NAMM 2019 sees the launch of the Grand Pacific from Taylor Guitars. The brainchild of master guitar designer Andy Powers, the slope-shouldered dreadnought design features V-Class bracing and debuts on a trio of new models with optional electronics: the 317, the Builder’s Edition 517 and Builder’s Edition 717. Read the first review of all three Grand Pacific models.
V-Class bracing was one of the stars of Winter NAMM 2018, and although the game-changing design was unveiled on the modernistic and ornate Builder’s Edition K14ce, the Grand Pacific was the guitar that Powers had in mind when he set about reworking the internal architecture of the flat-top acoustic guitar a couple of years earlier.
While the cutaway-equipped Builder’s Edition K14ce Grand Auditorium is Taylor in excelsis, the Grand Pacific has been crafted with an affinity for the crackle of vinyl records and an appreciation for an altogether older and more elusive steel-string acoustic sound.
“I thought, well, there’s all these sounds that I’m familiar with, that I love,” Andy Powers explained during the Grand Pacific press launch at Nashville’s Southern Ground studio. “I hear them on old records, I hear them on the music that I grew up with – country-rock from Laurel Canyon and bluegrass.
“So when I think about those songs, and listen to those sounds… in reality I can’t actually make those sounds with any of the guitars we have around. Even with many of the old guitars, it doesn’t make the sound that we’re familiar with because oftentimes that’s had some of its issues dealt with. It’s like a composite sound.
“The sound of a guitar filtered through a microphone, with EQ, onto tape, on to a record. So I’m listening to these songs and these wonderful stories and thinking, I need a guitar that will make this sound. I should build a guitar that makes those kind of flavours.”
And build a guitar he did. Taylor’s vice-president of marketing Tim O’Brien jokes that they “spent a year debating” whether the Grand Pacific is a dreadnought or not. “It’s about the size of a dreadnought,” says Andy. “It’s kind of shared in that bloodline, I guess, if you kind of squint your eyes just right! But it really is a type of guitar that hasn’t really existed before in this kind of way. So it’s loosely a slope-shouldered guitar.”
“I designed this instrument using the V-Class architecture,” Powers continues, “and it has all the attributes that we love about that – it has the volume and the sustain and this incredible intonation, a really nice playing action and everything – but it has a totally different character than the Grand Auditorium guitars that we built using that system. It’s a whole different personality. It has, in some ways, a more mature voice in the way that it articulates each note. Now a modern GA, that’s a great guitar. I love the way it sounds, it has a real vibrant precision. But this guitar has a warmth and clarity that I only find with kind of a more seasoned guitar.”
The elegant simplicity and symmetry of the Grand Pacific body shape is striking, and it immediately lends the instrument more of a blue-collar vibe than many high-end Taylors. Although it’s now standard on all of Taylor’s Ej Cajon-made Grand Auditorium models, V-Class bracing debuted on one Builder’s Edition instrument with a five-grand price tag. Taylor has endeavoured to make the Grand Pacific’s round-shouldered, non-cutaway body shape more accessible from day one by including the sapele/spruce 317 (from £1,919) alongside a pair of Builder’s Editions – the mahogany/torrefied Sitka spruce 517 (from £2,999) and the rosewood/torrefied Sitka spruce 717 (from £3,179).
In a move that Andy refers to as “pretty fresh for us,” the Builder’s Edition Grand Pacific models feature a new, compound neck profile that transitions from a soft V at the nut to a rounded C with a ridgeless heel. “When I look at the way that I hold a guitar and the way that people play, [in lower registers] I tend to wrap my hand a little more and the thumb goes around the neck,” Andy notes. “But by the time I’m up here [in higher registers] on the fingerboard it doesn’t do that anymore. So we built a neck carve that actually transitions from one profile into another to get a little more friendly and familiar for a player.”
Not a new idea, but certainly one that’s new to Taylor. This player-friendliness continues, with radiused edges a continuing theme throughout Powers’ Builder’s Edition designs: “Combined with this rolled fingerboard edge, and these different kind of softened, rounded off corners,” he reflects, “it just builds this guitar that’s so comfortable and so approachable, for a whole lot of different playing styles.”
The V-Class bracing system isn’t just about making an acoustic guitar shout louder and longer, it can also be used for control, and in this case to tame some of the less desirable characteristics associated with a particular body shape. While a dreadnought delivers more bass and bottom-end thump than a narrower waisted design, this can often manifest itself as an overpowering plosive that causes problems for sound engineers.
“A typical dreadnought builds low-end emphasis at the expense of the middle- and high-register notes,” says Andy. “As a result, this body resonance effectively swallows up all the other notes, preventing the body from responding to them. The Grand Pacific body, powered by the V-Class architecture, generates low-end power without taking anything away from the rest of the register. You get smooth and warmly powerful notes, with consistency across the frequency spectrum.”
The result is a guitar that delivers warmth and familiarity without getting swamped by bass, and retains clarity without the more clinical-sounding precision of a Grand Auditorium.
Will Taylor’s Grand Pacific shake up the acoustic market in 2019 like V-Class did last year? Read the first review of Taylor’s new Grand Pacific models to find out.