I recently realized I needed to buy a new acoustic guitar, it’s been long overdue. I’ve been using a $300 Alvarez at gigs for about 6 years now and it’s just embarrassing. The reason I hadn’t upgraded in the past is because I maybe had an acoustic gig 2 or 3 times a year, so I was always too afraid to commit any money to it.
This turned out to be more of a dilemma than I originally thought. I had invested much of my gear money into electric guitars, amps, and pedals, and almost nothing into my acoustic rig. This being the case (and me being too stubborn to sell any of my stuff) I realized I didn’t want to spend too much money on a new acoustic, but enough to where I had a nice, reliable, quality guitar to bring to gigs.
So I did what any self-respecting guitarist does…I went to Guitar Center! lol. I went in knowing I wanted to spend somewhere between $500 and $1000. After some searching I came across a Taylor 114ce. By far the best playing and nicest sounding guitar in its price range. No other guitar I looked at even compared.
I was very surprised that this guitar was only $800 due to its playability and tone, not only acoustically but also through an amp. In both settings, this guitar comes across as very warm and full sounding even despite its size. It also maintains an extremely nice clarity that doesn’t have that “plastic” sound that a lot of other guitars in that range have. I’m assuming this is partly due to the matte finish rather than the gloss. Even though the electronics are fairly simple this guitar sounded great when plugged in.
The only negative I noticed on this guitar was the lack of a battery power light. So it’s best to always carry an extra 9v.
Have you played a Taylor guitar? What were your thoughts and experiences?
As guitar players, we often think more is better. More gain, more volume, more output, more tone.
Recently I was experimenting with the pickup height on one of my guitars, and I was reminded just how big an impact a half-turn of the pickup screw can have.
I’m a big fan of Andy Timmon’s tone and he has historically used Dimarzio Cruisers in his guitar for many years now. Cruisers are single coil sized humbuckers that have a single coil-ish tone with no hum and a better string to string balance from their blade design. I installed a pair in the neck and middle position of my PRS SE EG guitar with 3 single coil spots and was having trouble getting that chimey, bell-like quality he gets, particularly in the 2 and 4 positions.
I didn’t want to turn up treble on the amp because I had a great sound from my bridge pickup that I didn’t want to sacrifice. After playing around with gain, compressors, EQ and the like, I went and watched a few videos of Andy talking about his guitar and realized that he had his pickups near flush with the pickguard.
Naturally, I tried lowering them way down in my guitar and behold, there it was! For the sake of testing this theory, I started lowering pickups in a couple other guitars and started to find that generally, lower pickups equal less output and compression, but didn’t necessarily make them darker. In the case of the Cruisers, it actually made them significantly brighter.
It seems to me that the best way to go about setting pickup height is by ear, not eyes. I would recommend lowering the pickups as low as they will go (not so low that they come off the screw!) and then bring them up by one turn or one half turn of the screw at a time, playing a little with the guitar between each adjustment. To get the maximum quack from 2 single coils together in parallel, you’ll want to make sure that the pickups are pretty similar in height, since the phase cancellation effect is what generates that nice clucky sound we all love about the 2 and 4 positions on a Strat. Try it out, you might be surprised at what you find you like and even find a new voice for a guitar you’ve had for a long time!
Since I did a review on the Mayones QATSI in the past I thought I’d go a step further and talk a little about the Bare Knuckle pickups that the guitar is equipped with.
In the bridge of this guitar is the Nailbomb (ceramic version) and in the neck is the Cold Sweat.
Neck Pickup – Cold Sweat
I really do like these pickups, especially the Cold Sweat. The neck version is alnico but Bare Knuckle does have a bridge version, which is ceramic.
The first thing I noticed with this pickup was the clarity and punchyness in my lead tones. It’s not too thin or too thick, and sits somewhere in the middle and is quite balanced. I wouldn’t say it has the “woody” tones that a lot of guitarists like (including myself) but it is close and has a very pleasant tone when clean. It definitely doesn’t feel as compressed and squishy as some Seymour Duncan’s I have used. It has the clarity of a single coil with the body of a regular humbucker and has a punchy/focused quality that I’ve not found in other neck humbuckers.
Bridge Pickup – Nailbomb
Onto the Nailbomb, which in my opinion is a nice pairing in some ways and odd (interesting) in other ways. The Nailbomb retains the same punchy clarity that I heard with the Cold Sweat, which is great, but there is a little too much in the highs and high mids that I usually don’t go for in bridge pickup. I prefer a little rolled off the highs and some more low mids for a slightly warmer sound that I can brighten up if needed. That being said I would say that it fits this guitar well and gives it a very unique sound that’s very suited for metal and hard rock, especially with dropped tunings.
Summing It Up
I will say that I’m rarely pleased with any pickups. And after using these, I’ll definitely look into more Bare Knuckle Pickups!