A look at four Taylor SolidBody guitars

Taylor Solidbody Guitars When I first came to Premier Guitar, my editor asked me what I would like to review. Since it was really my first assignment, I figured I’d shoot for the moon: Taylor had just unveiled their new line of electric guitars, and I was itching to get my hands on them. Before I knew it, Taylor had four guitars shipped to my doorstep – a Custom with koa top, a Custom with walnut top, a Standard with a figured ash top and a Classic with a translucent red finish. The phrase “ask and you shall receive” suddenly took on much more meaning.

According to Taylor, the SolidBody electrics originated because of a set of extraordinary pickups. One of Taylor’s senior product developers, David Hosler, became an expert on magnetics, steeping himself in the history of magnetic pickups while working with Mr. Rupert Neve on the Expression System pickup. Knowledge that Hosler gained during the Expression System project led to the development of Taylor’s T5 electric/acoustic hybrid, and the company crossed the threshold into the electric world.

Hosler continued to hone his pickup designs, working towards a new, more “electric” iteration of the T5, featuring a metal bridge. But the new generation of pickups he developed had a unique sonic personality that made a strong case for a different type of guitar altogether. Bob Taylor agreed. “This pickup clearly told us the guitar was going to be a solidbody. It changed that minute.” According to Taylor’s Brian Swerdfeger, the secret of the pickups lies in the polarity patterns created by breaking the rules of magnetic pickup design. And while we don’t have the space available to delve into the ins and outs of Taylor’s new pickup design, we can discuss their unorthodox electronic configuration.

All of the Taylor electrics share the same electronics package, featuring a Volume control, Tone control and a switch.

Taylor Solidbody Guitars The Classic and Custom models come equipped with 3/4-sized Style 1 humbuckers, while the Standard packs in the larger, uncovered Style 2 variety. Both styles promise to merge the worlds of vintage tonality and modern power into one unit, and they do the job respectfully well. Everything seems copasetic until you realize that the switch is in fact of the 5-way variety, controlling only two humbuckers. While it would be easy to enter gimmick territory here, Taylor has wisely designed the pickup coils to be arranged in some innovative ways.

The switch is familiar enough, with the outside positions activating the neck and bridge buckers, respectively. Switching to the second position activates the inside coils of the neck and bridge pickups in parallel for a skinny, funky sound. The middle position gives you the full neck pickup with the inside coil of the bridge pickup, giving you the ability to drive your amp harder for that extra crunch – think of it as a little edge. The fourth position activates the inside coil of each humbucker in series, producing a “superwide” humbucker tone that you likely won’t find anywhere else – it reminded me of the warmth and clarity of a Gretsch Country Gentleman.

"The bodies are thin, about the depth of a SG, and feel great in your hands. Taylor calls the look of these modern-retro..."

Plugging into my Fender Princeton Reverb, I found the tone to be more robust and a little livelier than my other guitars. There was more sustain behind the notes, which in turn led to better note selection. The bridge pickup was strong and well rounded, with the aforementioned edge (but not too much). It felt like the pickup had high-power, but was also hi-fi. Over the past couple of years, I have been tuning down a half step for live performances, as it creates a wider, fatter sound – these pickups produced that kind of richness at a regular pitch.

Even the Tone control – one of those instrument stalwarts that never gets any love – received some design attention from Taylor. The control works as normal up to 3/4 of the taper, where it begins adding more high-mids into your tone until you open it all the way up. It gave me the option of playing sweeter tones, or getting a little snarly, in each of the positions. The contoured design of the knobs and placement on all of the guitars was comfortable – the knobs were within reach, but not so close that I hit them while strumming. I attached some of the enclosed rubber O-rings to my volume pot and found it to be very useful for simulating steel guitar licks through volume swells. The pots had a very smooth taper to them.

Taylor Solidbody Guitars Of course, if the electronics were the only thing noteworthy here, this would be a much shorter review. As the Taylor crew set about creating its own unique take on the electric guitar, one of the next stops was the bridge. The development team took Bob Taylor’s instructions to make the bridge feel like, “an expensive watchband,” and came back with this slick design.

