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Taylor Koa returned it am I alone?

5881

Member
Messages
1,115
I have a 1995 Ltd. Ed GAKC which is just amazing sounding. Bought it new; played it and bought it on the spot, even though it was about $1k more than I planned on spending. The koa/ cedar combination is really sweet sounding. Nicest sounding acoustic I've owned for sure.
 

petty1818

Member
Messages
4,026
Having played both the 2014 814ce and 2014 816ce, I have to agree with the above post. If I were in the market for another acoustic, the 816ce would be my first choice by far. I like the 814, but prefer the 816 overall.
I agree, the 816 sounds incredible. I do think that the 814 is amazing as well but there's something about the 816 that makes it special. I even preferred the ES2 plugged in tone more when using the 816 than the 814... not sure why though!

With that said, I was disappointed with the new 810 model. I was really hoping that this would be the perfect dreadnought. However, although it was an improvement, it just didn't have the same projection and somehow it didn't resonate against my body like the 814 and 816 did.

On a side note, I hate how Taylor ships all of their guitars with the ES2 installed. I want an 816 but without a pickup system in it. You can custom order these but that's a huge gamble because although the models have been consistent in terms of quality, they all still do have their own unique sound.
 

riffmeister

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
16,670
Just curious to see what other peeps experience has been with these guitars especially other martin owners?
Hey, there are guitars out there to satisfy everyone's needs. Some folks prefer Taylor, some prefer Martin, some prefer Gibson, etc etc.

Don't sweat it if the Taylor is not floating your boat. Keep sampling until you find what fits!
 

joeprs

Member
Messages
1,516
With that said, I was disappointed with the new 810 model. I was really hoping that this would be the perfect dreadnought. However, although it was an improvement, it just didn't have the same projection and somehow it didn't resonate against my body like the 814 and 816 did.

On a side note, I hate how Taylor ships all of their guitars with the ES2 installed. I want an 816 but without a pickup system in it. You can custom order these but that's a huge gamble because although the models have been consistent in terms of quality, they all still do have their own unique sound.
I had a Bourgeois Dreadnought and never bonded with it. When I attended a Taylor Guitars roadshow and they demonstrated all the different body shapes with the same woods, it became clear why I didn't bond with the Dread.

It's not Taylor's fault, it's what the music stores order. In another thread, maybe on the Acoustic Guitar Forum, they said that not many stores order Taylor's w/o electrics because most people want the electronics and they don't want to order a guitar that may not sell that quick, if at all. It makes sense, but it's too bad for someone like you who doesn't want or need the electronics.

I prefer to play as many as I can and pick out that "special" one from the lot. I've learned that 2 pieces of wood from the same tree can sound different.

I played 4 or 5 814ce's at the same store and one was not as good as the other's. It was still nice, but compared to the others, it would not be the one I would pick.
 

MollyPolly

Senior Member
Messages
1,866
I bought a koa Goodall off eBay a few years ago, and having played other Goodalls that were unbelievably great-sounding, I wanted so bad to like that guitar.

But as others have said, it just sounded bland. It seemed to lack the best qualities of all the other tonewoods. It had neither the volume and projection of rosewood, nor the warmth and woodiness of mahogany.

If anything, it sounded to me like a more bass-y version of maple, which I'm not a fan of at all.
 

petty1818

Member
Messages
4,026
I bought a koa Goodall off eBay a few years ago, and having played other Goodalls that were unbelievably great-sounding, I wanted so bad to like that guitar.

But as others have said, it just sounded bland. It seemed to lack the best qualities of all the other tonewoods. It had neither the volume and projection of rosewood, nor the warmth and woodiness of mahogany.

If anything, it sounded to me like a more bass-y version of maple, which I'm not a fan of at all.
As I mentioned earlier, Koa does take quite a while to open up. People often find it somewhat bright or even "bland" at first and dismiss the tone. However, if you put time in with the guitar you will eventually notice a great improvement. My Koa (back and sides) Taylor now sounds fantastic compared to the somewhat bright tone that I was getting when I first bought it.
 

Matt F

Member
Messages
870
Lots of boats to float us all out there. I really like my Taylor Koa grand concert with spruce top. It's 21 years old next month and it has gotten better over time. It's a damn fine guitar and sounds great and I would never get rid of it.

I own a maple Taylor grand concert as well. I would agree with MollyPolly that the Koa GC has much more mids than the maple. I personally find the Koa more even toned across all strings compared to the maple.

Having said that, I play my mahogany Martin OMC Juber more than any other of my acoustic guitars. /blush
 

MollyPolly

Senior Member
Messages
1,866
As I mentioned earlier, Koa does take quite a while to open up. People often find it somewhat bright or even "bland" at first and dismiss the tone. However, if you put time in with the guitar you will eventually notice a great improvement. My Koa (back and sides) Taylor now sounds fantastic compared to the somewhat bright tone that I was getting when I first bought it.
This is an interesting concept, the whole 'opening up' phenomenon.

