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Taylor’s been pushing the expectations and limits of Acoustic guitars for decades now; just when you’d assume there’s a plateau, they go further into new territory. Their 514CE in Urban Red Ironbark is a perfect example of design, materials and execution that makes for a fantastic instrument.
In recent years, Taylor has looked to a new source of materials; trees in urban areas that would otherwise get disposed of by a public works crew, after falling from a storm, or removed for a construction project, for example. These trees aren’t second-tier woods, it’s not uncommon to find a variety of trees that are perfect for making instruments, such as the wood that makes up the 514CE’s back and sides: Ironbark. It’s a very rich and dark material, our test guitar had the natural appearance of rosewood or mahogany that’s been overstained, but the grain really pops far more on the back and sides. The top is Torrefied Sitka Spruce, with a very pleasing (and natural looking) tobacco burst finish.
Inside the body, Taylor’s V class bracing provides structural support, as well as allowing for optimum vibration transfer through the soundboard. It’s a design feature that Taylor has applied to a variety of their instruments, and it’s no snake oil, it sounds amazing all across the fingerboard. The 20 fret, 25.5” scale neck is mahogany with a West African crelicam ebony fingerboard that has a 15” radius.▼ Article continues below ▼
Of course the detailing that Taylor is known for is here, with tortoise binding, their aerial inlays, and crelicam ebony bridge. The nut and bridge material are black Tusq and micarta, with Taylor’s Expression System 2 handling the amplification electronics featuring a simple Treble, Bass and Volume control layout on the upper bout. A single ring rosette of abalone ties everything together.
Our test instrument was in tune, right out of the case. The Grand Auditorium body style really became known for its articulation and brightness, and was very popular when the “unplugged” movement took hold, but a common critique was lack of depth. Using different woods have yielded unique ways to naturally adjust the EQ profile of this shape, and the Ironwood certainly thickens things up in the low and low mid frequencies, while not changing the high-end attack. A singer/songwriter who wants some warmer low end will certainly benefit, while strummers and pickers will each get a nice fuller response that seems to just make sense.
The electronics are equally impressive, with none of the clicky clack that usually comes from piezo systems that need EQ and compression to adjust. With the piezo element behind the saddle, there is plenty of definition with warmth. It pairs nicely with other guitars as well, as our tester’s acoustic cover band has a singer using a Taylor with Rosewood back and sides, and the 514 had its own space for melody and lead parts, as well as a fullness for chords and rhythm.
Playability wise, it’s a Taylor. There’s no effort in trying to get around the neck in any way. Fretwork was perfect, and the neck shape isn’t clunky or difficult. It works with the player, not against them.
Overall this is a great version of a GA style acoustic with the added benefit of a fuller sound. It’s a professional level instrument in every way, and like they always seem to do, Taylor hits this one out of the park…again.
Great playability, excellent materials and build, great warmth for a GA style