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An acoustic/electric with a solid spruce top and laminated maple back and sides, and a slick, fast feel that will make any aspiring Doyle feel ready to roll.

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Pickers don’t come much quicker than Doyle Dykes. His lyrical and popping fingerstyle wizardry, while rooted in bluegrass and Chet Atkins’s Nashville-meets-jazz approach, draws upon melodic pop sensibilities of the Beatles and U2 among others. But no matter how Doyle approaches a song, it’s sure to be resplendent with fast and flying pick work. And while Doyle could probably rip “Wabash Cannonball” on a Sears Silvertone left for dead in a chicken shack since Eisenhower was prez, it’s no accident he has a long-standing relationship with Taylor—who above all other considerations, try to build the most playable guitar every time out.

A few years back, the partnership between Taylor and Dykes yielded the Doyle Dykes DDSM, a pricey spruce-and-maple Grand Auditorium model with a Florentine cutaway that was about as buttery a guitar as you could build. Neither Taylor nor Dykes wanted to bar more frugal buyers from the party, however. So this year, they unveiled the Doyle Deluxe, an acoustic/electric with a solid spruce top and laminated maple back and sides, and a slick, fast feel that will make any aspiring Doyle feel ready to roll.

Slick and Black as Night

The glossy black Doyle Deluxe manages to look flashy and low-key. Based to some extent on the Taylor 200 Series guitars, it trades the DDSM’s Florentine cutaway for a Venetian cutaway that enables access all the way up to the 20th fret on the 1st string (though the pointed neck heel can make that reach feel less than totally effortless). Elsewhere, the bling is kept to a minimum. Chet Atkins-style thumb inlays, like those you might see on an old Gretsch, adorn the ebony fretboard on the 25 1/2" scale neck, and a Doyle Deluxe logo that mixes the stylistic elements of Doyle’s signature and a ’50s-style car emblem adorns the signature Taylor headstock.

On the section of the upper bout closest to the neck joint, you’ll find the three low-profile controls (Volume, Bass, and Treble) for the Taylor ES-T preamp and undersaddle transducer system. An integrated endpin jack and 9V battery compartment assembly makes plugging in and changing the battery a breeze. And a phase switch is easily reachable just inside the soundhole on the preamp board.

Fast and Easy
The Doyle Deluxe does seem genuinely geared for the style of its namesake. Low, fast, and slinky, the action really invites a fingerpicking approach, if you’re so inclined. Our review DDX, as it’s also known, came strung with light (.012-.053) Elixirs, and while you could put much heavier wire on this guitar, it’s hard to imagine sacrificing the reactive, balanced feel you get under your picking hand.

The combination of light strings, low action, and long scale beckon you to play fast and throw around bends, hammer-ons, and legato runs. And while those elements can conspire to make the DDX sound cool for rapid-fire flatpicking, it’s really best for a nuanced fingerpicking approach with thumbpick or bare fingers. If you’re bent on using the DDX as a flatpicking weapon, you may want to consider adding a little relief in the neck. Really digging in and bending a full step past the 7th fret on the 1st and 2nd strings resulted in everything from slight buzzing to a minor, but discernable thinning of the tone. (The tradeoff? Some very cool false harmonics when you stab the pick right at the 20th fret.)

The DDX’s voice, like that of many Taylors, is exceptionally present in the midrange, but that doesn’t mean the guitar doesn’t have plenty of bass and high-end on tap. The Grand Auditorium body helps strike a really lovely balance between muscular and delicate. And the guitar’s even, open sound makes alternate and open tunings sound rich, ringing, and harmonically complex, and invites melodic work on the 3rd and 4th strings and a thumping thumb on detuned 5th and 6th strings. That quality is doubly surprising given the laminate used on the sides and arched back. If you’re among those who are dubious about the potential of laminated back and side wood to generate gorgeous tones, a spin with the DDX will likely find you thinking twice.

Plugged into a Fishman Loudbox Mini, the DDX’s ES-T system sounded remarkably transparent and well suited for the Deluxe’s bright voice. Kicking up the treble and volume simultaneously had the system quacking a little—particularly from heavy finger plucks and bass-string thumps. But the ES-T’s tone controls are also quite responsive. And given the midrange heavy nature of the Deluxe’s acoustic voice, there was a lot of room to dial out excessively ringing high-end frequencies and more synthetic-sounding mids. The system also responded well to the Taylor’s even and glistening qualities when I used my picking hand more gently. And it rewards a lighter flesh-on-steel fingerstyle technique, if that’s your approach.

The Verdict
The Taylor Doyle Deluxe is one of the quickest-feeling flattops I’ve played in a while. What’s more, it’s voiced to take advantage of lighter strings and fingerpicking— reactive in the high and midrange with plenty of sustain for droning and thumb-thumped bass patterns.

Some players may be hesitant to drop $1200 for a guitar with laminated back and sides. But the construction is flawless, and many players would be hard pressed to identify the tone as typical of a laminated guitar if you blindfolded them. The Doyle Deluxe is a Taylor through and through. And if you’re a fan of the full, but midrange-centric tones so closely associated with the brand, you’ll have a lot to work with in the DDX. This is a guitar that really begs to be played, and that kind of relationship with a guitar is not always one you can buy at any price. In that sense, the beautifully built Doyle Deluxe is worth every penny.

Buy if...
you’re looking for a vehicle for fast-flying, fingerstyle playing that breaks the fingerstyle axe mold.
Skip if...
huskier, antique, and woodier tones are essential to your fingerstyle method or you’re a heavy-handed flatpicker.

Street $1200 - Taylor Guitars - taylorguitars.com

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