Taylor 100 and 200 Series Guitars
By Nadine Brockmeir
Taylor Guitars has tooled up their precision technology to produce two lines of guitars that combine flawless construction, select woods, and revolutionary design for that inimitable genuine Taylor tone with a very friendly price tag. The 100 and 200 Series guitars give budget-constrained players an opportunity to experience Taylor's unique sound and satin playability.
Now that I've played the Taylor 110, 210, and 214 Models, I'm kind of irked that they didn't come out with them when I was in college playing the local coffee houses. The same money in those days bought me a clunky beater that sounded OK but had such terrible action I couldn't play bar chords after the first three songs. If you're still not rich and have been waiting to get your hands on a really excellent guitar, your time has come.
21st century luthiery
With the 100 and 200 Series guitars, Taylor has put all this technical manufacturing experience to innovative use. They've invested the lion's share of skilled luthiery up front in setting up the largely automated production lines. This saves labor and results in guitars that are very well made but not very expensive. Musician's Friend sent me three guitars to review: the 110 Dreadnought, 210 Dreadnought, and 214 Grand Auditorium.
The mahogany neck features a great-looking and smooth-playing satin finish. The fretboard is a thick, beautiful slab of ebony. In addition to its terrific looks, ebony's greater density provides a sleeker-feeling neck and adds tonal crispness. The ebony bridge features Taylor's distinctive curvaceous design and adds visual appeal. The bookmatched solid Sitka spruce top resonates brilliantly and shines particularly for fingerpicking. The spruce on the guitar I received for review is gorgeously figured, one might even call it flamed.
One of the most unique features of this guitar—and all modern Taylor Guitars -- is the neck joint. While it appears to be a normal set-neck joint that feels exceptionally tight and resonant, it is actually a unique bolt-on system—the New Technology neck joint. The neck and fretboard comprise a single unit that is bolted to the body with a locking "interference" fit that's machined to a thousandth of an inch and uses deliberate tension between the parts to create phenomenal transference of vibration. The advantage is that there's zero fretboard warpage at the joint and the neck angle can be adjusted with extreme precision.
210 and 214—affordable luxury
Sides and back of solid sapele lend warmth and clarity to the tone generated by that gorgeous top wood. Sapele resembles mahogany, but this stuff is more beautiful, with a pronounced and radiant grain. The thick fretboards, like the headstock overlays and bridges, are solid ebony with a little variegation in the color for a very exotic look. The ivoroid logo headstock inlay is, of course, perfect. It is carved by a computer-controlled laser, no doubt.
The black top and back binding plus heelcap are likewise flawless. In fact I couldn't find a single manufacturing flaw in any of these guitars. The tropical American mahogany necks have a very comfortable profile and are set up with low action and no buzzing. They are very easy on my smallish left hand. One slick feature I like on all Taylors is the tiny bevel on the edges of the fretboards. This provides a very smooth feel and clean visual lines.
The expansive top on the 210 Dreadnought yields a loud, full, and punchy tone with the characteristic Taylor brilliance and tightness. If you play a lot without a bassist, this guitar's fuller low-end tones would be a good fit.
For my stage act—a five-piece with bass, percussion, another guitar, and violin—I found that the 214 Grand Auditorium's brighter tone really cut and made its own space in the mix. The tone is extremely well defined without being tinny. I tried it onstage and in my home studio. The results were great in both contexts. The 214's narrow waist is very comfortable for me as I normally play seated and it rests easily on my thigh.