9 Best Taylor Guitars for the Money in 2020 (Acoustic) – Reviews

Updated on by Gavin Whitner

Choosing a Taylor guitar can be a daunting task. The great advantage of going with a Taylor acoustic guitar is that you won’t be limited to a strict tonal profile. Because of the variety of styles and tones, Taylor Guitars creates, you can easily find something tailor-made for your favorite genre.

I recommend familiarizing yourself with a few different staple builds and lineups. Once you do that, you’ll realize that some guitars are better than others in specific scenarios and for particular play styles.

Best Taylor Guitars at All Price Ranges

The Taylor 214 CE features exceptional craftsmanship. For a guitar that’s not a premium model, it looks very classy, features a smooth finish, and has a sound quality that backs up the aesthetics.

The guitar boasts a Stika spruce top, laminated Indian rosewood on the sides and back, and a gorgeous satin finish. I also like the scalloped bracing, which gives a more rounded tone. It also offers impressive bass without compromising the brightness of the guitar.

The Grand Auditorium body features a large cutaway. That allows easy access to all higher frets and makes it easier for intermediate players to solo on the guitar. The 22-fret fretboard also helps the soloing aspect by offering a more extensive tonal range.

Although the guitar is light and comfortable, it doesn’t have the resonance of an 800 or a 900-series model. That said, it offers plenty of volume for practice purposes and acoustic gigs. The tuning retention is good, as well, and this should help beginners a lot.

What also helps set the 214 CE apart from many others in its price range is the ES-T electronics system. It’s there to propel the sound through speakers for even more amplification. The system has treble and bass controls.

  • T5 electronics system
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    Gorgeous finish
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    Superior build quality
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    Good tuning retention
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    Rich sound
  • May lack some volume when unplugged

Also known as the Baby Taylor acoustic guitar, the BT2 is a simple yet compelling example of why Taylor is one of the most reputable manufacturers. This six-string acoustic features a Mahogany top, a Sapele back, and a neck width of 1-11/16” at the nut.

It’s smaller and more accessible to beginners, kids, or adults with smaller hands. The fretboard has 20 frets. It’s worth noting that there’s no cutaway at the base, so the frets after the 15th will be a bit harder to reach.

This guitar still sounds good and plays even better if you’re more interested in playing chords and melodies. For a 3/4 sized acoustic guitar, it has a rather dark tone. It is mellow and considerably richer than what you would expect at this size.

However, it doesn’t sound as full as the standard-sized models. Furthermore, the guitar is effortless to transport. Therefore it can be an excellent practice instrument or something a traveling musician can consistently use.

Due to its size, it lacks some volume. That means that it may not be the best option for playing live in front of bigger crowds. However, you could opt for a thicker pick if you want more volume when practicing.

  • Very chord-friendly
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    A soft and dark tone
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    Great for traveling musicians
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    Professional-grade build quality
  • May lack brightness and volume

This guitar features Sapele back and sides, a solid Mahogany top, and layered wood construction that makes the instrument more durable and long-lasting. The mahogany offers excellent resonance and squeezes plenty of volume and clarity out of the hollow acoustic body.

The fact that the GS Mini is the scaled-down version of the Grand Symphony Taylor guitar makes this model even more exciting. It has no cutaway but plenty of volume and a warm, chord-friendly tone.

Another build-defining feature is the African ebony fretboard. With 20 frets, a scale length of 23.5”, and unique playability, the GS Mini’s fretboard is worth envying. I should also point out that the guitar’s masterful setup provides a no-buzz string action. That’s even though the strings are pretty low.

The tuners do an excellent job of keeping strings in tune for extended periods. However, this may change if you change the string action. Between the build quality, resonance, and impressive bass tones, the GS Mini is one of the most surprising budget-friendly acoustic guitars.

  • Great volume
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    African ebony fretboard
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    High-end hardware
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    Layered wood construction
  • The absence of a cutaway makes it less beginner-friendly

This guitar also features an exciting combination of materials. It has a Sitka spruce top, Sapele back and sides, and a West African ebony fretboard. Along with the maple used for the neck and heel, the guitar is as stable and reliable as they come.

The choice of materials also gives it a unique sound. The resonator box has good vibrating qualities and can produce a pretty loud sound. Of course, the dreadnought design helps the matter. And, it makes the Academy 10 sound considerably different than most Taylor acoustic guitars from other series.

The guitar is highly responsive and balanced. Though it may not feature electronics for tonal adjustments and amp play, the volume and clarity are still there. I also like the Micarta saddle and NuBone nut. The two are well-calibrated out of the box.

