With the T3, Taylor has taken the body of the T5, added a center block (ala Gibson ES-335 and others), and mated the electric guitar pickups to it, tossed in a few more innovations, and packaged it in one of the most stunningly beautiful axes you are likely to see--even including offerings from PRS and Carvin. And they even optionally provide it (T3/B) with a Bigsby tailpiece mounted to it and designed a roller bridge to complement the demands on strings. The result is an electric guitar that offers just about everything in the areas of looks, sound, style and features; if it’s not a winner, then something is terribly wrong.
Physically, the T3 is a reasonable match to the Gibson ES-335, size-wise at least, but easier to strap on due to a thinner overall depth and a more balanced and slightly reduced weight. The body is 20 inches long, 16 inches wide and 2-1/3 inches deep and is mainly a block of Sapele wood routed out to form a standard guitar shape with resonant areas, and a Venetian single cutaway to allow access to the upper frets. That body is then topped by a solid slab of maple to bring brightness to the tone and beauty to the beast instead of a laminated arched top. And finally, two “hound’s tooth” pairs of sound holes replace what are commonly f-holes in arched hollowbody tops. The result is a familiar yet unique combination of stunning visual cues to what Taylor has produced.
The center block is actually two ridges of wood from the original body left in place to run lengthwise down the body and provide mounting rails for the stop bar, bridge and pickups. The space between is presumably to further reduce weight and possibly provide additional area for wiring, although there may be a slight contribution to the sound as well.
That quilted maple top secures not only the chrome bridge and stop bar (or Bigsby on the T3/B model) but also the pair of Taylor-designed and made Style-2 humbuckers without covers, and a switch on the upper bout chooses between pickups or the combination of both.
The bridge has adjustments for individual string intonation and roller saddles to match the TUSQ nut with Teflon for reduced detuning when exercising the Bigsby or adventurous bending of the strings.
The Sapele neck is a C shape, less fat than a PRS “wide fat” neck, but stouter than some necks, offering a firm but comfortable grip and accurate chording and bringing the overall length of the guitar to 41-3/16 inches. It is the same T-neck Taylor has been using for years that provides for perfect neck alignment and sports a 24-7/8 inch scale ebony fret board with 21 large string-bending frets.
The tuning machines are also of Taylor design and provide the precision of 1:18 gear ratios and heavy chrome finish.
As if all of the above was not enough, (even with the addition of the optional Bigsby tailpiece), the volume and tone knobs (also in matching chrome) each provide additional functions as well. The volume knob pulls up and provides a coil-splitting switch to turn the humbuckers into single coils. The tone knob pulls up to engage a second capacitor into the tone circuit, offering a subtle but useful variation in the sound.
The T3 comes with a alligator skin-grained hard-shell plush case that fits the axe like a glove and latches in 5 places with heavy-duty hardware for complete protection in transit to your gig. This guitar, like all Taylor Guitars comes with an original owner’s lifetime warranty for defects in material or workmanship.
Finish and Workmanship:
The head face is finished in ebony with the pearl “Taylor” name, very much the same as all Taylor guitars, and announces proudly the T3’s pedigree. The quilted maple top is offered in “Natural,” “Honey-burst,” “Tobacco Sunburst,” and “Red Edge-burst” with matching stains to the Sapele back for each. The entire guitar body, neck, head and even the sound holes are bound with bright white binding, that around the body has an additional black strip in its center and the fret board has mother of pearl dots for fret markers.
Everything mentioned so far in this entire review is executed with a precision and attention to detail that is nearly flawless, regardless of the features being examined. All of the finishes offered are absolutely gorgeous, and while I decided I preferred the Tobacco Sunburst when I saw it, an individual who chose any of the other finishes would be just as happy. For those who like blues, greens or blacks, they will have to hope for future expansion of the
finish options or talk to Taylor Guitars about special orders.
The finish is a high gloss that is perfectly smooth and even across the entire body, neck and head of the guitar, never showing the slightest ripple or deviation from the rest. I presume this is a result of computer-controlled spraying machines at Taylor’s factory, as is much of the workmanship on this guitar (and pretty much all of Taylor’s guitars). While to some, having a machine make a musical instrument might be mildly troubling, you have to consider whether you want your guitar to look perfect or to be manufactured by human hands only. If you lean to the latter, you would probably not be looking at Taylor Guitars of any kind anyway. When I look at this gorgeous axe, I have no guilty conscience that computer controlled machines were used on it.
The workmanship is not only completely flawless and beautiful, but the finish on the quilted maple top is absolutely breathtaking and begs you to just put it on the stand and look at it. Even the chrome plating on all of the hardware is shiny and solid and shouts quality. I’ve had this guitar for a few weeks and spend many hours admiring it, and I have yet to discover any one single flaw, no matter how tiny or inconsequential. As a matter of fact, the more I look it over, the more impressed I am with the workmanship on this axe. For example, they have used felt washers underneath the strap buttons to protect the finish of the guitar there. With that kind of attention to detail, why would anything be less then flawless?
Sound and Feel:
The T3, while not what I would call light, is not as heavy as some guitars, especially semi-hollowbodies like the ES-335, although I didn’t actually weigh them, I’m speaking subjective weight here. Whatever the actual weight, the T3 hangs comfortably and with good balance on a strap or rests easily on your right thigh while you play it. The whole body is slightly thinner than many thin-line hollowbodies and semi-hollowbodies, so it actually is more comfortable to your right arm as well. The scale length is close enough to most other guitars that you can easily adapt to fret spacing in little time.
