Taylor 150e 12-String Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
By Russ Loeffler |
Expert Review: Taylor 150E 12-string Guitar
By Russ Loeffler
Let me start by admitting that I have wanted to review the Taylor 150E since the initial pre-release buzz last year. Apparently, I wasn’t the only guitar player to do so, as the 150E was on steady backorder for most of 2014. The promise of an American built, quality 12-string with a street price of $700 an appealing and unique offering in a fairly crowded mid-price acoustic market. Although I have several guitars, I have never owned a 12-string because I looked at them as a new tool that I might rarely use and not worth the investment given the 12-string guitars that I have played and liked tended to be very expensive. Taylor has introduced a game-changer with the 150E. They have kept the quality while bringing down the price to where a lot of guitar players will find it hard to resist adding this guitar to their collection.
Using layered Sapele back and sides of this dreadnaught guitar allows Taylor to keep the price lower without sacrificing looks or tone. The overall look, feel, and sound of the 150e are great, and it boasts the same quality Sitka spruce top and Expression System acoustic electronics offered with higher-end Taylor guitars. The matte finish is a lightly applied varnish that protects without interfering with the wood’s ability to breath. The finish provides a very natural look and comfortable feel to the body and neck. The ornamentation is minimal, furthering the 150e’s “beauty in simplicity” aesthetic: the dreadnaught sized body, the wood grain, and the 12 tuning pegs say all that is needed.
The first thing one notices when taking the 150e out of the box is how light it is. The gig bag that comes with the guitar is even lighter. The two combined weigh less than some empty guitar cases. The first impression when playing up and down the neck will likely be how easy the 150e is to play. My only initial concern was a significant buzz on the A and D strings from the 3rd to the 7th frets. A few turns on the truss rod quickly eliminated any buzzing. Once I had the guitar in tune, it held steady and was still in tune the next day.
The sound is well balanced with a strong low-end response that compliments the chimey octave strings. The guitar has excellent projection with very little compression. The sound is impressive whether strummed, finger picked, or playing single note runs. It even sounded great when I banged out some “Jimi” chords. Some of the 150e’s best sounds come from playing open chord arpeggios with a pick. This is a guitar is going to inspire and improve many players alternating picking skills, not to mention their vocabulary for open-chord voicings.
Played the 150E through a Fishman SA220 Solo Performance System, the Expression system produced a very natural acoustic sound that accurately reflected the guitar’s unplugged tone. There was no need to add reverb, delay, or compression to get a great sound. I was surprised at how loud I could play without any feedback. Running into a PA system with 16 inch speakers gave the same result. With the PA, I had the added bonus of some stereo imaging even though I was plugged in mono with no effects. Out of curiosity, I played the 150E through a Pendulum preamp. The sound was even better and more natural, but I would expect that to happen with a $3,000 acoustic preamp. With or without the additional preamp, this is a great guitar for the stage. It can cut through the mix while adding a rich, full sound.
The Taylor 150e is much more versatile than I expected and this new tool holds hours of inspiration in it that far transcends the “yet another color” philosophy of many players. I would recommend the 150E to six string players who have not jumped on to the 12-string band wagon, but I don’t need to. It looks like Taylor’s 150E’s are already selling fast.
Russ Loeffler is a multi-instrumental performer and gear head with a passion for good music, great tones, and music that is much easier to listen to than it is to play.