There is no single ultimate guitar - that be-all-and-end-all instrument that will end our search for perfection.
And yet we chase the idea, an idea that will change as our tastes as players change. The quest is all part of the fun, of course, but sometimes innovative guitars come along that change our perception of what we want and need, and they actually bring new things out of us. We think Taylor’s new Grand Pacific is one of them.
Taylor has already been busy innovating with last year’s V-Class bracing, a genuinely fresh take on acoustic construction from Master Builder and design maverick Andy Powers. This Grand Pacific is a V-Class guitar, but it’s a brand-new shape for the company that goes even further in changing the perception of what a Taylor acoustic can sound like.
This 317E represents the most affordable of the Grand Pacific launch line, the other two models being rosewood 717 and mahogany 517 back and sides ‘Builder’s Editions’, starting at £2,999 for the non-electro natural-finish version of the latter. According to Powers, this sapele back and sides model is pitched somewhere between them in terms of tonal character. At street prices of around £1,749 (and £1,600 for the non-electro), this still represents a serious investment, but it’s also a potential guitar for life.
We wager this is the closest Taylor will ever get to a traditional dreadnought shape, and the vintage drop-shouldered take is a hint at the tonal character. If you’re nonplussed by gloss finishes, this guitar should give you serious pause for thought; a shimmery top finish over pale flawless Sitka spruce with warm satin sapele back and sides, it’s a winning combination of traditional and clean contemporary that just works. The 317 is a looker, but it’s not showy - more a player’s guitar, ready to get down to work.
We read a lot of specs from brands about ‘rolled’ fingerboard edges built for player comfort, but this feels like premium territory. The satin finish and organic streaks of the ebony ‘board further enhance a smooth and classy experience that feels like home very quickly, especially for fingerstyle. But, of course, feel is only part of the equation...
This is a different kind of acoustic tone, even for V-Class modernists Taylor. The initial politeness might actually throw anyone used to muscular mids and a boomy bottom-end. But give this guitar time with an open mind, and it will shine.
There’s a softer vintage character, and that means subtlety here. The V-Class helps give notes across the board equal sustain and projection, and there are delights to be found, which will coax players into melodic territory at the dusty end. The usual choked compromises of the higher frets don’t exist - there’s presence and body, and you don’t need to dig in to make gains. It encourages a more measured approach, and we found ourselves playing in a freer way.
The downside is that consistency of sound means this guitar doesn’t respond quite as dynamically as other Taylors when you open it up to harder strumming. But there’s an understated strength to that, and it’s linked to a quality in the Grand Pacific that’s central.
An acoustic recorded sound post-EQ and compression is often quite different to what you hear from it in the room, being tracked. This guitar feels EQ’d in that way already. The pre-fitted medium phosphor bronze Elixirs already help eliminate unwanted finger noise, but the warm balance across the board feels more forgiving to your playing. It gives confidence. And in chord work with singing, it feels like a very natural and complementary companion.
Our previous experiences with Taylor’s Expression System 2 mean we’re not surprised to hear those qualities reflected plugged in. Although we did find ourselves wanting to turn up the bass control more than we expected to maintain richness, it’s an overall performance we’d hope for at this price-point, and we would imagine plenty of sound engineers smiling when they hear the 317E.
While the Grand Pacific isn’t being marketed as any ultimate statement, it is a distinct one that proves Taylor is a true innovator in providing new choices. And that choice could well become your longterm workhorse guitar.