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This article was originally published in issue #49
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As mentioned in our review of the Academy 10e and 12e guitars, Taylor has set a new standard with this new series
Superb playability and comfort
Armrest adds further to looks and playability
Excellent tone and dynamic response
Good sounding pre-amp and tuner combination
Included quality padded gig bag
Great value for money
Layered back and sides may scare some off (unnecessarily)
Taylor Academy 12e-N nylon-strung electro-acoustic guitar
On the strength of its steel-strung introductions, we're on record as saying that Taylor's new Academy series has set a new benchmark for affordable quality acoustics but does the 'wow! factor' apply to a nylon strung model too? Tom Quayle finds out.
When we initially looked at the Taylor Academy series, we concluded that Taylor had come up with stunning propositions for the beginner or budget limited guitarist. Both models we checked out were classic steel string variants, but Taylor also have a very interesting nylon string Academy model up its sleeves. Aimed at those looking for a softer tone, or beginners looking for a guitar that is easier on the fingers, the Taylor Academy 12e-N is a further extension of the company’s mindset of a producing great starter guitar, without sacrificing quality tone and playability for the new player.
As with the 10e and 12e guitars that we reviewed in GI 48, the 12e-N is constructed with layered sapele back and sides. If 'layered construction' sounds alarming, you need not worry, as the sapele both looks and sounds wonderful, allowing Taylor to produce a guitar that is as well made as their more expensive models, but at a far cheaper price point. We are not talking about anything remotely comparable with cheap laminates here and, as we've said before, it needs to be borne in mind that many a fine (and expensive!) Jazz guitar has been made from laminated woods. The 12e-N also features a Lutz spruce top, mahogany neck with a beautiful slotted headstock and an ebony fretboard with small acrylic dot inlays.
As with the other guitars in the series, Taylor has included a lovely, carved mahogany armrest on the top bout of the body, making the guitar even more comfortable for the beginner or experienced guitarists. To keep costs down, these armrests are constructed from left over mahogany neck cuttings in a unique, less labour-intensive process, than would be involved with a traditional hand carved option – usually the reserve of only the most expensive custom made acoustics.
The guitar includes good quality nylon nickel tuners, an ES-B expression pickup system, a subtle rosette and a decent inbuilt tuner on the upper side. That’s about it – the 12e-N is a very clean looking and simple guitar, but that’s the main point. No frills have been included, unless they specifically make the guitar a more comfortable and better experience for the starter guitarist to play. Taylor’s attention to playability is all encompassing here, from the lovely armrest, the smooth varnished body and neck finish, to the supremely comfortable neck profile and factory setup, the 12e-N is a real pleasure to play in every respect. The Grand Concert body shape is very friendly to smaller players, making the guitar a very sensible choice for younger players who are starting to take the instrument a little more seriously.
Taylor has nailed the tone of the 12e-N just as well as its playability. The sapele back and sides match very well with the Lutz spruce for a well-rounded tonal palette that is rich in the low end, for a nylon string, and crisp enough in the highs without ever being harsh or thin sounding. The guitar responds extremely well to dynamics, translating both fingerstyle playing and plectrum work with confidence and subtlety as required.
The ES-B pickup/pre-amp is also a lovely performer, with a very natural sound and simple user interface. You get a tone and volume control and a tuner on/off button with a small LED display for tuning information with around 300 hours of use from the pair of tiny lithium cell batteries. Taylor has even included a low battery indicator with the ES-B so that you never get caught out mid-performance.
Build quality is exactly what you’d expect from Taylor, with excellent internal and external construction that is both clean and solid. Cheap nylon string guitars tend to creak and groan with poor tuning stability and horribly high action. The 12e-N banishes these classic nightmares and is obviously constructed with just as much care and attention as the higher priced Taylor models.
As mentioned in our review of the Academy 10e and 12e guitars, Taylor has set a new standard with this new series. They are so good in fact that they transcend their intended starter market and could easily be used as very high quality and affordable second guitars for professional or other enthusiastic players. The 12e-N fits into this category perhaps even more than the 10e and 12e, in that most players have good quality acoustics already, but a good quality nylon string is a much rarer guitar to find in a player’s collection. The 12e-N is such a great instrument, at an affordable price, that it would be easy to see a lot of players picking one up to add to their tonal palette without breaking the bank. The inclusion of a quality gig bag sweetens the deal even further, making the 12e-N an essential guitar to check out.