Taylor Guitars new V-Class Bracing: Eliminating the compromise between sustain and volume
In 2014, following yet another successful Winter NAMM, Taylor had re-released their 800 series and should of been left feeling accomplished, satisfied and complete. But for master-builder Andy Powers and Taylor Guitars, there was a lingering question to address: How can a guitar company, as classic and renowned as Taylor, improve a guitar in an age where musicians demand more than ever from their instruments?
The acoustic guitar is known for its versatility, portability and all-round addition of warmth and depth to so many musical situations. While the summer Billboard charts of 2018 are flooded with synthesizers, voice encoders and drum machines, does this pose a threat or need for change to mid to high end guitar companies like Taylor? For guitar owners, there has always been a choice between stiffness and flexibility; deciding whether sustain or volume is more important. With musicians having the option to turn in their mahogany for MIDI, their adirondack for Ableton, Powers sought out a way to eliminate this decision, and in 2018 he did so in creating Taylor’s new V-Class Bracing.
I watched my share of videos and read many articles on the new V-Class bracing and one line stands out above all the rest. Nashville guitarist Daniel Donato said it best: “This could easily change the way people play guitar.” That’s quite the statement. The artists reviewing the V-Class are stunned at the sustain and volume as they hit both ends of the neck and all due to Taylor’s decision to take something great – and make it even better.
In a tour of interviews, Andy Powers has explained where his inspiration came from for this change, and it’s initially quite a surprise. With the question of how to improve on something with such a reputation, such a history, and really doing so well in it’s market, what’s the first step? That’s when he decided to take a detour from conventional. Instead of tweaking the outer shell, maybe it’s time to dive back into the heart of the guitar. It was the ocean that brought on his thought to turn attention to the waveform itself. While there can always be tiny changes to fret board, the strings, what if we were to take a classic Taylor and change the way it responds to the player. It was then that he decided to flip the script and look at the bones of the guitar; The bracing.
To accomplish the two attributes many guitar players strive for, sustainability and volume, there are two things that the guitar must possess: Rigidity and Flexibility. In many models of acoustic guitars, the balance between these two shifts from one side of the spectrum to the other, offering more sustain and less volume, and vice versa. This has been and continues to be a battle for guitars across the land. As with the precursor, the X-Class, the new framework is named after it’s shape, in this case a V, allegedly giving more rigidity and stability to the center of the guitars face while leaving the cheeks of the guitar, where previously stabilized by the X shape, are now left unbound with much more flexibility. With a new point of axis for flexibility, it’s claimed to have both more sustain and volume. Skepticism arose quickly with such a claim, but the reviews for the new lineup of Taylor’s incorporating the new V-Class bracing have been glowing, to put it modestly. Anyone claiming this is the future standard for all guitars has reason to be listened to.
In just about all stringed instruments there’s a level of stiffness to the body, and that comes from a variety of factors from composition to support. An instruments intended purpose often decides its own composition, as you can see comparing a soft, rich wood of a cello and compare it to the drum-head face of a banjo. Each has their application. With the acoustic guitar, let’s use the 814 to focus on a single model, there’s a balance that most musicians strive for, and the 814 does that incredibly well. Inside Taylor’s 2017 model of 814ce you’ll find X-Bracing. This guitar is nothing short of amazing. The excellent highs, the deep lows and prominent Taylor sound are expected and executed. Andy’s decision to attempt to modify a bracing with such notoriety was maybe a shot in the dark, but boy did it work.
The adjustment from the X shape to the new V did what was hoped. With bracing behind different points in the guitar, the way the face and in turn body of the guitar responds to each vibrating string changed – and it changed in an amazing way. The middle of the face, where before had some support, is now more rigid. Each review I’ve seen of artists playing the V-Class for the first time are awestruck by the new volume of the guitar. So, how is there more sustain if the face is simply more stiff? The cheeks of the guitar are your answer. In removing the bracing from the lower sides of the guitar, it’s freed them to be much more flexible and responsive to the sounds, and that’s where the magic happens. The balance between the new adjusted framework has created something unintended and exquisite. If I were only allowed to promote one aspect of the V-Class bracing… it would be intonation.
Andy Powers and Taylor guitars did something magical. By changing the shape of the framework, adding bracing to the center and removing it from the sides, the new balance of V-Class creates a level of intonation that’s impossible not to hear. While keeping the traditional Taylor sound, there’s now more volume, more sustain and what feels like a mathematically calculated level of intonation. If I were able to put the feeling into words, I would, but my suggestion is to hear it for yourself. The way the guitar now responds to the guitarist is a game changer. It’s a new experience. It’s a win for Taylor.
So is it time to put a V-Class in your music room? For me, it’s a Yes.
I’ve heard the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” come up during this discussion, and while I agree, I offer my own analogy. For me, this is adding a soft top of a 6 series BMW. It’s not time to trade in the 650 by any means, but if it’s time to add to the collection or purchase your first, why not be able to drop the top? The V-Class bracing series of guitars from Taylor has provided an option to their customers that they deserve to have. Through trial and error, mystical inspiration and a push from consumers, we now have a guitar that pushes the envelope of capability. While I hope Taylor keeps the X-Class for it’s die hard customers, I expect the V-Class to give it’s predecessor and competitors a run for their money and encourage anyone to hear the difference for themselves before buying their next Taylor. If you're simply looking to add a Taylor to your existing collection, purchase your first or try out one of their revolutionary new V-Class Bracing series of acoustic guitars, take a listen to some like the Taylor Koa K-24ce (below), the PS14ce Brazilian, 914ce and notorious 814ce and visit us today at www.heartbreakerguitars.com! Heartbreaker Guitars of Las Vegas, NV is a proud Taylor Guitars Dealer.
Daniel Odle Contributor for Heartbreaker Guitars
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