REVIEW: Taylor’s Classic SolidBody with Loaded Pickguards

Taylor Guitars has long been recognized as a leader in the acoustic guitar market, fueled by their uncompromised quality and innovative designs and manufacturing techniques. They first entered the electric guitar market in 2008 with their Classic SolidBody and the success of that venture inspired them to press on. With the continued release of the Classic SolidBody earlier this year, Taylor offers up customization options galore.

The sleek and stylish Taylor SolidBody Classic!

WHAT’S IN THE CASE

Before I get into that I want to comment on the case itself. Rectangular in shape, the durable case is covered in a brown tolex reminiscent of cow hide. Black leather “bumpers” stitched to the ends give it an air of distinction and quality. Beautiful black crushed velvet decorates the interior and protects the instrument with custom fit padding all around, including the top. Not one, but two accessory compartments, held shut by elastic straps (nice touch), maximize the useful space.

The guitar sent to us by Taylor came in a Viper Blue finish meticulously applied over the solid ash body. There are ten other solid color choices from Bubblegum Pink (hey, chicks rock too!) to Natural and everything in between. An Indian rosewood fingerboard joins a maple neck which attaches to the body by a single bolt. This is part of Taylor’s innovative T-Lock joint, allowing for easy removal and adjustment of neck angle.

There are currently eleven pickup/pickguard combination’s to choose from. Ours arrived with three mini HG (high gain) humbuckers set into a pearloid pickguard. The shiny chrome volume and tone controls and bridge can best be described as vintage modern. The control knobs have a lip on top for added grip and additional rubber O-rings are included to slip over the knobs in case your digits get sweaty and you need a little extra grab.

The all-aluminum bridge offers height adjustments up and down, and side-to-side, and a whammy bar can be inserted to both lower and raise pitch. Strings sit in individual saddles which, once set, can be locked down to secure intonation. A traditional looking Taylor headstock with ebony veneer adorns the top of the neck accompanied by custom locking tuners that save you the trouble of multiple windings around the posts.

HOW DOES IT FEEL? HOW DOES IT SOUND?

Picking up the guitar is cozy. It’s well balanced and the weight just feels right – not too heavy, and not too light. Contours are placed on the bass side of the guitar where it meets your body and where your arm hangs over the side. The fingerboard is fairly flat and smooth which makes for a quick playing surface. The neck is equally smooth which makes sliding up and down a breeze. It’s low profile which didn’t quite work for me because I like more of a neck presence but this is a matter of taste. A major bonus is the practical lack of a heel where the neck joins the body. This allows greater ease for playing up into the high teen frets and beyond, something I have difficulty doing with my Les Paul. I toyed around unplugged at first and was confused at how poor my muting technique had become as the guitar continued to ring out even though I was stopping the strings. And then I realized the body was actually resonating! Manufacturers typically chamber guitars to shed weight. In Taylor’s case they do this with acoustics in mind to enhance sustain as well.

Time to plug in! In addition to the pre-installed pickguard, Taylor sent two pickguard replacements: Two Alnico humbuckers with silver covers against a black pickguard and two high definition (HD) humbuckers against a black pearloid pickguard. There are eleven choices total for your customizing pleasure.

Audio for each pickguard was recorded clean and crunchy, fed into a Blackheart Little Giant Half Stack. The crunch came courtesy of a BBE Green Screamer pedal.

Mini HG Humbuckers clean [audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/DblHotRails_clean.mp3|titles=DblHotRails_clean]

Mini HG Humbuckers crunchy [audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/DblHotRails_crunchy.mp3|titles=DblHotRails_crunchy]

Alnico Humbuckers clean [audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/DblHums_clean.mp3|titles=DblHums_clean]

Alnico Humbuckers crunchy [audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/DblHums_crunchy.mp3|titles=DblHums_crunchy]

HD Humbuckers clean [audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/P90trips_clean.mp3|titles=P90trips_clean]

HD Humbuckers crunchy [audio:http://blog.sharemyguitar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/P90trips_crunchy.mp3|titles=P90trips_crunchy]

Overall I found the tones to be rich and I imagine the acoustically chambered body contributed to harmonic balance. Characteristically this guitar seems to sit in the middle of the tonal spectrum – not too twangy, not too punchy, not too heavy… With adjustments to gear and technique, this guitar should adapt well to most any style.

While the various pickguards are individually unique, the differences in tone didn’t jump out at me. Granted, what I sampled were all variations of humbuckers but I would recommend finding a way to sample the ones you’re thinking about before committing to purchase. Also, these are not quick-swap such that you should not expect to “flip your tone” between songs in the middle of a gig.

I swapped out the pickguards several times and the time it took, after practice and racing the clock, was right around 15 minutes using a manual string winder and screwdriver. This entails removing the strings, 10 small pickguard screws, disconnecting a thin “solderless” joint (the ground wire) and locking clip between the pickguard and body, and reassembling. You want to do this in plenty of light where you’re not going to lose any screws (Note to Taylor: Please include a full set of screws with the individual pickguards). The pickguards are durable and the locking clip is secure, but the connection for the ground wire appears fragile. I can’t see any reason why it would come loose but it doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence as the connection is made simply by pushing it into a tube-like connector. Note: This ground wire has no effect on the guitar’s performance. It’s meant as a safety feature to prevent shock coming through the guitar from an amp that’s not grounded (a rarity these days).

Editor’s note: Although the video shows the loaded pickguard swap process taking 4 minutes, we found it to take longer. It is likely that it took us a bit longer given that we used manual tools as opposed to power tools.

Rocking the tremolo (vibrato) is great. At first I thought Taylor included a defective bar as it’s not threaded. In fact it simply inserts right into its home on the treble topside of the bridge. No more winding around and around and around. The tension on the bar is moderate in that it doesn’t spin freely but doesn’t stick in place either. Perhaps a happy medium between players who like to have it fall away and those who prefer it right where they left it? I tried my damnedest to get the guitar to go out of tune by dive-bombing and pulling up on the bar repeatedly but couldn’t crack it.

THE FINAL WRAP

Taylor has come out with yet another quality instrument. The construction is top notch and they include a number of features that are thoughtful and add value. My impression is that they aimed for an electric guitar to be all things to all people. That being the case, you have to work your personality into it to get it to give back in kind. It’s not going to replace the classic twang of your Tele or the raw grit of your SG, but the flexibility is there to take it in whatever direction you like and the vast customization options make the journey that much easier.

PROS: High quality construction. Thoughtful value-added features. Lots of options for customizing. Versatile.

CONS: Loaded pickguards require time and tools limiting how often you may actually do this.

MSRP – $1,748 standard configuration. $2,198 as delivered (base + $200 Viper Blue + $250 tremolo). $195 individual pickguards.

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