Taylor’s new aluminum bridge actually clamps or sandwiches the body between the top of the bridge and the bottom plate, facilitating more transfer of vibration to the body. There are actually three parts to this design: the stoptail that holds the saddles, a bezel that the stoptail sits in on top of the guitar and the locking plate, which secures the bridge to the body of the guitar from underneath, all in the name of keeping the appearance sleek and refined. The string height adjustments are handled from the back of the guitar, via a bridge height adjustment. The intonation is also set from the back of the bridge; as an added, and perhaps unconsidered bonus, there’s no need to worry about corrosion of set screws. These saddles also feature a custom break angle for maximum transfer of vibration from the strings.

I wanted to set up the Standard that was sent to me for a slide guitar session, and I accomplished this in short order, although not in an effortless fashion. The design from underneath was bit confusing at first and I did not have the correct tools. This was remedied by a quick call to Glen Wolff at the Taylor service department; I quickly received a set of step-by-step instructions and tools, which Taylor informs us are now shipped with each guitar.

The Body Electric
Even the SolidBody neck has gotten into the innovation game. Taylor has put significant effort into creating some of the sturdiest, most consistent necks around. The headstocks of the guitars are actually cut from the same board as the shaft, milled and then glued back together in the neck assembly process, producing a good break angle for the strings as they pass over the nut. Taylor’s CNC milling process saves wood, and the company gets three necks from the same billet of mahogany where it once got two. The neck pocket is Taylor’s T-Lock system (originally introduced on the T5), a single-bolt joint that ensures perfect alignment and stability. It also allows for quick neck angle adjustments, using custom-designed shims from Taylor – something that techs and setup tweakers will truly appreciate. The T-Lock is so effective with one bolt that Taylor has been able to eliminate the pronounced neck heel, providing unfettered access to the upper frets.

The necks themselves were a little thinner and flatter on the back side of the neck, and wider than any of my other guitars – it may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the phrase “sexed-up classical” kept running through my head while I played it. For those concrete, analytical folks out there, the neck has 22 frets, a 15” radius and a nut width of 1.6875”. The scale lengths for all of the guitars is 24.875”, putting it between the Big Two and giving the strings a nice tension – I was easily pulling off Jerry Donahue double stops without any problems.

Looking at the guitar as a whole, there''s a curvaceousness that surrounds the SolidBody. The bodies are thin, about the depth of a SG, and feel great in your hands. Taylor calls the look of these “modern-retro” and I suppose it fits – they remind me of an early-seventies Gibson Marauder, brought kicking and screaming into the new millennium.

The Classic model is a true solidbody, lacking the chambers of its higher-line brethren and made out of swamp ash. It remains fairly utilitarian; the crushed pearl pickguard was the only real appointment here, and weighing in at 9.2 pounds it was the heaviest of the group. That’s not to say that it’s a less appealing guitar – it has all of the design perks as Standard and the Custom – but instead that it’s just slightly more subdued than the rest.

The Standard shipped with a gorgeous, figured Tamo ash top inset into the sapele body and surrounded by ivoroid bindings. The Standard makes use of Taylor’s inset building techniques, setting a thin slice of exotic wood into the top of the guitar. This keeps builders from having to locate a thick slab of exotic wood (such as the Custom’s fabulous walnut burl), both keeping prices down and saving a few trees in the process. It keeps everything smooth and integrated, and avoids the hard edges that plague other solidbody electrics. Weighing in at 8.2 pounds, the Standard’s chambered design creates a bloom and sustain missing from the Classic, which reacts much more like a bolt-on solidbody. The open coil humbuckers give the Standard the feeling of a sleeper muscle car dying to find a fast Friday night match race.

I’d like to congratulate the design team at Taylor for having the marbles to try something new. While there’s still room for refinement in spots, the overall playability and design of these guitars are top-notch. They are premium solidbody electric guitars from a company who has redefined the acoustic world, and I have no problem getting behind that.
Buy if...
you want a different tonal palette in an innovative package.
Skip if...
you''re searching for Strat tones.

Classic MSRP $1748 Standard MSRP $2398 Custom Walnut MSRP $3098 Custom Koa MSRP $3798 - Company Name Taylor Guitars- taylorguitars.com

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Both a tonehound and a great player, John Prestia has found his niche in Nashville as guitar tech for Tim McGraw.

