Taylor 314ce LTD review – a fitting tribute to 50 years of innovation

One of Taylor’s most iconic and popular instruments gets an anniversary overhaul to celebrate half a century of Taylor doing things differently.

Taylor 50th Anniversary 314ce LTD, photo by Adam Gasson

Taylor 50th Anniversary 314ce LTD. Image: Adam Gasson

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Review Overview

Our rating


Our verdict

An impressive take on a modern classic - happy birthday Taylor!

$2,799/£2,599, taylorguitars.com

Taylor Guitars celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Now one of the world’s largest guitar makers, the company has come a very long way from its beginnings as the young upstart that disrupted the established acoustic guitar market dominance of Gibson and Martin back in the 1980s.

To mark this milestone Taylor has released a collection of guitars that embody the brand’s direction going into the next half century. From the working player’s American Dream to the presentation grade delights of the top end, the entire stratigraphy is well-represented. One guitar was of particular interest to me, however – the 314ce LTD.

Taylor’s 314ce model has been one of the company’s best sellers – for many players it was probably their first contact with the brand and its popularity across the decades stems from the super-comfortable grand auditorium body size and the combination of a Sitka spruce top and sapele back and sides. They feel and sound great on stage and in the studio. What’s not to love?

50th Anniversary 314ce LTD headstock, photo by Adam Gasson
50th Anniversary 314ce LTD headstock. Image: Adam Gasson

What is torrefied spruce?

From an aesthetic point of view this is very much an Andy Powers-era guitar. The gentle sunburst on the sapele back and sides and the dusky soundboard are a dead giveaway. Part of that soundboard’s colour comes from the torrefaction process it has undergone. In Powers’ own words it is “baked like a muffin” to imbue it with the sort of tonal glory players have come to expect from a played-in, old guitar.

There are other visual touches that elevate this instrument above the norm – a firestripe pickguard, gold Taylor-branded tuners and some subtle Italian acrylic inlays on the fretboard and headstock all pop nicely, as does the pure white and Crelicam ebony body purfling.

Speaking of ebony, Taylor’s pioneering work in sustainable woods has helped to ensure the quality of their stock and this is readily apparent in the lightly figured fingerboard and headstock veneer.

50th Anniversary 314ce LTD cutaway and strap button, photo by Adam Gasson
50th Anniversary 314ce LTD cutaway and strap button. Image: Adam Gasson

I have lost count of the number of Taylor 14s I’ve played over the years but each one has felt comfortable against the body. As I have come to expect from Taylor, the neck is an immediately welcoming piece of Neo-Tropical mahogany with a slightly raised centre. As usual it features a matte finish which contrasts with the glossy body.

The characteristic sound of a Taylor 314ce is warm and engaging. Taylor was one of the first companies to explore the delights of African sapele as a tonewood and those familiar, beautiful stripes make me smile. A Sitka spruce soundboard is always welcome around here but the voice of a Taylor guitar has changed dramatically since the change from the traditional X-brace to the inception of the V-Class Bracing pattern. Add the torrefied top and we should be in for some fun!

50th Anniversary 314ce LTD pickguard/scratchplate, photo by Adam Gasson
50th Anniversary 314ce LTD pickguard/scratchplate. Image: Adam Gasson

How does the Taylor 314ce LTD sound?

My first exploratory strums certainly live up to initial expectations. The trebles in particular are silky and detailed. There is a slight sizzle of overtones but the voice retains the fundamental clarity characteristic of a sapele Taylor guitar.

Moving into the bass register is enlightening. Smaller-bodied guitars with a 25.5” scale length can sound a little tight at times – a tendency that can be exacerbated by the often metallic transient of a Sitka spruce top. What I find here, however, is a diametric opposite; the bass is velvet smooth while remaining articulate. It’s punchy too – growling against my chest as I play.

Is it the V-class bracing? Is it the torrefaction of the top? Something very cool is going on here. There is an immediacy to this guitar that makes it a very convincing finger-style instrument.

Responsiveness has become a buzzword in the acoustic guitar world over the past few years. While many take it to mean volume and headroom, the real indications of a responsive guitar are how much sound you get from the lightest attacks and how quickly the guitar adjusts to changes in dynamics. In terms of return on investment for your initial attack this guitar really is satisfyingly responsive. It may not have the headroom of a dreadnought but it is all the more balanced because of it.

50th Anniversary 314ce LTD bridge, photo by Adam Gasson
50th Anniversary 314ce LTD bridge. Image: Adam Gasson

The guitar’s dynamic range is convincing too. Whisper quiet passages retain the colour and timbre of the instrument without sounding weak and you can dig in without it farting out too quickly. One of the joys of a small body guitar is the immediacy you get from the reduced soundboard surface area. This can often make a smaller instrument seem louder and this guitar fills a room with bare fingers.

There is a scratchplate here after all so adding a medium pick to proceedings seems like good manners. To my delight the guitar takes off like a little rocket. It’s a focused, percussive sound that occupies a sweet spot in the EQ spectrum which means it should sit well in any mix with minimum adjustment needed.

It is interesting to see the differences between the instruments Taylor released to celebrate their 25th anniversary and the suite of new guitars that mark the company’s half-century. Gone is the unsustainable use of Brazilian Rosewood, the Fishman prefix blend electronics and the x-braced Sitka soundboards. Instead we have carefully stewarded woods, a revolutionary proprietary bracing design and own-brand electronics – which by the way do a great job of translating this guitar’s acoustic voice into a powerful amplified sound. Once again the smaller body comes into its own by serving up greater feedback resistance than you’d find in a larger guitar. Nice!

Fittingly, Taylor is limiting numbers of this model to only 1974 guitars to celebrate their 50th birthday. While fully understandable, this does seem a pity as the 314ce LTD is one of the most inspiring and musical Taylor guitars I have ever played. It sings, it purrs and it is an excellent example of the best of North American factory guitar making. It’s been an exceptional first 50 years for Taylor Guitars, here’s to many more!

50th Anniversary 314ce LTD soundhole, photo by Adam Gasson
50th Anniversary 314ce LTD soundhole. Image: Adam Gasson

Taylor 314ce Alternatives

Another upstart in the acoustic guitar world, but a more recent entry is Chinese company Eastman, who will make you a very lovely and similarly contemporary feeling AC522CE for $1,689/£1,769. The heritage brands have tried to adapt to the changing demands of the modern player too, most notably Martin with its offset-bodied SC-13E Special Burst ($1,799/£2,150) while Gibson has the Songwriter Cutaway Antique Natural ($3,399/£3,199).

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