The C. Whitney Guitars Dragon’s Heart Polyamide-Imide Guitar Picks Review

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The Dragon’s Heart Polyamide-Imide Guitar Picks (C. Whitney Guitars) Review

Before I begin with my write-up, I wanted to say that I was delighted to have an opportunity to review the Dragon’s Heart picks. I have (literally) jars of picks I’ve accumulated over the past decades of playing guitar, bass, mandolin, (the extremely occasional) banjo, and world instrument. I’m always on a quest to see what new or better sounds I can make with the instruments I have or use.

DragonsHeartPicksLogo

There are different formulas and materials and prices for the varieties of the Dragon’s Heart guitar picks. I’ve been playing the three (current) varieties of the Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Hearts. This includes the Hardened pick (70% Polyamide-Imide/30% Glass Fiber), the Original (88% Polyamide-Imide/12% Graphite), and the Pure Dragon (100% Polyamide-Imide). These picks last 3-5 times longer than the standard plastic thick pick, and have largely different sonic characteristics than many other guitar pick materials.

You can see more about all the Dragon’s Heart Picks here at dragonsheartguitarpicks.com

It’s easy to say that many pick designs have come and gone over the years. After all, musicians such as me are always trying to find a way to make music in a fresh way. Many designs become staples (such as the plastic classic 351-shape teardrop pick) and others become used as useful and interesting novelties (such as custom-ground metal coins). My experience is that even more (probably most) actually fall somewhere in between. Each and every pick material, design, and use has its legions of fans and detractors.

Dragon's Heart Pick Pure Dragon

Dragon’s Heart Pick Pure Dragon

Let me begin my review summary by saying two VERY important things. Picks have a HUGE effect on the sound of an instrument (for those who use picks 🙂 ). EVERY musician is as individual as their fingerprints – and therefore their tastes and abilities vary almost wildly. We are all different: Vive la différence!

Quick Opinion

Buy some today

The Dragon’s Heart Picks are versatile, well-made, and sonically extremely interesting. Given that Dragon’s Hearts are fairly thick and rigid, they are different in their sound, playability, and player-experience feel from standard plastic 351 Fenders or even thick Steve Clayton three-sided Delrin picks.

You can buy Dragon’s Heart Picks here at http://www.dragonsheartguitarpicks.com/store/

Dragon’s Hearts have a rigid, extremely precise feel. They have a well-defined attack (varying slightly depending on which pick edge you use – see below). They are easy to grip and comfortable in the fingers both when they are new and after they have been used for a while.

Dragon's Heart Pick Original

Dragon’s Heart Pick Original

This review is written with an open-minded approach to picks: I don’t advocate anyone to play a particular size, material, shape, or type – rather, I look at picks as a VERY inexpensive way to help one’s playing style grow. It’s easier and simpler than almost any other technique to change one’s tone. And besides, it’s just plain fun to find new territory with a simple pick change.

The short summary of this review is this: if you want more control, more sound, better attack, and durability, you just can’t go wrong with Dragon’s Heart Picks. They’re fantastic! No matter your picked instrument, give all the Dragon’s Heart varieties a try. You’ll keep them around for a very long time.

Dragon's Heart Pick Hardened Style

Dragon’s Heart Pick Hardened Style

Sound and Playing Style

You can hold your Dragon’s Heart pick in three different ways (plus a bonus fun fourth way!) to get three different sounds and playing styles.

One main “point” is a sharp, almost talon-like picking edge and surface (see what I did there? ;-)). Another point is rounded and almost circular in shape, and the third is reminiscent of the old-fashioned 351 teardrop tip. If you hold the pick just right, you can also get a combined round-tip and sharp-tip to get a two-point picking attack that’s quite a bonus – it has a very unique feel and sound.

The sharp point gives a clear and concise attack with an incredibly quick release. It requires a deft touch to go fast and a gentle hand to go slow. This edge is excellent for high-speed shreds or really high-treble jazzy rolling fast arpeggios.

