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The Taylor 355: A 12-String Guitar Symphony

6 StringSeveral months ago, I bought my very first 12-string acoustic guitar - an Epiphone DR212 - a bargain guitar that plays well and is imminently enjoyable. It is, however, quite heavy and it's bass response is rather limited - but I enjoyed it none-the-less. However, like with so many other things in life, I quickly wanted something better. Shopping around for a 'right' 12-string for myself involved hours of research, review reading, website visiting and, of course, time in the quiet rooms of local stores feeling and trying out many different guitars, I settled in the Taylor 355 and have had no regrets whatever. Both in terms of contrast to the Epiphone as well as assessed on it's own virtues, it is a real players guitar - with a voice and range truly remarkable - including a resounding bass response, ebony fingerboard (and bridge), American Mahogany (satin) sides and body and solid spruce (laminated) top. The bracing is a scalloped X-brace designed by Taylor. It is a Jumbo style guitar - larger at the bottom than a dreadnaught - and a tad narrower at the waist - the bass response is absolutely tremendous! It seems to weigh in at several pounds less than the Epiphone making it even easier to hold, manage and play - although the neck width at the nut is a tad wider (1 7/8"). It comes delivered with Elixir Nanoweb strings that suit the design of the instrument quite nicely. Surprisingly, this does not make it any more difficult to play! There is also, of course, a price differential that parallels the qualitative differences in the two instruments. The Taylor is worth every penny!

A word on shopping guitars: As many of you who will read this review probably know (but some may not) the goal is to find the best price possible, get it in writing (email is generally OK) then ask the store or online vendor to match or beat that price. Most of the time, they will - as will local retailers who want to sell you the instrument instead of having you buy it from someone else - even if they have to lower their markup substantially to make the sale.

I bought this guitar from SamAsh.com. Ordered on a Friday (they are in Tampa, FL), it arrives well set up and undamaged 6 days later to Northern California. Five minutes with a chromatic tuner and it was ready and rearing to go - as was I! Wow!! This is a Jumbo size guitar and not a dreadnaught (as is the Epiphone), another design factor contributing to the depth of bass it produces. The overall sound is, simply put, sweet. The resonance and sustainability of notes is as good (though different than) those produced by my primary 6-string, a Martin HD-28.

Yes, it is an investment. But one worth making for any guitarist who enjoys the fun of playing a 12-string as either a primary guitar or as a delightful diversion/ change-up from six string playing. It comes with a well-constructed Taylor hard case.

Although Taylor is relatively new on the scene (about 35 years old) of quality American acoustic guitar makers, it plays on a level commensurate with both Martin and Gibson yet has it's own special enduring qualities. If you are shopping for a 12-string, be sure to give this one a look - a feel - and some play before making your final decision.

In announcing it's 2007 line, Taylor has let it be known that it will no longer be making this particular model. It is being replaced with a somewhat smaller (Grand Auditorium) style with most of the construction elements and finishing elements left unchanged. The smaller size means somewhat less bass and resonance. When it comes to 12-strings, bigger IS better. This means that these 355s (I still play this one every day) will be available at BARGAIN prices as the new models hit the shops. The time to get one couldn't be better. Watch the online retailers for the first price break news! Find yourself one of these dreamy 12-strings, sit down and enjoy it!

By David A. Reinstein, LCSW - Clinical Social Worker, psychotherapist, born in Boston and a relatively unscathed survivor of the 60 s. Fan of technology, guitars, creating music and poetry. Mental wellness coach, staff trainer and parent...  

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