Nowhere in music is the line between domestic and import models more blurred than with Taylor Guitars. The famous brand’s flagship US-made models are built in El Cajon, California, while their import products like the Taylor 214ce are manufactured literally a stone’s throw over the border in Tecate, Mexico – just 31 miles from the US factory.
Despite the short distance between the factories, the price differences between models built in these facilities can be vast. So it always begs the question – Is buying an American model worth the premium, so should you look for a feature-rich MIM?
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’re getting to the bottom of this question. We reviewed the Taylor 214ce to see how it performs and to determine if spending over $1,000 on an import is worthwhile.
Keep on reading to see what we learned!
Taylor 214ce: Who Is It For?
The Taylor 214ce is a real workhorse of a guitar. It’s clearly designed with a wide range of players in mind, from improving players to intermediate and advanced guitarists, and even working musicians. It’s not cheap, per se, but it’s still attainably priced and offers a lot of performance for the money.
Appearance / Features / Controls
The Taylor 214ce is a Grand Auditorium style guitar with a venetian cutaway in the treble side bout. This shape has a similar physical size to a dreadnought, but features a tapered waist. This makes it feel a lot smaller, and subsequently much more comfortable to play, without sacrificing tone.
It’s built with a solid Sitka spruce top, and features gorgeous rosewood on the back and sides. This is a classic tonewood combo, and because this is one of the higher-tier models from the Tecate factory, Taylor used choice wood in the build process. The grain looked fantastic and really made it feel like a premium guitar.
There were some nice embellishments as well. It had layered black and white binding on the body, which popped without looking garish. On top of that, there was a lovely tortoiseshell pickguard, which really paired well with the rosewood, aesthetically speaking.
One area it really shone was the neck. It had a fast-playing maple neck, which felt absolutely fantastic. The fretboard was West African ebony, which is one of our favorite fingerboard woods.
It featured Taylor-branded sealed tuning gear, which we’ve long been fans of on other models. Their performance was as good as their looks, with solid stability, and easy fine tuning. They engaged with even the slightest movement, but were firm enough that small bumps and knocks didn’t move the gears.
It had a NuBone nut, which was well cut, but we were a little disappointed to see it only came with a Micarta saddle. Upgrading to Tusq or Nubone would cost very little and at this price point, it’s what we’d have expected.
We also love that it came with a quality gig bag. It was a very well-padded Taylor brand backpack-style case that provided great protection and extremely comfortable straps.
Performance / Sound
We found the Taylor 214ce was a real player’s guitar. It was extremely comfortable, thanks in large part to the Grand Auditorium body shape, as well as that amazing neck. As mentioned above, it was similarly sized to a dreadnought, both in height and depth. This gave it massive presence and projection, and a big, yet nuanced voice.
The Venetian cutaway gave us excellent upper fret access. This, combined with the articulate voicing, made the 214ce a great choice for lead players.
Tonally, it was beautifully balanced. The Sitka spruce gave it immense shimmer and sparkle at the top end, and this was complemented by the full mids and clear bottom end brought by the rosewood back and sides.
As pointed out above, it really was a great option for lead players, but it also was an outstanding rhythm player. It has some superb dynamics and the responsiveness was excellent. It was able to shift from delicate fingerstyle playing to hard, aggressive strumming without losing any of its clarity or articulation – something not a huge amount of guitars in this midrange price point are capable of.
We found the setup from the factory was good. The action was on the high end of low, which will appeal to most players. We didn’t have any issues with fret buzz or dead spots, and only minimal pressure was required to finger notes. Intonation was excellent, as was the resonance and sustain.
Other Guitars to Consider
In this price range, there are tons of great options, so while the Taylor 214ce is definitely worthy of consideration, you might want to check out some alternatives before making your final decision.
The Martin SC-10E is an unusually contemporary guitar from what’s known as a very traditionalist brand. Regardless, it’s extremely well made and its unique offset design makes it an incredibly comfortable choice. It takes the standard dreadnought shape and improves the ergonomics, resulting in that famous booming tone, without the bulky body. It also has the benefit of Fishman MX-T electronics, for easy amplification and line-in recording.
If you’re looking for something a little smaller, check out the Yamaha AC3R ARE Concert Cutaway. This guitar represents amazing value for money, and is at this price point one of the best-equipped guitars you’ll find. Tonally, it’s beautifully nuanced, with that real vintage sound thanks to the torrefied top. The smaller body size and cutaway also make it one of the most effortlessly playable guitars you’ll find.
Final Thoughts on the Taylor 214ce
We really did enjoy the Taylor 214ce. It gave us the archetypal Taylor sound that’s been heard on countless stages and recordings, while not just sounding like any other guitar. The combination of Sitka spruce and rosewood resulted in some fantastic undertones, and the dreadnought size (albeit in a Grand Auditorium shape) gave it an amazing character with a big voice that you’ll fall in love with right away.
So, at just $300 less than the most affordable US-made version, is the Taylor 214ce still worth it? We’d say yes. The entry-level US made AD17 is a wonderful guitar, but to look at and feel the 214ce, we wouldn’t know whether it was an import or domestic without reading the label. That should tell you all you need to know.