it’s the mediocre players who benefit most from a great guitar. The real shredders can play anything!

    • JMcG

      Just have a kid. I bought a 410 and a Baby Taylor 20 years ago. I never got much past three chords and the truth territory myself, not for lack of trying mind you. My son, on the cusp of fifteen now, can flat out play. Of course if you think guitars are expensive, let me tell you about kids.
      Interestingly, the Baby Taylor I have, complete with original factory drywall screws to attach the neck AND signed by Lyle P Lovett of Klein, Texas, is widely held by all who have heard it to have the sweetest tone of any acoustic guitar they have personally experienced.

  3. carrya1911

    I have a Taylor dreadnought, maple back and spruce top. I played everything I could get my hands on (never buy an acoustic without playing it) before selecting that guitar. This was more than 10 years ago and the build quality and tone of Taylor’s guitars were consistently excellent then, far better than just about anyone else’s. Including the various Martins I played as well.

    The only guitars I found with a better tone were a couple of the very top end Martin dreadnoughts, and some small custom makers like Huss & Dalton. The price tags on all these options were 200-500% more than the price of the Taylor I purchased while certainly not offering 200-500% better sound.

    The Taylor also wears extremely well. It can survive regular gigging without showing a lot of wear. It’s built very strong and that helps it stay in tune even in temperature and humidity changes.

    Their success is not a surprise. They’re making excellent quality guitars that may not reach the mythical status of a herringbone Martin, but they will absolutely hold their value just due to the quality of the materials, the build, the finish, and the tone.

    • carrya1911

      And when I say “only a couple of the very top end Martin dreadnoughts” I mean I played a dozen of them and only two or three sounded really, really *good*. The rest didn’t sound bad, but they didn’t yield a tone that was really any better than what you would expect out of a much less expensive guitar. Certainly nowhere near good enough to justify their price tag.

  4. Ronnie Schreiber

    On the electric side of the street, I think Korg’s NuTube low voltage 12AX7 equivalent (sort of) is going to be a big deal. So far Vox and Ibanez are the only ones with NuTube product but I think by the end of the year there will be lots of NuTube based pedals.

  5. Scott Seigmund

    You checked every box with the four-cylinder Corvette article, but I would advocate for weight to be considerably under 2900 lbs. I would love to see Corvette offer something along the lines you describe using Gorden Murry’s iStream Superlight architecture with DSC Sport suspension and give us an option for AP Racing Radical brakes. Make it smaller, lighter, safe, fast, fun, coupe, manual, and pleasurable to drive every day. I can visualize it, I just can’t create it.

  6. stingray65

    I’m going to have to disagree with commenters and Jack about the 4 cylinder Corvette. First, I have my doubts that a modern DOHC 4 valve intercooled turbo 4 is actually much lighter or cheaper to produce than a modern OHV 16 value normally aspirated V-8. Thus the dreams about a sub-3000 lb sub-$30,000 Corvette are fantasy, since they the physics and financials would never work for GM. I also think it is fantasy to think that many sub-40 year olds would start buying such a Corvette, since very few could afford the insurance or the car payments, and 2 seaters are not very practical for people starting families. Furthermore, even if a few might be interested, most would probably prefer to buy a late model low mileage, washed with filtered rain water never parked outside or driven in snow/rain/gravel used Corvette with V-8 and all the fixings for the same or less money.

    • Scott Seigmund

      I think a lot of over 40-year-olds would buy such a car too. The sub 3000 lbs. is not fantasy. A few years ago Jim Hall of Halltech and Jason Harding of Katech Engineering had a contest to see who could achieve the highest power to weight ratio with their personal C6 Z06s without power adders or Nitrous. Both cars ended up under 2840 lbs and under 4.3 lb/hp. Such a Corvette could be everything the FRS/BRZ was not, and most of the buyers for those cars are sub-40 year olds.

      Sure, you could always drop an LS in it.

      • stingray65

        Sure you can get under 3,000 lbs if you take out safety equipment, A/C and electronics, sound insulation, etc., but then no one will buy it because it is too noisy, hot, and can’t be driven on the road (because it doesn’t meet safety standards). You can also do it by going 100% carbon fiber and titanium, but then you get $150,000 price tag.

        Yes a lot of the BRZ buyers are under 40, but there are very few BRZ buyers period.

        • Scott Seigmund

          stingray65, please don’t take my word for it. https://www.corvetteforum.com/forums/c6-corvette-zr1-and-z06/2943745-jim-vs-jason-halltech-vs-katech-the-ultraleggera-power-to-weight-ratio-challenge.html

          Jim Hall left all the creature comfort equipment in place. Yes, it was expensive but it proved a point that the two owners wanted to make that performance can be greatly improved via weight reduction. On a smaller platform, I don’t see 2500 lbs as a big challenge while maintaining some civility. While I don’t want to go back to the 1960s Mustangs and Camaros that I grew up with, I don’t have any issue daily driving a late model Z06 in the summer. Why does every car need to be some kind of comfort and manufactured entertainment capsule? Sometimes I just want the driving experience to be the entertainment, pure and simple. No cell phone, no built-in navigation, no automatic shifting, no BS. Just driving. I still think young guys would love it. Not all of them are feminized snowflakes. Some of them even ride motorcycles.

          The first real sports car I owned was Datsun 240Z, and in terms of space, mass, packaging, and performance it had a rare balance that few cars achieve. I would love to buy something like it again and I think it would appeal to young people. The FRS/BRZ with its useless rear seats and lackluster engine fell short. GM could do it if it wanted to. They pay lip service to attracting younger buyers and then show them nothing but bloated retro muscle cars. Maybe the engineers and marketing team at Corvette need to start hanging out at some ricer car meets instead of the tired annual pilgrimage to the Corvette Museum and Carlisle. If you go to a museum long enough you may find yourself stuck in the past.

    • silentsod

      Prices on C6 ‘Vettes are around the mid $20ks right now and that is one hell of a car for the money. I think they only weighed in around 3200lb, too.

      • Scott Seigmund

        This! And the fact that many of these cars have low mileage could be a deterrent to purchasing a new car with a more limited performance envelope. Still, I think a young man would rather buy a car make for him than one made for his dad and granddad.

  7. -Nate

    “Both cars ended up under 2840 lbs and under 4.3 lb/hp.”

    YEE-HAW ! .

    I’d love to drive that .

    I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket but those guitars look fantastic .


  8. Q

    What kind of tunes do you play when trying out a guitar like that at NAMM…in front of Taylor?

    Do you try to show off with something risky, but you can nail on the right day? Or, something simple? Or do you consider that at all?

    The few times I’ve gotten to play something truly special, things seemed to come together that didn’t previously; not sure how much of if it was the hardware, or psyche.

  9. David Florida

    Jack, one quibble on the ‘Bullitt’ review and its comments – all those words about realism and no one mentioned the dubbed-in GT40 audio?

  10. DougD

    Great, I love my 416 CE LTD and I really appreciate that Taylor continues to send me their monthly print magazine after 5 years. Lots of interesting articles about how they source their wood and try to plan for the future.

    I must admit the sinker redwood guitars are fascinating but a bit flash visually for me, I’m a plain ol spruce or cedar top guy.

    What to play in front of Bob Taylor? Yikes! I think I’d go with Alice’s Restaraunt, but not for the full 18 minutes..


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