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This article was originally published in issue #39
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When you think of Taylor guitars the last thing that comes into your mind is an entry level acoustic, but the company does make some very affordable instruments for those not looking to re-mortgage in order to afford their instrument of choice. Taylor’s 200 series offer just this level of affordability, at least compared to the higher end models, by using a laminated back and sides construction with a solid top in a number of variants to suit all body shape and visual requirements.
The Taylor 210ce is a very affordable Dreadnought style acoustic with a Venetian style shallow cutaway, featuring layered rosewood back and sides and a solid sitka spruce top. The laminate format consists of a solid core of poplar with a veneer of beautifully grained rosewood on the top and bottom, giving an aesthetically pleasing finish at a lower price point. The tonal result is less complex than you will get from having solid back and sides but the use of a solid sitka spruce top offsets this somewhat and gives the look of exotic woods at a much more affordable price and offers a construction that’s very resistant to climate changes.
The word ‘laminate’ has become something of a dirty word in the acoustic world but this isn't entirely fair. Our editor (who has a bit of a 'thing' about tonewoods, by his own admission) maintains that one of the best sounding acoustics he owns has a laminated body and he isn't alone in insisting that laminates can vary as much in quality as can solid woods. In this case, the 210ce is a totally different level of guitar compared to some of the cheap laminate guitars that have sullied the term over the years and you can rest assured that you are getting a good sounding guitar for your money here. OK, it may not age in the way a solid wood guitar would, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is an inferior option. For example, you can be certain that the sound you hear in the shop is the sound you will get in two years or five years time - and in the case of this Taylor, that's a sound you will be proud of.
The neck is made from sapele to keep costs down further and yet it features a pretty luxurious ebony fretboard and a headstock with a matching rosewood overlay. Basic, three per side, die cast tuners are in use here and the neck is minimal in its design with simple white dots on the fretboard and sides and a lovely satin finish for comfort. The body features a gloss finish on the top and a satin finish on the back and sides. White binding, a basic rosette and a faux tortoise shell pickguard complete the design for a good looking guitar that appears far more expensive than its actual price tag suggests. For those wanting a different look Taylor also offers the 210 in black with maple laminate sides and back or with a sunburst finish.
The general construction both internally and externally of the 210ce is superb, considering the price point here is at least three times lower than some of Taylor’s high end models. Apart from the obvious budget minded hardware and the use of laminated back and sides, there is nothing here that belies the cheaper price point and the guitar looks every bit a true ‘Taylor’ instrument. The fretwork is very good with 20 well finished frets and the neck set-up offers a very playable action from the factory.
Yes, the high end Taylors offer a more refined playing experience, but this 210 feels significantly better than many other guitars at this price point and is very easy to play thanks to the comfortable neck profile and generous cutaway.
The 200 series models don’t feature the deservedly famous Taylor Expression pre-amp and pickup system found in the higher end Taylors but they do feature the slightly cut down ES-T system. Taylor describes the ES-T as a ‘single source, under-saddle transducer with individual elements for each string’, powered by a 9-volt battery and featuring the same active controls as the more expensive Expression system and a basic phase control for feedback management. Visually, the system is identical to the Expression system, with controls for Volume, Treble and Bass. The tone is superb, retaining the natural acoustic quality and response that Taylor’s pre-amps have become known for. There’s no mic in play here but the bass and treble response are impressively natural with none of the break up or brittleness that transducers can exhibit, translating the dynamic range of the instrument very well indeed. The EQ controls are musical throughout and offer a wide sweep of tonal options. The phase switch is a useful addition but you’ll perhaps need an external pre-amp to get more control over the frequency of specific feedback issues on stage.
Acoustically the 210ce exhibits a good tone that is rich in low end thump and high end detail. If you play this in direct comparison to an all solid wood Taylor you will hear an immediate difference in the quality and complexity of the tone, with the 210 missing the pleasing characteristics that only high end tonewoods can provide, but in isolation the 210 represents very good tone for the price. Perhaps more to the point, if you compare it with some other laminate body/solid topped guitars you will might well conclude that the Taylor is in a different class altogether.
As an entry point into the world of full size Taylor guitars the 210ce represents good value for money and the included high quality gig bag extends this value further. If you are struggling to afford the high end alternatives or need a second acoustic for travelling or hard gigging then the 210ce is a great choice. If you’re sceptical of laminate construction you should check this guitar out - you may end up being very surprised by what Taylor has achieved here!