I realize that there are scientific/physical reasons why wood is supposed to 'open up', but has this ever been quantified? Does it get 5% better? 20%? 50%? and how long should we be expected to wait? 5 years? 10? 50?

Also, to be honest, I've never heard that term used in the context of hardwood backs/sides before. My understanding is that the soundboard (top), which is generally made with a relatively soft wood like spruce or cedar, will 'open up' over time, but only if it gets played. It's evidently the vibration of playing, rather than simply age, which improves the top. An old guitar that sat in it's case unplayed wouldn't be expected to improve in tone.

Finally, when you think about it, the idea that one would buy an expensive, bland-sounding guitar with the expectation that it will eventually 'open up' is kind of ridiculous. How long till it sounds good? and again, how much improvement?

I'm sorry, but I've played enough koa guitars over the years that my mind is made up. Electrics, basses, acoustics...always the same story. A lovely, sexy and almost incomparably beautiful figured wood that just doesn't sound that great.
 

LeftyCollings

Member
Messages
10
I honestly felt I was the only one feeling that KOA sounds dead. But just a few weeks ago I played a Taylor K24CE which was completely bland. It had no texture. Nothing of interest. It was a used one as well and selling at a reasonable price, and not to option that is actually was really visually appealing.

With that being said, the only KOA I've played is just the one Taylor. It could be a bad lemon.
 

petty1818

Member
Messages
4,026
This is an interesting concept, the whole 'opening up' phenomenon.

I realize that there are scientific/physical reasons why wood is supposed to 'open up', but has this ever been quantified? Does it get 5% better? 20%? 50%? and how long should we be expected to wait? 5 years? 10? 50?

Also, to be honest, I've never heard that term used in the context of hardwood backs/sides before. My understanding is that the soundboard (top), which is generally made with a relatively soft wood like spruce or cedar, will 'open up' over time, but only if it gets played. It's evidently the vibration of playing, rather than simply age, which improves the top. An old guitar that sat in it's case unplayed wouldn't be expected to improve in tone.

Finally, when you think about it, the idea that one would buy an expensive, bland-sounding guitar with the expectation that it will eventually 'open up' is kind of ridiculous. How long till it sounds good? and again, how much improvement?

I'm sorry, but I've played enough koa guitars over the years that my mind is made up. Electrics, basses, acoustics...always the same story. A lovely, sexy and almost incomparably beautiful figured wood that just doesn't sound that great.
I am not here to change your mind and honestly it doesn't make any difference to me whether or not you like Koa. I am simply stating an alternate point that the OP and fellow TGP musicians should consider when trying a Koa guitar. I am not a huge fan of Mahogany but I won't go around telling everyone that all Mahogany guitars "just don't sound that great."

I agree that you should never buy a an expensive and "bland" sounding guitar. However, with any instrument you need to play a ton of them before you find the right one. I have played a ton of Taylor guitars with Rosewood back and sides and can easily remember the two or three that blew me away. You obviously don't like the sound of Koa and that's fine but for others who are interested in it, there are guitars out there with Koa that can sound incredible.

As for the "opening up concept," it's fairly ridiculous to think that this is not something that happens. Also, just to clarify, the term "opening up" does not refer to leaving a guitar in its case for a long extended period. All guitars will open up a lot quicker with constant playing time. It is true that the top is generally the part of the guitar that will open up the most but this applies to the back and sides as well.
 

petty1818

Member
Messages
4,026
I honestly felt I was the only one feeling that KOA sounds dead. But just a few weeks ago I played a Taylor K24CE which was completely bland. It had no texture. Nothing of interest. It was a used one as well and selling at a reasonable price, and not to option that is actually was really visually appealing.

With that being said, the only KOA I've played is just the one Taylor. It could be a bad lemon.
The other thing with Koa to consider is that this particular wood is hard to come by now, which explains the higher price tag. This also means that the quality has dropped as well. I think it's probably the one type of wood used that differs the most in terms of tonality between instruments.
 

MollyPolly

Senior Member
Messages
1,866
As for the "opening up concept," it's fairly ridiculous to think that this is not something that happens. Also, just to clarify, the term "opening up" does not refer to leaving a guitar in its case for a long extended period. All guitars will open up a lot quicker with constant playing time. It is true that the top is generally the part of the guitar that will open up the most but this applies to the back and sides as well.
I think you misunderstood what I said.

I never stated/implied that guitars don't open up, because it's fairly reasonable to assume that they do. I was simply asking exactly what that means, and if it can be quantified.

