Review: Taylor American Dream AD27e Flametop exudes relaxed class
By James Volpe Rotondi
When it comes to buying a guitar, you want to dream first, then make peace with your budget, not the other way around. But accepting our limitations can be difficult. Take Taylor’s flagship acoustic 517 and 717 Grand Pacific Builder’s Edition. With their Class V bracing and roasted Sitka spruce tops, these are guitars to dream about, but you’re talking about $2,800-$3,300 just to walk in the door – up to $6,400 for a Grand model. Limited edition Pacific like the beautiful GPe-LTDEb with sassafras blackheart back and sides.
So what’s a working dreamer to do?
Dream a little American dream
It’s no coincidence that Taylor calls its recent line of more affordable guitars, including the AD17, AD22, and AD27, as well as their electric counterparts, the American Dream Series. Now, that’s partly down to the line’s American provenance; all instruments are manufactured at Taylor’s factory in Southern California. But it is also a statement of intent. With prices ranging from around $1,500 to $2,200, the series hopes to be the budget bridge that allows Taylor wannabes to grab the brass ring without falling into the abyss of debt.
That’s where the new Taylor AD27e Flametop comes in. With a street price of around $2,200, it’s no less expensive than a Grand Pacific, but that’s a noticeable difference when you consider how close it approximates the quality of its top-of-the-line cohorts. range. , and, it has to be said, how gorgeous it looks and sounds, especially with a solid understanding of where its strengths live.
The AD27e Flametop’s list of pleasing attributes includes, of course, its beautiful figured maple top (you read that right), back and sides, finished in a satin Woodsmoke finish. It certainly speaks to the Flametop’s indebtedness to the deeper, darker finishes of the mighty Gibson J-45, the sloping-shouldered classic it pays homage to in shape and tone. The 15-inch radius satin maple neck, with its smooth eucalyptus fingerboard, is a joy to play – the generous 1.75-inch nut width helps. And the guitar’s nickel bronze strings, rather than phosphor bronze, allow it to play noticeably closer to an electric feel than most guitars its size.
Although smoother than, say, a ’90s Taylor, the Flametop’s high-end and midrange response, perhaps due in part to Taylor’s V-Class bracing, not to mention the big leaf maple top , delivers a nice balance of clarity and punch. The Taylor Expression System 2 (ES2) electronics package, with nicely unobtrusive volume and tone pots mounted on the top shoulder, more than stands up to similar saddle units from Fishman and LR Baggs. In fact, the ES2 translates the low end of the Flametop much better than one would imagine when playing the guitar acoustically, which is really my only complaint about the guitar. Perhaps heavier strings could solve this problem, but unless you deliberately play directly above and slightly in front of the rosette, the Flametop does not easily produce the kind of low-end balance that the one would expect from full-size acoustics. But the tight low-end can prove a boon in noisier live environments, where the boosted bass resonance can lead to those moments of woofy feedback.
In aesthetic terms, Taylor’s AD27e Flametop is one of the most stunning mid-priced acoustics I’ve seen all year. It exudes laid-back class and certainly manages to evoke the Laurel Canyon scene of the mid-to-late ’60s that Taylor says was its inspiration. The Flametop is a very impressive guitar for live songwriters, especially with the formidable ES2 system, which extracts even frequencies from the guitar that you might miss when playing it strictly acoustically.
BODY Grand Pacific sloping shoulder body; figured maple top, back and sides; class V bracing; chamfered edges; eucalyptus bridge with Tusq nut; satin Woodsmoke finish
NECK Hard maple neck with eucalyptus fingerboard; 20 frets; 25.5″ scale length; 1.75″ Tusq nut; 15″ radius; dot inlays on fingerboard; Nickel Taylor tuners
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OTHER Taylor ES2 electronics; Elixir nickel bronze strings (.012–.053); Taylor AeroCase; available for left-handed
MADE IN UNITED STATES
THE PRICE $2,199 street