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Old 02-26-2016, 01:26 PM
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martingitdave martingitdave is offline
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Location: Chicago
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Default Mini Review: Taylor 858e 12-String Guitar and Others

Hi 12-string fans. I'm lucky to have a beautiful Taylor 856ce. It sounds great and plays beautifully. However, I have always been drawn to Jumbo 12-strings. In 2013 the play-ability and balanced tone of the Taylor 856ce won me over. Now, a few years later, I had to admit that I wasn't playing my 12-string because the tone bored me. It sounds awful to say, but I went 6 months with no interest in it. It played great, but didn't move me anymore. I decided to sell it and buy a less expensive 12-string. Which means... Guitar shopping!!!

I posted last night that the new King of the $1,000 12-string market is the new Westerly Guild F-1512e. But, what about Taylor's new offerings? Taylor came out with a number of 12-string guitars in 2016. The only one that was interesting to me, was the Taylor 858e. I posted previously about the Martin offerings. There are several reviews of the Guilds and Martins, which cover these models in great detail. There is limited information on the 858e, hence my post.

Fortunately, today, I had the opportunity to play the 858e at a Chicago music store. I don't think there are too many of these guitars in the wild right now. And, I must say, I am impressed. This does not sound like my past Taylor guitars, or my re-voiced 856ce 12-string. In fact, it doesn't sound like ANY Taylor I have played. This guitar truly has a huge voice worthy of a jumbo body. Here are a few recent reviews including a demonstration by Guitarist Magazine, and a review by Teja Gerken. Teja offers an aside in the review that he owns an older Taylor jumbo 12-string, and this new one gives it a run for it's money.

While not a truly fair comparison from a price standpoint, I was able to compare the Martin D12-35 50th, a 2006 D12-28, and 2015 D12-28, Guild F-1512e, my personal Taylor re-voiced 856ce and the new Taylor 858e in the same empty room at the same time. You don't get too many chances to make those kind of comparisons.

Perceived volume:

The Martins D12-28s, the Guild, and the 858e were the loudest of the guitars. I can't say for certain which was louder, but there were all comparable. And edge might go to the Guild or the new D12-28. Next came the D12-35 50th, and bringing up the rear was my Taylor 856ce. I was conversing online with Spoon Phillips (hopefully, he doesn't mind my paraphrasing) about this, and he suggested it is a phenomenon of the guitar projecting the strings, and not the body resonance. I think that is a perfect description of what I have been hearing with my 856ce.

Perceived bass response:

For many singer/songwriter types, myself included, the "wall of sound" with a heavy bass response is what we are looking for. John Denver and Gordon Lightfoot epitomize this kind of 12-string playing. It's what I aspire to. The Martins D12-28s, 858e, and the Guild has the most rumble that you could feel in your chest. I can't say for certain which was heavier, but, again, there were all comparable. The edge probably goes to the Taylor 858e. Who knew! Next came the D12-35 50th, and bringing up the rear was my Taylor 856ce. No surprise there. The most stark difference was my 856ce compared to all the other guitars with dreadnought and jumbo bodies. I felt a little like the kid who get picked last for dodge ball.

Overall balance and shimmer on top of rumbling bass:

The Taylor won this round, by a small margin. It has the deepest body of the lot. The Martins and the 858ce were great and sound very "homogeneous" when strummed. In other words, the strings melt into each other and get enveloped in the bass. The Guild was good, but it had a sort of harshness to the mids that jumped out. That might be a positive for lead players. My 856ce was the most homogeneous, but it did not sit atop a wall of bass, if that makes sense.

Play-ability:

My Taylor 856ce was the easiest to play because I set it up myself. No surprise. Next was the 858e, then the D12-35 50th 12 fret, the Guild, and the D12-28s.

Electronics:

I would not make my decision based on this. I play 12-string acoustically, mainly. Besides, the ES2 equipped Taylors, only the Guild had a pickup. The Guild's Fishman pickup was serviceable. The ES2 is more natural.

Looks:

Subjective. They all looked excellent in their own way. Only my 856ce had a cutaway. If that is important to you, then you know which way to lean. If you don't like the cutaway, then any of the other options looks fairly traditional. The most ornamental are the Taylor 800s, then the D12-35, then the Guild, and finally the D12-28.

Other thoughts:

The Guild is not sold with a hard shell case, so that is an additional expense. Presuming, of course, that the foam case is not sufficient for the long haul.

Money where your mouth is:

I had played the Martins and they sounded great, but they did not send me running to the cash register. Oddly, the Guild F-1512 and the Taylor 858e were the two contenders for my hard earned money. Based on negotiating the sale prices and the trade offer, the same amount of money (nearly exactly) would go into the store's pockets for the 858e, or my pocket for the Guild. And, since I had planned to spend less money on a Jumbo 12-string, you can guess which one I chose. Consider the fact that I recently replaced a Taylor dreadnought guitar with a Martin HD28e Retro.

Wrong.

I ponied up, kissed the 856ce sweetly goodbye (ok, yuck), closed my eyes, slid the credit card through the machine, and walked out with the Taylor 858e fresh from the box. Darn you Andy Powers!!! I will post pictures tonight. Someone is going to get a killer deal on my 856ce. You're welcome, in advance. Also, someone go buy the Guild F-1512. It was heart broken.

In summary, the Taylor 858e is a huge rumbling powerful sounding Jumbo 12-string guitar in the tradition of the Guild F512. However, it has nuance, responsiveness, the Taylor neck and the ES2 pickup. Had this guitar been available in December 2013, I would have bought it. And, while I lost money on the 856ce, I got a very fair deal on the 858e, and didn't get hurt (too badly) financially.

If you are looking for a modern playing 12-string, with big traditional jumbo bodied sound, go and demo the Taylor 858e. Bring your wallet. Leave your spouse at home.

Peace





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C.F. Martin Spruce/Rosewood Dreadnoughts (6 and 12 Strings)
Fishman and K&K Pickups
QSC, JBL and Mackie Amplification

"Lift your head and smile at trouble." "You'll find happiness someday."

Last edited by martingitdave; 02-26-2016 at 09:54 PM.
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