Taylor might not have the brand history of the likes of Gibson or Martin, but what they’ve managed to accomplish since Bob Taylor and Kur Listug founded the company in 1974 is incredible.
They have grown to be one of the most popular acoustic brands in the world, and their high end models are now some of the most sought after guitars on the market. They’ve even managed to gain a stranglehold on the beginner and student market with quality instruments like the Taylor Academy 10.
The Taylor Academy 10 is a simple dreadnought that really strips things back to basics, with the intent of getting players to focus more on the music than flashy trim and showy aesthetics. It’s certainly not a cheap guitar, but it’s one that is built with longevity in mind.
In our roundup of the best acoustic guitars for beginners, we gave the Academy 10 our highest praise by naming it as our Editor’s Choice. We understand that spending over $700 isn’t always easy to do for a beginner or student grade guitar, but in this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we get to the bottom of why a guitar like this is actually a savvy investment.
Taylor Academy 10: Who is it For?
The answer to this question is practically given away in the name. The Taylor Academy 10 is aimed at new and improving players looking to learn their craft on a quality guitar. Comfort and playability are strong, which makes it an easy player, again, features that really make this an appealing guitar for beginners.
Herein lies the beauty, however. Because it’s built to the usual Taylor standards, and still delivers the classic Taylor tone, it’s also a great choice for intermediate and advanced players who want an affordably priced, full size Taylor guitar.
If you like simple aesthetics, without embellishments like fancy inlay, this is a fantastic choice.
Appearance / Features / Controls
It’s almost striking to see just how plain the Taylor Academy 10 is. As we briefly alluded to, it has no real embellishments, which means no binding on the body, no fancy inlay on the rosette, and online simple dot markers on the fretboard.
It had a very traditional Martin style square dreadnought body shape, built with a solid Sitka spruce top. The back and sides were made with layered sapele, which makes it a bit more durable than one made with solid wood – again, an appealing feature for the beginner market.
One of the most unique features of the academy 10, especially when it comes to guitars marketed towards beginners, is the use of a carved armrest on the lower bass side bout. This is a phenomenal feature, especially on a dreadnought, which is typically one of the least comfortable body shapes.
The neck was made with maple, and in the usual Taylor fashion, was super slim, feeling more like that of an electric guitar than a traditional acoustic neck. This is another novice friendly feature that we were glad to see.
On top, it had a lovely ebony fretboard – as we’re used to seeing beginner focused models with materials like laurel or pau ferro on the fingerboard, it always feels like a treat seeing premium woods like ebony.
Performance / Sound
One of the things that any player, including beginners, should demand from their guitar is reliability. Great tone is nice to have if you’re just starting out, but it’s far more important to make sure your guitar can stay in tune, and that it’s properly set up and intonated. Fortunately, the Taylor Academy 10 checks all three of these boxes.
Tuning stability was fantastic – the sealed gear tuners held fast, with no noticeable slipping, and they engaged with even a slight touch, making fine tuning much easier. It came with a NuBone nut, which helped out with tuning stability, too. Intonation was accurate from top to bottom, and we loved the low to medium action. It had a super straight neck, and overall, we thought it was a real player right out of the box.
Fans of bright sounding guitars will definitely love the Academy 10. It puts a lot of emphasis on the upper mids and trebles, which gives it tons of sparkle. The dreadnought body shape helps to balance this out with some big, booming bottom end, too.
The shining top end really helped it stand out in a mix, too. If we had any complaints, it would be that this model isn’t great at sitting back and blending into a mix, mostly due to the fact that its brightness is so prominent.
It performed well when played fingerstyle, with great articulation, and noticeable note separation, and we found it to be very responsive when it came to changes in playing dynamics. As these are typically more advanced skills, we came to see why the Academy 10 makes a lot of sense – even though it’s more expensive than the average guitar in its category, it’s far less likely to need replacement as you progress, which ultimately means you’ll probably spend the same or less than you would if you’d bought a cheaper guitar then something for a more advanced player down the line.
Other Guitars to Consider
Of course, the Taylor Academy 10 isn’t the only high end beginner guitar on the market. There are some other great choices if you’re working with a bigger budget – check out our favorite alternatives below.
The Taylor GS Mini Rosewood is a reduced size Grand Symphony style guitar that has earned praise from countless critics (including ourselves) for its amazing playability, fantastic tones, and gorgeous looks. Its short scale makes it even more comfortable for smaller players, but it’s still manageable for adults and larger guitarists, too. It has a warmer, mellower tone than the Academy 10, so if you’re not looking for something with so much brightness, it’s a solid option.
Aesthetically, the Martin D-X2E is rather similar to the Academy 10, save for the fact that the Martin has a pickguard, of course. Like the Taylor, it’s very much geared towards beginner players looking to start out with a quality guitar. It’s another option that is tonally darker, but still nicely balanced thanks to its punchy solid spruce top. The Martin has a slight edge on the Taylor in that it’s equipped with Fishman MX electronics, but players looking for an acoustic-electric model will be pleased to know that the Taylor Academy 10e can be amplified, too.
Final Thoughts on the Taylor Academy 10
Overall, we found ourselves very impressed with the Taylor Academy 10. It was reliable, it sounded great, and for a full size dreadnought it was very comfortable to play thanks to the armrest carve. The factory setup was without a doubt the best we’ve experienced amongst beginner focused guitars, and we think it should suit most players very well.
So, is it the best student grade guitar on the market? We think it very well could be! We’re yet to come across a more complete guitar with new players in mind than the Taylor Academy 10. Even if you’re not a beginner, it still has tons to offer in the way of excellent build quality, and great tones, and with that said – we’d gladly recommend it to just about anybody looking for a guitar in this price range.