When Taylor Guitars sent us the first SolidBody guitars in 2008, they exceeded our expectations in every way. When a legendary acoustic guitar maker introduces a solidbody electric guitar, complete with custom-manufactured hardware and custom-designed pickups, it certainly raises a few eyebrows.
Taylor not only delivered an excellent guitar family from both the playability and sound standpoints, but they reengineered almost every aspect of the traditional electric guitar to achieve those goals. The resulting instruments featured some pretty astounding modern technology packed into fresh new designs that struck an interesting balance between classic and modern guitars.
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|OVERALL RATING = 3.6, which earns it a WIHO Award!
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
Now, Taylor Guitars is offering their online SolidBody Configurator, where you can order a Taylor SolidBody guitar with a variety of custom options: colors and tops, pick guard (or not), pickups, tremolo or stop tail. As you customize the instrument, it transforms visually before your eyes! We couldn’t resist checking out a customized Classic after seeing a wall full of hot, sparkly colors and tremolo-equipped guitars at the Winter NAMM show.
As our 2010 SolidBody Classic demonstrates, Taylor came up with a unique formula that delivers fantastic tone with the kind of playability you expect from any Taylor guitar. And the latest pickups added to the line enable the Classic to tackle hard rock and metal music in ways that the first generation of guitars didn’t accomplish, sporting a sound that is similar to low-output ‘50s humbuckers… not bad considering the guitar was loaded with single coil pickups!
From a cosmetic standpoint, these guitars feature flawless craftsmanship, but the SolidBody, previously available in luxurious-but-classic wood grain finishes, now sports four flashy color options sure to appeal to the rocker looking for a little stage bling.
Our review guitar came dressed in Sage Green Metallic, which straddled a line somewhere between classic surf green and a modern green sparkle. As with the design of the instruments themselves, even the finish seemed to cast a half-vintage, half-modern vibe.
The SolidBody line features a uniquely shaped single-cutaway body, and the Classic’s body is made from swamp ash. Inside, tone chambering allows for weight reduction of the overall guitar, but also provides an acoustic bloom and added sustain to the overall sound of the instrument.
The neck measures a scale length of 24-7/8” (15” radius) and is cut from maple with an Indian rosewood fretboard. It’s topped with Mother of Pearl inlays and has a bone nut and Taylor’s chrome locking tuners at the headstock.
One of the most innovative features on the SolidBody guitar is Taylor’s single-bolt T-Lock neck joint. This feature provides true lock-into-place technology by pulling the neck into the body and also downward towards the bridge to ensure stability and perfect neck alignment.
On the original SolidBody models we reviewed, we loved the beautifully engineered Taylor bridge. Bold in chrome and sleek without any sharp edges, you just can’t wait to rest the heel of your palm on it. The Taylor tremolo retains those smooth lines but adds the flexibility of pitch-up and pitch-down tremolo operation.
The bridge also allows for angle adjustment both in front of and rear of the bridge, and the break angle for each string is set by the shape of each saddle. So no matter how you adjust the bridge angle, the break angle for each string is permanent.
This 2010 SolidBody Classic was equipped with three custom single-coil pickups, a five-way pickup selector switch, and Master Volume and Tone controls.
The Volume and Tone controls are all chrome, top hat in design, and come supplied with optional rubber O-rings that, when applied, provide extra traction for “pinky power” on-the-fly adjustments.
Another truly unique innovation is in the safety department — the Taylor SolidBody guitar just may save your life one day! We were extremely impressed and intrigued by the Fused String Ground feature, present in all Taylor guitars with onboard electronics. The “Blue Spark” is commonly experienced as a result of improper grounding or wiring when a guitarist touches their strings (while connected to their amp) and comes in contact with a microphone with a ground fault, resulting in a dangerous amount of voltage passing through your body. Most of us have had the displeasure of experiencing this at least once in our gigging careers.
Should you be unfortunate enough to experience this unpleasant (and dangerous) shock more often than you’d like, you’ll be pleased to know that the SolidBody guitars contain a five-milliamp fuse wired to the switch plate on the inside of the guitar. During a ground fault, the fuse will blow, eliminating the completion of the electrical circuit. Not to worry — after you’re done beating up the sound guy or club owner, your guitar will still function, albeit with the presence of some additional hum until the fuse is replaced, but at least you will have avoided a trip to the hospital.
It should be noted that even after specifying a pickup configuration, you can feel free to change your mind about it at any time. Taylor offers a series of replacement pick guards that are pre-wired with different pickup configurations. Without any soldering — just unscrew the pick guard and unplug a single Molex connector, you can transform the sound of the guitar into something very different from its original tone.
