Taylor guitars are nothing short of acoustic guitar royalty. Taylor Swift has one and so does Jason Mraz. From Alan Jackson to Katy Perry, from Keith Urban to Daria Musk, you’ll find at least a couple of your favorite musicians on the Taylor roster.
The 214CE is one of Taylor’s best-selling guitars. It makes perfect sense. It costs a lot less than the high-end Taylors but only marginally more than the 100 series. That makes the it the ideal middle-ground for guitarists who want to own a Taylor without breaking the bank.
In this post, I’ll review the guitar and share insights to help you decide if you are getting your money’s worth. We’ll also look at other models to consider and some recommended upgrades/accessories. So, let’s get straight to it.
Who is it for?
The Taylor 214CE is a sophisticated and articulate instrument that isn’t designed for a specific need. Singer/songwriters, acoustic-pop artists, country guitarists, and Indie/folk musicians will particularly enjoy the 214CE’s iridescent tone and articulate voice. However, it is versatile guitar that is suitable for a variety of styles/genres.
Think of it as a long-term investment – a trusty guitar to accompany you for a decent chunk of your career. It may be expensive, but it is fully capable of handling all your studio and stage needs until you have an arm to spare for a Taylor Builder’s Edition.
Taylor C213CE Review:
The C214 has a Grand Auditorium body shape with a Venetian cutaway and ES2 electronics. It sports a blonde solid Spruce top that sits in stark contrast to the layered Rosewood body with a soft satin finish. The top board has a forward-shifted bracing with no binding on the body.
The guitar also features a Tropical Mahogany neck with a 25.5-inch scale length. The neck houses an ebony fretboard and 20 frets with dot inlays. The ebony fingerboard (African Ebony) looks plush and is an absolute joy to play. Being a hardwood, it adds to the note definition and improves the playability.
As for the hardware, the guitar has chrome die-cast tuners, a Nubone nut, Micarata saddle, and a tortoise pickguard. The micarata saddle, similar to Tusq, are known to sound as good as bone saddles, but without any consistency issues. They don’t require any upgrade, although YMMV.
The innocuous details like the soft curves of the cutaway, the scarf neck joint, the edge trim, and heel cap binding represent Taylor’s attention to detail. The craftsmanship is commendable. The guitar has a premium look and minimalistic design that is synonymous with Taylor instruments.
What does it sound like?
Taylor guitars are setup before shipping and sound fantastic right out of the box. The intonation, setup, and string action on the C214CE are spot on. It ships with Elixir Phosphor Bronze Light strings, which complement the guitar and don’t warrant any immediate upgrade.
The C214CE delivers excellent individual note definition and a pristine tone. It has a pristine, bell-like chime in the high end with overall brightness that Taylor guitars are famous for. The full scale-length and cutaway design make it easy to access the upper register.
It sounds great for flatpicking and fingerpicking, especially the latter. It also does an appreciable job at jangly strumming and cowboy chords, but only as well as the Grand Auditorium shape allows it to. Personally, I would prefer a jumbo or dreadnought guitar in those situations.
Taylor C214CE Electronics:
The C214CE features the ES-2 – Taylor’s trademark electronic system, which features three unassuming dials on the side and a 9V battery compartment on the underside. The guitar is fairly plug-and-play and the knobs can be used to tweak the volume, tone, and gain structure.
The ES-2 has three individually calibrated pickup sensors with a proprietary ‘behind-the-saddle’ design. It is designed to blend string and body resonance and can sound quite hot when needed. Overall, it does a stellar job of faithfully capturing the dynamics and tone of the guitar.
The ES system gives Taylor an edge over its competition in this price range. Their piezo-electric transducers and unique placement yield a sound that is a notch above the rest in this category.
It is evidenced by the fact that even the 614CE, which is four times the cost, has the same electronics. A reassuring fact to know as you contemplate the value of the instrument. The only downside is that there is no onboard tuner. Although, a reliable clip-on tuner can resolve that in a jiffy.
Value: Is Taylor C214CE worth the money?
Plugged in or unplugged, the Taylor 214CE sounds fantastic. The price tag has some heft to it, but you do get what you pay for. The materials, hardware components, and build quality are top notch. The back and sides are made from layered Rosewood with a veneer on top. Solid wood would be nice, but you have to spend more to get one of those.
The 214CE is neither made nor marketed as an affordable guitar for students or beginners. At best, it is an ‘affordable Taylor’ – an excellent Grand Auditorium shaped guitar none the less. If you’ve never played a Taylor before, you should try it out to understand all the Taylor hype.
Overall, the Taylor 214CE is as durable and dependable as any other guitar in this price bracket.
Other models to consider:
Taylor 114CE or 214CE?
There are only two differences in these models that are worth contemplating – the body tonewood and the price tag. The Taylor 114CE has Sapele back and sides while the 214CE has Rosewood back and sides. Both guitars used layered wood, which is a nicer way of saying ‘laminate’.
After playing them side-by-side – several times – I found the Taylor 214CE to be decidedly better-sounding. 114CE has more meat in the mid-range but less sparkle in the highs. The lows also lacked the depth that I could hear in the 214CE.
Takeaway: The Taylor 214CE sounds brighter and more balanced than the 114CE. It has more depth in the lows and more definition in the highs.
Other Taylor Options:
Taylor Academy A12e is more keenly priced but nearly as capable as the 214CE. It shares most of the sonic hallmarks such as the resonant projection, rich mids, and bright treble. The tone has pronounced high-mids, and the guitar sounds great in most musical applications.
The components, finish, and construction quality is also comparable. The A12e has an ergonomic arm-handle, which the 214CE lacks. The key differentiators are the Grand Concert body shape and electronics. The A12E pales in comparison to the balanced tone of the 214CE, with an apparent lack of depth in the lows. The ES-B electronic system only offers a treble roll-off, so you won’t be able to boost the low-end that way either.
Recommended Accessories/Upgrades for Taylor 214CE:
Bridge Pegs: Taylor only mentions ‘Black Bridge Pegs’ on their website, perhaps trying to conceal that they are cheaply made injection-molded black plastic pegs. Bridge pegs made from real wood would make for a cheap and significant improvement.
Guitar Strings: The stock Elixir strings work well on all Taylor guitars. Some people do find the Taylor-Elixir combo to be too bright. If you want a warmer tone I recommend a good pair of coated strings such as the Martin MA540 (92/8 Phosphor Bronze) or a set of John Pearse Slightly Light Phosphor Bronze.
Bone nut and saddle: A Tusq and Macarite nut/saddle doesn’t need any upgrade unless your mind is set on the ‘real-deal’ bone replacements. You can swap them out but the resultant difference in tone is subjective. One type isn’t necessarily better than the other.
Personally, I would include the Taylor 214CE in a roundup of my top 5 acoustic-electric guitars under $1000. At this price point, you have numerous options to choose from but only a handful of them pose a real challenge to the 214CE. Is it, after all, one of those rare guitars that sounds nearly as good amplified as it does when unplugged. It can handle anything you throw at it.