Taylor GS Series Guitars
New shape, new sound, new standard
By Jimmy Nichols
You think you know Taylor guitars, right? After three decades, Taylor guitars have seeped into the sonic consciousness of acoustic guitarists everywhere. We know the Taylor sound, the Taylor shape, the Taylor vibe. Lots of companies would kill for that kind of acceptance.
But Bob Taylor wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to build a guitar with a richer, broader sound that projected but was still capable of small, intimate tones. Sound impossible? For most, maybe, but not for Mr. Taylor. This is the man, after all, who in his quest for pure tone introduced a completely new guitar shape to the world in the Grand Auditorium.
Now there’s a new Grand on the block: the Grand Symphony, or GS, Series. The Taylor GS Series is another step in the quest for the perfect acoustic, and it’s a big one. The GS Series also significantly alters previous notions about what a Taylor acoustic is supposed to be. It doesn’t have a cutaway and it doesn’t come with electronics installed (although the Expression System is an option). It’s not small and it doesn’t speak softly. Like the rest of the Taylor line though, the Grand Symphony guitars boast gorgeous looks, premium tonewoods, and smooth playability.
As the use of the name Grand indicates, the Grand Symphony Series was inspired by Taylor’s popular Grand Auditorium guitar. But the resemblance is only passing. While the upper bout on both guitars is nearly the same width, a higher, wider waist changes the length of the bouts on the GS Series. The upper bout becomes shorter and the lower bout becomes longer. The lower bout on the GS design is also distinctly wider than the Auditorium. To my eye, it is the perfect hybrid between the jumbo, dreadnought, and concert guitar shapes.
The acoustic guitar is a relatively simple machine. Big bodies deliver big sound with big bass response. Smaller bodied guitars are often labeled as more expressive because they have richer midrange and sweeter treble response than their big-bodied brothers. Unfortunately, they often don’t have the volume to project that expressiveness. The right dimensions and the right materials—sprinkled with a little voodoo and magic—should result in the perfect acoustic guitar, or at least a truly exceptional one.
The GS Series is comprised of four different models. These guitars won’t adopt the numbering conventions of the other Taylor shapes with a model in the GS3 series, the GS4 series, the GS5 series, GS8 Series, etc. Plus, each model is essentially the same except for the crucial difference of being crafted with a unique combination of high-quality traditional tonewoods.
The lineup consists of the GS Rosewood/Spruce, the GS Maple/Spruce, GS Mahogany/Cedar, and the GS Rosewood/Cedar. Each has a 25-1/2" scale, mahogany neck, and ebony fingerboard. The fingerboard has abalone microdot fret markers and 20 medium-jumbo frets. The bridge is made with ebony as well, and the headstock faceplate overlay is rosewood. All the binding—body, neck, headstock—is ivoroid and the soundhole rosette is abalone. Each piece is applied with the fit and finish you expect from a Taylor. A high-gloss finish completes the vibe. The look is understated, putting the focus where it belongs: on the sound and playability.
So does that perfect blend of dimensions and wood result in the perfect tone? Each GS displayed crystal clarity and a balanced sonic temperament: tight, defined bass; open, refined midrange; and smooth, sweet treble. All four displayed remarkable expressiveness. Soft, sustained notes hung in the air with emphasis, and loud notes shot out with authority. The GS guitars are easily much louder than any other Taylor I’ve played—possibly twice as loud as the Grand Auditorium. Most of that comes from that big lower bout. It’s an easy equation: more soundboard equals more air movement equals more sound.
But as Bob Taylor himself will tell you; tone is a subjective thing. One guitarist’s maple zing is another guitarist’s overpowering treble. Each guitar in the GS Series displays a distinctly different sonic personality owing to the woods used to build it. Playing each one back to back revealed quite a bit about just how much wood type affects the tone of an instrument.
The Maple Spruce and Rosewood Spruce easily had stronger high-end than the Mahogany Cedar and Rosewood Cedar. The spruce GS guitars took to fast chords and flat picking like nobody’s business. The cedar models had sumptuously warm and inviting midrange that lent personality and a certain fluidity to finger picking. Each model was rounded out with ringing, piano-like bass.
I wouldn’t recommend any one over the other. It really just depends on which one tickles your fancy and what type of guitar player you are at heart. But I would wholeheartedly recommend a GS for nearly every guitar player. Every acoustic guitarist needs to experience the kind of inviting tone and playability the GS possesses.