The Taylor SolidBody guitars feel great, particularly in the playability of their necks. The single cut-away with its beveled back and sides provides great comfort and easy access to higher frets. We found precision in the neck alignment, consistency in string action from top to bottom of the neck, and dead-on intonation. We did not experience any issues in terms of tuning stability (even when bending strings aggressively) and no annoying “clink clink” when tuning up — proof positive the nut was cut properly.
The three single coil pickups are switched via a 5-way blade switch that should be familiar to anyone who has wielded a Stratocaster. The switch was located close enough to our picking hand to allow mid-solo switching via a flick of the pinky, ala Ritchie Blackmore. Sweet!
Do you sweat a lot on stage and have trouble managing your volume and tone controls? Taylor provides an excellent solution via black rubber O-rings that fit over the top hat control knobs. If grip is what you need, this technology provides an excellent solution, and also adds a subtle cosmetic detail that looks as sharp as the rest of the guitar.
The unique Taylor-designed bridge sports an almost futuristic look and stayed in tune extremely well when either applying a subtle vibrato or huge dive bombs. While not quite as precise as a locking system such as a Floyd Rose or Kahler system, the Taylor tremolo performed light years better than traditional vintage-style tremolo systems.
The SolidBody Classic weighs approximately six to seven pounds and is well balanced. It was comfortable to play both standing and seated for extended periods.
We found the Taylor Solidbody Classic provided not only vintage tones sure to satisfy the old-school guitarist, but thanks to some uniqueness in the sonic character of this guitar, it will also appeal to modern players looking to create their own voice. If you decide you’re not getting the right tone from this guitar, you can always pop in a new pickup set. However, we don’t think anyone will be ripping out these pickups anytime soon!
For years, Taylor designers have been working on a unique single coil pickup design — in fact, throughout the entire development of the SolidBody series. The goal was to provide the vibe of the classic single coil designs of the past, while improving on them. What they have come up with is a unique and noiseless (amen) “stacked” single coil, without compromising the signature sound.
When we plugged our SolidBody Classic into a Rivera R100 amp, we found that the clean tones were amazingly clean and pristine, providing brilliance and sparkle to the overall spectrum. In fact, the sound was extremely acoustic sounding (an attribute we noticed first while strumming the guitar unplugged).
Fretted harmonics sound heavenly, and letting open strings ring out while playing chords results in a crystalline brilliance. We were also able to coax some “Little Wing” and “The Wind Cries Mary” tones from the guitar, especially when using positions two and four (aka the “in between” or “nortch” sounds) on the pickup selector.
Moving over to our Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, it was time to test how the guitar handled under high gain use, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it surprised us all with the quality of its heavy tone! While the SolidBody Classic sounds almost acoustic while playing clean, it takes on a vintage Les Paul vibe when played dirty. In this context, the pickups sounded almost PAF-like, with great clarity and pick attack. Notes sustained and bloomed and there were loads of “double tones” and harmonic swell. Hardly what one would expect from a set of single coil pickups, but as we mentioned earlier, these aren’t just any single coil pickups!
While the other Taylor pickup sets deliver beautiful tones for a variety of styles from country to pop to classic rock, the new alnico single coils really complete the range of options and make these guitars well suited to heavier rock styles.
Documentation and Product Support
Taylor provides the basic documentation you would expect to accompany any new guitar purchase. Most important, the documentation explained the new design features to help us understand instrument set up and intonation adjustments, truss adjustments, and also applying the optional O-rings.
Taylor also provides excellent documentation and product support via their website. From the early history of Taylor guitars to reasons behind their new guitar design and engineering, you’ll find plenty of background reading online.
The Taylor SolidBody Classic ($1,748.00 MSRP) can be found for approximately $1,300.00 retail, a very good value for a guitar that can be ordered in a variety of custom colors, tops, and finishes, and with different pickup options. Adding a tremolo bridge to your configuration adds $200 to the price.
Players interested in spec’ing out your own SolidBody guitars simply use the online Configurator to design the instrument, print out the results, and then bring that to your local Taylor dealer. Orders are placed through the dealer network; not directly with Taylor Guitars. Delivery time is approximately six to eight weeks.
Taking into consideration the craftsmanship of the instruments and all the advanced technology and design, not to mention Taylor’s obvious attention to detail, you would be well advised to check these guitars out when it’s time for your next acquisition.