Taylor strings the T3 at the factory using Elixir NANOWEB® Light Gage: 0.010, 0.013, 0.017, unwound, 0.026, 0.036, & 0.046” wound diameters, making them easy to bend and fret along the neck. The inclusion of such quality strings on the guitar as shipped only reinforces the overall sense of this guitar’s quality.
The action is set low and fast with the T-adjusting neck allowing the bridge and tailpiece to be flush against the top of the guitar, and each string passes over the center of each pickup’s pole pieces. Only very dramatic strumming causes any buzzing from fret contact whatsoever in the heavier strings. The shape of the neck easily fits my hand and allows a variety of chording techniques and alternate fingerings with ease and comfort anywhere up the neck.
There is no pick guard on the guitar, and with the strings fairly close to the body, I worried about my habitual over swing on the down side marring that gorgeous finish, but after playing it a couple hours daily for a few weeks, I see no indication of a pick mark at all, so I have to conclude that there is something about the configuration of this guitar that makes my swing parallel to the top. Who knows if it will have that effect on your playing?
The sound comes from two full-sized Taylor Style-2 HD (High Definition) uncovered humbuckers that are clean, crystalline and dynamic without stridency or harshness on the high notes while holding a mellow underlying tone to lead playing. The pickups are quite snappy with an almost instantaneous attack with sharp strumming, ringing bell-like and delightful sustain when strummed normally, and full of clean tone when picking a lead. The high notes never become strident, but are always bright and singing, the low notes are never boomy, but full and warm, and note articulation is always precise and pure. The sustain lasts “forever” on a slow strum it seems, and yet the strings can almost “pop” at you with a sharp strum.
The bridge pickup gives a little more edge and brightness as well as that slight “twangy” feel to the above tones while the neck pickup has a more woody and mellow undercurrent. When switched to both simultaneously, the combination is clean and dynamic enough to cut through the mix and yet smooth and warm enough to take the edge of those high notes.
The volume control pull-up switch to coil-splitting adds a whole different dimension to the sound with more edge and ring to the tone. Similarly, the tone control capacitor addition to the circuit provides additional tone options, although the difference is subtle except at the lowest 1/3 of the control, this second circuit does just a little bit better job of taking the edge off the high lead. In the down position, and rotated fully counterclockwise, the midrange tones are provided with a little extra punch. When in the up position and turned completely “down” (meaning counterclockwise to remove the most treble), and played through the neck pickup in humbucking mode on an overdriven Fender tube amp, the sweetest lead tones you ever heard sing back at you. When you turn the treble fully “on” in either up or down position, and with either single-coil or humbucker, you can nearly simulate an acoustic guitar; or more precisely several different acoustic guitars, depending on the combination of pickups and knob up or down positions.
The permutations of pickup selection, tone and volume, coil-spltting and capacitor-switching makes the number of sounds available quite impressive. You can go from a Jazz guitar’s almost muted mellow lead to a Fender-type twang and stop at all points in-between as the your style and song-selection requires. I spent most of my first couple weeks with this guitar trying to find and remember the combinations that made it sound each in turn like an ES-335, a Les Paul, a Stratocaster, an L-5, and many other subtle variations among those. It’s almost like having all of those guitars at your fingertips by simply selecting the appropriate combination, and yet still be able to come up with completely unique tonal subtleties when needed.
Intonation is spot-on all the way up the neck, and as mentioned before, the large frets, Teflon-lubricated nut and Roller Bridge almost demands bending strings in expressive delight. I tried just about every style of music and found that this versatile axe could handle them all. While I didn’t test it, “grunge” might even be possible with the right floor pedal choice. I did “dirty up” the tone with some overdrive and it sang like a Les Paul or Strat under those conditions as well. In short, it seems to do (at least almost) everything very well indeed.
The semi-hollowbody, whether it be from Taylor, Gibson, PRS, Ibanez, Gretch, Rickenbacker, or any other maker, promises to be the more versatile in sound than either the solid body or true hollowbody because it provides a bit of both. That promise of versatility is fulfilled in the T3, even more than some other semi-hollowbodies, because of the addition of coil-splitting and tone-curve selection as well as the option of a Bigsby, which alters the sound slightly from the stop bar because of the point of suspension to the bridge.
The first-rate features, details, workmanship and gorgeous finishing of this guitar is matched by the sounds that you can get from it due to the incredibly articulate pickups and configuration of this guitar. It can and does compete favorably with the more expensive Gibson and PRS semi-hollowbodies in all of these areas. My only problem is I can’t stop looking at it, and I can’t stop playing it, and to do both I have to play in front of a mirror; people are starting to talk!
If you get the idea that I like this guitar and imagine you will too, you understand me completely. Words like gorgeous, stunning, delightful and impressive seem to be the only way to describe this axe that I think will become a favorite of many musicians for years to come. With a street price ranging from about $2,200 to $2500, depending on tailpiece and finishing, it isn’t dirt cheap, but neither is it overly expensive when you consider that its prime competition is often priced up to double or even triple that amount. Taylor has presented us with yet another winner!