A beautiful acoustic-electric grand auditorium guitar built from Hawaiian koa.
by Teja Gerken
July 24, 2017
With its attractive grain patterns and rich, amber coloring, Hawaiian koa is a beautiful wood choice for guitars. Fortunately, koa also has the potential to produce great-sounding instruments: it’s sometimes described as blending the tonal warmth of mahogany with the top-end qualities of maple. Because it only grows on the Hawaiian islands, instrument-quality koa is rare and comes at a price. Taylor Guitars is among the few large manufacturers who build with it and we recently had a chance to audition Taylor’s K24ce in the Peghead Nation video studio.
The appearance of the K24ce we received is striking: the koa top, back, and sides feature an almost holographic flame, and Taylor did a beautiful job matching the wood with a subtle sunburst finish and elegant appointments. The guitar’s body has ebony binding and a single-ring rosette, and while the “Island Vine” inlay that spans most of the fingerboard is elaborate, its execution in wood, rather than pearl or abalone, gives it an organic quality that harmonizes well with the natural vibe of the guitar.
The K24ce has standard Taylor grand auditorium specs and dimensions and feels similar to other Taylor grand auditoriums, which is to say that it’s extremely comfortable to play. Sonically, however, the K24ce is in a league of its own. Not only is the tone creamy, rich, and powerful, it also has the slight natural compression often heard on guitars with hardwood tops. This gives it a smooth dynamic range when strumming and an even response when fingerpicking. Even though this inherent character is of course completely acoustic, it is not unlike the effect that plugged-in players achieve by using a compressor pedal.
The K24ce includes Taylor’s proprietary ES2 pickup system, which consists of three piezo sensors in the bridge (installed behind the saddle) and an onboard preamp with controls for volume, bass, and treble. The ES2 did a superb job of reproducing the guitar’s natural voice when played through a Fishman Loudbox Mini amp. We didn’t try out the guitar at stage volume in the studio, but its slightly compressed acoustic sound and somewhat stiffer koa top (compared to spruce or cedar) should make it very controllable even when at a loud volume.
Overall, the K24ce is a very cool guitar that continues Taylor’s legacy of building great koa guitars.
SPECS: Grand auditorium body with cutaway. Solid koa top, back, and sides. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.5-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Gold tuning machines. Expression System 2 electronics. Made in USA. $4,399 street. Taylorguitars.com
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