Taylor relaunch the 600 Series with a flourish and upgrades aplenty – David Mead takes on the role of test pilot for the “guitar for the future”…
Around the middle of last year I reviewed the upgraded version of the Taylor 814ce and found it to be a sweeter and more earthy version of the company’s flagship model. Now it’s the turn of the 600 Series to undergo the same sort of review and, once again, plenty has changed. Taylor refer to the new models as having undergone “tone-enhancing design strokes” and promise a richer, warmer response as well as a more complex tone as a result.
If I told you that part of the process of bringing about a new voice to the established 600 Series design involves roasting the top wood, you might be inclined to raise an eyebrow or two. But it’s true and a technique that has migrated from a few of the current top end electric guitar manufacturers who refer to it as “caramelisation”. Taylor call it “torrefaction” – essentially the same thing – and it means that the wood has been heated up in a special oven to remove moisture and, as far as tone is concerned, enhance both resonance and responsiveness. It also means that the top looks darker with more of the hue of cedar than of spruce. It’s an interesting idea; after all, we know that a guitar will open up as the wood ages and so if the torrefaction encourages this to happen much sooner, it must be a good thing.
In any case, the Sitka spruce on the top of our review model certainly has a darker appearance than brand spanking new wood usually does and I can see what Taylor mean when they say that the end result is more reminiscent of cedar, too. As to what it’s done to the sound – well, that remains to be seen; for now we’ll explore the other upgrades to the 614ce.
There’s a new-to-the-model rosette, comprising abalone with an ebony and ivoroid surround and a pick guard made from striped ebony, as opposed to the more familiar tortoise-shell substitute. There have been changes to the bracing underneath the soundboard in order to revoice the instrument and the thickness of the
wood and finish have both been reviewed, too. I’m told that the new 3.5mil gloss lacquer boosts the guitar’s responsiveness while still preserving the original lustre you’d expect from a premium instrument. Then there’s the use of protein glues and several other refinements along the way, as well. As with the 800 Series, you can see that this isn’t just a casual wash and brush-up, it’s a serious attempt to improve and remodel a range.
Back and sides here are maple and is very quick to point out that whereas you might have thought that this particular wood characterises a very bright response in an
acoustic guitar, the changes here have resulted in a far warmer response. I have to say that I didn’t suspect that maple was in play here when I first gave the guitar a quick visual once over. The rosewood-coloured finish – which Taylor call “Brown Sugar” – could fool the unwary until you look closely at the grain and discover the tell-tale flamed patterning. I quite like the effect, but if it’s not your particular cup of tea then unadorned flamed maple is a custom option with this model.
The 614’s neck is rock maple with a sort of dark mahogany stain on it, a matt finish and an ebony overlay to both the back and front of the headstock, the former bearing a mother-of-pearl patterned inlay, the latter the Taylor logo.
There’s a 45mm Tusq nut at the top of an ebony fingerboard with newly designed ivoroid inlays along the way. At the end of the line, as far as the strings are concerned, there’s an ebony bridge with a compensated Micarta saddle.
As with the 814, the guitar comes ready strung with Taylor’s own recommendation for string make and gauge. Elixir’s phosphor bronze HD Lights feature a .013 on the top down to a .053 on the bass, with a newly engineered .025 for the G. It’s basically a “heavy top, light bottom” situation, but Taylor insist that it produces a better top and bottom end on their GA models.
If someone told me that I would be playing a guitar with a Sitka top and maple back and sides, I think I’d be preparing myself for a fairly bright overall timbral effect. However, with the 614ce I’ve had these preconceptions completely turned around because the word here is “mellow” – and that’s “mellow” as in “mature”. It certainly doesn’t respond like a freshly minted guitar in that there’s a sweetness present that you might expect from a cedar topped instrument, without losing any of the punch of spruce. It’s responsive, too; strummed with a pick there’s an authority to each chord and bags of volume. Swap to fingerstyle and you can be as gentle as you like and not lose any of the warmth and sweetness. There’s a good amount of sustain as well; I could easily count up to 12 before the notes of an experimental chord fully decayed. So acoustically, at least, the 614ce delivers on Taylor’s promise of added richness and complexity, but the story doesn’t end there because the guitar is fitted with the Expression 2 pick-up system which itself has been rethought and re-engineered.
Basically the main difference between the Expression 2 and most of the other systems out there is that here the piezo pick-up has been placed behind the bridge rather than underneath it. Taylor say that this results in a more natural and open response because the sensor is under less downward pressure and more sensitive to sideways movement. In practice, you lose nothing of the guitar’s acoustic authority and open response once you plug it into an amp. When I reviewed the 814ce I used the words “breathy and transparent” to describe its amplified voice and I think the same can be said here. I did have to fiddle with the Taylor’s onboard EQ a little to sort out a bit of a hump in the bass at first, but realistically it was just about a case of plug in and play, which is how it should be.
It’s always a bold move to redesign an established range, but if it’s done as well as it has been here, then the results speak for themselves. The 614ce is a fine sounding instrument with a wealth of tones that would find a home in any number of different musical styles. I tried standard strumming, fingerstyle and dropped tunings during my time with it and found a satisfactory result quite easily each time. With all those boxes ticked, it’s safe to say that the 614 is a winner on all counts!
Retail Price: £2,922
Body Size: Grand Auditorium
Made In: USA
Top: Sitka spruce
Back and Sides: Maple
Neck: Hard rock maple
Tuners: Taylor embossed
Nut Width: 45mm
Scale Length: 648mm
Onboard Electronics: Taylor Expression System 2
Strings Fitted: Elixir PB HD Light
Left Handers: Yes, no extra charge
Gig Bag/Case Included: Deluxe hard case