A friend of mine recommended that I try out a T5. He was raving about how cool it looked, and how you could switch from acoustic sound to a full-blown electric. I was a little dubious, considering that that’s really just modeling, and frankly, it was nothing new to me). Parker Guitars did this with “The Fly” well over a decade ago. But to be fair, I went down to my local GC to check one out and see what all the hype was about. So, under the guise of “Honey, I need to run some errands. I’ll be back in a couple of hours,” I ventured to my local GC, and played it for over an hour. The following is the result of that session with the Taylor T5:
Oops! Before I start on the actual review, I played the T5 through three amps: A Fender Acoustasonic Junior, a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, and a Roland Cube 30.
Fit and Finish:
All Taylor guitars look great, and the T5 is a real beauty. I played a T5 with a beautiful royal blue finish – very sexy. The T5 also lives up to the Taylor standard of construction – all their guitars are very well-built. As far as acoutrements are concerned, personally, I’m not a real fan of low-profile knobs (when I’m in the middle of a song and want to make an adjustment, I want to be able to feel the knob – ooh, that didn’t sound good), but the knobs on the T5 fit in with its design nicely.
Feel and Playability:
The T5 has a nice narrow neck – very similar to my Strat and Ovation Acoustic/Electric – which I love, so moving around on this neck was amazingly easy and very comfortable. Acoustic players who are accustomed to wider necks will need a little time to get a feel for the neck, but should adjust pretty quickly. I had an easier go of it myself from playing my Ovation. When I first got that guitar, I had a bit of a break-in curve, but now it’s the type of neck I prefer.
I know that I may piss some people off when I say this, but as far as sound was concerned, I was a bit disappointed. Based upon my conversation with my friend who raved about it, and lots of glowing reviews I read on Harmony Central and Musicians’ Friend, I was expecting a lot more with respect to tone – especially since the T5 starts at $1999, and goes up from there. I used the same evaluation process on the three amps I played the T5 on: On both amp and guitar, I started out by setting all the tone knobs to the mid settings. Guitar volume was set to midline, and since I was in a shop, I had to set the Fenders pretty low (they use logarithmic volume pots), while the Cube 30’s gain could be cranked while leaving the volume at a comfortable level. From there, I played the guitar in three different ways: 1) Fingerpicking; 2) strumming (using a straight sweep strum, and a percussive, attacking strum); 3) Then just playing various lead patterns in clean and high-gain modes.
Played clean with fingerpicking and lead playing, the T5 was very nice on all the amps; great clarity and sustain, though I really had to pump up the bass and turn down the treble on the amps to achieve a rich sound – especially on the Hot Rod Deluxe which, even with brightness off, plays pretty bright. Strumming in clean mode was pretty ugly on the Fenders – the guitar sounded like an acoustic plugged into an amp – very flat sounding, and no amount of EQ tweaking or reverb helped. Plus, when using a percussive strum pattern (think Michael Hedges), I would get an annoying popping sound. Probably has to do with the very touch-sensitive pickups, added to the touch sensitivity of the Fender amps. On the Cube 30 though, since I could apply some chorus, the tone cleaned up quite nicely, and helped dissipate the high end. If I was to use the T5 clean with a straight tube amp or acoustic amp, I’d run it into a compressor, a chorus, and then run the entire signal thorough a sonic maximizer – and possibly add an EQ pedal to texture the sound better.
In high-gain mode on the Hot Rod, the T5 actually sounded very nice. Even though I had to play at a lower volume, I could crank the drive and get a real nice distortion out of the T5. I think this is where the body vibration from the hollow body comes into play. It actually sounded a lot like my ES-335 in that mode; very pleasing to the ear, with a big, rich sound. With the Roland Cube 30 in the modeling channel, the T5 performed great with the gain at about midway, using the all the non-acoustic amp models. In the acoustic model on modeling channel, the T5 actually sounded VERY good, but then again, that’s a modeled sound.
The Taylor T5 is a pretty nice guitar. Would I pay two grand and up for it? I don’t think so. I look at this guitar as being similar to a Line 6 Variax 700, which has a lot more features and guitar models built into it, and costs more than half the price less (I know, the T5 is NOT a modeling guitar)! Then again, I wouldn’t buy a Swiss Army Knife type of guitar period, mainly because even though it may sound real close to what it’s modeling, it’ll never get the exact voicing that the original gives you. For instance, if I want a thin, single coil sound, I’ll use my Strat. If I want a richer, boomier presentation, I’ll use my ES-335 (I’m also in the market for a Les Paul Double Cutaway, which I just adore). For acoustic/electric work, I’ll use my Ovation shallowbody.
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