Dragon's Heart Pick Sharp edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Sharp edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “normal” style point is just as you’d expect. You get the kinds of attacks and string releases you’d expect from a beveled-edge teardrop-shaped thick pick. Very nice… intermediate between warm and clean.

Dragon's Heart Pick Triangular edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Triangular edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rounded point gives you that warmer approach with a very slow release and a moderately slow attack. It’s also useful for “swiping pick attacks” where the hand not only plucks the string with the pick but the pick is slid or swiped down the surface of the string a bit. One can truly get a sweet, warm, swishy attack and a lovely rounded-off back end of the release with this surface.

Dragon's Heart Pick Round edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Round edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, VERY nice… EXTREMELY flexible and easy to use for a variety of styles and sounds in one given playing session – all with one pick.

Dragon's Heart PIck Two Edges At Once

Dragon’s Heart PIck Two Edges At Once

Comfort and Durability

C. Whitney Guitars’ Dragon’s Heart picks are easily some of the most comfortable thick-ish picks I’ve played in my 42 years of stringed-instrument playing. I have long, medium-diameter fingers with moderately high hand strength. I don’t sweat in my hands much – although I’ve been known to have dry hands at times. For me, I don’t want to know that the pick is in my fingers. I just want it to be an extension of my mind: from mind to hand to pick to string. Overall, when I pick up a Dragon’s Heart, it just works. It just fits. It just feels fine. And that’s a good thing.

The Polyamide-Imide picks don’t get slippery or require me to give them the death’s-grip hold in order to keep them set at the right angle when I’m playing wrapped or even plain/wire strings. This is EXTREMELY important to me because I have arthritis and joint pain: I need my grip to be the LAST thing about which I must think when playing an instrument with a pick.

When it comes to durability, the edge and angle of the edge of the picks stays consistent for a long time. I’ve not played any my three Polyamide-Imide picks for more than 1000 hours – with that said, they have held up as well or better than some of the thick “clear plastic hard” picks I use a good bit (including my gel Jim Dunlop >1mm picks).

The critical durability of the edge of the pick… It’s important to note that I am not a hard picker. I don’t bang the strings (I caress them, or at most pluck them). With that said, when I’m playing rock music I do the rare-but-inevitable pinch harmonics from time to time. I do play a HUGE variety of instruments and string materials (flatwound, half-flat, round-wound, coated, uncoated…), so I’ve run my Dragon’s Hearts through the ringer quite a bit. Now that I’ve played them quite a bit, I can say that I’m not getting the dulled edges and he numerous I have seen with other alternative-material picks by this point. I still get wear and little marks here and there, but I can assure you that they don’t cause any sound difference or playability difference for me. I suspect I’ll get the manufacturer’s approximate durability hours on my original three Dragon’s Hearts.

I’m looking forward to a long time of service from my Dragon’s Hearts. With emphasis on “looking forward to…”

Price and Quality

The Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Heart picks are a premium-price-point pick for most players. These don’t cost a quarter dollar each at your local store. That’s OK. they’re worth MUCH more. I’ve paid between $.10 for a pick and I’ve paid $12 for a pick, so I’m willing to try new stuff. These are WELL worth the money. The price is appropriate for a durable, long-view, ultra-versatile pick.

Even guitarists on a budget will find the Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Hearts to be a bargain in the long run. As one’s playing style is enhanced by the pick’s uses, and the durability of the pick is realized, the price is actually well worth the extra money.

Quality-wise, all three of my Dragon’s Hearts felt great on all the surfaces, were well-made, and had no crazy rough parts to them in their factory bags. As I played them, the overall consistency of feel and durability between the three current Polaymide-Imide picks was very similar.

Wishes and Wants

There isn’t much in my Jim’s Wish List for these, honestly. They’re as I’ve described and I probably wouldn’t change a thing, other than maybe a version with a dragon cutout in the center for those who need a little extra grip for sweaty or oily hands. Otherwise? Great!

The Epiphone Dove Pro Acoustic Guitar Review!

