The K14ce is a phenomenal guitar made even more impressive by the addition of V-Class bracing.
V-Class bracing offers volume and sustain by the bucket load
Supremely comfortable playing experience
Stunning good looks
How on earth do we afford one!
The visual appointments may be too much for traditionalists
Koa Back and Side
Taylor Builder's Edition K14CE
MSRP £4799 (UK) $4999 (US)
Tom Quayle reviews the stunning Grand Auditorium from Taylor's new Builder’s Edition collection. Featuring Hawaiian koa back and sides paired with a torrefied Sitka spruce top. The Taylor Builder's Edition K14CE was inspired by their groundbreaking V-Class bracing and is billed as the ultimate player’s guitar.
At the January NAMM show earlier this year, Taylor introduced the world to their brand-new V-Class Bracing system, a replacement for the traditional X-Bracing found on pretty much every other acoustic guitar on the market. The first V-Class bracing guitars are now out there to purchase and Taylor have come straight out of the gate with some super high-end models sporting their latest innovation so, if you want to check out a V-braced guitar you’re going to need some deep pockets. Hopefully the tech will disperse into the more affordable models later down the line, but for now, here at GI magazine, we were lucky enough to receive a truly stunning K14ce Builders Edition guitar complete with V-Bracing to check out, and what an experience it was as we (very carefully) checked out what all the fuss was about.
The general concept behind Andy Power’s V-Class bracing is that the design of an acoustic guitar is a big compromise between sustain and volume. The more flexible a top is the more volume you get, but the stiffer the top is the more sustain you achieve. Guitar players want volume and sustain and it is very hard to achieve both since the stiffer the top is, the less flexible it becomes. Andy himself uses the analogy of a banjo vs a Les Paul electric. The Les Paul is incredibly stiff due to the use of solid woods – hence it sustains for days but is very quiet. The banjo, on the other hand, has a very flexible drum skin top for a lot of volume, but pretty much no sustain at all. X-Bracing has never solved this issue since the bracing makes the top stiffer all over and the vibrations less predictable across its surface. Andy’s V-Class innovation places the bracing in a V shape extending outward around the sound hole, thus providing stiffness around the strings where the most sustain will occur but allowing the edges of the top to vibrate more freely for more volume. It’s a very clever idea and so simple that you wonder why it’s not been done before, but of course, the simple ideas can often be the hardest ones to figure out.
The K14ce is a phenomenal guitar made even more impressive by the addition of V-Class bracing. Sporting a supremely comfortable Grand Auditorium body shape with enhanced curves and contours unique to the Builders Edition guitars, you get stunning Hawaiian Koa back and sides, matched with a Torrefied Sitka Spruce Top. A bevelled armrest, bevelled body edges and smoothly contoured cutaway make for a luxurious playing experience that will spoil you and make pretty much every other acoustic feel awkward and unrefined in comparison. The body is matched with a Mahogany neck and Ebony fretboard, all finished with incredible Ebony binding and a gorgeous Spring Vine inlay. The guitar is finished in Taylor’s ‘Silent Satin’ finish, designed to reduce the noise as your arms and body move around the guitar – it certainly works well and enhances the experience further. Hardware is highly specced too, thanks to Gotoh 510 tuners and Taylor’s excellent Expression 2 pickup system.
Visually, the K14ce is certainly on the ‘blingy’ end of the spectrum. but it retains a level of subtlety that puts it firmly on the tasteful side of the equation. A Koa/Paua trim adorns the top and back, matching well with the fretboard inlay, but the subtle rosette and understated headstock keep the bling in check, producing a very handsome guitar with a natural feel and aesthetic.
As impressive as the guitar looks and feels in the hands, it is the sound that really blows you away and the V-Class bracing comes to the fore immediately. Even without an X-Braced Taylor to do a direct comparison with, it’s easy to conclude that this is an exceptional sounding instrument with a richness of tone and power that makes that price tag worth every penny. The low-end clarity and punch is so addictive, and the guitar suffers from no dead spots along its range, not thinning out at all as you move into the higher register of each string. V-Class bracing is said to improve intonation too and whilst it’s hard to say that each individual note was more in tune on its own per se, chords rang with incredible clarity even up high on the fretboard and the dynamic range available was very musically rewarding and inspiring.
Of course, you would probably hope that a guitar at this price point would produce such a visceral and pleasurable experience, but it’s not always the way. In this regard, it’s clear that the K14ce is right up there as one of the best acoustics we’ve ever reviewed at GI Magazine. Quite how much the V-Class Bracing plays in that is hard to quantify precisely, but we think this innovation is a massive and amazing addition to Taylor’s line up and well worth the cost of entry for those lucky few that can afford such a fantastic guitar. Outstanding stuff again from Taylor and Andy Powers.