Prior to 2006 when the company introduced its new flat-top design, the GS Grand Symphony, the Taylor line was overwhelmingly an integrated collation of ascending-in-price acoustics and cutaway electros.
The arrival of the GS heralded a change in marketing focus, since it's a choice of four differently timbered but similarly priced non-cutaway acoustics, even though Expression System powering is offered as a special-order option.
This highlighting of a non-cutaway, essentially acoustic body style has now been rolled out to Taylor's other designs – dreadnought, grand auditorium and grand concert – creating an autonomous identity within the catalogue for non-powered instruments.
Whereas on the electros the thicknessing of tops and sides varies according to body shape, on the acoustics it now differs according to body timbers. The result, claims Taylor, is more resonance by compensating for the differences in each wood's density. Let's see, then, how our Grand Concert example stands up.
Depending on the model, Taylor's new grand concerts follow the convention of having either gloss tops or all-gloss bodies. But there's one other aspect that sets the gloss jobs, including the GC5, apart from their cheaper, satin-backed brothers – a slot rather than conventional headstock.
It sets off the guitar a treat, lending a vintage vibe that's so well suited to this compact-handling 381mm (15-inch) wide instrument. But not everything is perfect here. A couple of our sample's open-back tuners are screwed on slightly crooked, so a minor rap on the attention-to-detail knuckles, even if they work fine.
That aside, everything is up to the expected Taylor par. The western red cedar front is carefully chosen for its tighter graining near the centre, while the back and sides – stained to a deepish reddy brown – are high-quality tropical American mahogany.
The satin-finish neck is stained to a similar hue. Playability of the short 632mm-scale neck is well tailored (excuse the pun) to this fingerstyle-friendly kind of instrument. There's more physical resilience for given gauges of string, enabling easier bending without things feeling sloppy.
The GC5's delivery understandably has a smaller focus than a bigger-bodied guitar, but it's no slouch in the grand concert/000 stakes. Volume, dynamics and sustain are encouragingly enthusiastic and there's well-defined tonal clarity.
The only thing arguably contradicting the timber spec is that the cedar isn't contributing as much overt warmth as one might expect to hear and the overall timbre seems more influenced by dryish mahogany-like overtones. Which is not to say the sound is cold, just more neutrally voiced than some cedar/mahogany acoustics we've experienced.
Opinions about Taylor guitars can be markedly polarised. Some will cite their high standard of production consistency as a major plus point – put another way: pick a Taylor at random and chances are it'll be as good as the rest.
Others might turn this compliment on its head and say that this very consistency conveys a clinical, even ruthless, efficiency rather than soul.
The truth, without risking being accused of fence-sitting, probably lies somewhere in between. The one-size-fits-all neck, for instance, is a standardisation too far, except that it's such an enjoyably playable neck it hardly merits criticism.
Similarly, cosmetic trim has become strictly defined within the price bands (gloss top and gloss body), which could be regarded as compromising a model's individualism.
The counter to that, of course, is that having shortlisted an instrument you know exactly what you're going to get.
Anyway, wherever you happen to stand on the matter, there's no doubt that this is an efficient, high-quality performer in both sound and build quality. The GC5 is an instantly engaging picker, even if a little more warmth might be desirable.
An immediately friendly picker. Good tonal clarity.
A bit more warmth wouldn't go amiss. A few poorly aligned tuners.
An attractive and well made guitar that's ideally suited to fingerstyle, but try before you buy.
Gloss natural body, satin neck (for sunburst top ass £70)
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14 inch (356mm)
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