The nice guitars that Taylor produced in almost 50 years of existence would in all probability justify cruising on the again of previous successes. However Taylor nonetheless appears to genuinely get pleasure from pushing again in opposition to flattop design dogma. They’re very a lot relaxed with the notion that their guitars are alternate options to extra conventional fare and perceived in some quarters as “trendy” sounding—which in Taylor’s case is mostly shorthand for meticulous stability between excessive, center, and low registers, immaculate intonation, and easy-on-the-engineer recordability.
Taylor’s 417e doesn’t look notably trendy at a look. It appears fancy, actually. However at most angles, the slope-shoulder Grand Pacific profile and tobacco sunburst end make the Taylor appear like a loving, upmarket homage to the Gibson J-45. Outstanding because the J-45 affect is, it’s largely pores and skin deep. Taylor’s V-bracing as an alternative ensures that the 417e tones shine with the modernity that units many Taylors aside. And the mixture of mid-century aesthetic, silky playability, and vivid, vigorous character make the 417e an inviting instrument that may be laborious to place down.
I as soon as heard Taylor grasp designer Andy Powers liken his ideas about sound waves to the expertise of watching waves from excessive on a bluff. If you look inside, or at an image of a cross part of the 417e’s bracing, it’s straightforward to see manifestations of that sound-and-sea standpoint. The again braces are angled ahead towards the bass aspect of the instrument like breaks coming off some extent. The V-bracing on the highest, in the meantime, tapers again towards the endpin just like the prow of a ship. It’s laborious to quantify the consequences of various bracing preparations. However Powers insists that V-bracing improves quantity and maintain, and generates extra even harmonic response, which is already a Taylor trademark. It solely takes a couple of strums to listen to that none of these claims are a stretch.
Whereas the mixture of Indian rosewood again and sides and a Sitka spruce high assure snappy response in nearly any well-made guitar, the 417e is fairly vivid for a dreadnought. There’s a number of excessive midrange, too. However none of that top-end frequency emphasis ends in harshness or stridency. And for all of the push in these toppier ends of the frequency spectrum, every of the very best strings reveals contoured assault and a delicate decay. In truth, there have been occasions I felt the assault and decay have been virtually too civilized on the third and fourth strings. That’s a really private commentary—I’m positive most gamers would dig the 417e’s even response. (I steadily gravitate towards an aggressive flatpicking contact and sure “ugly” sounds on an acoustic.) No matter your strategy, the mixture of sentimental assault, further maintain, and delicate decay ends in nice stability—virtually as in case you put studio compression on a recording of the instrument.
The 417e’s capability for maintain, in the meantime, pairs properly with its capability for quantity. Whereas particular person notes don’t all the time bloom the way in which they do on some dreadnoughts, the 417e’s maintain means there may be room to let notes linger in house. That’s the sort of dynamic that may reshape a songwriter’s compositional perspective. It additionally makes the 417e an important fingerstyle dread—an animal not typically seen nor heard within the wild.
It virtually will get boring speaking in regards to the development high quality of high-end Taylor devices, as a result of I by no means see one which’s something lower than immaculately put collectively. The 417e is extra of the identical. Go forward, look it over with a microscope. You’re not prone to discover an apparent flaw inside or out. You need to anticipate as a lot for almost $3k, and the 417e delivers. Some small particulars, just like the inlay and rosette, could also be simply non-traditional sufficient to place off purists, however the deviations from old-school methods are delicate and distinctive. Some commonplace Taylor options, just like the plastic truss-rod cowl, appear a bit of low-cost given the top-shelf value. I additionally wouldn’t thoughts seeing the controls for the wonderful Expression System 2 electronics moved to a much less obtrusive location just like the soundhole, however there’s no questioning how straightforward they’re to see and use in a efficiency scenario.
Gamers that gravitate to the 417e partly for its good-looking, J-45-like slope-shoulder profile and fairly tobacco burst end ought to anticipate a guitar that sounds very completely different than the outdated Gibson workhorse. It’s louder, brighter, and fewer dusty. And for lots of gamers, the wedding of conventional slope-shoulder type and a balanced-but-high-mid-forward voice will probably be a successful one. It’s a really forgiving guitar in recording conditions. The playability is as good as you’ll discover on a flattop, and its dynamic and touch-sensitive qualities mix with its quantity and headroom to make it well-suited to nuanced fingerstyle each bit as a lot as laborious and heavy strumming. Such vary makes the 417e an important efficiency instrument and helps justify the premium value. And if the 417e’s convergence of “now” tones and mid-century American type fits your individual, it is not going to be laborious to extract each penny of that funding from this stunning and fantastically made guitar.