Finally, the guitar is as beginner-friendly as they come, and it requires little to no tinkering to sound rewarding.

  • High-quality padded gig bag included
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    20 medium-sized frets
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    Accessible dreadnought design
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    Unique, balanced tone
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    Responsive and well-calibrated
  • Not for those looking for electro-acoustic models

The 224 CE-K DLX is a gorgeous guitar. The Hawaiian Koa looks fantastic with the glossy finish. The burst on the edges adds beautiful detail and also gives the guitar a more vintage vibe. This model also uses the Grand Auditorium shape as well as a 25.5” scale length for a more extensive melodic range.

I like the use of the Venetian cutaway as it provides more access to the higher frets. Since we’re speaking of frets, the African ebony fretboard is as smooth as you would expect and offers excellent playability on all 20 frets. What I like even more is the ES2 electronics system that comes with a behind-the-saddle pickup and high-end sensors.

The preamp offers bass and treble controls, master volume, and a phase filter. This last feature puts a higher price tag on the guitar. However, I find it great for improving the tonal clarity, especially when running the guitar through an amp.

That’s even more important if you consider just how bright this guitar sounds, compared to the many mellow-sounding Taylor guitars. That said, the guitar won’t remain as bright as you keep playing it. That’s due to the unique property of the Hawaiian Koa that becomes warmer over time through consistent use.

  • Great feel for fingerstyle playing
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    Crisp, natural brightness
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    Bass, treble, and phase filter included
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    Tone ages better than in other models
  • The tone may be too bright out of the box

The Taylor BT1, a natural finish model, is an affordable and beginner-friendly acoustic guitar. It comes with a gig bag too, and a 3/4 acoustic guitar size for more accessibility. It features a solid Sitka spruce top for added projection as well as a brighter natural tone.

I like that the guitar is light and comfortable to play. Its smaller size also makes it a suitable travel instrument, much like the newer BT2 model. That said, this guitar is more beginner-friendly and accessible in terms of pricing.

It also produces a different sound. For starters, the BT1 is surprisingly loud for its size. On top of that, the guitar doesn’t lose much in terms of richness. It projects a solid sound across the board, with enough bass and sufficient crispness in the higher register.

It’s an excellent 3/4 size acoustic. Although it may not have the same build durability and longevity, the guitar is still low-maintenance. And it’s the sound that attracts more players to it than overall craftsmanship. The benefits of playing clear and loud on a smaller acoustic tend to outweigh this model’s drawbacks.

  • Exceptional projection for its size
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    Good tonal clarity
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    Rich and full sound
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    Comfortable and lightweight
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    Gigbag included
  • Average build quality and finish

The Taylor 114e has a sleek look and a sleek feel. It’s comparable in range, and depth with a dreadnought acoustic guitar yet offers extra individual note definition. The guitar is also beginner-friendly as well as comfortable, even though it has a 25.5” scale.

I like the combination of layered Walnut on the back and sides with the classic spruce top. That gives the instrument a polished look and a uniquely balanced tone. Whether you prefer playing melodies and solos or chords, the 114e is versatile enough for most play styles.

The ES-T electronics system is the right match for this guitar. It has a solid preamp and EQ, as well as an excellent internal pickup that maintains clarity.

Due to the choice of materials in combination with the ES-T system, the 114e offers exceptional value for money and is more accessible to beginners and intermediate players. And, it’s also quite comparable in performance and sound with some higher-end Taylor guitars.

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    Killer bass response
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    Easy-to-maintain matte finish
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    Loud projection
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    ES-T electronics
  • Not well calibrated out of the box, but retailers like Sweetwater will inspect and set up before shipping

Before talking about the actual guitar, it’s worth mentioning that the 414-CE comes with a hardshell carry case. Talk about added value and convenience.

The guitar is a premium Taylor example of craftsmanship and sound quality. It features Ovangkol back and sides and a solid Spruce top. The Mahogany fretboard is smooth, durable, and can comfortably accommodate a variety of tunings and string action settings.

One feature that sets it apart is the unique NT neck design. Not only does it improve the guitar’s resistance to humidity, but it also allows for broader neck adjustments. What’s also great is the ES2 electronics system. It does a great job of faithfully transmitting the 414’s tone to the amp.

The Venetian cutaway goes well with the Grand Auditorium build and allows more access to the higher frets. It’s also worth mentioning that the guitar comes with high-quality strings too – the Elixir Light Gauge with NANOWEB coating.

