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This article was originally published in issue #31
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Taylor now has a huge range of acoustic guitars available within its catalogue, ranging from small bodied parlour guitars to large Jumbo type models and price points to suit almost all budgets. The 718e model is based on the company's largest, the ‘Grand Orchestra’ body size, and features a truly impressive array of woods and detailed flourishes.
The back and sides of the 718e are made from beautifully grained Indian rosewood with impressive, chocolatey lines running throughout the wood. The top is Sitka spruce and features a lovely vintage style Tobacco Sunburst finish that matches superbly with the sides. The neck and heel are made from Tropical mahogany and finished with a satin feel as opposed to the gloss used for the top, back and sides and is also given a matching sunburst paint job like the top. The fretboard is dark ebony and features subtle diamond inlays and an Indian rosewood headstock overlay. The design is completed with grained ivoroid binding running around the entire body, neck and headstock with grained ivoroid also used for the three band rosette. The guitar also has an ebony bridge and bridge pins matched with Taylor’s own nickel tuners at the other end.
Onboard electronics are in the form of Taylor’s own Expression System 2 offering a subtle and simple solution to getting the most acoustically accurate amplified sound from their guitars. This new system positions three adjustable pickup sensors behind the saddle for more accurate translation and response to the guitar's energy as it is transferred to the saddle. This allows for a more natural and warm acoustic tone than traditional piezo based systems where the pickup is located directly under the saddle, giving a thinner more brittle tone. As is usual with all of the Expression systems there are the standard Volume and Tone controls but driven by a slightly hotter pre-amp making the guitar more plug and play friendly for both performers and sound mixers.
As you can see from our video, the 718e is a stunning looking guitar from all angles and is constructed to the usual exacting standards demanded by the company. Externally the Taylor is gorgeous, with a flawless finish and build, world class fretwork and beautiful detailing on the inlays, rosette and sunburst. Internally the guitar is as good as anything you are likely to encounter with super clean bracing and a very nicely hidden installation of the Expression System 2 set-up.
The 718e feels extremely solid in the hands and, even with the large body size, is very comfortable to hold and play. Tuning is a breeze thanks to the quality Taylor tuners and, once the strings were fully stretched in, tuning stability is rock solid for extended playing sessions. The included deluxe hard case is also constructed superbly and is both strong and tasteful with plenty of space for strings and accessories as required. Overall, the entire package is everything you would expect from high up the range of one of the World's leading makers.
Tonally, the 718e produces a lovely, warm sound that can be surprisingly subtle considering the sheer size of the body shape. This is certainly not just a guitar for strumming chords on as the balanced response allows for fingerstyle work and single note plectrum runs to be equally well catered for, with rich bass and detailed high end that can both shout and whisper when required. Thanks to the size of the body the 718e produces a very wide frequency range and therefore records or performs live very well indeed, whether using the excellent onboard Expression system or miked up directly. We found that miking at the tail end of the body and around the 15th fret gave two very different but gorgeous tones that really show this guitar at its best and the Expression system gives a warm, highly acoustic tone that feels very easy to play dynamically and musically with, but without the tonal compromise that can often be associated with piezo based pickups.
Taylor has really hit the mark with the Grand Orchestra body size and, although the 718e is an expensive proposition for the average guitarist, the asking price really isn't that high when you compare it with similar models from other prestige makers. It is also the kind of instrument that should appeal to a wide range of players thanks to its amazingly wide tonal and dynamic response and traditional good looks.
For serious acoustic guitar players looking for a large body shape, 'do it all' kind of acoustic that is built to the most demanding and exacting specifications, then the Taylor 718e would certainly fit the bill. I’d start saving now if I were you!