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Last Friday, I saw Eric Rachmany and Kyle Hearn of Rebelution playing this guitar and after doing some research on it over the next few days, and then playing one at my local Guitar Center yesterday, I just had to have it (F-in’ GAS).

I took some pictures of it this morning. I’ll talk about it after.

Impressions

Looks

First off, the look of this guitar is spectacular. The grain on the mahogany top – even in a natural finish – is so three-dimensional. I’m glad that Taylor didn’t put a gloss clear coat on the guitar. The satin finish lets the grain of the wood speak for itself. It’s a sexy guitar. In fact, at the concert the other night, I was thinking about how awesome the guitars looked and my wife must’ve been reading my mind and commented on how gorgeous the guitar were.

What amazes me about the grain of my guitar are the pronounced striations of dark and lighter wood. Most of the pictures I saw of the guitar and the guitars that Eric and Kyle were playing didn’t have these. I totally lucked out with this! It almost looks like walnut!

Fit and Finish

True to Taylor’s workmanship and quality, there is absolutely nothing out of place; no crooked joints, no blemishes in the finish. The machine heads are perfect and silky smooth to tune.

The jumbo frets – yes, jumbo frets – are clean and smooth. Some people in the past have remarked on the relatively sharp edge of the fret board, but I have to problem with it. I like that pronounced edge.

The body is perfect on this guitar. It’s a little wider than a Les Paul, but it feels like holding an electric. In fact, Taylor calls it an electric guitar (more on that later – it’s important). The body size combined with the weight which couldn’t be more than 5 lbs. make for a very comfortable guitar to play.

Playability

The scale length on the T5z is 24 7/8″. We’re getting into Les Paul territory here and all be damned if this guitar doesn’t play like an electric. It comes strung standard with Elixir Nanoweb 11’s (electric), which are perfect for this guitar. The thicker string gauge provides pop for the acoustic mode, but the Les Paul-like scale length makes bending super easy.

The neck radius, which is 12″ is down three inches from the original T5’s 15″, with a nut width of 1 11/16″. The neck profile is a shallow C; more shallow than a Les Paul, but it makes playing up and down the fret board a dream!

And reaching notes in the upper bout? FUGGETABOUTIT! The neck is attached to the body via what Taylor calls a “T Lock.” You ever assemble IKEA furniture before? You put pieces together and turn what looks like a large screw head to pull the pieces tight. It appears to be a similar principle with the T Lock mechanism. It pulls the neck in tight to the body. What this means is that there’s no heel on the neck, allowing access to the notes in the upper bout super easy. You don’t even have to change your wrist angle to reach the notes! F-in’ A!

Sound

Looks and build quality aside, it’s the sound of the T5z that pushed me over the top to buy it which, interestingly enough, kept me from buying the original T5 when I evaluated it almost 13 years ago. Back then, though I got what Taylor was going after, I felt as if it was an acoustic guitar trying to be an electric and not able to do the job of either very well. It gave me the impression at the time that Taylor couldn’t quite decide on what they wanted the guitar to be.

But with the T5z, it’s unabashedly an electric guitar that has an acoustic setting, and more importantly, it does both acoustic and electric duties incredibly well.

The guitar is meant to be plugged in. Demonstrators say that it has a nice unplugged sound. It doesn’t. It sounds like a mildly deeper acoustic sound of an electric guitar. It’s serviceable for quiet playing, but contrary to what a demonstrator said about it having a good acoustic sound for songwriting, I personally would have to plug it in if I’m writing music. But for practicing or learning songs, it works good enough.

But the plugged in sound? Wow! The acoustic tone is wonderful and a lot of that has to do – at least in my opinion – with the body sensor right behind the bridge. It provides for a very natural-sounding tone. It’s not quite acoustic, but it’s pretty damn close, and for use in a live performance, it works great. When I saw Eric Rachmany, the performance tone was crystal clear with the qualities I’d expect from a plugged-in acoustic guitar.

I will be playing it at Christmas Eve Mass today, so I tested it direct into my JBL Eon One PA. It sounds spectacular through my PA, so I’m now looking forward to playing some solo gigs with it.

As soon as I brought the guitar home yesterday, I immediately played it through my BOSS Katana Artist, going through every single setting. In the acoustic channel, it was awesome, and I only had to do some minor tweaks to dial it in for use today.

On the electric side of things, I just have to smile. I was able to Tele-like tones out of it using the neck pickup and turning up the highs. Then was able to get fatter and more driving tones with the other pickup settings.

To be honest, and I’m actually very glad about this, the T5z has its own tone. It’s not trying to be a Strat or a Les Paul or an ES335. But what it offers is the ability to shape the guitar’s tone to fit whatever genre I’m playing. That’s really the promise of this guitar and at least from my very short time playing it thus far, Taylor has fulfilled that promise, where I feel it fell short in the original version.

Granted, I still need a few more hours with the guitar. Every time I pick it up and plug it in, I find some new tone from tweaking the gain and EQ knobs which, I have to say, function incredibly well. I love that there are independent bass and treble knobs which is significantly better than having a single tone knob which, as you know, when you roll off the tone can get really muddy as the highs become muted.

Overall Initial Impression

I’m going to refrain from raving about the T5z, though I’m very tempted to do so. My gut tells me that this is truly a great guitar, and there’s no denying its versatility. But I want to save the raves for my formal review once I’ve had a few more hours on the guitar.

I am SO looking forward to playing it at Christmas Eve Mass today!

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