Taylor Thinline T5 – Hybrid Heaven?

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I’ve been playing acoustic guitars for over 25 years, but in the past 8-9 years have come to really love the Taylor line of acoustic guitars. My favorite all around Taylor as been the ever-popular 714 series, particularly with the LR Baggs dual source pickup for live applications. In 2005 Taylor came out with it’s Thinline T5 series – a hybrid guitar intended for both acoustic and electric guitar sound applications. For the past two years I’ve been pretty skeptical that it could do a both job at getting real tones for each one.

For the past week I’ve been playing through a T5 Thinline Standard edition with a natural finish. At first, I couldn’t get or keep the guitar in tune, and was hoping there wasn’t an intonation issue due to setup. Most of the time Taylor guitars are set up great from the local store, or even from private party, but this one was throwing tuning fits. I replaced the strings on the guitar and have had much better success with tuning since…just dead store strings. Once the tuning was taken care of, it was time to work on tone.

I normally play music solo or with a full band in a church environment, typically leading from an acoustic. When I first played a T5 last year, I heard it through a Roland AC-60 and just did not love the sound of the guitar. It reminded me of my old Yamaha that I used to play through a Dean Markley bar pickup that was lodged into the soundhole – very thin and kind of harsh. I walked away from the T-5 then since it couldn’t compete with the 714 for acoustic tone. This week I’ve taken another stab at it, running the guitar through an actual real sound system and have been happier with the tone overall.

taylort5-natural.jpgThe T-5 has a fiveway switch that selects between three pickups – an under the fretboard humbucker, a body sensor, and a bridge humbucker. In the first position, the switch selects the fretboard humbucker and body sensor in series, and is supposed to provide the most acoustic sound. In actual use, I found the second position to provide a warmer acoustic sound, using the fretboard humbucker only. With the bass tone nob slightly rolled back from middle, and the treble knob slightly rolled past middle, I was able to get what seemed to be a decent acoustic sound, a lot like the Taylor 414 with a Fishman saddle pickup.

I’m a big believer that much of the tone that comes from any guitar has as much to do with the fingers, and approach that a player takes as does the guitar itself. That being said, I was pleased with the guitar at subtler moments, and am still looking for the right mix on harder strumming. When playing alone, or in break down moments with the band, I was good with the sound, but I wasn’t quite in love with the sound when I was trying to keep up with the band – it started sounding a little more like a hollowbody electric than an acoustic at that point. I think bumping up the volume and playing softer might help, so I’ll try something like that next time.

On the electric side, I was only able to play a short amount of time through a Vox AD30VT modeling amp. My favorite ‘tone’ was the UK Overdrive amp, with a little bit of the built in delay added. Using the body humbucker – the third position – I was able to get a nice, full, chunky electric sound out of the T5. The sound was a lot like I would expect a hollowbody electric to sound like. Although I’ve never owned a Gibson or Gretsch hollowbody, this would be much closer than any of the Strats I’ve owned over the years. I’m looking forward to putting it through one of our tube amps, like the Hot Rod Deluxe and some real analog pedals. More on that tone after I get a chance to test it out.

Playability is great, and overall I like this guitar a lot so far. Do I love it yet? – Hard to say. It hasn’t been an instant love like the 714 or Koa limited evoked, but it is intriguing so far. I believe with the right set up, this could be a great dual purpose guitar allowing me to use just one guitar weekly for maximum flexibility.

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