Taylor's 916CE is a stunning looking instrument from the company's prestige 900 Series. But does the sound live up to the image?
One of the reasons I love doing my job is that every so often I will get a guitar on my review list will stop me in my tracks. The subject of this review, the 916ce by Taylor, or to give it its full title, the 916 Grand Symphony Cutaway Electro-Acoustic Guitar, did that very thing. Opening the high quality deluxe hardshell case to reveal this incredibly beautiful looking guitar was nothing short of a breathtaking experience. But as we all know, aesthetics only form a part of the overall package. What I needed to establish was whether it sounds as good as it looks.
The 916ce is one of Taylor's high-end 900-series range of instruments with the emphasis on high quality construction and materials, coupled with high quality performance and sound. It sports one of Taylor's, boldest, richest body styles (the 'Grand Symphony' shape), which means it is very similar to the 'Grand Auditorium' body shape but with a slightly wider waist and bigger lower bout, designed to offer a little more in the fullness and volume department.
The wood of choice for the top of the review guitar is Sitka spruce with the back and sides being made from choice Indian rosewood which, incidentally, is the choice of wood for a larger part of Taylor's product line. The neck and heel of the guitar are made from tropical mahogany, while the fingerboard is made of ebony and the guitar is tastefully bound by further use of Indian rosewood. The neck itself has 20 frets in total and the scale length measures in at 25-1/2" with the heel length at 3-1/2". I should add that if Sitka spruce isn't your ideal choice, Taylor offers the option of Englemann spruce or Cedar for just $100 more, if either of those would be more your style.
One of the main elements which contributes to the 916's stunning looks is the beautiful inlay design. Starting at the ebony overlay headstock, the unique 'Cindy' design is beautifully finished and looks sumptuous in mother of pearl, continuing along the entire length of the fretboard and being picked up again on the guitar's body in the form of abalone in the rosette and edge trim. The 'Cindy' design, named in honour of Bob Taylor's wife, also finds a place on the ebony bridge too.
The electro capabilities of the 916 come via the ES all-magnetic pickup system, the emphasis with this being on simplicity, with just three controls on offer: volume, bass and treble. We have covered Taylor's Expression System before and all I can say is that it still works as well as it ever did - which is very well indeed!
Once I'd stopped gawping at the 916's good looks, it was time to put it to the test. Acoustically, I felt the guitar had an impressive, robust sound to it with a nice character to the tone. Whether bashing out open chords with a pick, or playing much more delicate fingerstyle passages, the guitar always delivered a nice tone with plenty of volume and warmth, responding to the playing dynamics all the way.
Personally (and these are always subjective areas) I did feel the tone was a little bass heavy, but watch the video to see what you think and, better still, visit a Taylor dealer and try one for yourself. So much depends on your playing style and, of course, your ears!
Once hooked-up, the 916 sounded equally impressive through the PA and the ES system did a stellar job of capturing the natural sound of the instrument as opposed to just the sound of the pickup. The playability was great too and the addition of the 'Venetian' cutaway, giving access to the less explored areas of the fingerboard, will no doubt be a feature welcomed by many players.
On the whole, I'd say the Taylor 916ce is a stunningly attractive and exceptionally well made instrument, with a good sound and that legendary Taylor playability. There's no question that jaws would drop when you took it out of its case at a gig. Whether the sound is for you, only you can say - but in terms of quality, even at what is quite a high price, there's no disputing this is a fine instrument.