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The Epiphone Dove Pro Acoustic Guitar Review

I love things with strings. Things with strings that make sound… Many times, I can be just as happy sitting with an acoustic guitar (or bass, or mandolin, or…) and play for hours on end. I compose, I wander, I contemplate, I just lose myself in the music. With electrics, I can hear what I’m playing (when not plugged in) and can enjoy the sheer ease with which the guitar comes to life beneath my fingers. I’m not particularly “for” or “against” anything – I love playing things with strings. Yesterday, it was a rubber band and a couple of pencils because I was too hot and tired (from yardwork) to play my instruments.

But when you’re playing an acoustic instrument, the gratification is wholesome and wonderful. Wow. I just love the whole experience of playing an acoustic instrument – and when it’s a great instrument, the experience ceases to be about playing (guitar or whatever) and becomes about a flow of life between my heart/brain and the instruments and back to my ears. When I stop thinking about playing and start living the experience, I get lost in the music. What a joy.
OK, with that little ramble, let’s take a look at a guitar that’s easy to experience that joy – and is easy on the wallet, too!
JpearsonEpiphoneDovePickguard

I needed an acoustic to augment my library which gives me a brighter and louder experience – that’s easy to play and can tolerate odd tunings very well. My budget was just wiped out by purchasing a nice Gibson Songwriter Deluxe Studio, so I wasn’t flush with cash… I did my research, did a little experimentation and in-store noodling, and settled on the Epiphone Dove Pro.
I am so glad I did. Here’s why!

Quick Opinion:
The Epiphone Dove Pro acoustic guitar is a surprisingly inexpensive guitar that has a great deal to offer. The sound is great, the build quality is top-notch, and it plays like a guitar that costs hundreds more.
Please visit my sponsor zZounds.com for more information about the Elegant Epiphone Dove Pro – click here! (visiting my sponsor helps me fund more reviews! (And G.A.S., of course! :-))

I generally have my Epiphone Dove Pro out on a stand in the living room – and every guitar player that comes through plays it. All have remarked positively, even those who are die-hard fans of other brands and types.

Features:
The Epiphone Dove Pro has a long list of features for a low-cost dreadnought acoustic guitar. From great tuners, to a solid wood top, to excellent binding and inlays – this is a great guitar.
* Solid spruce top
* Maple neck, back, and sides
* Dovetail (no pun intended :-)) neck/body joint
* Rosewood fretboard
* Parallelogram inlays
* Bound fingerboard, body top and body back
* 25.5” scale (the distance between the saddle and nut)
* Compensated saddle and dove-inlaid rosewood bridge
* Grover tuners
* Fishman Sonicore under-saddle pickup and Sonicore sond-hole preamp

The Epiphone Dove pro is listed as Violin Burst – but in truth it is a beautiful orange-y burst with a transparent orange-y back and sides. It’s a beautiful guitar that stands out from the everyday colors seen on most acoustics. I am an unabashed “orange” fan when it comes to transparent finishes on guitars – so it is right up my alley. I love the dove inlays in the very striped bridge and the parallelograms in the fretboard match the look of my Gibson Songwriters to a T.
The Dove comes with a simple and easy pickup/preamp combination from Fishman. The soundhole’s easily-accessed master tone and volume controls work great and are easy to change while actively playing the guitar. Adjustment is like on an electric – you just turn the knob(s) until your ears like what you hear.

Overall, the Epiphone Dove Pro is very feature-rich, very much on par with guitars that cost north of $700 (street value).
You can see more about the features and benefits of owning an Epiphone Dove Pro Acoustic here at zZounds.com
JpearsonEpiphoneDoveBodyFront1

Playability
This guitar is easy to play. The neck is a little on the narrow side, so it isn’t giant wide like some acoustics. It has a good “D” shape that helps you grip the neck nicely when doing difficult chords or fret reaches. When you’re holding acoustic strings down for a good while when you are playing, it is nice to get a good grip on the neck. For those with small hands, the neck isn’t too deep a D – it is a good balance for most hands. I’m a person with large hands and slender fingers, so the neck is mostly good with me. The width of the fretboard on my Gibsons is more comfortable – but my Dove feels somewhat similar to the necks on my Seagulls (Original 6 and 12).
The fretboard is nicely finished, so it is easy when playing lots of fretting-hand movement. The string spread of the bridge is just about right, making it fairly comfortable for finger picking, hybrid picking, and flat-picking.