Nashville has held a reputation for chewing up and spitting out some of the most talented musicians in the world. Surviving is difficult, and thriving can seem downright impossible, but with the right formula, Nashville can be a promised land. For John Prestia, the formula is loads of talent, the ambition to stay in the city, and an insatiable desire to find great guitar tones.

John moved to Music City from sunny Sarasota, Florida a decade ago with hopes of becoming a better songwriter. He had been working 300 days a year as the frontman of the John Prestia Group, while simultaneously writing and co-writing songs – his “No One to Run With” with Dickey Betts was an Allman Brothers hit. He’s been releasing albums since the vinyl age, with 18 releases under his belt.

After spending part of his first year in Nashville as tour manager for Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, John found himself faced with the opportunity to wrangle guitars with Tim McGraw and his band, the Dancehall Doctors. This opportunity turned into a steady gig as the guitar tech for one of the most successful organizations in the entire music industry – the Tim McGraw/Faith Hill tour of 2006 broke all of the records of the time, grossing $89 million and selling 1.1 million tickets.

I met up with John in his workshop space, surrounded by mountains of amps, guitars and in-progress pedalboards, to chat about his demanding gig, Nashville, and – of course – the gear.

How did you get hooked up with Tim McGraw and company?

I had never dreamed of being a guitar tech, but I have always been a guitar “nerd.” I had spent 25 years making my living playing 300 nights a years, singing, writing and making my records – just doing my thing. All the while I’ve had an interest in the gear, building pedalboards and the like. I’ve always done my own guitar stuff ever since I can remember.

A sampling of John''s gear room
We’re surrounded by old Fender, Supro and Marshall amps, custom-built Hammonds, a rack of guitars marked with masking tape and Sharpie, old cases everywhere… Looks like a great job!

I bring mountains of these amps into the Tim McGraw sessions for the producer and players to use, and we dig in for tones that work on the particular songs. Fortunately they give me a lot of leeway and trust to discover tones for the records. If the guys are sitting on the outer edges, I can listen to the near-field monitors with Byron, the producer, who is also a great guitar nerd, and point out spots where I hear the possibility for a certain tone. We might break out the ''49 Supro, or if we want a big lush tone for a part, I’ll bring in the Marshall 4x12 cab with a Marshall head – whatever combination fits the track.

By not being in the cans concentrating on a part, I get to see the whole rainbow. I get to pick out colors, and it''s really cool. I would have never thought of being a guitar tech, but I’ve since gotten hired to go into the studio for other records. I bring up an arsenal of tone machines and sit with the producer of the record, saying, “Maybe we''ll tremolo this part or get nutty with the tone, or get a big fat rich tone,” that kind of thing. I''m way into that, and I''m lucky that Tim and the guys in his band are real receptive to my ideas.

How many guys do you tech for?

There''s Denny Hemingson, a fabulous player, on steel and electric guitar; Darren Smith, the band leader and lead guitar; the bass player, John Marcus; and Bob Minor, the acoustic player. We also hire another guitar tech to tour with us, but I''m the full-time guy.

We have more than just an A-team of players here – we are like a family. That''s what keeps me on here; I don''t feel like I''m just a guitar tech, I''m part of the family. And I don''t say "just a guitar tech" lightly, because we all have an important job to do out there on the road – they are all important jobs. If the lighting guy is rolling in a dimmer pack and something goes haywire, things get crazy and it could affect the show. We are all important to the end result. I think Tim spreads that down to all of us.

Tim McGraw must have amazing turnouts -- how many people come to the shows?

Between 15 and 20 thousand. On the last tour with Tim and Faith, we traveled with 22 tractor trailers and 18 busses; there were 130 people traveling and 50 to 60 local hands in each city to set up and tear down. It’s amazing to watch this thing start at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning with trucks backing in and out, and by 3:00 in the afternoon we are sound checking. Watching it all come down is amazing – massive rigs, masses of people, and they all know what they''re doing. It''s like a dance and they all know the steps. My world is always the last in and the first out – you can''t be bringing in the lights with 35 guitars in the racks set up.

What about the backline?

