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Taylor Guitars Doyle Deluxe Acoustic Guitar Review

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 -