Despite the miles of hard maple in this guitar, it is surprisingly comfortable and relatively light. My Ibanez Artcore guitars are substantially heavier, for comparison. The guitar is easy on the shoulder and easy on the knee – and feels like a good depth for lots of pick-arm and hand work.
The full-size Grover Rotomatic chrome tuners are very smooth and work great. They’re easy to use and do a nice job. The nut (it seems like almost every guitar, these days) works great with a little lubrication such as Lizard Spit or Big Bends Nut Sauce.

Sound
The Epiphone Dove Pro comes strung with phosphor-bronze .012-.053 D’Addario strings. The strings themselves sound fantastic and present themselves with a clean, edgy acoustic sound that is clear and not muddy at all. I’ve played 80/20 bronzes on maples before, and have found that the 80/20 bronzes tend to darken the sound such that the maple-ness of the sound is not as articulate as it tends to be. The phosphor-bronze strings sound just right.

As a dread, the Dove is loud and clear. It does the low notes very tightly and the mid-tones nicely too… The highs tend to be a little tinny when playing in the middle third of the neck on the two plain (E and B) strings. I think this is partly a function of the finish and the glue/joint work. When recording, the first two strings played from 7 to 10 (frets) are often not warm enough – such that I’ll often play up the neck on the D string if I can… I don’t think this is a deal-breaker on this guitar: it’s not a $2700 hand-crafted instrument.

The resonance and sustain are good to very good on the Dove. It sustains like an excellent glued-in neck – but with the highs rolling off fairly quickly on fretted notes. The open-string notes ring pretty well, particularly the 6th-4th strings. The strings on this guitar make a big difference. Dead, corroded strings muffle out this guitar fairly dramatically – when the strings get nasty, the Dove begins to sound like a laminate-topped guitar. I like the D’Addario EXP coated strings and the Ernie Ball coated acoustic strings on this guitar. The feel and sound of these particular strings is no sacrifice as compared to the truly long life you get out of the sound on average. Even those with sweaty or acid hands will see a good length of use from the two strings I’ve mentioned.
Take a look here at zZounds.com.
JpearsonEpiphoneDoveFullFront

Fit and Finish
The fit and finish of my Dove is outstanding. I did not see a single finish burble, and everything fits and sits like it should. Since the Dove appears to be finished in poly, it has a hard and slick finish that puts up with lots of little dings without showing them. The finish doesn’t sound like the resonant quality of a hand-applied lacquer finish – but it doesn’t seem to dampen things too much. The body and neck finish are extremely consistent and smooth. The headstock and neck inlays are actually nicely done: many Asian-made acoustics I’ve handled have lots of dark filler around the inlays. The Dove’s inlays are very accurate in most cases, with only a few very minor filled splinters or routing blems.
The fret ends were nicely dressed out of the box. The overall feel as you traverse the neck is simple and good, with no real issues to be found. I didn’t find any substantial fret leveling issues (if any at all, really). There aren’t any buzzes that appear at unexpected spots. The guitar even plays nicely with .013 strings tuned to a low tuning like CGCGCC. It does play crisply and nicely with standard .012 gauge strings and “standard” EADGBE tuning.

The electronics are attached to the inside of the body nicely and are fairly well dressed. The wires don’t dangle too much and don’t clunk around in the body. The Fishman controls are solidly mounted and work smoothly and easily. The end-pin 1/4” jack works great and attaches positively to the cable.
Please have a look here at zZounds.com

Wishes and Wants I do wish the battery was in a standard battery box attached to the sides somewhere instead of deep in the sound hole. I wonder how hard it would be for Epiphone “Pro” guitars to have that killer fret-end binding one gets on better Gibson electric guitars and basses?

