There has always been a whiff of elitism about Taylor Guitars. When Bob Taylor launched the company out of Lemon Grove, California in 1974, the in-house philosophy was quality without compromise.
Not much changed over the next quarter-of-a-century with Taylor pushing the envelope for well-heeled punters, but proving slower to cater for their mid-price counterparts.
Until the launch of the first 100 and 200 Series models in 2003, the cheapest Taylor was £999 - and that was for a straight acoustic.
Since then, this lower-priced range expansion has been best described as cautious, with the 100 and 200 models initially coming in a natural acoustic format, then introducing electronics, and now finally - with the new 114ce - adding a Venetian cutaway to the dreadnought and grand auditorium body formats.
For the working musician juggling aspiration and budget, this models is attractive, but we wanted to dig beneath the price and the logo on the headstock…
Let's take a moment to decipher that model code. The '1' denotes this model's membership of the 100 Series - the cheaper of Taylor's two entry-level ranges, due to its less adventurous timbers.
The '14', meanwhile, confirms this is the latest Taylor to follow the classic grand auditorium body shape (which, bizarrely, has only recently been introduced to the 100 Series).
The 'ce' prefix is industry shorthand for 'cutaway' and 'electronics', denoting the Venetian that opens up the body (in fact, its curvature is almost closer to a Selmer Maccaferri-style cutaway) and a pickup system "inspired" by Taylor's Pure Expression.
It might rank among Taylor's cheapest, but there's an argument - on paper, at least - that the 114ce is still pretty expensive. A scan of the market reveals countless electros that boast all-solid construction for under £500.
By contrast, this model charges £649 and backs its solid Sitka spruce soundboard onto a laminate sapele body. "But it's not just about the wood," counters one of Taylor's representatives. "It's about the art of building them."
It's hard to argue faced with the 114ce - there is a sense of personal care and attention in the build of this guitar.
The grain of the spruce is delicious, the binding is unfussy, the frets have been finished to perfection, and there's a grownup, reliable feel to the tropical US mahogany neck - not least because it features the bolt-on construction that has long been Taylor's calling card.
Beneath the surface, too, this model has elements of its more expensive siblings, with a forward-shifted bracing pattern and the ES-T version of the Expression System co-designed by Rupert Neve in 2003.
Combined, these elements turn in the performance we had hoped would filter down from the top-spec auditoriums.
Fingerstyle is the forté, with the unfinished neck, manageable profile and reasonably airy 55mm bridge spacing combining to offer control and precision, and effective access via the cutaway.
Technically, it's not much slimmer than a dreadnought - in fact, the lower bout is the same width as the dread equivalent - but somehow it feels very manageable.
Accepted wisdom states that all-solid construction is a prerequisite for tonal character - but that's to overlook the critical importance of how a guitar is put together.
The 114ce is a case in point. Despite the predominance of laminate woods, this clinically executed model turns in a lively, crisp, defined raw voice, bolstered with a vibrant response and a great level of projection from that voluptuous body.
The spruce and sapele are great partners. Push through an open chord and you get warmth and clarity; let a single note ring and you'll be surprised how rounded it sounds.
Nor does the involvement of an amp spoil the performance. While the controls are fiddly and a little minimalist, the ES-T conveys the tone without colour or compromise, and provides gigging punters with a great starting point - the playing is up to you.
It all adds up to a guitar that is 'entry-level' in the loosest possible sense - with both performance and price suggesting a serious buyer instead of a toe-dipping debutant.
Even when trying to build guitars for the less wealthy among us, it seems Taylor can't help but knock out instruments of the highest quality.
At £649, there's no doubt the 114ce is still a serious investment, but you're rewarded with some of the sweetest tones and best playability in this price bracket, along with - let's be honest - the sheer kudos of owning a pukka Taylor.
Gorgeous tone and general whiff of aspiration.
If you're spending £649, don't you want all-solid timbers?
It's Taylor-made for discerning mid-price punters.
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.
Country of Origin
Back and Sides Finish
Solid Sitka spruce with concentric rings rosette Top. TUNERS: Enclosed, die-cast, chrome-plated. ELECTRICS: Taylor ES-T
Left Handed Model Available
Tropical American Mahogany
No. of Frets
The purely acoustic 114 costs £529, the electro non-cutaway 114e is £629.RANGE OPTIONS: The 214, 214e and 214ce cost £699 £799 and £849 respectively