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This article was originally published in issue #45
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Sometimes only a Dreadnought will do and if you really want the best then Taylor is one of the names that is sure to be on your shortlist.
Dreadnoughts – those big, slightly boxy looking acoustic guitars – have been around a long while now and while fashions in acoustic guitars come and go, Dreadnoughts always hang on in there, and for a good reason. When it comes to producing a big, authoritative tone with plenty of volume and bags of dynamics, a Dreadnought is the place to start. And, of course, there are many to choose from – probably too many! For professional and serious semi-pro players, though, the field is thankfully a bit narrower and for many Taylor is the starting point these days, for a number of reasons, not least their famed playability, which makes it an easy transition to switch from an electric straight to your acoustic, and also the fabulous Taylor Expression pickup system, which has won the Californian manufacturer so much praise – not least from us at GI!
So, let's assume you want to stick to the traditional format with a Sitka spruce top, rosewood back and sides and a Dreadnought sized body. In which case Taylor's 410e-r has to be your starting point - but do take care if you're just about to jump in your car to shoot off to audition one you've seen advertised, because Taylor also offers the 410e (the clue is the lack of an 'R') and that model features an ovangkol back and sides. Is that a major difference? It depends on your ears, and you might have a fun afternoon trying them side by side to see which you prefer!
Tradition dictates rosewood, though, and that is the version we were sent to try. As you'd expect, the 410e-R features a lovely Sitka spruce top, which creates a huge dynamic range and really adds to the versatility of this guitar’s sounds, while the body and sides are of Indian rosewood, one of the most common body woods, especially for Taylor guitars. As always we have a set of Taylor nickel tuners, a ‘tortoise’ pickguard and I was delighted the guitar even comes with a really sturdy deluxe hard-shell carry case.
There's no escaping the fact that a Dreadnought body is fantastic for players with an aggressive pick attack - it will complement each note or chord with a lovely low end that doesn’t get too muddy – well, not when a manufacturer gets it right. This is something I noticed right away when I first strummed it out of the case (it was perfectly in tune as well!).
The Taylor 410e comes strung up with some really great Elixir Phosphor Bronze HD strings which feel very smooth to the fingers, there is barely any string noise on the guitar's incredibly playable and accessible 25 ½ inch scale length neck. So far, so good. This Taylor looks fabulous, plays like a dream and sounds great.
One of the other unique features really worth mentioning about this guitar is the built-in pickup system. Taylor has developed a pickup design that uses its own Expression behind the saddle pickup system which, alongside Taylor's self-designed pre-amp, really seems to capture a guitar's natural sound so well. The input is controlled by a very subtle two knob control system which is located on the top shoulder of the guitar body, one controls volume the other controls tone/presence. These are really nicely designed and the arrangement doesn’t protrude and get in the way of the guitar's lovely aesthetic.
The quality of an internal pick up is really important and can be the make or break deal in electro-acoustic guitar technology, especially if you are doing lots of live work, but once again this sample demonstrated that Taylor's Expression system is one of the very best money can buy and does proper justice to this resonant, dynamic guitar's natural tone. The location of the three internal sensors helps notes sustain and blossom in a way that I haven’t experienced on many acoustic guitars before and chords were rich and full. It felt as though the guitar was alive and breathing when I was playing it and as an electric guitarist, I found it possible to execute techniques that I would usually avoid on acoustic guitar, but this instrument lets you do what you want to do and gives you great playing response.
For the market it's aimed at, the professional player who needs a real workhorse acoustic- electric to take on the road, or for the serious and experienced amateur or semi-pro, this is a fabulous guitar – just about the perfect Dreadnought in fact, and I would absolutely love to own one of these for my acoustic gigs. It may seem a lot to pay for a guitar but that depends where you are viewing it from. For a professional who needs an acoustic as a main tool, this isn't a lot of money considering the level of performance it delivers. You can pay a very great deal more for a Dreadnought and after a point the law of diminishing returns sets in – where you have to pay a lot more for decreasing increments of improvement. This Taylor is about at the peak point in terms of value for money and that's why we've awarded it the extra half star we give for value. Pick one up in a local music shop now if you can and be totally captivated by it!