One other thing: Couldn’t we have 18:1 Grovers on our Gibsons and Epiphones? I really like the larger-ratio feel when tuning.
JpearsonEpiphoneDoveBack1

Washburn Rover Travel Acoustic Guitar Review – Still travelin’ with me to this day!

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

I first wrote this review on August 5, 2008. It still travels with me to this day. The sturdy case and ease-of-play make it a great way to think and play while you’re on-the-go… Superb!

Washburn Rover Acoustic Travel Guitar Review

My family and I went to Montana for a week’s vacation out in the beautiful mountains of the Grand Tetons and Jackson hole. Thing is, my son and I went through serious guitar withdrawals. We even went to a little local pawn shop to look for something cheap to buy… No luck there… We learned our lesson about traveling without our six-stringed friends…

Washburn has been making nice acoustics for years. I’d love to see more from them.

I did a lot of research, playing thinking, and reading. I went out and found a travel guitar – to be sure my son and I wouldn’t go through withdrawals on later trips. Among the many entries in the travel guitar world, I chose the Washburn Rover. Here’s why:

Quick Opinion: The Washburn Rover is a good bargain that has lots of nice features, decent build quality, and great playability. I absolutely enjoy playing my Rover – for years now… And it has a GREAT travel case!

Before you read on, let me explain something very important: A travel guitar is not a warm and brassy hand-made high-end guitar. Travel guitars (ALL of of them) aren’t right for recording your next piece for a Pixar film or for playing in a back band for James Taylor or Randy Travis (big fan of both!). A travel guitar is made to feed your playing jones while you’re on the road and don’t want to tote your Gibson Songwriter around in a jet-powered puddle-jumping tuna can…

You can read more about the Washburn Rover and get pricing information (and a “love your guitar” guarantee!) here at zZounds.com

The Washburn Rover is an excellent all-around choice. It plays great (for something so small) and sounds reasonable enough to make you smile when you sit on the porch, look at the mountains, and play your tunes… Kick back and enjoy your Rover… It has brought music to many adventures. It looks and feels like a nice full-size neck with a little curvy body on the end…

Features: The Washburn Rover is chock full of features for such an inexpensive guitar in such a small size. Let me list out a few for you:

Fully bound body and neck;
Solid (!) spruce top;
Mahogany neck, back, and sides;
An actual, fully-useable 24″ scale;
Reasonable build quality;
Reasonably well-dressed and set frets;
Compact enough that it fits in many (probably not all, these days) airline overhead bins – I’ve done this plenty (and the neighboring passengers can still cram their entire household-in-one-overstuffed-bag bag next to it or under it);
and GREAT simple old-fashioned butterbean open tuners.

Feature-wise, the Rover is rich. It comes with a strap and an allen wrench. It even comes with an excellent lightweight zippered fabric-on-foam case that is very sturdy and very lightweight. I’ve carried mine TONS of places and have never felt bothered by carrying around our Rover (we named it “Rover” – surprised?). It is by far the best bargain for the money, given the features alone.

Quality: The quality of my particular Rover is excellent. It rivals most basic acoustic guitars, and even a few middling ones. It isn’t the perfect detail of a Yamaha student guitar, but it is very close. Overall, you will probably find a few flaws in the finish, or a bumple or two in the binding.

However, the neck is straight and comfortable, the finish feels really quite good on the skin, the neck is finished very well, and the tuners are actually quite nice. Overall, the build quality exceeds many $300 guitars. Perfect? No. Excellent for its cost? Absolutely.

The tuners are the exposed-gear variety. They’re not sealed 18:1 Grovers or super-cool Klusons. They’re basic. However, they stay very close to being in tune the entire time I’m playing on the porch. That’s good enough for me. From an intonation perspective, the Rover is very close to being a near-tempered in-tune instrument. Sometimes you have to sacrifice between tuning for a nice clean D Major chord and a clean warm C Major chord. Using a sweetened tuner like the Peterson StroboSoft or Strobing hardware tuner makes things sound better.