The volume of this guitar is excellent with or without amplification. The addition of a premium case is also a nice touch and helps compensate for the rather expensive price tag.

  • Hardcase included
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    Adjustable neck design
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    Ample volume plugged and unplugged
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    ES2 electronics
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    Excellent tuning retention and stock strings
  • Pricing aimed at professional players

As part of Taylor’s Academy Series lineup, the Academy 12e is a large acoustic guitar with an impressive beginner-friendly profile. It has 20 frets, a Deep Grand Concert cutaway, and Sitka spruce back and sides. The matte finish looks fantastic and keeps the guitar traditional-looking and not flashy.

I should point out that this model is only available in a right-handed variant. The use of African ebony will help improve the playability as it gives the fretboard a smoother feel. It also helps reduce the amount of string buzz to an impressive level for an entry-level guitar.

The Academy 12e is also relevant for intermediate players, thanks in part to the electronics, which allow for decent tone shaping with the bass and treble controls. Although the guitar has impressive resonance on its own, it sounds even better when you run it through an acoustic amp.

The electronics are good enough to minimize distortion and maintain tonal clarity. The electronics also help accentuate individual notes and add a bit more brightness to the tone. Another advantage of this model is that it requires less maintenance due to its finish and quality of the materials.

  • Comfortable cutaway
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    Bass and treble adjustments
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    No string buzz
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    Less maintenance-intensive
  • Limited bass response

Taylor Guitars' Body Shapes

The majority of Taylor models are either Grand Auditorium, Grand Concert, or dreadnought guitars. The latter is perhaps best-suited for you if you’re going for a classic or vintage look.

That said, I also recommend the Grand Auditorium to anyone who wants a big body that’s more comfortable to hold and play. Beginners will probably benefit even more from the Grand Concert guitar body shape.

It has a more forgiving shape, and it also emphasizes individual notes a bit better. In terms of sound, the dreadnought shape is famous for having a bold, loud tone. Whereas the Grand Auditorium has a bit more depth and a more mellow and balanced tone.

With this in mind, note that all Taylor guitars tend to be chord-friendly.

Electronics or No Electronics?

Acoustic guitars don’t always need a pickup, preamp, and built-in EQ. For practice purposes, or even playing live, a guitar with great tonal clarity and functional resonance will work just fine with a mic in front of it.

But, if you’re looking to squeeze every ounce of power from an acoustic guitar, then an electro-acoustic is the way to go. Taylor uses its in-house electronics, and the systems are comparable in performance, whether they’re on mid-range or high-end models.

I will say that the ES2 system makes a more compelling case than others. That’s because the bass and treble adjustments are more precise and because the inclusion of a phase filter can sometimes be invaluable on stage and during recordings.

What Materials to Expect?

As you’ve seen so far, Taylor uses a variety of wood combinations. Therefore each lineup is characterized by a unique sound and targets a specific player base and genre.

But what’s more important to remember is that Taylor is widely regarded as a top-notch manufacturer in terms of attention to detail and craftsmanship. I give the manufacturer high marks for using layered tonewood construction on some models as it boosts the durability of the guitars.

Although spruce is the most common choice for top, you can expect variations of mahogany, Sapele, and even more exotic woods such as Hawaiian Koa for the sides and back. Ebony is the most common pick for fretboards, although there will be some exceptions in some lineups. The important thing to keep in mind is that, regardless of the material used, the finish is always going to be professional and player-friendly.

Guitar Sizes

Taylor makes regular and smaller acoustic guitars, such as travel guitars. I always recommend starting with a 3/4 sized acoustic guitar if you’re a beginner. The fret separation is more forgiving, and the lighter weight and smaller profile will make a big difference in the beginning.

Of course, if you want maximum volume, then a full-sized acoustic guitar is the way to go. Just keep in mind that even professional guitarists may often prefer to practice on a smaller model. As well as travel with a smaller instrument.

The good news is that Taylor also offers some 3/4 sized acoustic-electric guitars with built-in preamps and EQs as well as optimized resonator boxes for an extra kick in volume.

Taylor Guitars Are Not as Overrated as Some Would Argue

Despite Taylor guitars favoring higher prices, the craftsmanship quality alone makes them worth your attention. I recommend them for their build quality and variety when it comes to sizes, material combinations, and sound.

Gavin Whitner
    Gavin Whitner
     

    A guitar player, songwriter, composer, and also the lead editor of MusicOomph, Gavin is one of the four musician friends behind this site. Outside of music, he's an avid sports fan and hardly misses anything from football (soccer) to F1.

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