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Taylor American Dream AD27 & AD17 Blacktop review

US-built Taylor acoustics at a more friendly price, the American Dream series have an old-school vibe and class in abundance

  • £1619+
  • €1499+
  • $1399+
Taylor American Dream AD17 Blacktop & AD27
(Image: © Future / Phil Barker)

Our Verdict

The AD27 and AD17 are not cheap but for a US-built Taylor they represent excellent value, and have a quasi-vintage vibe, tone and charm.

Pros

  • The Blacktop will draw admiring glances.
  • The AD27's old-school look and tone is great for folk/blues.
  • Excellent build
  • A US Taylor we can afford?

Cons

  • AD27's mids-focused voice makes it a specialist instrument.
  • Blacktop is cool but aesthetic won't be for everyone.

What is it?

The American Dream series is not populated by entry level acoustic guitars by any stretch of the imagination but offer the experience of a US-built Taylor for some some 400 bucks cheaper than their counterparts in the 300 series.

Created in response to the economic downturn arising from the coronavirus pandemic, the American Dream series are Taylor's most affordable US models, using a more stripped-down approach and a different set of tonewoods, while retaining much of the wow factor we have come to expect of the brand.

Our review models, the American Dream AD27 and AD17 Blacktop, are professional quality instruments, each sharing the 14-fret Grand Pacific body shape with Andy Powers' ground-breaking V-Class bracing system.

The Grand Pacific is Taylor's own take on a round-shouldered dreadnought, so immediately that sets a certain level of expectation as to how they might sound. But then the tonewoods are the wildcard. The AD17 Blacktop has a solid spruce top with solid ovangkol on the back and sides. The AD27 has a solid mahogany top with solid sapele on the back and sides.

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Taylor American Dream AD17 Blacktop & AD27

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)
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Taylor American Dream AD17 Blacktop & AD27

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)
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Taylor American Dream AD17 Blacktop & AD27

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)
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Taylor American Dream AD17 Blacktop & AD27

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

Sapele, you might have already clocked as a mahogany alternative. It certainly looks that way, but because of its denser composition it is a little brighter sounding, with Taylor promising a little "top-end shimmer" from it. Ovangkol is a little more exotic. it is sourced from West Africa and is a relation of rosewood's, and looks not unlike walnut.

Taylor's own wine bar description of ovangkol's tonal properties puts it nicely: "[Ovangkol] bears hints of rosewood’s lush sparkle, with greater presence in the midrange." Well, that's us sold – une carafe de ovangkol, si'l vous plaît!

Otherwise, the AD27 and Blacktop have nigh-on identical builds, with mahogany necks with scarf joints, eucalyptus fingerboards with 4mm dot inlay, a black Tusq nut, Micarta Saddle, nickel tuners, chamfered edges on the body.

Both guitars ship in a lightweight Taylor AeroCase, with the Blacktop priced at £1,715/$1,499 and the AD27 at £1,619/$1,399.

Performance and verdict

Standing those two tonewood profiles side by side, players might be inclined to make certain assumptions of these acoustics and their tones. Taylor has a reputation for impeccable craft, instruments of the highest quality tones and sumptuous playability, but does it have a signature sound?

By dint of coming later on in the history of the acoustic guitar, Taylor (and indeed its competitors) might always be measured in reference to Gibson and Martin, but with its provocative and daring approach to seeking out new tonewoods, allied to the aforementioned V-Class bracing, there is very much the sense that Taylor is more free to create and to take risks – using Urban Ash on a Builder's Edition 324e, for instance.

Also consider...

(Image credit: Martin)

Martin Road Series 000-10E
Once again, sapele’s qualification as a noble stand-in is well justified. This will be a great guitar in the recording studio, especially for folk and Delta-style blues. 

Martin Road Series D-12E
Thanks to experience and precedence, we can assume this guitar will grow old gracefully. As it stands, it’s off to a great start.

Auden Artist Mahogany Austin Spruce
The fundamental voice is supple, mellow midrange with abundant warmth and great definition. The Austin has less ‘woof ’ than a dreadnought but more bass than many OMs.

Here we see Taylor offer a slightly more downscale and muted acoustic; this isn't the second coming of the Depression-era acoustic but there's definitely a hint of the vintage in these acoustics. The AD27's voice has a very concentrated midrange, not unlike an all-mahogany Martin in the sense that it has that it balances warmth and detail.