Playability: From the perspective of action, neck feel, and string spacing, the guitar plays awesome – just like a champ. Close your eyes and your fretting hand won’t know it is holding a little travel guitar. The action is as smooth as butter (I like 11s in some sort of bronze, usually Ernie Ball Earthwoods of some sort or Martin phosphor bronzes.) It really plays much easier than my larger guitars.

The downside? With any tiny-body guitar (not just the Rover, but all of them), you can’t sit it on your leg and relax sitting down with it. If you want to be comfortable and not have to clamp the guitar to your chest, install the included canvas strap. Once the strap is on and around your neck, the guitar actually plays pretty effortlessly. If you don’t wear the strap, you’ll find yourself fiddling with it all the time (no pun intended, or, maybe pun intended?).

Sound: I’ve played tons of travel acoustic guitars. Plug-in electric-earbud guitars, very inexpensive no-name imports, and some from the very big brand names. I love the Martin, truly… but the Rover is warmer and less tinny sounding. Even though I’m a huge Martin and Taylor fan, the little Washburn won my ears over immediately.

So, what does it sound like? It sounds like a really nice guitar that is played back through an inexpensive stereo with little bitty speakers. It is fun, not too hard on the ears, and actually has an admirable flavor and character. Bear this in mind: none of them sound big, boomy, warm, and growly. The Washburn Rover is definitely the best of them (in the low-cost range). The Rover actually is more warm (with 92/8 phosphor bronze strings) than some of the expensive boutique travel guitars. The strings REALLY make a difference. Don’t cheap out on the strings. Just don’t expect it to sound like my Big Baby Taylor or my cedar-top Tak.

Value: The value exceeds its current $149 price. It is less expensive than its cousins and even comes with a good case. It is definitely worth much more. It is a high-value, very fun-to-play instrument.

Wishes: Washburn already answered my one wish for this: They now come in neat transparent colors and a new natural and a new blue color.

Taylor Big Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar Review – Good things come in a 15/16ths package!

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

I first wrote this post on April 16, 2008. I enjoyed that BB Taylor. Now I have a Baby Taylor – nice guitar with that “Ovation” sound, but built and plays like a little Taylor! Awesome!

Taylor Big Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar Review

Birthday presents are fun sometimes. Last year, a local fellow sold me his one-year-old Big Baby Taylor for a song. I was thrilled. I’ve always wanted a Taylor acoustic, American made, spruce top, and more. I got my wish last October.

I was looking for a moderately bright guitar sound, but one that was also warm enough for making recordings/serenading my family… I like the darker sound of my cedar-top dreadnaught, but I needed a complimentary, tenor-/alto-voiced sound. Clean, crisp, defined.

The Big Baby Taylor fits the bill, and then some… Here’s why I love mine…

Quick Opinion: The Big Baby Taylor is light, resonant, durable, and very simple. It’s comfortable to hold for hours and has a finish that is very easy on the skin. I love this guitar. Where else can you get American-made quality, solid spruce top, ebony fretboard, and nice voicing for so little? (NOTE: Since the time of this writing, Taylor has begun to make Big Baby Taylor guitars in Mexico – if you are purchasing a used one and desire a USA model, check with the seller first – not all Big Baby Taylors are the same.)

It only took me a couple of minutes to adjust to playing the BBT for the first time at my local guitar store. It was like playing an old favorite guitar, right from the start. I was surprised at its light weight, and more interestingly, its decent sound projection.

You can get more info and pricing information about Big Baby Taylor acoustics here at zZounds.com.

Buy a Big Baby Taylor. They’re great little instruments all around… Interestingly enough, they don’t “feel” like a smaller guitar when you play them for a while. They also make a great “lead” recording acoustic guitar.

Features: The Big Baby Taylor is fairly basic and simple (a good thing), yet has attributes that make it an outstanding choice for someone who wants nice sound on a moderate budget.

