Loud for its size. Ringing, detailed top-end. Punchy, defined bass. Super playability. High quality.
Hard picking can generate harsh, compressed overtones.
$1,399 street; $1,599 street as tested with Expression System 2 electronics and included AeroCase
Taylor GTe Urban Ash
Taylor’s new GT Urban Ash breaks a lot of ground for one guitar. It marks the introduction of another specialized Andy Powers-devised bracing pattern. It introduces a new-for-Taylor 24 1/8" scale length. It also underscores Taylor’s recent adoption of, and commitment to, shamel ash—a beautiful wood harvested from Los Angeles street trees.
But the GT, or Grand Theater, is also evolutionary—an extension of a concept for a compact, portable, sweet-playing flattop that was born with the Baby Taylor and evolved into the GS Mini. Unlike those guitars, the GT is a U.S.A.-built, all-solid-wood guitar. And with dimensions similar to a 00 Martin, it isn’t exactly a travel guitar anymore. But its design enhancements make it a more complex and forceful sounding instrument than the smaller GS Mini.
Taylor design maestro Andy Powers has a pretty restless engineering mind. His V-Class bracing, now just a few years old, grabbed the attention of an acoustic world that rolls with change reluctantly. In very general terms, V-Class bracing was designed to deliver even resonance and greater projection. Powers adapted some of the lessons from the V-Class design process to the asymmetric, cantilevered C-Class bracing on the GT. And if you’re even vaguely accustomed to peeking at a flattop’s innards, the deviations from the norm are plain to see. The bracing sections are arrayed irregularly. Even the back bracing is, unconventionally, slanted aft on the bass side. The build quality inside and out is, no surprise, near immaculate. Setup and intonation are perfect, too.
Though shamel ash appears elsewhere in the Taylor catalog, Taylor made it a featured option in the GT line. It’s beautiful wood, with lots of cool figuring and walnut-like dark, deep grain that make it fun to look at and hold. The satin finish enhances its rustic qualities to lovely effect.
Tonally, it’s probably more akin to mahogany than anything else. But it also seems to emphasize fundamentals and sounds more responsive and full of reflective energy than mahogany. Combined with the C-Class bracing and the Sitka spruce top, the shamel ash enhances the snappier, more detailed facets of the GT’s personality. For players that want to chase more familiar tone recipes and explore the way they interact with the GT’s dimensions and bracing, there are also rosewood (GT 811e) and koa (GT K21e) versions.
Big, Bright Little Buddy
One of the striking things about the GTe Urban Ash is its occasionally forceful personality. Pick hard and it can be downright brash. But in general, the sum of the GTe’s wood recipe, bracing, and scale is a harmonic profile that’s punchy in the low end and full of energized, ringing treble tones.
When you use light-to-moderately-intense touch, the pronounced bass and trebles co-exist harmoniously with the body’s natural midrange. Not coincidentally, fingerpicking, hybrid picking, and strumming with a thin pick bring out the most balanced version of the guitar’s voice. Using these gentler approaches also mean you can utilize the instrument’s ample headroom to very dynamic ends.
Playing hard activates a very different personality—emphasizing the fast, punchy bass and the high-power treble at the expense of some midrange presence. If you play or record a lot of rhythm-driven rock songs acoustic style, you may well dig this aspect of the GTe’s makeup. The GTe is flat-out loud. And thanks to the low action and the beautifully shaped neck (which has more than a few echoes of a shallow, vintage-Fender U shape), it feels incredibly fast.
While there is no denying the GTe’s overachieving loudness, heavy pick attack tends to compress into a very punchy but washed out whole. That said, if you love Pete Townshend’s most aggressive rhythm playing, or Peter Buck’s and Johnny Marr’s flurries of arpeggios, you might find this sound an asset, and it’s easy to hear how the GTe would excel at layering extra-exciting rhythm parts in the studio.
The Taylor GTe Urban Ash tackles many tricky feats with aplomb. It almost manages the feel and speed of a well-set-up electric—even with .012 strings. It achieves head-turning volume and projection for a guitar of its size. Its bright-with-punchy-bass voice is unique, too, allowing opportunities for creative arrangement of acoustic rhythm and melody parts in performance and the studio.
But by growing in price and size, the GTe enters the ring with many formidable, top-quality small-guitar challengers, with more traditional tone palettes. If you like an acoustic with a lot of high-end definition, crave a small-bodied guitar with more detailed bottom end, or want to get the most possible projection from a smaller-bodied instrument, the GTe can deliver in spades. For players of such proclivities, the GTe’s fast, comfortable playability could awaken many creative possibilities.
Be sure to watch our First Look demo of the Taylor GTe Urban Ash: