Instruments & Gear: New Gear

Taylor AD17 Blacktop

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A brand-new and affordably priced Grand Pacific.

by Teja Gerken
June 29, 2020

Bob Taylor built his first guitars while still in high school, but he honed his craft while working at a San Diego shop and luthier cooperative called the American Dream. Not only did Bob get a taste of what it was like to build guitars for a living, it was here that he met Kurt Listug, and when American Dream owner Sam Radding announced that he wanted to move on, Bob, Kurt, and a third partner, Steve Schemmer, bought the business, ultimately turning it into Taylor Guitars in 1974. While Steve eventually left the company, the enduring partnership between Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug has resulted in one of the biggest success stories in guitar history.


Like many businesses, Taylor was recently shut down for several weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions, and is just now slowly restarting its operations. Facing the challenges posed by this unprecedented time caused Bob to reflect on the trials the company faced in its early days, ultimately finding inspiration to create a new line of guitars in response. Working with Taylor’s designer Andy Powers, Bob wanted to create a stripped-down, affordable guitar, built from all solid woods, and made in Taylor’s main factory in El Cajon, California, rather than Tecate, Mexico, where most of the company’s entry-level instruments are built. The result is a new line appropriately called the American Dream, which is being launched with a set of three Grand Pacific models, of which I had the chance to check out the AD17 Blacktop in the Peghead Nation video studio.


The American Dream line can be looked at as being positioned between Taylor’s existing 200 and 300 series. The AD17 Blacktop is built with ovangkol back and sides and a Sitka spruce top. Ovangkol’s tonal qualities are frequently compared with Indian rosewood, and Taylor has long used the wood for its 400 series. The AD17 Blacktop is finished with an ultra-thin matte finish, and as its name indicates, the top is colored in black (a natural color version of the guitar is also available). The guitar has no binding, and its appointments are kept to simple dots in the fingerboard and a single-ring rosette. However, the guitar benefits from Taylor’s innovative V-Class bracing, and it follows the company’s high standard for construction details and build-quality. In comparing it to other Taylor lines, it has a simpler appearance than the 200 series, but from a design and construction perspective its use of solid woods and V-Class bracing make it more like 300 and above series instruments. Our demo guitar was completely acoustic, but Taylor’s ES 2 electronics are available as an option.


Playing the AD17 Blacktop, it was immediately clear that it inherited the tonal character of Taylor’s other Grand Pacific models, exhibiting the full and powerful slope shoulder dreadnought voice these models are known for with the refined balance and harmonic clarity of V-Class bracing. And, of course, the guitar features Taylor’s legendary playability.


Taylor fans who have been wishing for a highly affordable US-made instrument built with all-solid woods, the American Dream series is indeed a dream come true. Putting value, tone, and playability first, the line keeps its cosmetics simple, and the result is a guitar that delivers pro-level sound and feel but is priced for uncertain times.


SPECS: Grand Pacific body. Solid Sitka spruce top with V-Class-bracing. Solid ovangkol back and sides. Eucalyptus fingerboard and bridge. 25.5-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Nickel Taylor tuning machines. Made in USA. $1,499 street.

Category: Instruments & Gear

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