The neck is a nice mahogany wood, with a satin finish and a moderate profile. This one isn’t thin like a Strat or a Jackson, nor is the neck a log like the big-necked resonators or 50s electric guitars. The profile is comfortable for most sizes of hands. The neck is actually bolted on with screws going through the fretboard into the body. The screws are completely unobtrusive and do not come into mind when playing the BBT. The benefit of this type of neck is that it can be adjusted without popping the neck out of its glue in its pocket, as you would with a set-neck acoustic.

The ebony fretboard is a very nice touch. It is comfortable, doesn’t leave your fingers black with wood dye, and is durable. It looks good, too. The satin black headstock face blends down nicely into the fretboard’s color.

The body is non-bound, but has decent edge joints. The rosette is etched around the sound hole. The top is solid Sitka spruce, and the back and sides are laminate. Overall, for a sub-$500 guitar, the body is excellent. The satin finish is very nice and very evenly applied.

Quality: The quality of my Big Baby Taylor is great. All the edges where the top and back meet the sides are clean and smooth. Only once (where the edge was whacked against a corner of something in its previous life) have I found a place where the joint felt a little off… which is to say, no problems at all.

The neck and frets are extremely nicely done, the frets are end-crowned for comfort for your paws, The neck finish isn’t too slick or too grabby, it is nice and satin-y. My Taylor’s neck is two-piece. There is a joint at the end of the headstock/neck merge. The joint is exceptionally strong and smooth to the touch.

The tuning machines are fine quality and have a decent smoothness. I’ve not had any troubles keeping my Taylor in tune – even after hours of playing (and even in and out of the case a few times). I found some ebony tuning machine knobs and replaced the factory chrome ones – the look is truly awesome.

The back is a little grainy for my tastes… but it doesn’t effect sound or comfort in any way. The nut and saddle bridge appear to be either something like Tusq or some other not-cheap-plastic material. I don’t get “pings” when tuning the strings or bending strings while playing. The nut is a great thing. I’ve played $2200 Gibsons that “ping” when I tune them – had to dress the nut on those… Not digging on Gibsons – just something that happens on some G, B, and E nut cuts…

Playability: Plays like a charm. Lightweight, nice neck, comfortable body finish, medium-low action (maybe even low-action). I can pluck fairly hard before I get any buzzes. I don’t usually dig in to my guitars with a thick pick much (I’m a hybrid pick-and-fingers guy), but it took an effort to whack the sound.

The size of the guitar (15/16) is unnoticeable – it is a dreadnaught, and feels only slightly smaller than my big Tak dread after you’ve been playing the Taylor for a while…

The Big Baby Taylor is significantly easier to play than nearly every acoustic I’ve played in the sub $500 range. It’s a real treat – simple, no fuss – I can concentrate on my music. I have no negatives to say about this guitar in the playability department.

Sound: The Big Baby Taylor is surprisingly loud for a 1/5/16 guitar. It has a tone that is a nice mix between warm and bright – depending where you play on the neck/strings and how you play. You can coax very subtle sounds and great volume dynamics from this guitar.

I put phosphor-bronze strings on my Taylor (Ernie’s Hybrid Slinky Acoustics, to be exact). I found that the phosphor-bronze strings really brought out texture and character in this guitar. With straight 80/20 brass-wrapped strings, the low strings seemed a bit thin to my ears. My Ernies really made this guitar sing…

I also added brass string-pins to my BBT. I don’t know that they really made the sound too much different, but the combination of the phosphor-bronze strings and the brass pins makes the guitar a dream and a treat for the ears.

Value: The Big Baby Taylor is easily a better bargain than many $500-$600 guitars from a variety of manufacturers. It is sort of a “sleeper”, one of the best-kept secrets of the acoustic guitar world. It has big value in a medium price. Mine came with a very nicely padded gig bag (much better than most, much!). It’s hard to find an American-made guitar (acoustic or electric) in this price range at all, much less one that is a realy pleasure to play.

Wishes: My only wish? A one-piece neck, or at least one that is one-piece from the body to the end of the headstock (I like the adustability of the “bolt-on” neck).