Taylor 724ce Hawaiian Koa: What is it?
An all-koa guitar is a statement instrument, and that goes double when you’re talking about a high-end acoustic guitar from Taylor, such as one from the 700 Series, a luxurious range which sits plum somewhere in the upper-middle of the Taylor lineup.
The latest updates to the series feature a pair of all-koa builds, the 722ce Grand Concert, and the 724ce, a handsome Grand Auditorium model with a cutaway (hence the ‘c’ in the designation) and the ever-impressive onboard Expression System 2 pickup and preamp electrics (hence the ‘e’).
Koa is indigenous to Hawaii where it has special significance. In ancient times, indigenous Hawaiians used it to build ocean-going canoes and surfboards. But it also has musical properties as a tonewood for ukuleles and guitars. Not that anyone is going to fall out of love with the tried and tested combos of spruce and mahogany or rosewood any time soon, but koa offers an attractive alternative, with tonal properties of its own.
As part of a vanguard of increasingly eco-conscious builders, Taylor has made great strides for sustainability in recent years. Its West African project cultivates stock of ebony, and it and sources its koa from Hawaiian timber company Paniolo Tonewoods, which is an initiative set-up in collaboration Pacific Rim Tonewoods.
In 2018, Bob Taylor purchased 565 acres of pasture on Hawaii’s Big Island and leased it to Paniolo to cultivate koa specifically for instrument production. The reforestation project is in its infancy, but in the interim Paniolo supplies Taylor with koa stocks that would otherwise go to waste.
“Paniolo Tonewoods harvests dead, dying and malformed trees that were stunted from cattle grazing, or were simply in decline, to make guitars,” says Taylor. “The wood from these trees has become thousands of guitars and thousands of new koa has been planted.”
There will be some variance in the appearance of each instrument but then that is part of the appeal too, particularly when some players favour highly figured tops, while others prefer plainer finishes.
The craft, however, is unmistakably Taylor, with all cutting-edge production techniques and meticulous attention to detail. The 724ce looks flawless, the grain of the wood popping under a very fine open-pore matt finish. It's tactile too.
Everything feels designed. Three dials for Expression System 2’s controls are mounted on the shoulder side of the instrument but are discreet as can be. Some of the most clever designs you or the audience won’t see, such as Andy Powers’ V-Class bracing pattern, enhance sustain and volume compared to conventional X pattern bracing.
Some guitar makers might have opted for gold hardware. That would complement the deep brown and reddish koa, sure, but the brushed bronze of the tuners is a little more muted and all the more upscale for it.
Restraint is the order of the day when it comes to the aesthetic, but the paua shell rosette circling the soundhole, MOP ‘Fountain’ inlay on the ebony fingerboard, the rosewood binding and that dark-stained maple pickguard show you where some of your hard-earned is going.
The headstock is capped with ebony, with a 44mm black Tusq nut to match. Though the Tusq saddle is white/cream. The Grand Auditorium body is 4 5/8” deep, 16” wide, 20” long, and the 724ce measures up with a 25.5” scale length. Its venetian cutaway exposes more of the fingerboard without looking like a drastic measure for those hankering to explore frets 17 to 20.
Taylor 724ce Hawaiian Koa: Performance and verdict
There is a strange criticism of Taylor’s acoustics that they are in some way too perfect. That feels like a complaint without a caveat, and it’s the sort of thing that gets levied at PRS, too. But as with PRS, Taylor has been quietly going about its business, refining processes and its supply chain, and ultimately assembling a range of instruments from a wide library of tonewoods.
Taylor’s lineup presents players with plenty of options, from classic tonewood combinations that are gratifying because they perform like the acme of that ideal, to next-gen Urban Ash builds, that combines eco-consciousness with a sense of adventurism.
The Hawaiian koa 724ce is an extension of this adventurism, and when you strum and open chord it responds beautifully, with a sibilance that brings the treble notes to the fore without overpowering the guitar’s inherent sweetness. It does not have the bass response of a dread’ or a jumbo but that’s not what this Grand Auditorium shape is for. There’s a balance and a poise here.
• Taylor Builder's Edition 324ce
Taylor's invention and planet-friendly design philosophy make the Builder's Edition 324ce a big success, with Urban Ash proving its worth in this tonally balanced, pro-quality electro-acoustic.
• Taylor American Dream AD27 & AD17 Blacktop
Another pair of acoustics that demonstrates the breadth of variety in the Taylor lineup, and two of the best options for those looking for a top-shelf acoustic at a more accessible price.
The dimensions make it very comfortable, either on the strap or lap, and the soft V profile of the mahogany neck is super-friendly for all kinds of styles. It helps that the factory setup is as slinky as you can get.
Hybrid pickers will appreciate the detail here, but this is the sort of acoustic that can make a feast out of a few chords. It sounds magnificent on its own but with that presence in the upper mids, it sounds like it could work a treat in a mix, and would complement a second guitarist working on a throaty, booming dreadnought.
Or, indeed, a vocal. It’s certainly ready for the stage. That Hawaiian koa deserves a spotlight on it. And the Expression System 2 is a top piece of kit. The Volume, Bass and Treble controls are all you need.
With a new acoustic, we are always conscious that the voice you hear today is only going to get better with age, and that’s a tantalising prospect. Of course, the 724ce is quite in the investment, but it is sure to pay off over time and reward you with a tone that only appreciates over the years, and a build and playability that is truly top-tier. Too perfect, indeed.
MusicRadar verdict: Hawaiian koa lends Taylor’s handsome Grand Auditorium cutaway a unique look and a voice replete with sweet, warm tones – it is an exotic twist on the US brand’s high-end guitar making, a stunning alternative to spruce et al.
Taylor 724ce Hawaiian Koa: The web says
"Compared with a Gibson dreadnought and a Martin OM that we have to hand, it’s a different voice entirely. Where the Martin sparkles and the Gibson bellows, the Taylor sits neatly in the middle, with a sound entirely its own (if anything, we detected a touch of the Lowden about it, and that’s no bad thing at all).
"Taylor itself, its dealers and players alike, will be very excited about these new koa instruments. Koa’s tone is usually held to improve quickly with use, and if they start off sounding as good as this one, should blossom into something very special indeed."
Taylor 724ce Hawaiian Koa: Hands-on demos
Taylor 724ce Hawaiian Koa: Specifications
- ORIGIN: USA
- TYPE: Single-cutaway, Grand Auditorium electro-acoustic
- BACK AND SIDES: Solid Hawaiian koa
- TOP: Solid Hawaiian koa
- NECK: Mahogany, with soft V profile
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Graph Tech Tusq/44mm
- FINGERBOARD: West African Crelicam ebony
- FRETS: 20, fine
- HARDWARE: Taylor brushed-bronze enclosed tuners, strap button and endpin jack, flip-open battery compartment situated in endpin plate
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 56mm
- ELECTRICS: Taylor Expression System 2
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 2.1/4.6
- OPTIONS: No
- RANGE OPTIONS: 722ce Koa (£3,799)
- LEFT-HANDERS: Yes
- FINISH: Very thin skin, clear matt
- CONTACT: Taylor Guitars