NGD! Taylor 818e First Edition Grand Orchestra (long post)


Silver Supporting Member
Technically my ngd was Tuesday, but I did want to give it a few days to compile my first impressions. I'll post later on after a string change as well, but these are some initial impressions which might be interesting to somebody.

I had been thinking about a BTO and how long I would have to save, etc. I hadn't had the chance to play a GO, but I really liked what I read, saw, and heard on the internet about them. I have a 2010 Taylor 414ce that I like, but I think it falls short in its bass response and its overall volume. It's also a very bright guitar, and the neck is very thin, thin enough to cause some hand cramping on barre chords. Given that I dig the Taylor sound, but had these points of contention with my 414, the GO seemed to be a logical response, so I've had some fun speccing out different BTO GOs. When I saw that the 818 1st edition had basically everything I would put on a BTO, with the exception of an armrest and the 510 tuners, as well as some slight aesthetic differences (no inlay, wood rosette instead of abalone, flame koa instead of curly maple, ebony headstock overlay instead of EIR), but at half the price of the BTO, I got seriously interested in the 818.

Eddie's Guitars (Thanks again, Brett!) had one in stock, and while I couldn't make the 5-hour round trip due to family obligations, I took the chance and bought it online. Given that it's a limited edition, and that Taylors really are consistently good from guitar to guitar, I felt comfortable taking a chance on it.

I'm in the honeymoon right now, so bear that in mind, but here are my impressions. First off, it's BIG. Almost uncomfortably so. I adjusted after a little while, but from a right (picking) arm perspective, it's not as comfortable as a GA or dread. The neck, though, is amazing. It's thicker than my 414ce, and while it obviously doesn't have the same upper fret access, it's just a joy to play. Honestly, I was surprised by this, as I was expecting the same super-thin neck that I would have to adjust to. Playability, as you expect from a Taylor, is excellent.

Aesthetically, I really like the curly maple binding, and the AA-grade EIR is gorgeous -- the back in particular has some lovely grain. The top has some good silking, and while it's not over-the-top, there's enough of it that I could see someone designating this a "premium" top. Certainly more silking than on my 414ce. The abalone rosette has grown on me -- it's simple enough that it doesn't stand out as too blingy. The same goes for the inlays. I'd say more elegant than hyper-bling. While I would have ordered differently on a BTO, it doesn't really matter next to the sound and the playability. And heck -- they do look really nice. One note: Taylor's press release says that the 818e 1st ed.has a bound soundhole. Mine, at least, does not. ( )

So, the sound? I'm not going to say "believe all the hype" because there's no way I can be totally objective about this. I sold some of my electric guitars and spent my money on this, so I have a mental and financial stake in the quality of this guitar's sound. I will also note that I dislike Elixir strings. To me, they sound both plinky and muffled at the same time, if that makes sense. This week, I will change the strings for some D'Addario PB, maybe EXPs, and get a better perspective on what this guitar sounds like.

All of that said, Taylor claims that the GO has a "bold yet balanced voice" with strong bass and rich, round notes. From what I'm hearing with my 818, they succeeded. The bass is strong, but sounds a tiny bit congested when I pluck the open low E, which I suspect is the Elixir string as that's been my experience with Elixirs on my other guitars. Otherwise I do think it is a balanced guitar -- the bass doesn't swallow everything else up, at least to my ears. It is a big sounding guitar, and I would describe its tone as rich for sure, with the greater overtones that rosewood guitars tend to have. It still sounds like a Taylor, but it also manages to sound very different from the 414. I prefer the GO's tone , particularly with a pick. This guitar rewards picking and strumming, and is pretty dynamic when it comes to digging in or backing off. Fingerpicking elicits a likewise response, and is very much a warmer, mellower tone. Here is where the brightness of the 414 really helps--I think that the GA shape is better suited to fingerpicking; though the GO does a fine job.

I don't know if this is a "Taylor for those who hate Taylors," but it's really a fine guitar, and is certainly the nicest acoustic guitar I have had the opportunity to own. It's not a Goodall or a Froggy Bottom or what have you -- but it's half the price at least of those guitars. As a hobbyist with a middling level of talent, and a man with a young family, I can't justify spending $3k+ on a guitar, so I am very pleased with my 818e and glad I bought it even though I couldn't play it first.

For reference, I have played a number of upper-end Martins, Gibsons, etc., as well as a Santa Cruz and a Collings dread, though I've never had my hands on a really high-end acoustic ($6k+ -- I figure why do that to myself. The day I'm able to swing that kind of purchase, I'll probably be gassing for an Olson or something similarly unobtainable). I keep coming back to the clarity and comparative "wetness"/balance/I-don't-know-what-to-call-it of Taylors. Plus their marketing is really good. W&S is an evil, evil magazine...

This has been a long post. Hope some of it was interesting. Here are some pics:

It has to pass inspection first:

It passes!

The last 3 I took from the Eddie's website and all credit/copyright belongs to them.



Wow. I also don't like Elixers. I was thinking of trying some DR Rare PB 12's. Let me know what strings you get. I just got a 212ce Black prototype. Again that back is amazing.


Gold Supporting Member
Congrats on a fine acquisition and a great review! I think Taylor nailed it with the GS... I, myself, have a new K26ce GS showing up tomorrow. I hope I'm just as thrilled as you are ;)



Congrats on a beautiful guitar and thank you for a fine review.

I have a Taylor GS BTO Cocobolo, which I love. But, ever since reading about the GO in W&S, I have been intrigued and cannot wait to try one. Would I ever sell the BTO, probably not. The woods were hand picked and tapped for tone by my friend who works at GC. The resonance and sustain are unbelievable! He got to go to the factory and design this guitar. He based it on a PRS we both liked. I had the luxury of playing the guitar and falling in love with it, rather than taking a chance on ordering a BTO and maybe not bonding with it.

If I like the GO enough, it just might be a nice compliment to my GS BTO.

I did a little searching after posting this and stumbled on this video which I thought you would appreciate. Not only is Andy a great luthier, he can play well too.
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