When it comes to modern guitar design, the competition is fierce. But as one of the most well-respected brands in the industry, Taylor Guitars is high on the list of innovators. Having introduced their new model, the Grand Theater, in October 2020 with the GT Urban Ash this past January, Taylor came out with two new additions to the GT series: The GT 811e and the GT K21e. We had the privilege of checking out the GT 811e, a guitar with a fresh shape and build.
The Grand Theater model sits between Taylor’s GS Mini and Grand Auditorium, making it a compact instrument that’s the perfect size for both carrying around a city or taking on a trip. The GT 811e is voiced with Taylor’s new C-Class bracing architecture, an asymmetrical design that combines stiffness and flexibility in a way that helps bring out lower frequencies. The C-Class borrows from and builds on the volume, intonation, and sustain produced by their trademarked V-Class bracing, introduced in 2018.
Of the two new models, the other being the Koa-made GT K21e, the GT 811e is designed with more traditional woods: It has a solid Sitka spruce top with solid Indian rosewood back and sides, a Crelicam smoky ebony fretboard, maple binding with rosewood purfling, and a rosewood pickguard. The body has a gloss finish, while the neck’s finish is satin. It’s decorated with mother-of-pearl “Element” inlays—which resemble mirrored, wavelike crests—an abalone rosette, and Taylor Mini smoked nickel tuners. An acoustic-electric model, it also includes onboard ES2 acoustic electronics.
A material Taylor prides itself in using, Crelicam ebony is named after an ebony production facility in Cameroon that Taylor co-owns. Historically, it was discarded by tonewood harvesters due to its blonde streaks, an aspect which some feels diminish the aesthetic of the classic ebony, but Taylor has put it to good use throughout their products.
Out of the box, the first most notable thing about the GT 811e is the beautiful contrast between the pale blonde Sitka spruce top and the dark, warm Indian rosewood back and sides. The coloring gives the guitar a very elegant appearance, which creates the feeling of a strong, assertive presence and voice. There’s nothing like a guitar that looks as good as it sounds, as this guitar fits that bill. It also comes with a dark brown, softshell case with red plush lining and shoulder straps that make it easy to carry.
The tone is bright and crisp, strong in the mids, and has a rounded out low end, making it overall very well-balanced. The presence of the low end is stronger than what you would expect from a guitar in its size range—which is exactly what Taylor was going for—arguably, they’ve succeeded. That’s likely due to the use of the C-class bracing, as well as the broad dynamic range encouraged by the spruce and rosewood.
The guitar is a little heavier than it looks, but that doesn’t take away from its resonance—it’s incredibly responsive. It doesn’t take much to get a sound out of it, and the sounds it does produce, sustain for several seconds. The body is particularly sensitive to the E strings, but it’s easy to get tones to ring out across the entire fretboard. Basically, no matter what you play, the body sings with warm overtones. It has a powerful punch when strummed, and when it comes to fingerpicking, its tones are rich and clear. And especially for such a compact instrument, it has volume.
There are a couple of features that invite playability, such as the feel of the neck’s satin finish, as well as its 1-23/32” width at the nut. The satin finish gives the neck a nice smooth texture and allows you to move your hand up and down with ease, whereas its narrowness makes it comfortable to grasp and grip. Another important and unique design element that gives this guitar a comfortable feel (and positions the guitar between the GS Mini and Grand Concert) is the 24-1/8” scale length (the same as if you capo a guitar with a 25-1/2” scale length at the first fret). This result is a slightly slinkier feel in terms of string tension without sacrificing tonal power. It also results in slightly reduced fret spacing, which lends itself to more dexterity.
When you plug it in, the overtones are then embellished by the clarity of the onboard ES2 preamp. Knobs to adjust the high, midrange, and low levels are located above the neck joint—it plays well with the low end turned up and sounds balanced with just the high and mid raised together. The sound system is that much more reliable given that it doesn’t distort if you turn up the volume; its only shortcoming is because it’s so clear and sensitive, it does pick up on some squeaks here and there.
Overall, with the GT 811e, Taylor’s produced a guitar whose subtle design aspects work together to create a guitar that’s compact yet bold. It has a well-rounded mix, beautiful overtones, smooth playability, and a classy appearance. It’s a warmly expressive yet delicate instrument that’s well worth the investment.
For more information and full specifications, visit taylorguitars.com.