Yeah, I do the backline and I build the pedalboards. We run a clean stage, in that there are no amps in sight. We run stereo paired amps in big isolation boxes that we roll up under the stage and mic up. We have an incredible in-ear monitor system that all of the musicians use. I have the pedalboards pre-loomed to the amps, so the sound guys come in and mic the amps up, and the rest is all pretty much pre-set. In a realistic show-world, we have to be able to scroll through the sounds that are set up for each song in the show, just like the lights, so I build the pedalboards to be able to see the tones and find them quickly and be song or set specific.

When we do a show, we are not dinking around jamming – it''s a show. It''s a pretty tightly coordinated deal with the lights, video, sound, and guitar changes all coordinated. I''ve had to do as many as three guitar changes in a song. Denny goes from steel to electric, Darren switches out, and I''m running around with an armload of guitars. I like to be stealthy when I do it, so sometimes the guitar just appears. Like, where did that come from? I remember going and seeing shows as a kid, and it was like magic, all of the gear and the guitars.

As the guitar guy, is it your responsibility to get the gear where it needs to be?

Yes, we have a couple of great companies that we work with that keep the backlines straight, like when we do Today in New York or The Tonight Show in L.A., they make sure that everything is there for the shows. The company is Center Staging; their gear is always in good shape and is what we ask for.

For the main touring rigs in Tim''s World, we’ve used stereo paired Peavey Classic 50s with 4x10s as long as I''ve been here. I never had any experience with these before I joined Tim, but they''re just a great EL84-type amp. Peavey is a great company for us to work with; if I have a problem, I just call them up and they’ll overnight us whatever we need, and it will be at the arena office when we get there. G&L Guitars has been great with us also – great guitars and great support. We also work with Taylor guitars; Bob Borbonus (Artist Relations) is great to work with.

We work with a lot of the different guitar companies; if we need a Les Paul, we go to Gibson and get one and make sure that it gets some visibility. We are responsible to our endorsers to play the gear, and we love it. We don''t take stuff just to have free gear – we already have 22 trucks of stuff! But it''s a valuable thing to get a product seen with a high-profile artist like Tim. I remember as a kid, I got my old Firebird because Johnny Winter and Dave Mason were playing them. I had to have one! I don''t forget that it''s a valuable thing for artists to influence sales, if they can afford to do so.

What about other backline stuff? Do you use leslie cabs for guitar?

Not live; we do use them for the keys, and in the studio if we want a leslie for the guitar we use one, but out on the road the pedalboards are set up to simulate and create any special needs that we may have.

Let’s look at one of the pedalboards.

You can see that we have the wires all routed from underneath the metal and the power supply is under there also. I build the board with the specific pedals any of the players want. For mine, I love the fat boost, and the Keeley compressor – those two are on all the time. Then there’s the Line 6 echo and modulation pedals, a Fulltone Fulldrive II, a Tubescreamer TS-9, a Keeley compressor, a wah pedal, a volume pedal, and the most important part, a tuner. I have a couple of outlets to side-car the expression pedals for the Line 6 pedals, and a send and receive circuit in case I want to add anything on-the-fly; it’s pretty simple over all. I''ll use the two drive pedals with each other – I set the drives kind of low so I can build the tones. I like the midrange thing with the TS-9 and the full body of the Fulltone II. I built a custom board for Denny and a second studio board for him that has the new OCD on it also.

So this is the board I played when I sat in with you a couple of weeks ago. When you''re in town it seems like you gig a lot, and with great players.

Oh, the players are there when they can be, and I use others when they can''t. One night it might be Rick Brothers (Gretchen Wilson) on drums, and Chris Tuttle on keys, Anthony Joyner (Shania Twain) on bass, maybe Bart Pike (Danny Gatton) the next night or Bruce Brown (Charlie Daniel''s Band) on guitar. There are a whole lot of great players here in Nashville and I love having them all as friends, and sometimes bandmates. Living here, the bar is raised up pretty high and it makes me become a better player and musician.

For samples of John''s music and more information, visit johnprestia.com.
For more information on Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors visit timmcgraw.com or try Google for a wealth of sites.

Had my neighbors glanced through my windows at the right moment they would’ve seen a strange sight – me walking around with a brand new Carvin SH550 strapped over

Had my neighbors glanced through my windows at the right moment they would’ve seen a strange sight – me walking around with a brand new Carvin SH550 strapped over my shoulder, noodling away with a crazy man’s grin on my face.