If Delta blues and trad jazz hybrid picking is on the menu with the AD27, the Blacktop takes on a little more of a Gibson character. The balance is exceptional in the lower mids and bass response, while those treble notes are honeyed and instantly available via that spruce soundboard.

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Taylor American Dream AD17 Blacktop & AD27

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)
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Taylor American Dream AD17 Blacktop & AD27

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

Both are dry and earthy. They are nigh on identical in terms of feel. Blindfolded you would be hard pushed to tell the difference. The string spacing at the nut is generous. 

The neck profile sits somewhere between a shallow C and V shape, 20mm deep at the 1st fret with imperceptible taper to 22mm at the 12th, and – good gracious – the setup is perfect on both.

Now, they are still a considerable investment but Taylor has scaled back the spec sensibly. The all-solid build, the Taylor finish, and the incredible projection courtesy of the V-Class bracing makes them incredible value. 

The Blacktop's wider frequency response makes it more of an all rounder, but many will find the old world charm of the AD27 too much to resist. A US Taylor at this price is a tantalising prospect and these are positioned just on the right side of affordable and aspirational.

MusicRadar verdict: The AD27 and AD17 are not cheap but for a US-built Taylor they represent excellent value, and have a quasi-vintage vibe, tone and charm.

The web says

"It’s easy to spit out adjectives such as ‘organic’, earthy’ or ‘characterful’ but in truth they work extremely well when offering up an impression of what these guitars sound like – certainly compared to Taylor’s usually pristine palette of tones. 

"Pin us down and we’d offer that the ovangkol/spruce AD17 Blacktop sits within the Gibson umbrella of sounds, whereas the sapele/mahogany AD27 sings with a voice more akin to Martin’s mahogany-topped range."
Guitarist

"Though our review instruments represent a lot of guitar for the money, any US-made Taylor is still a serious investment. However, there’s an abundance of sonic and aesthetic character on offer and, perhaps most importantly, both American Dream models are enormous fun to play."
Guitar

Hands-on demos

Guitarist

Guitar World

Alamo Music Center

Specifications

Taylor American Dream AD17 Blacktop (Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)
  • PRICE: $1,499 / £1,715 (inc soft case)
  • ORIGIN: USA
  • TYPE: 14-fret Grand Pacific acoustic
  • TOP: Solid spruce with revealed edges and V-Class bracing
  • BACK/SIDES: Solid ovangkol
  • MAX RIM DEPTH: 117.5mm
  • MAX BODY WIDTH: 406.4mm
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
  • TUNERS: Schaller style, individual sealed
  • NUT/WIDTH: Black Tusq, 45.4mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Eucalyptus, unbound, with 4mm acrylic dot inlays
  • FRETS: 20, medium
  • BRIDGE/SPACING: Eucalyptus with compensated Micarta saddle/56mm
  • ELECTRICS: None
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 2/4.4
  • OPTIONS: Electro version available, the AD17e Blacktop ($1,699 / £1,919)
  • RANGE OPTIONS: The American Dream AD17 (£1,619), with electro system ($1,599 / £1,835), has the same spec as the AD17 Blacktop but with natural satin finish top. Also see AD27 (as reviewed)
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No
  • FINISHES: Clear satin unbuffed with Blacktop

Taylor American Dream AD27 (Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)
  • PRICE: $1,399 / £1,619 (inc soft case)
  • ORIGIN: USA
  • TYPE: 14-fret Grand Pacific acoustic
  • TOP: Solid mahogany with V-Class bracing
  • BACK/SIDES: Solid sapele
  • MAX RIM DEPTH: 117.5mm
  • MAX BODY WIDTH: 406.4mm
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
  • TUNERS: Schaller style, individual sealed
  • NUT/WIDTH: Black Tusq, 45.4mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Eucalyptus, unbound, with 4mm acrylic dot inlays
  • FRETS: 20, medium
  • BRIDGE/SPACING: Eucalyptus with compensated Micarta saddle/56mm
  • ELECTRICS: No
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 2/4.4
  • OPTIONS: Electro version available, the AD27e ($1,599 / £1,835)
  • RANGE OPTIONS: See AD17 and also AD17 Blacktop (as reviewed)
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No
  • FINISHES: Clear satin with Urban Sienna stain
  • CONTACT: Taylor Guitars