Does it get louder? More harmonically rich? More sensitive? Warmer? Bassier?

There's a concept known as 'expectation bias' which might be at play here. Since people expect their guitars to sound better, i.e. 'open up', after years of playing, they assume they do.

But unless you record the guitar when you first get it, and then record it again years later with the exact same strings, in the exact same room, with the exact same mic, and the exact same preamp and signal chain, playing the exact same piece of music the exact same way, it's impossible to quantify whether it actually opened up, or if you simply wanted/expected it to.

Anyway, I'm sure there are good koa guitars out there. I just happen to think that given the choice between koa and mahogany--the wood that's apparently closest in tone--I would choose mahogany every time, partly because it's proven itself to be a reliable and consistent tone wood.

It's also worth asking, if koa is such a good tone wood, why don't we see more unfigured koa being used?
 
Messages
2,676
I have a 414KCE, which was a limited model back in '97. It has koa back and sides, but has a low-gloss finish on the whole guitar. I bought it new, and have always liked it. But I will admit, I'm primarily an electric player, and the Taylor doesn't get out of the case that often. Last year I attended a Taylor Road Show locally, and took my 414 with me. I figured I would get a free set of strings and a truss-rod adjustment, so why not. The technician was working on my guitar over at the side, while the Taylor demo was underway and they were going through the different wood combinations and tones. Anyway, there was a lull in the action, and at that moment the technician strummed my 414 which he had just re-strung and set up. The Taylor guys who were doing the demo immediately looked over to see what guitar they were hearing. I have to admit, my old 414KCE sounded better than anything they had demoed that evening. They asked about my guitar, and noted that it had "matured" well, and sounded wonderful. According to those guys, this is what koa does. And to be honest, I think the thin non-glossy finish helps to make the guitar sound better. I've had mahogany back acoustics, and they never sounded as nice as my koa 414. It's a guitar I will keep forever, and hopefully in the future play much more regularly.
 

petty1818

Member
Messages
4,026
I have a 414KCE, which was a limited model back in '97. It has koa back and sides, but has a low-gloss finish on the whole guitar. I bought it new, and have always liked it. But I will admit, I'm primarily an electric player, and the Taylor doesn't get out of the case that often. Last year I attended a Taylor Road Show locally, and took my 414 with me. I figured I would get a free set of strings and a truss-rod adjustment, so why not. The technician was working on my guitar over at the side, while the Taylor demo was underway and they were going through the different wood combinations and tones. Anyway, there was a lull in the action, and at that moment the technician strummed my 414 which he had just re-strung and set up. The Taylor guys who were doing the demo immediately looked over to see what guitar they were hearing. I have to admit, my old 414KCE sounded better than anything they had demoed that evening. They asked about my guitar, and noted that it had "matured" well, and sounded wonderful. According to those guys, this is what koa does. And to be honest, I think the thin non-glossy finish helps to make the guitar sound better. I've had mahogany back acoustics, and they never sounded as nice as my koa 414. It's a guitar I will keep forever, and hopefully in the future play much more regularly.
Great post! I have found the same thing with my Taylor, which has Koa back and sides. Although the top is a gloss finish, the actual back and sides of the Koa is more of a satin finish. It has really opened up since I bought it in 2005. I find that it has the perfect balance of highs and lows.
 

echo44

Member
Messages
283
since I returned the taylor
I ended up giving KOA another chance I bought A Martin
000 Koa authentic 1921. I am in love!! has more warmth than the taylor and a special indescribable magic. Martin has really stepped up their game with the Authentic series!
 

Tahitijack

Member
Messages
4,358
My K22ce from 2001 will be the last keeper guitar in my collection when the time comes to really downsize. I purchased it new in 2001 when I started playing more Hawaiian slack key guitar. It is all koa (back, top and sides) and always says aloha to me when I open the case and look down on it.

I thought it was a little on the quiet side when I bought it, but I expected that when I decided to buy it. The good news is it sounded fantastic plugged in. I like to plug in so that was fine. Over the years the guitar tone has improved and now sounds just fine without amplification or plugged in.

I hope you have better luck with the Martin. As others have said, you need to have some patience with this wood. If you want the immediate satisfaction of a guitar that sounds good to your ears right out of the case, you probably will find it with different tone wood. So, koa may not be for you, but if you have patience it just might be..........

Good luck and Aloha!
 

stratplexi

Member
Messages
1,130
I have tried Koa and it just doesn't work for me. If you look at the frequency range it produces it is quite a bit different than rosewood.
 

choucas09

Senior Member
Messages
3,241
I had a koa Taylor for a few years and it never truly cut the mustard so I sold it and bought an Eastman arch back with maple back and sides. Totally happy now.
 






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