You see, part of my ritual of trying out a new guitar is to ramble around the house with it, playing it unplugged just to get a feel for it by itself. The madman’s smile had everything to do with the resonance of this custom shop instrument and the guitar’s comfortable body. It was a really good fit from the get go.

My review model featured a translucent shade of blue that flowed over the beautiful flame maple top and matching headstock like deep water. It had a mahogany body and a set neck. I was in no rush. There was a lot to take in before plugging in. Carvin has been big on UV finishes over the last few years – in fact, the high quality gloss has a very identifiably Carvin look that you’ll recognize once you’ve been around a few.

This guitar came with abalone block inlays and gold hardware. The 550 is equipped with a 3-way pickup selector switch, a volume knob and a tone knob. The tone knob pulls out for a coil-splitting option that I found useful. I like the overall less-is-more attitude of this model’s electronics and the simplicity of the controls.

I’ve been familiar with Carvin guitars for quite some time, so I expected the attention to detail that I saw on this model. The finish was first class. The feel of the instrument was solid and the playability was incredible. I checked the intonation straight out of the case and it was spot on. There are certainly lighter guitars out there, but I suspect few players approach this style of guitar and expect it to weigh much less.

The “Rapid Play” 25-inch scale length neck had a profile that was a little different but comfortable to me within minutes. The action was about as low as I would take it but there was no buzzing with any of the 22 medium-jumbo frets and I couldn’t find any dead spots. Carvin incorporated a two-way truss rod system two years ago that seems to have made a huge difference in adjustability and playability. They say they’ve also incorporated a unique neck- conditioning process and a new, more precise method of leveling the fretboards. The results are noticeable – we’re talking ultra-consistent low action. I could really feel the notes vibrating in my left hand as I strolled from room to room.

Another part of my ritual is to “try on" the guitar and check it out in a mirror. Stop laughing – you know you do that too. Let’s just say it looked fabulous.

Okay, so how did this guitar sound? I took it out for a night of romping at one of Nashville''s better known blues sit-in spots and waited for an hour to get up. From the first couple of notes I found the guitar to be intuitive and toneful with a wide variety of dynamic response. The house band players all filtered up to the stage within a few songs to check it out. I love that about this town – you see some nice instruments everywhere you go, but true players don’t hide their penchant to get in on the musicality of something that catches their eye and ear.

The warm rhythm pickup, a covered S22 humbucker, gave a distinct clarity to the notes being played. You could hear every note in a chord, there was no blandness about it. The rear pickup, also a covered S22, had the same clarity and musical tone but with a nice growl mixed in to complement the bite of the treble brightness. The thickness and oomph of the lead pickup only confirmed what I had suspected from the beginning with this guitar, that it would sing!

There were a few spots where I just held on to a note and let it sustain. This guitar made me want to hear it. I was also able to get under the band and just whisper phrases with this guitar; it felt like the whole room would listen and get it. I had a great time on this guitar and really fell for its feel and overall sound. Of course, many other players commented on the instrument’s beauty, as well.

In summary, when I consider the soulfulness of this guitar and its quality of construction and finish, I am amazed that an American company’s custom shop can offer it with so many options at such a low price – $1699 shipped direct. Considering what people are used to in the 335-type class of guitar it is in, it’s an awful lot of sweet sounding guitar for the money.

Buy if...
you want a top rate semi-hollow built to your tastes
Skip if...
you aren''t sold on the weight and style of a carved-top

MSRP $1699 - Carvin - carvinguitars.com

Boomerang''s Chorus-Delay offers presets,flexibility and more

Many of us are looking for something a little different these days and are enjoying the process of seeing how higher-end manufacturers are putting a new spin on things. We bring certain expectations to any pedal, be it a fuzz box, tremolo, delay, etc., but also want to find new things – new parameters, new approaches to functionality and of course, new sounds. Needless to say, I was excited to test drive Boomerang’s E-155 Chorus-Delay pedal, a boutique dual-function pedal that looks more like a 70’s video game console but with its wiz-bang circuitry gives you the best of what a chorus and delay are capable of doing alone and together.

Out of the Box

It’s easy to dig the Boomerang E-155 right out of the box. For starters, our review model came with a 9V power supply and the phone number of the actual guy who built the pedal in case we had any questions. Nice touch.

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